The current software that runs on iPads and iPhones is iOS 10. iOS 10 was first announced and previewed at WWDC 2016 in San Francisco on 13 June 2016 and then released to the public on 13 September. It is a free update to owners of iPhone 5 and later, iPad mini 2 and later, and the iPad 4, iPad Air and iPad Pro models.
While Apple tends to completely overhaul its iPhone and iPad operating system once a year with new features, the company doesn't then focus all it's attention on the next big version (although it is likely to be working hard on the new features in iOS 11 - read about that here). Instead the company regularly updates the current operating system throughout the year, adding new features and enhancements, as well as fixing problems and security issues should they arrise.
In this article we look at the latest updates to iOS 10 and run through the new features that arrived with each of those updates. We also detail new features that are coming to iOS 10, according to the latest beta versions of the software.
What is the latest verison of iOS?
The latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system is iOS 10, although there have been a few updates since its launch in September 2016. The current version is iOS 10.3.
iOS 10 has proved popular since its release. As of 4 January 2017, just under four months after iOS 10's release, Apple reported that 76 percent of active iOS devices are running version 10, with 18 percent on iOS 9 and just six percent on iOS 8 or older versions.
You can find out if your iPhone can run iOS 10 here: Read Can my iPhone, iPad or iPod touch get iOS 10?
Apple released iOS 10.1 to the public on Monday, 24 October 2016. The update bought a new feature to the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus dubbed "Portrait Mode".
What is Portrait Mode? Essentially, the iPhone utilises the pair of rear-facing cameras to analyse the photo and blur the background, leaving users with a photo comparable to something taken by a DSLR. While the feature is still in beta testing despite being released to the public, the feature provides impressive results. You can take a look at a few below, or head over to our dedicated article here: How to use Portrait Mode on the iPhone 7 Plus
Apple released iOS 10.2 on Monday, 12 December 2016. The biggest change was US-only: the new TV app, which aims to unify your TV and film watching from across several apps. Still, even if you're outside of the US, there are a few updates worth mentioning.
Emoji have been redesigned to be more detailed, while more than 100 new emoji have been added to the collection, so you can finally shrug at your friends over your iPhone, should the need arise.
There's also a new tool to preserve camera settings so that you don't need to reset them every time you re-open the app, along with a few new wallpapers and full-screen message effects, along with a few other smaller tweaks:
- Widget for the Videos app
- Be able to ‘Press and Hold to Speak’ menu under Home Button Accessibility settings
- ‘Show Star Ratings’ option under Music Settings
- Have the option to sort Apple Music playlists by title, type and recently added
- See a introduction screen for Siri
It might be perceived to be a small upgrade but iOS 10.2.1, released on 23 January 2017, is an essential download. The new iOS update fixes a number of potentially devastating security holes, including two instances in which a malicious application could take complete control over your device. Our advice: update at once.
iOS 10.3 became available to download on 27 March 2017. It was a pretty hefty update with lots of new features. One new feature in particular will involve the entire file structure of your iOS device being converted to a new system, so before downloading and installing iOS 10.3, the advice is to back up your iPhone or iPad... or risk losing all your data.
The good news is that if you are short of space the update will actually have the effect of freeing up your storage - we gained back a few gigabytes. Before the update we had 1.97GB available on our measley 16GB iPhone and after we had 3.22GB available. Nice work Apple!
The reason for the storage miracle is that the latest iOS 10 update changes the fundamental file structure of your iOS device from the HFS+ file format to the new Apple File System.
Switching to the Apple File System is a good move on Apple’s part because it will bring better encryption, improved time stamping, storage improvements and optimisations and more.
However, Apple File System and HFS+ aren't compatible, so in the background while your phone or tablet updates to iOS, every file will need to be converted to the new format - and once you have moved to Apple File System, you won't be able to revert back to HFS+ without completely reformatting your iPad or iPhone. This also means that if something goes wrong in the update process you could potentially lose all your data!
There are many other new features arriving with iOS 10.3 aside from the file format update. New features include:
Find My AirPods: this new feature will help reunite you with your misplaced iPhone 7 wireless earbuds.
Siri: There are also improvements to Siri and SiriKit, so Siri can now reveal international cricket game scores and allow you to pay bills, schedule rides with Uber and Lyft, check payments status and more.
App Store: There are some changes in the app store - developers can now respond to reviews publicly, and it is now possible to label reviews as helpful or unhelpful.
iTunes rentals: It is now possible to watch rented films on all of your devices, rather than being stuck with the one you rented it on - ideal if you rent a film to watch on your iPad while travelling and then end up wanting to watch it on your Apple TV, until now that would not have been possible without renting the film a second time.
