iOS 10 review: It’s the little things that matter


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Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s iOS 10 update for iPhones and iPads is the biggest software refresh the iPhone-maker has launched in years, adding a host of major and minor new features that completely change the iOS experience.

I’ve been using beta versions of iOS 10 on my iPhone 6s and iPad Pro since June. While some of the high-profile additions to Messages, Photos, Apple Music and Apple News aren’t totally mind-blowing, the smaller tweaks make all the difference. With iOS 10, using Apple’s devices is easier, faster and far more enjoyable than ever.

This is the big iOS update you’ve been waiting for, but not for all the reasons Apple thinks.

iOS 10 review: feature by feature

The iOS 10 lockscreen

iOS 10 lockscreen
The new widgets screen is customizable.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The biggest change you’ll notice is on the lock screen, which has been totally revamped. It looks the same when you turn on your iPhone but Apple has added two new screens — a widgets page and a camera page — giving you quicker access to the most important stuff on your device.

The days of sliding to unlock are dead. Now you can just push the Home button to get into your device. To view your widgets, swipe from left to right on the lock screen. Each widget can be expanded or contracted by tapping the “Show More” or “Show Less” option in the upper right of each card. And you can edit which widgets appear by scrolling down to the button of the widgets page and tapping Edit.

Rather than swiping up from the bottom of the lockscreen to pull up your camera, you swipe from the right side of the screen, giving you the ability to snap a pic or shoot a video immediately. It took a while for me to break the habit of accessing the camera via Control Center, but once you get it down you’ll have removed one extra tap from the process.

Raise to Wake

Raise to Wake saves you an extra tap.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

With iOS 10, your iPhone automatically knows when you want to use it (assuming you’re using a model that’s not more than a year old). There’s no more pressing the home Hutton to turn on your iPhone: Simply raise it to wake it up and view the notifications on your lock screen.

The new feature works on the iPhone 6s/6s Plus, iPhone SE and iPhone 7/7 Plus. The only downside is that it takes a second or two to turn on the screen, so a lot of times I find myself just pressing the Home button anyway. Touch ID is so fast now, though, that if you to want to see your notifications and widgets, you’ll need to be patient and wait for your device to wake. Otherwise you’ll breezy right past them.

If you hate the feature or want to be ultra-conservative with battery life, Raise to Wake can be turned off on the Display & Brightness tab in the Settings app.

Rich notifications

3D Touch becomes more useful with iOS 10’s addition of rich notifications that let you reply to messages, preview webpages or view photos straight from the notifications page. Just hard-press on a notification and a rich pop-up will let you interact with the app without leaving the one you’re currently using.

Apple’s new Messages app

imessage animations
iOS 10 turns Messages into a party.
Photo: Apple

With iOS 10, Apple poured a lot of love into the Messages app. There are many new features, but you probably won’t use all of them because they’re just obnoxious or a bit hidden.

Instead of replying to your messages, you can now use a “Tapback” by pressing on the chat bubble to send one of six responses (like a thumbs up or heart) to let the sender know you got their text but are too lazy to write a full response.

Message bubbles can be made bigger or smaller to add emphasis. To change the bubble, compose your text and then 3D Touch or long-press on the Send button to bring up the bubble effects screen. You can also add animations like exploding fireworks, lasers, confetti, balloons or a shooting star. Unfortunately, you can’t opt out of receiving the animations, so get ready to be spammed with balloons and fireworks by your annoying friends.

Apple has also made messages feel a bit more personal by adding the option to send handwritten notes. You can also send texts using invisible ink. Once you receive an invisible message, simply swipe over it to reveal the contents.

Oh, and there are tons of new stickers and other third-party add-ons, thanks to the new iMessage App Store. Users can now access their favorite GIFs, send money via Square, share sports scores or even play chess without ever leaving the Messages app.


iOS 10 emoji replace
When there’s more than one ideal emoji, it’s your choice.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

Everyone can become fluent in emoji now that iOS 10 gives you the option to automatically swap words with little pictograms. Type out what you want to say, then tap the emoji keyboard button — iOS will highlight words that are prime for swapping.

