Once a year, Apple releases a major update to its iOS software, bringing interface tweaks, security fixes and, best of all, a raft of new features to iPhone owners around the globe. If your iPhone supports the update, you can install it for free.

In this article we're talking about the next big iPhone update: iOS 15, which will be released near the end of 2021. We outline the release schedule for iOS 15 and explain how to try it out before the public release; we also discuss the interface changes and new iPhone features you can expect from the new software.

When will iOS 15 be released?

iOS 15 will be announced and demonstrated during the opening keynote presentation of Apple's WWDC 2021 event, which begins on 7 June, and then released to the public in September.

Apple follows a consistent release schedule when it comes to iOS. The headline features are shown off at WWDC in the summer, a series of beta versions are rolled out over the subsequent three months, and then the final version is released to coincide with the launch of new iPhone models in the autumn.

The coronavirus pandemic caused some delays in 2020, with the iPhone event moved from its usual September to October; this meant it was split off from the iOS 14/iPadOS 14 launch. But we expect Apple's software department to return to the normal schedule this year.

If you want to try out a pre-release beta version of iOS 15, you should sign up to Apple's Beta software programme, which gives you access to unfinished software builds. This comes with risks - the idea is that you'll be spotting and reporting bugs, of which there will be plenty - so you shouldn't install the beta on your main phone. It could become unreliable or even stop working entirely.

Which iPhones will get iOS 15?

Here are the iPhone models we expect to support iOS 15:

  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • All iPhone 13 models
  • ...plus the current iPod touch

In 2020 Apple spoiled us by ensuring that all the iPhones that had been able to run iOS 13 could also run iOS 14. But rumours have already begun circulating to suggest Apple won't be able to pull off the same feat with iOS 15.

The oldest iPhones on the iOS 13-compatible list, in terms of technology, are the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE. All of these use the A9 processor and it looks like iOS 14 will be the end of the line for that particular silicon, as outlined in our news article Apple to drop support for iPhone 6s and SE.

We discuss the iPhones that will get iOS 15 in more detail in a separate article.

What new features can we expect in iOS 15?

With the full unveiling of iOS 15 still a few months away - and Apple's veil of secrecy far more reliable for software than for hardware, which has to go through a leaky supply chain - there's little in the way of solid news regarding the software's new features.

Unperturbed, we've scoured the internet, tapped our various sources, and taken a look at our own wish list to predict what's likely to appear when WWDC rolls around in June.

Expanded choice of default apps

iOS 14 introduced a feature that Apple users have been requesting for years, with the ability to select their own default apps as opposed to the Apple variants. Sadly, this wasn't a complete overhaul, as the change only applied to email and browser apps, although the later iOS 14.5 update adds music services to the list.

We'd like to see Apple expand this to include calendars and messaging apps in iOS 15. If you prefer Fantastical to Apple's Calendar app, or Signal to Messages - and that applies to plenty of iPhone owners - then this would be a dream come true.

If you haven't yet played with the feature in iOS 14, here's how to change your iPhone's default apps.

Presentation mode in FaceTime

Among other things, the year 2020 will be remembered as the time when everyone finally got into (and promptly came to depend on) video-conferencing apps. But this experience highlighted the limitations of Apple's FaceTime platform.

One feature that makes FaceTime a lesser option than, say, Zoom or Skype is its lack of a presentation mode. You can't share your screen in a meeting with colleagues.

Adding this to FaceTime would make it a much easier choice for Apple users who want to stick with the platform but still get some work done.

iOS 15 release date and new features: FaceTime

Of course, we hope not to be spending quite so much time at home in 2021, but it would be good for FaceTime to beef up its capabilities anyway.

Widgets on the Lock screen

Another innovation that arrived in iOS 14 was widgets on the home screen. (They had previously been available in the Today View, but it's not the same.) It was about time, frankly.

Home-screen widgets have proved a favourite with iPhone users, but it's still not possible to have them on the lock screen. This would save people from having to unlock the device and navigate to the widget's location, while giving the lock screen additional controls and information.

To see how the existing feature works, check out our guide on how to use widgets in iOS 14.

Further reading

That's all of the iOS 15 rumours for now - but the leaks will ramp up as we approach WWDC, so be sure to keep returning to this article for updates and additional details.

For information about the other software updates coming in 2021, visit our watchOS 8 and macOS 12 news hubs. And for a broader look at the year's launches, read New Apple products coming out in 2021.