in ,

iOS 16 review: Apple opens the lock screen

Apple’s yearly update includes numerous minor improvements that collectively make for a better iPhone experience.

After spending several months in beta, iOS 16 is now available in full, just in time for the release of the iPhone 14 series. I’ve been testing the software’s final version for the past week or two, and there are a lot of fresh features to explore, such as programmable lock screens, updates to the Messages app, and cleverer AI techniques. What’s more, it isn’t broken. The iPhone 8 and newer variants are compatible with the most recent version of Apple’s mobile operating system, albeit some functionality require the relatively recent A12 chip. (More to follow on that.)

It was challenging to describe iOS 15’s most important features, which included media sharing, Focus modes, and Share Play, as an update you’ll notice. For the first time since the iPhone was introduced, iOS 14, which is already two years old, changed the homepage experience by adding widgets to the grid of icons. Apple finally addressed the lock screen with iOS 16.

A personalized lock screen

The clock was the only thing on the lock screen before. Though things have changed somewhat, let’s start with the clock. There is now space for widgets, the font is thicker, and you can even change the text’s color. The new default font may not be to your taste (I don’t either), but the good news is that it can be changed and comes in a variety of font styles and colors. It is nothing new to be able to select photographs for the lock screen, apply filter styles, and even select a shuffled collection of photos to cycle through. You can also enable a multilayered photo effect, with the image’s subject standing out in front, if the photos were taken in portrait mode every time. If you do own an iPhone 14 Pro, read our entire review to learn what we think of Apple’s new Dynamic Island and the Always On Display.

You can customize two distinct widget sections. The thin box above the clock is the first and is best used for one-line content (think: the date, chances of rain, or your next calendar event.) A box with a combination of 2×1 and 1×1 icons that can hold up to four separate widgets is located below it. You can tap on these to access the relevant page from the lock screen, but don’t expect to learn any further details by holding down on the icons for a long time, which seems like a very Apple method to enhance the information provided by these widgets. Maybe in iOS 17.1 or 16.1?

It will take some time for third-party app developers to add widgets to their updates and onto your phone, much like when iOS 14 introduced home screen widgets, but I’m sure productivity, fitness tracking applications, and other services will seize the opportunity. Google in particular appears poised to jump on board: When it becomes accessible, its Gmail widget will undoubtedly find a spot on my lock screen.

The updated lock screen retains some traditional elements as well. Both the flashlight and camera shortcuts are still available to touch on, and the signal strength and battery symbols are also present (though they now have a % readout). The battery indicator oddly only visibly depicts how charged it is when the battery is under 20% charged, which makes no sense when the battery is, say, 50% charged.

The updated lock screen also serves as a fresh way to highlight Focus modes, an iOS 15 feature that can be difficult to set up. Now, you may set a Focus mode to distinct lock screens with their own unique widget layouts and images (one for personal use, one for work, and one for sleep). If you don’t often change your wallpaper during the week, you may put up, for example, a fun family photo from the weekend and designate it as your personal focus mode.

On the other hand, I have a pretentious motivational saying with a black backdrop that I can refer to when I’m putting the finishing touches on a deadline and have my phone set to Do Not Disturb. They are simpler to use in daily life because of the ability to swipe between Focus modes. Indeed, I could have done that in the past using the drop-down option at the top-right, but I didn’t. I’ve already started utilizing Focus modes more frequently with iOS 16.

A better messaging experience

With new Visual Lookup functionality, Apple’s native messaging app now has some special features. In order to create simple-to-share stickers, it now handles picture copy-and-pasting, grabbing subjects from screenshots, images, and other sources. If your iPhone is an XS or newer, long-pressing the object, animal, or human will try to clip it out of the backdrop so you may paste it somewhere else.

For such a, let’s say, lazy procedure, it’s eerily accurate. My favorite. With the addition of the ability to extract text from videos, the Visual Lookup capabilities in iOS 16 are much more comprehensive. It should function with full-screen videos played in web browsers in addition to videos you create yourself.

Beyond Share Play and stickers, Messages has increased the range of sharing options available. Sending documents, spreadsheets, and other file formats created with Apple’s office software is now possible. Hopefully, Microsoft and the Google Suite will soon receive third-party support.

Additionally, Apple is catching up elsewhere. Last but not least, if you act quickly enough, you can modify and unsend messages in the Messages app. When you send the message, you will have up to 15 minutes to amend it, with a maximum of five changes. Any changed messages from iOS 16 users can be seen beneath the repaired message and will be greyed out (blued?). Only messages sent from an iPhone to another can be sent back.

The native Mail app now allows you to cancel sending emails and schedule them. (Finally.) Other contemporary features on Gmail include suggestions when you might have forgotten an attachment or recipient, which you are probably already accustomed to.