Speed improvements: Another bonus of the iOS 10.3 update is that it can actually speed up your iPhone, This is thanks to the fact that Apple has made some changes to the animations that play on your iPhone when you move around the operating system.
Also new in iOS 10.3 are widgets for the Podcasts app, a Reduce Motion preference in Safari, CarPlay app shortcuts, Apple's new APFS file system, hourly weather forecast in Maps via 3D Touch - and a colour-coded iCloud storage summary.
One of the other additions to iOS 10.3 sees Apple introducing an opt-in system to gather data from users to help improve a variety of its services - most notably Siri. Apple emphasises that any data will be secured and anonymised using "privacy preserving techniques," and users who choose to opt-in can change their mind and back out at any time by going to their device Settings, tapping 'Privacy', then 'Analytics', and turning off 'Share iCloud Analytics'. The aim is presumably to improve Siri's voice recognition, as well as the quality of its predictions and suggestions.
One of the most interesting changes in 10.3 – Apple will use differential privacy on iCloud user data to improve services (opt-in) pic.twitter.com/NKqrTee8Fq— Federico Viticci (@viticci) January 24, 2017
There is also a new Theatre Mode coming to the Apple Watch which will stop the Watch glowing every time you lift your wrist in the cinema.
Prior to the release there had been some rumours that this Theatre mode would be a setting for the iPhone that would optimise video settings for watching films on an iPhone or iPad. It appears that the update is just for the Watch though.
We don't yet know when Apple will release iOS 10.4, or even if there will be another point update, but Apple has already released a beta for iOS 10.3.2, perhaps fixing issues that have already arisen with iOS 10.3.
In order to receive and install iOS beta builds you have to sign up for Apple's Beta program - see how to get beta versions of iOS in our guide to how to install the iOS beta.
Thinking about buying a new iPhone to run the latest version of iOS? Read our iPhone 7 review.
iOS 10 features
Listen to our podcast below for the lowdown on the features that arrived with iOS 10.
General redesign and improvements to user experience
Onscreen notifications became more interactive in iOS 10. There are now lots of 3D Touch shortcuts that let you respond to notifications in clever ways without leaving the lock screen, and plenty of dynamic features that can happen in the notification itself.
You can accept invitations, respond to messages, and stay in a messages thread, live, all on the lock screen. You can see live animated progress of your Uber driver after 3D Touching an Uber notification. And - exactly like on the Apple Watch - you can do 3D Touch press and then clear all notifications. That's a handy one, that.
Control Centre has been redesigned and now has multiple screens, so if you swipe from the right you get to a special music section. More generally, you can swipe from the right in the lock screen to bring up the camera.
'Slide to Unlock' has been removed, and instead you'll see 'Press home to open'. Doing so will prompt you to enter your passcode or will unlock the phone if you use Touch ID.
The biggest change to Siri was that Apple opened it up to 3rd-party developers. This means that you'll be able to activate non-Apple apps and functions via voice control.
Like Siri? Make sure you read our Funniest things to ask Siri article.
QuickType was already pretty handy and a genuine time-saver, and it got even better at predicting what you want to say in iOS 10. QuickType has also also become more proactive at bringing in data from other apps and offering it as part of your responses. If someone asks where you are, it will offer your location as a suggested response; if someone asks for a person's email address and iOS thinks it knows who that is, it will suggest the relevant contact details.
There is also support for multilingual typing - in other words, not in just one language or another, but in a blend of the two. You won't have to switch keyboards to do this.
Like QuickType, Photos was given an injection of artifical intelligence in iOS 10. Apple says it uses deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects, and use its findings to build smart albums for you.
Photos can draw together linked photos and videos by place, people and time, and automatically create highlight reels and trip mementoes; Apple calls this 'Memories'.
Here are some photo tricks for budding iPhone photographers: The 25 best iPhone tricks you didn't know existed
Maps got a new design in iOS 10; like some of the other apps that have been revamped for this update, it looked broadly simpler and cleaner, and the controls are easier to access.
Maps now does more in advance, with the proactive elements we've seen before in iOS coming to the fore. Slide upwards from the bottom of Maps and you get suggested destinations. If you normally go to work at this time, then your workplace will be on there. Another location may be drawn from a calendar appointment for this time.
You can sub-filter when searching for nearby businesses. Fitter for restaurants; then filter for seafood restaurants.
Like Google Maps, Apple Maps in iOS 10 takes traffic into account dynamically, and offers alternative routes on the fly if traffic makes them preferable. Unlike Google Maps (we think), its interface will zoom in and out cleverly, depending on the distance to the next turning and other factors.
