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iOS 15 new features, supported devices and how to download

iOS 15 is available to download for free, so here's a breakdown of the new iPhone software and what Apple handsets are compatible.

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple’s next big software update, iOS 15, was released on 20th September – here’s how you can download it and access the new iPhone features.

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The iOS 15 launch date was confirmed during Apple’s California Streaming event on 14th September, which also showcased the iPhone 13 family, Apple Watch Series 7 and two new tablets, the iPad Mini (6th generation) and iPad (9th generation).

The new operating system has brought new FaceTime capabilities, changes to how notifications are displayed and added new features into apps including Maps, Safari, Health and more.

Alongside iOS 15, Apple simultaneously released iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15 – upgrades that were unveiled during its WWDC event in June.

During its busy September event, Apple confirmed the iPhone 13 features, specs and colours, as well as the iPad Mini 6 reveal. As detailed on our Apple Watch 7 pre-order page, the new smartwatch is being released on Friday, 15th October.

The iPhone 13 pre-orders went live on 19th September, and there were some great iPhone 13 deals on offer. The four new handsets go on sale on Friday, 24th September, so buyer’s don’t have long to wait. The iPhone 13s come with iOS 15 pre-installed, but any of the prior models, like the iPhone 12, will need an update.

So here’s a breakdown of how to access the iOS 15 software update, what new features you can expect on your iPhone and the full range of compatible devices.

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Apple iOS 15 release date and time

Apple iOS 15 became available as a free software update on Monday, 20th September shortly after 6 pm in the UK.

Apple iOS 15 download: top new features 

iOS 15 unveiled SharePlay – which lets you stream movies and TV shows, listen to music or share your iPhone’s screen while on a FaceTime call – alongside a “Focus” mode that lets you minimise distractions by limiting app notifications and letting you set a status, so your contacts are informed in real-time if you are set to busy.

FaceTime calls now have spatial audio, which makes voices sound like they are actually coming from the direction the person is on the screen. In theory, this makes video calls more like a natural conversation as it’s more like talking in-person.

How notifications are shown on the iPhone have been given an overhaul. Photos of the sender will now appear, and app icons have been made larger, while users now have the ability to get a collection of notifications delivered as a single package at their chosen time of day. There are also better options for muting and silencing.

In iOS 15, the Maps app has more detail than ever – showing 3D landmarks and more detail about road traffic, markings and augmented reality walking routes – while Safari has a new bottom bar to make it easier to scroll between open tabs, the ability to let you surf the web using voice commands and a customisable start page.

Live Text has been enhanced in the update, letting you extract words from images on the web or being viewed via the Camera app, and it can now translate into seven languages: English, Chinese, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

You can see the full list of new iOS 15 features on the official Apple website.

iOS 15 introduces SharePlay in FaceTime, Live Text features and redesigned Notifications.
iOS 15 introduces SharePlay in FaceTime, Live Text features and redesigned Notifications.
Apple

iOS 15: what iPhones are compatible? 

The new iPhones – the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 Pro Max – will all come with iOS 15 pre-installed, but others are fully compatible:

  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone Xs
  • iPhone Xs Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE (1st generation)
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

Thinking of upgrading? Read iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 comparison.

How to download the iOS 15 update

iOS 15 is now live. Apple stresses that you should make sure to back up important information to your computer or iCloud before tapping update.

If you didn’t get a prompt to say an update is available, plug your iPhone into a power source and connect to the internet using Wi-Fi. Go to Settings > General > Software Update. You may see two options: one to stay on iOS 14 but still receive vital security updates, and the second to update to iOS. Choose, then tap Install Now.

The same step-by-step process applies to iPads.

iOS software is downloaded wirelessly, but if it’s not showing up you should soon be able to download the update and install it manually via your computer.

It’s advised to turn on automatic updates, which means your iPhone will be able to update at night while it’s charging. To use this, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Tap Automatic Updates, and then turn on Download iOS Updates.

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