There are dozens, if not hundreds, of new features distributed in the major software updates that Apple releases each fall. But for every one that gets top billing (iOS 16’s new customizable lock screens, for example) there are a huge number that get little to no attention. It’s not fair, but hey, that’s life: we can’t all be the stars of the show.
Fortunately, the sheer number of people watching these updates helps ensure that no new features are not known for long. Having spent a great deal of time with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 over the past few months, I’ve developed my own feelings about what are the best features that you might not try right away, the ones that often lurk in an app you haven’t opened for a while. a while, or buried under several levels of menus. And since I want you to enjoy them too, I’m going to share three of my favorites.
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Dark Sky has been my go-to weather app since its release, and while I’ve experimented with many others, I’ve always come back to it. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who was a big fan: Apple thought it was so good that it bought it back in 2020. More recently, an in-app announcement confirms that it will stop working as of January 1, 2023.
But the good news is that many of Dark Sky’s niceties have made their way into Apple’s own Weather app. If you haven’t tried it in a while, I encourage you to give it a try: there’s so much more in there. than you might think at first glance.
For example, all cards in the Weather app are now interactive; tap any of them (temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc.) to get an overview of the entire day, as well as future days. There is also a summary field for each metric that provides a convenient, easy-to-read text summary of general conditions: for example, “Today’s temperature range is 53° to 70°.”
On the other hand, Weather now not only includes Dark Sky’s precipitation maps and forecasts, but also offers temperature and air quality maps (tap the layers button in the map view). You can even look at a list view of all your saved locations and quickly see the conditions in all of them at once.
Yes, the Weather app could still be improved. There’s too much scrolling in some cases and burying some of the metrics under an extra touch sometimes means you’re slower to interact with, but I’m really impressed with the features Dark Sky brings in, right down to the precipitation warnings (which are admittedly a little off). Buried: Tap the list icon, then the three dots in the top right corner, then select Notifications).
When Dark Sky finally gives up the ghost, and I’ll give it one, it’s the Weather app that will get the first try at replacing it on my home screen.
The Apple Watch Ultra may have stolen the limelight during the company’s recent event, but one of the most useful features demonstrated at its presentation is actually available to owners of Apple Watch SE and Series 6 and later: the Waypoints compass and the corresponding backtrack.
That’s built into the redesigned Compass app, which is also available to Series 5 Apple Watch owners, though they don’t get the Waypoint feature. The revamped Compass app is pretty useful on its own, showing you the current direction you’re facing and any bearings, as well as offering different views that you can switch to by turning the Digital Crown. Those other views also offer your current elevation, tilt, latitude, and longitude, all handy to have on your wrist. You can also set compass bearings under the menu button at the top left, which helps you stay on course during a hike.
But the real gems are the Waypoint and Backtrack features. The former allows you to quickly place a GPS marker at your current location, which you can assign a color and icon to. Those then appear on a small minimap within the compass; scroll the Digital Crown and they’ll even appear on the compass ring, helping you navigate to the location. (I also appreciate that it can automatically place a waypoint where you parked your car, handy even if you’re not out in the wild.)
The Backtrack feature takes that up a notch; can automatically remove waypoints that you can use to retrace your steps later. And, if you’re in an environment without connectivity, it will even turn on automatically. I took a walk in the woods last week and found that Backtrack was already active, showing me the path I had taken. (Luckily I remembered where I parked my car.)
Ok, this last one is a small thing, but it can make a big difference. Last year, during a family vacation trip, my wife needed to connect her work PC to the Wi-Fi network. With Apple devices, that would be pretty easy: the Share Password prompt pops up, and you’re good to go. But we quickly realized that there was no way to get this information from our iOS devices so she could just type the password on her PC.
iOS 16 fixes that problem, finally. Not only can you see the password of the network you are currently connected to in Settings > Wifi tapping the info button next to the network name, but there’s now an Edit button in the top right corner of the Wi-Fi screen that lets you see all the networks you’ve connected to before. From there, you can view any of the passwords for those networks, as well as remove them, preventing automatic reconnection later.
It’s a feature that should have been there in the first place, frankly, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome now, as it helps lessen a pain point with the iOS experience. But it’s one of those new features that might get lost in the flashy new headlines, just another reminder that there’s a lot more to be found in Apple’s latest updates below the surface.