And, as with many of the other features here, Apple opened Maps up to developers. This means you'll be able to book a ride with Uber and pay for the ride using Apple Pay, all without leaving Maps.
Another Maps addition. If you happen to have a car with CarPlay you'll be pleased to know that iOS 10 now remembers where you've left your car. First discovered by 9to5Mac, Apple Maps now knows when you disconnect your iOS device with your phone from the car's Bluetooth.
The phone will remember where you last parked the car and give you directions back to it, so if you are often forgetful the new added feature is a nice addition. You can also edit the location of the parked car with an updated location and even add more context to the dropped pin, by adding the level/parking lot number.
Apple Music had quite a major visual redesign - and to be fair, it looks good. It also gets onscreen lyrics for some songs, although you may have to wait for the lyrics for your favourite song to be added.
Better still, whilst taking Live Photos, your music will continue playing - allowing you to have uninterrupted music sessions.
We really like the look of Apple Music 2.0, and we've discussed it in far more detail in a separate article: Complete guide to Apple Music's new features.
Apple News has been redesigned - like the other apps here, it becomes cleaner and simpler. But more interestingly, Apple has added subscriptions in News. (More and more this is becoming the app that Apple wanted Newsstand to be.)
Now there is also a 'Breaking news' notifications from the app. You can toggle the feature from the app's settings and even custom-tune the publications you wish to see push notifications to your device.
You can access paid subscriptions, where you can read an unlimited amount of articles from various publications. There is also a widget for the News app, but given that it's still in beta expect it to be a little rough around the edges and only provide basic functionalities.
HomeKit & new Home app
Apple is finally getting serious about smart homes and the internet of things, launching a dedicated app, Home, for controlling all the appliances that are compatible with HomeKit.
If you open up Home, you'll see all your HomeKit-compatible accessories, no matter which company makes them, and you can easily control them all from one hub. Many of these will have 3D Touch shortcuts: you can force-tap and slide on a dimmer app, for instance, to adjust light levels.
There are some really nice features in Home. One is called Scenes, which is effectively a pre-customised set of adjustments across a range of accessories that you can activate with a single tap or Siri command.
Time to buy a HomeKit ready device? Read: Best HomeKit devices compatible with Apple Home app
The all-important but often neglected Phone app gets a single big enhancement: voicemail transcription. iOS will convert speech into text so you can glance through a voicemail without having to listen to it. You'll need to have a iPhone 6s or above, and your carrier needs to support Visual Voicemail.
Apple has pledged to work with third parties to provide more information about known voicemail spammers, so you can be warned when one is ringing.
There are lots of updates to Messages, many of them clearly aimed at a young audience.
You're now able to use rich links in Messages. Share a link and, as it would in Slack or Twitter, artwork and a precis of the article may be pulled in, so your friends can get an idea of the gist without having to click.
Emoji are incorporated into predictive text. In fact it goes even further: Messages can scan a message you're about to send and highlight all the words that could be replaced with emoji. Tap them one by one and they'll transform into the appropriate pictures.
You'll be able to add various bubble effects to your messages, too.
You can make a message (including pictures, if you wish) come up in 'invisible ink', which means it's blurred out until the recipient swipes across it with a finger. This is designed for situations when you want to surprise someone with a nice message and want to delay the moment of gratification for a little longer. We'd hope that iPhone owners won't use this for dumping their other halves.
Other effects include 'Slam', which makes the speech bubble briefly bulge outwards dramatically, and others that make the text initially smaller than normal.
You can send handwritten messages; you can use Digital Touch and send your heartbeat (another nod to watchOS). You can use full-screen visual effects on your messages, so that the entire screen lights up with a garish laser show if that's what you want. It's all a bit much for us oldies but, to quote Marty McFly, your kids are going to love it.
Interested in getting to grips with Messages? Here's How to use Messages in iOS 10.
Delete preinstalled apps
Apple probably doesn't want to highlight the fact that users have been crying out for the ability to delete its apps. But they have been crying out for that, and for the ability to get back the storage space they were taking up. (Although Apple stresses that they don't take up much space anyway: "all of them together use less than 150MB".)
Nethertheless, it's a huge relief that in iOS 10, you'll be able to ditch many of Apple's preinstalled apps from your iPhone or iPad, but it's worth pointing out that the apps aren't really "deleted" in the strict sense; all that happens is the app icon is hidden, links to functions like Siri are temporarily severed, and user data associated with the app is deleted. But the app itself remains on your system, albeit hidden from your view.
