Do you feel brave? You can try out the new iOS and iPadOS updates from Apple now

Every year Apple releases a few big new software updates for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and more. And every year, they give people like you and me a chance to try out the features packed in those updates early.

If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can install Apple’s new public beta program for iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple Watch now and assess the company’s progress for yourself.

Before we go any further, a friendly warning: Please, please, don’t install any of Apple’s new beta software unless you’re OK with your devices running rough from time to time. On my iPhone, for example, just opening the FaceTime app temporarily broke my ability to answer phone calls. (It’s good that the final versions of these updates won’t be released for a few more months yet.)

If you’re the kind of person who lives for the latest and greatest, you’ll find the complete instructions for installing this preview software on the Apple website. But if you’d rather play it safe—which is the right move for most people—we’ll walk you through just how useful three of Apple’s biggest new software features have been to date.

You can recover (some) messages

Who hasn’t sent a text message with an embarrassing misspelling? In my group of friends, I’ve been famous for sending messages that leave whole (and usually important) words.

Instead of living with this shame, new versions of iOS and iPadOS allow you to edit and “unsend” – aka delete – messages you’ve sent via iMessage within 15 minutes. (In other words, you can’t restore a standard SMS text message you sent to Android users, for example.)

Fans of competing messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram will claim that these features have been popular for years, and they’re right. However, these tools can undoubtedly come in handy when you are constantly sending messages – and sometimes failing – to certain people.

It is likely that your actions will not go unnoticed, because the messages you modified after sending are marked as such. And there’s another issue to keep in mind: You can’t restore messages you’ve sent to people who aren’t using the new software for their Apple phones or tablets. These people will see the new and edited message as a follow up to the original, soiled message in their text message threads.

In other words, if you’re friends with people who don’t update their software regularly, you’ll still want to pay close attention to your messages before you hit send.

A different kind of multitasking on iPad

Over the years, iPads have gotten better at letting users run multiple apps at the same time—a significant feat when you’re really trying to get work done on one of these things. But with the new Stage Manager feature debuting in iPadOS 16, Apple is trying to give some of its customers the multitasking upgrade they’ve been wanting all along.

Here’s how Stage Manager works: Once you enable the feature in the iPad Control Center, every app you open appears in a large window in the center of the screen. To the left, you’ll see a column of four other recently used apps windows that you can click to go back to. But here’s the catch: By dragging and dropping app icons from the iPad platform or the app library into the main “platform,” you can run up to four apps on your screen at once, each in a floating window that can be resized on its own.

This is the traditional desktop as the iPad felt, and that might be enough to change the way some people get their work done.

But in my experience so far, it can sometimes be difficult to interact with or read these applet windows, especially when used on smaller — if not quite cheap — tablets like Apple’s iPad Air or the 11-inch iPad Pro. (I’ll keep testing this feature on these more modest devices to see if you’re really used to it.) The whole thing seems to be more comfortable to use on the company’s larger iPad Pro models, but most people don’t shell out. From full laptop to tablet prices.

One possible solution is to bring a second screen into the mix. It used to be that the extra screen I connected to the iPad would show the same thing on both screens. Now, with this new software, you’ll see a separate “stage” full of apps on a connected screen – meaning you can mess around with up to eight apps across both screens. Then again, chances are if you have a seated monitor, it’s probably connected to a computer anyway – you might just want to multitask on that instead.

But the biggest caveat to keep in mind is that this feature only works on iPads with Apple’s M1 chip (and anything that comes after that). That means if you buy an Apple tablet released before 2021 in the hope that the company will make it better for multitasking over the years — because that’s what it usually does — you’re out of luck.

Customizable lock screens are more useful than they seem

the time. Incoming alerts. Those little icons for WiFi and cell reception. For years, regardless of the photos I chose as wallpapers, my iPhone lock screen looked a lot like mine. But not anymore.

With iOS 16, you can equip your lock screen with widgets that show you today’s weather, the battery life of your wireless headphones, the company’s current stock price and more. Ideally, this combined with displaying notifications means you can stay up to date without having to unlock your phone and spend more time on your phone.

Perhaps most important is the absolute depth level with which you can make your phone lock screen look like your own. Do you want to put a series of poo emoji in your background? Or change the font on the clock, tuck the time behind a mountain in one of your favorite photos? This may sound complicated, but you can also do it without much hassle.

This may all seem a bit trivial, and sometimes it is. But making a cool and somewhat more impersonal gadget look and feel as if it were your own, there’s no irony. And if practicality is your concern, it’s worth noting that you can set custom lock screens for specific situations, such as a screen filled with work tools for work or a black and white version for bedtime.

  • Leverage the potential of meme in your photos: Long press on a person or object in one of your photos, and iOS will automatically separate them from their background. From there, you can (among other things) drag it into a messaging app to send it as a picture-perfect reaction.
  • Keyboard touches: Android phones have had this thing forever, but now you can turn on haptic feedback for typing. This way, you’ll feel a satisfying click of a button and you’ll also hear it when you’re texting.
  • Safer photos: In this new program, hidden and recently deleted albums in the Photos app are set to verify your identity before you can open them by default.

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