iOS 16.3’s Best iPhone Features: iMessage Updates, Lock Screen Changes and More
This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2023, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice about Apple’s most popular product.
Released last month, iOS 16.3 brings a number of small but significant updates to Apple’s iOS 16 iPhone software, including security keys for iCloud and new wallpaper options. iOS 16 has been out for almost five months and is available to anyone with a compatible iPhone. Installing the new operating system software on your iPhone gives you tons of new features and settings, like a more customizable lock screen, a way to edit sent messages, and a magical photo editing tool. Additionally, iOS 16 brings back the battery percentage icon.
iOS 16 was announced last spring at Apple’s WWDC conference ahead of its public launch alongside the iPhone 14. If you’re curious about what else iOS 16 has to offer, read on as we break down the 11 best new features on your iPhone. Just make sure you’ve already completed these three steps first and also check out the lesser-known features lurking in iOS 16.
The ability to edit and ‘unsend’ messages
“Embarrassing typos are a thing of the past,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, at WWDC when he introduced three of the most requested features for the Messages app.
First, in iOS 16 you will be able to edit sent messages. So if you spot a typo after a message, you’ll be able to edit the message after the fact. A small “modified” appears in the status below the message.
In Messages you can edit previously sent messages.
Next, and this might be my favorite new feature, you can instantly recall a sent message. If you accidentally send an unfinished message, you can use the Undo Send tool to prevent it from being read and hopefully look less chaotic to your friends and family.
Finally, you can mark messages and threads as unread. This can be a great tool for when you don’t have time to respond to a message right now, but want to make sure you get back to it later.
Video: Testing iOS 16 (edit/delete sent messages, new lock screen and more!)
A new customizable lock screen
One of the things you look at the most on your iPhone is the lock screen, especially if you have a Face ID-equipped iPhone. iOS 16 brings the most significant update yet to the iPhone’s lock screen. Press and hold to edit your lock screen. You can swipe to try out several different styles. Each style changes the color filter for the background photo and the font on the lock screen so that everything complements each other. It feels a bit like Apple’s version of Google’s Material You, which was introduced with Android 12.
You can also customize the fonts for the time and date, and add lock screen widgets like temperature, activity rings, and a calendar. The widgets are similar to complications on the Apple Watch lock screen.
Your iPhone will become more customizable in iOS 16. You’ll be able to choose how your lock screen looks, down to the font and color.
You can even set up multiple custom lock screens with different widgets and easily swipe to switch between them. There is also a photo shuffle option that automatically changes the images on your lock screen.
One feature we were hoping to see Apple add was an always-on display. This is something that almost all Android phones have; even the Apple Watch does. Well, with the new iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, the always-on display has finally arrived.
iOS 16 adds a feature that developers can use called Live Activities. It’s essentially a mini-view of the real-time progress of a workout, sporting event, or Uber ride from your iPhone’s lock screen.
Apple notifications and live activities
Sometimes notifications can cover your lock screen photo, so iOS 16 moves notifications to the bottom of your screen. As you receive them, instead of being compiled into a list, they appear as a vertical carousel. Not only does it look better, but should be a big help for one-handed use of your iPhone.
iOS 16 also aims to fix another notification problem. Sometimes you get a bunch of notifications in a row from one app, like the score of a basketball game. A new tool for developers called Live Activities makes it easier to stay on top of things happening in real time from your lock screen, instead of getting a series of interruptions.
Live Activity should make it easier to follow sporting events, workouts, or even the progress of an Uber ride.
Skip CAPTCHAs with private access tokens
The CAPTCHA – which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart – has been a necessary evil across the Internet. CAPTCHAs are designed to make sure that a person is accessing a website or service, and not a bot. I find them annoying as they often involve reading strangely written letters or having to find all the images a truck has. With iOS 16, Apple plans to replace these awkward interactions with Private Access Tokens.
According to a video on Apple’s website demonstrating Private Access Tokens, websites that support the token will essentially log in and verify that you are indeed human without having to play any of the usual CAPTCHA games. Apple says in the video that the company is working with other companies to roll out support for this feature, so we can’t say the CAPTCHA will be dead after iOS 16 is released to the public. But the draft could provide some relief if adopted.