Apple has also improved speech dictation. Now that the keyboard will remain on the screen while you speak into your iPhone, you can enter and make corrections as the dictation is being recorded, which is perfect for precise names and locations. To repair any errors, you simply tap on a word and speak over it. Apple has also improved the auto punctuation in dictation, which generally helps to insert commas, periods, and other punctuation without you having to finish your text-based requests to friends with a “question mark.” Also, it picks up emoji as you speak and adds them to your text. (The A12 Bionic chip featured in the iPhone XR and subsequent smartphones is required for this feature.)

Health and Fitness

Apple’s Health and Fitness applications are relatively new additions to the family of native apps and they are still developing. A new medication feature in the Health app lets you keep track of what medications you take when. Your iPhone will ping you when it’s time to take your medications if you’ve set up numerous medications for various time-of-day reminders and frequencies. You can now set notifications in the Health app if your reported menstrual cycles reveal a trend of irregular periods or other indications of potential problems.

In a lighter vein, Apple has also included a My Sports option to its News app, which dedicates a portion to your favorite sports teams, depending on how serious an athlete you are. This includes reminders for upcoming games as well as news, results, and related stories. A word of caution: Apple’s News+ paywall may prevent you from accessing some of the stories.

You can miss one of the best updates. I did too, up until I read through Apple’s extensive release notes for iOS 16: The iPhone finally has haptic typing, which is a few years late. Up until recently, installing G board (yep, Google’s third-party keyboard) was the only way to receive typing vibrations on an iOS iPhone. Just a few days later, it’s difficult to fathom using glass keyboards without it. Android users have it good these days.

Everything else

A few potentially life-saving personal safety upgrades are also included in iOS 16. One can now quickly push the side button five times to activate Emergency SOS, which sounds an alarm on the phone before immediately dialing emergency services. When activated in settings, Crash Detection uses algorithms to assess whether you’ve been in a car crash by combining data from the motion sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, barometer, and microphone. A warning will appear when it is found on both your iPhone and Apple Watch. If you’re still awake, you can swipe the screen to alert emergency personnel or, if it was a false alarm, to close the alert. The iPhone will automatically contact emergency services after 10 seconds, similar to the SOS call.

Without at least a few security upgrades, it wouldn’t be an Apple update. The most obvious change is probably Safety Check, which lets you disconnect your iPhone from particular apps, devices, and services. With “Emergency Reset” or “Select All and Quit Sharing,” you can deselect permissions and even terminate the connection entirely at this point. For these more stringent security measures, you will need to utilize your passcode or Face ID.

Apple is also promoting digital keys it calls Passkeys, which use the security capabilities of your iPhone to log into websites and other devices like your smart TV safely. They weren’t created by Apple, but the presence of Passkeys on iOS devices should encourage more people to utilize them. Yet, I haven’t yet discovered any occasions to put them to the test.

And there are even more notable features:

  • Multi-stop routing is supported by Apple Maps and is synchronized with your Computer as well. When using public transportation, travel costs are also shown.
  • On some devices, Apple has improved cinematic mode video capture and added the ability to add foreground blur to Portrait mode images. Cinematic mode is available on iPhones from the 13th generation and later.
  • There are now categories in the Home app for lighting, speakers, TVs, and other things. To distinguish between all of your linked devices, the tiles have been modified. Of course, lock screen widgets for the Home app are now available.
  • You may now utilize the activity monitoring features of the Fitness app without an Apple Watch thanks to Apple’s expansion of the app to everyone. The motion sensors in your iPhone will calculate your steps, mileage, and workouts to provide a general estimate of your calorie burn.
  • If you have a smartphone with LIDAR, you can use new accessibility features like Door Detection in the iPhone’s Magnifier mode. Starting with the iPhone 12 Pro, those are the “Pro” models of the iPhone. Magnifier now has a new detection mode that provides more thorough descriptions in addition to persons and picture detection.
  • Apple now enables hands-free call termination with Siri. Indeed, it seems terribly harsh, but until today, hang-ups needed a physical tap. Also, you may change how long Siri waits before responding to your voice requests.


Another significant advancement for Apple’s notoriously slow-to-change mobile operating system is iOS 16, which this time enhances your iPhone lock screen in a number of ways. Since the lock screen is an essential component of the iPhone experience, I concentrated on it for this evaluation. Even though the changes occurring elsewhere are tiny, there are a lot of them and they add up. (Just so you know, Apple has expanded the Emoji nose selections to seven.)

Certain features, such as Passkey support and accessibility updates for LIDAR-capable phones, I haven’t been able to test. You may not notice every improvement, as with many iOS releases. The medicine reminder tools are convenient and easy for many people, while others aren’t even aware they exist. Nevertheless, you might not be interested in sports ball? Sports lovers may adore the dedicated News app category. You may configure several Focus modes and test out the lock screen widgets. Or not. But, if possible turn on haptic typing so that your iPhone no longer makes the annoying typing sounds.