A ton of new emoji in iOS 10 promote gender equality, and there’s even a controversial new squirt gun.


Apple’s digital assistant becomes a lot more useable, now that Apple added a Siri API for third-party apps. Siri can now do stuff like request an Uber, check LinkedIn, or message people in Slack — and that’s just the beginning.

Apple Maps

apple maps
Third-party apps can live in Apple Maps.
Photo: Apple

The Maps app is now open to third-party apps. With the new API, you can get things done without leaving the app. OpenTable will let you book a reservation at your favorite restaurants, or you can request a ride from Lyft.

Proactive suggestions have also been added, giving users recommendations on where they’re likely to go and how to get there faster. You can also plan your errands with more efficiency, thanks to a new feature that lets you search for shops, gas stations, cafes and more that are along your route so you don’t go out of your way.

Dude, where’s my car?

Remembering where you parked the car before an all-night rager is getting a lot easier — if you have a car with Bluetooth. iOS 10 automatically tracks where you park, then sends you a reminder of your car’s location so you’re not wandering around the mall parking lot looking for your ride.

Apple’s new Home app

Controlling your smart home becomes a lot easier with the new Home app, which gives you quick controls to all the “smart” devices in your home. Turn on lights, unlock doors, adjust the thermostats or pull up the window shades with just the tap of a button (if you’ve got the right hardware in place). And if you’re too lazy to do that, you can just ask Siri to do it for you.

Apple Music

apple music app
Apple Music gets a new look in iOS 10.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Navigating the Apple Music app used to be a confusing pain in the ass. Now it’s slightly less so, thanks to a big UI redesign that emphasizes album art and brings bold text to the screen.

Singing a long to your favorite jams is also easier with Apple Music’s new lyrics feature. Tap the “…” icon on any song that’s playing to bring up the lyrics page and found out what your favorite artist is really trying to say.

Apple News

The News app also got a fresh coat of paint that’s very similar to the Apple Music UI redesign. The new look features bigger pictures and bold text, making it easier to find the stories that matter to you the most. It’s not much of a game-changer, but it’s a lot easier on the eyes.


photos in ios 10
Finding photos becomes a lot easier in iOS 10.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s boring Photos app gets a really cool new feature called Moments that resurfaces cherished moments in your life by organizing videos and photos into little movies. It works shockingly well and brings up old pics and videos from trips you’ve probably forgotten about. The music and transitions are great, and you can customize the length of the Moment or delete photos. The feature works best if you keep your photo library organized and delete the extra shots you take of the same scene.

There’s also an incredibly intelligent search feature that uses machine learning to find pictures. You can now find pics of anything from your dog, the beach or even specific friends by just typing in their names. No more scrolling through the thousands of pics in your Camera Roll.

RAW footage

iPhone photography is taking a step closer toward DSLR quality with the addition of RAW image capture. Now your favorite photography apps can shoot in RAW or edit RAW files, to take full advantage of all the data your camera sensor captures. This will be huge.

Get to bed on time

iOS 10’s new Bedtime feature makes sure you get a enough sleep.
Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

The new Bedtime feature in the Clock app helps you get all the sleep you need by automatically sending you reminders to wake up and go to bed. The app tracks your sleep history, too, so you can see how consistent you are catching those Zs.

Delete apps

You know that folder full of junk Apple apps that come preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad? You can finally delete them! It’s probably the best “feature” of iOS 10.

Is iOS 10 worth the upgrade?

iOS 10 makes your iPhone and iPad better in every way. In some areas, the refresh makes your old gear feel like a totally new device. The new lock screen alone is worth the hype, and annoying your friends with the new Messages features is going to be fun as hell. But the best parts are all the little details Apple’s added to make iOS 10 feel like the most functional mobile operating system in the world.

Now that Apple has the final kinks worked out — there were early reports of today’s iOS 10 update bricking some devices — there’s really no reason not to upgrade to iOS 10 (unless your device isn’t supported).

So what are you waiting for? Jump on the iOS 10 train and master the newness with Cult of Mac‘s extensive guides.


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