Wallet and Apple Pay Later
ID cards from more states will be available in your Wallet app along with more security and privacy features. In iOS 16, you can also protect your identity and age. So, rather than showing your exact date of birth, the Wallet app will show your ID and that you’re over 21.
iOS 16 makes it easier to share keys with apps like Mail and Messages. When your friend receives the key, they can add it to the Wallet app on their iPhone. Apple said it is working to make sure shared keys are an industry standard and free to others.
The Wallet app in iOS 16 is getting a bunch of small but notable updates, including the Apple Pay Later payment plan.
Apple Pay will support new types of payments and adds a new feature called Apple Pay Later, a Klarna-like service that lets you split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase into four equal payments over six weeks, with no interest and no fees not. Ongoing payments are managed by the Wallet app, making it easy to keep track of dates and payments.
But Apple Pay doesn’t stop there. A new feature will also help you track Apple Pay orders and let merchants deliver detailed receipts and tracking information. This should make it easier to stay on top of the status of all your orders.
You can tap and hold on the subject of a photo and separate it from the background. Then you can drag it to another app like Messages to share it.
Apple Visual Look Up’s tap and drag for photos
In iOS 15, Visual Look Up analyzes your photos and can identify objects such as plants, landmarks and pets. iOS 16 takes it to the next level. When you touch a photo’s subject like the dog in the image above, you can lift it out of the background and add it to apps like Messages. Essentially, it’s a tap-and-hold tool that removes a photo’s background.
Apple sometimes overuses the word “magic,” but this feature really looks like it.
During the WWDC keynote, Apple CEO Craig Federighi introduces SharePlay for the Messages app.
Apple SharePlay is coming to Messages
SharePlay, which appeared in iOS 15, lets you have a shared experience while connecting with someone over FaceTime. You can watch TV shows, listen to music in sync and other things. iOS 16 adds the ability to discover more apps that support SharePlay from within FaceTime.
But perhaps one of the coolest things Apple did for SharePlay was to make it work inside the Messages app. Apple said this was one of the top requests from app developers. Now if you want to share a movie on Disney Plus, you can start SharePlay with a friend while chatting in Messages.
With Safety Check, you can quickly reset location sharing and access passwords. It is meant to be helpful for people in abusive relationships.
Apple Safety Check aims to help people in abusive relationships
Safety Check is a new feature intended to be helpful for people in abusive relationships. It allows you to review and reset who has access to location information as well as passwords, messages and other apps on an iPhone.
Focus mode updates and focus filters
Focus mode gets several updates. The first applies Focus behavior to widgets and lock screen appearance. So you can have one lock screen set for when your work focus is activated and another for workouts.
Apple has added specific focus filters that apply your iPhone’s focus mode within apps. For example, in Safari you can limit which tabs are shown depending on which focus mode you have active.
Apple Maps adds transit tickets
Maps gets several updates. You will be able to plan trips with up to 15 different stops along the way. If you start planning a trip using the Maps app on your Mac, you’ll be able to share it with your iPhone.
And in something similar to what Google announced for Google Wallet in Android 13, you’ll be able to see transportation cost estimates, as well as add more money to a fare map from Apple Maps.
In iOS 16, you’ll be able to customize Quick Start with a specific child’s iCloud parental controls and settings.
Apple iCloud family checklist
iCloud is getting several new features. One of the more interesting ones is the option to quickly set up a new device for your child. When Quick Start appears, you have the option to select a user for the new device and use all the existing parental controls you previously selected and set up. However, this is not what many of us still want: the ability to set up separate users for the same device.
There’s a new family checklist with tips for updating settings for your kids as they get older, like a reminder to check location sharing settings or share your iCloud Plus subscriptions.
For more, check out everything Apple announced at its “Far Out” event on September 7. Plus, here’s how to download iOS 16.
First published on June 6, 2022 at 10:06 a.m. PT.