Amusingly, if you want to bring back the app after deleting it, iOS forces you to go through the charade of visiting the App Store, finding the app and 'redownloading it' - but really this could have been accomplished by just flicking a toggle switching in Settings. Apple does it this way in order to keep the user experience consistent.
We explain how to delete (or perhaps we should say, as Apple does, "remove") preinstalled apps in iOS 10 - and some workarounds that let you do roughly the same thing in iOS 9 and earlier - in a separate article: How to delete Stocks, Maps and other preinstalled apps on iPhone or iPad.
RAW images in iOS 10
If you've got an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, there's good news: you're going to get the option to take RAW images, meaning captured images will offer a lot more level of detail for those wanting to professionally edit the photos. The RAW images will be bigger in file size, of course, so there are down sides.
The RAW images functionality will only be available through the rear-facing camera and you won't be able to use image stabilisation.
The Safari app has received some love, with the mobile browser now having the ability to open unlimited tabs, whereas in iOS 9 you could only open 36 tabs. Speaking about tabs, you can now close all tabs, rather than individually going through each tab and closing it - a useful feature for those who tend to leave many tabs open at once. To do this in the new iOS 10, tap and hold on the new Tab button within Safari and you'll be presented to close all your Tabs at once.
Within Safari, you can also play in-line videos without having to watch the video in fullscreen mode. This simple functionality allows you to continue reading the given article, whilst having a video play in the background.
On 25 July, Jer Noble published a blog post on WebKit informing developers and users that silent videos will now be available for automatic playback while keeping the ones with audio on pause.
This means that websites can look and feel different, due to the change in iOS policies. For example, this allows GIFs in Apple's mobile Safari browser to automatically playback without the need of user interaction.
This will need to be adopted by web developers for the changes to be felt by end-users, but nevertheless, Apple has relaxed its iOS web policies in iOS 10, which will give developers more control, whilst allowing readers to have a better web Safari experience.
Other new features
In iOS 10 you'll able to enable or disable the read receipts that were introduced back in iOS 7 on an individual basis. Currently you can only universally change it, but now you'll be able to change it per contact or group.
There are very slight changes to the app and folder animations, which make the folders in your app drawer zoom in from the centre of the screen, rather than the folder's location on your screen.
Live Photos now feature image stabilisation, which will hopefully help make the images a little clearer.
The default Clock app now has a Wake Alarm and Bedtime feature. As well as waking you up, you can choose to be reminded when it's time to go to sleep in order for you to get your desired hours of rest.
Like macOS Sierra and its storage optimisation option, iOS 10 can be instructed to automatically remove files from your device that haven't been used in a long time, such as songs you rarely play.
Game Center is no more, and has been completely removed from the default stock apps - this is the result of apparently less than 1% of people actually using it. There are
You can now clear all of your notifications within the Notification Center, allowing you to quickly clear those Instagram likes...or messages.
3D Touch can be used to rename folders, control downloads and have Siri suggest recommended apps.
With tvOS, you can now use the new Apple TV Remote app, to control your Apple TV.
The iMessage App has received an update with new animated stickers. Classic Mac, hands, hearts and smileys are the four new sticker packs freely available to download. We're sure there will be even more packs available in the future, especially from third-party companies.
Speaking of messages, you're now able to send low quality images through the Messages app, which lets you conserve data.
You can now 3D Touch Quick Action items. This makes using the Quick Actions within your Control Centre a lot faster and easier. For example, you can now change the Flashlight's intensity with three separate levels of brightness - very handy!
Widgets can now work in a larger format. Previously certain apps, such as the calculator or calendar apps wouldn't display properly due to widget limitations. Now with larger widgets, these apps work a lot better in a widget-format.
As Slide to Unlock has disappeared in iOS 10, Apple has provided the option to simply rest your finger on the screen to unlock it. You can find the 'Rest Finger to Unlock' option within the Accessibility settings.
Widgets in the Notification Centre are now accessible through the Home Screen. Previously, you were only able to see widgets through the 'Today' section. That's now a thing of the past, as you're now able to view it in both sections.
When a lightning port with moisture is connected to an iPhone 6s (or later), a warning is displayed. The warning suggests you disconnect your iPhone from the lightning port to prevent any water damage for occurring.
There is a new look on the Control Centre, making it look a lot more elegant on first launch.
You can now see a date within the Notification Centre.
Apple Music now features the star ratings again, a feature which was popular among some users. Apple have also replaced the headphone logo with an output icon.
You can now quick-reply to messages through a fullscreen pop-up.
There is a whole set of new emojis added and a few that have been updated, such as the revolver pistol is now a green water gun.