iOS 16 review: Apple opens the lock screen

iOS 16 review: Apple opens the lock screen

After several months in testing, iOS 16 is now available, just in time for the release of the iPhone 14 series. I've spent the last week or so trying out the final version of the software, and there are many new features to try, such as customized lock screens, upgrades to the Messages app, and better AI tricks. Most significantly, it isn't buggy. The most recent version of Apple's mobile operating system is compatible with the iPhone 8 and subsequent devices, albeit some capabilities require the relatively new A12 processor. (We'll get to that eventually.)

This year's edition of iOS is a noticeable update, which was difficult to say about iOS 15, whose most prominent additions were media sharing, Focus modes, and SharePlay. For the first time since the iPhone's inception, iOS 14 added widgets to the grid of icons and changed the homepage experience. Apple finally addressed the lock screen in iOS 16.


  • Customizable lock screen
  • Visual Lookup is smarter and more useful
  • Haptic typing
  • Very few launch bugs


  • Some features demand the latest iPhone hardware
  • Others require third-party app support

A personalized lock screen

The lock screen used to only show a clock and nothing else. Things have changed a little, but let's start with the clock. The typeface is thicker, and you can even change the color of the text. There is also more room for widgets. You may not like the new default font (I don't), but the good news is that it's configurable, with a variety of font styles and colors. You can, of course, pick photographs for the lock screen, and you can apply filter styles and even select a shuffled collection of photos to cycle through. If the photos were taken in Portrait mode, you may also enable a multilayered photo effect, with the subject of the photo appearing in front of the clock. If you own an iPhone 14 Pro, read our entire review to learn more about the Always On Display and, of course, Apple's new Dynamic Island.

You may configure two distinct widget sections. The first is a narrow box above the clock that works best for one-line content (think: the date, chances of rain, or your next calendar event.) Below that is a box that can hold up to four separate widgets, which are a combination of 2x1 and 1x1 icons. You can access these widgets from the lock screen by tapping on them, but don't expect to obtain any further information by long-pressing on the icons, which seems like a very Apple method to extend the information provided by these widgets. Perhaps in iOS 16.1 or iOS 17?

iOS 16 add widgets

Similar to the introduction of home screen widgets in iOS 14, it will take some time for third-party app developers to include widgets into their updates and onto your phone, but I'm sure productivity, fitness tracking, and other services will rush at the opportunity. Google, in particular, appears to be ready to get on board: its upcoming Gmail widget will undoubtedly find a home on my lock screen when it becomes available.

The redesigned lock screen retains some traditional features as well. You'll still notice the signal strength and battery symbols (now with a percentage reading), as well as the flashlight and camera shortcuts. Surprisingly, the battery indicator only visibly reflects how charged it is when the battery is less than 20% charged, which is paradoxical when the battery is at 50% charged, for example.

The lock screen update also serves as a new method to showcase an iOS 15 feature that can be difficult to set up: focus modes. You can now assign a Focus mode to each lock screen (personal, work, and sleep), each with their own custom widget layouts and photographs. If you seldom change your wallpaper throughout the week, you may choose a nice weekend image of your family as your personal focus mode.

When I'm pressing deadlines and have my phone set to Do Not Disturb, I have a pompous motivational quotation on a black backdrop. The ability to swipe between Focus settings makes them more usable in everyday situations. Sure, I could have used the top-right drop-down option to do so in the past, but I didn't. I'm already utilizing Focus modes more frequently since iOS 16.

A better messaging experience

iOS 16 lockscreen

Apple's native messaging app has several novel enhancements, including new Visual Lookup tools. It now handles picture copy-and-paste, extracting subjects from images, screenshots, and other sources and converting them into easy-to-share stickers. Long-press on the item / animal / human, and your iPhone (if it's an XS or newer) will try to clip it away from the backdrop, ready to paste somewhere else.

It's startlingly precise for such a simplistic procedure. It's fantastic. With the added ability to take text from video, iOS 16's Visual Lookup talents are considerably more expansive. It should work with full-screen videos in online browsers as well as those you take yourself.

Messages' sharing options have been increased beyond SharePlay and stickers. You may now email documents, spreadsheets, and other files as long as they are stored in an Apple office software file format. Third-party support for Microsoft and Google Suite is expected to arrive soon.

Apple is also making up for lost time in other areas. Finally, if you're quick enough, you can edit and unsend messages in the Messages app. After you send the message, you'll have up to 15 minutes to update it, with the option to change it up to five times. Any modified messages from other people running iOS 16 will be grayed (blued?) out beneath the repaired message. Unsend functions are only available for iPhone-to-iPhone texts.

Similarly, the native Mail app now allows you to undo send and schedule emails. (Finally.) There are also more current features that you are probably already familiar with from Gmail, such as recommendations when you have forgotten an attachment or recipient.

ios 16 text message imess

Apple has also improved its speech dictation. When you speak into your iPhone, the keyboard will now stay on screen, allowing you to enter and correct while the dictation is taking place - excellent for precise names and locations. You may also tap on a word and dictate over it to fix any errors. Apple has also improved dictation's auto punctuation, allowing you to insert commas, periods, and other punctuation without having to utter "question mark" at the conclusion of text-based requests to pals. It also picks up on emoji as you say them and inserts them into your text. (The A12 Bionic processor featured in the iPhone XR and subsequent smartphones is required for this functionality.)

Health and Fitness

Apple's Health and Fitness applications are relatively new additions to the native app family, and they are still evolving. The Health app now has a new Medications feature that allows you to track what medications you take and when you take them. You may program several medications with varied time-of-day reminders and frequency, and your iPhone will notify you when it's time. Another new feature in the Health app is the option to receive warnings if your tracked menstrual cycles reveal a trend of irregular periods or other symptoms of suspected irregularities.

On a lighter side, depending on how committed an athlete you are, Apple has also included a My Sports option to its News app, with a section dedicated to your favorite sports teams. This includes news, results, linked items, and reminders about forthcoming games. A word of caution: some of the stories may be restricted by Apple's News+ paywall.

One of the coolest upgrades is one that you could overlook. I did, too, until I read Apple's extensive iOS 16 release notes: Haptic typing has arrived, although several years late, on an iPhone. Previously, if you wanted typing vibrations on an iOS device, you had to install Gboard - yep, Google's third-party keyboard - first. Only a few days later, it's difficult to picture typing on glass without it. Android users have it easy.

Everything else

iOS 16 also includes several possibly life-saving personal safety enhancements. The Emergency SOS feature, which sounds an alert on the phone before automatically dialing 911, may now be accessed by swiftly pushing the side button five times. Crash Detection, if enabled in settings, will use data from the motion sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, barometer, and microphone to assess if you've been in a vehicle accident. When this occurs, a warning will appear on both your iPhone and your Apple Watch. If you're still awake, you may swipe the screen to dial 911 or shut the alert if it was a false alarm. The iPhone, like the SOS call, will automatically summon emergency services after 10 seconds.

ios16 lockscreen message come

It wouldn't be an Apple update unless there were some security upgrades. The most notable change is Safety Check, which allows you to disconnect your iPhone from particular contacts, gadgets, and services. You can deselect permissions and even disconnect the connection entirely by clicking "Emergency Reset" or "Select All and Stop Sharing." For these more severe procedures, you will need to utilize your password or FaceID.

Apple also promotes Passkeys, which are digital keys that leverage your iPhone's security capabilities to securely connect in to websites and devices such as your smart TV. These aren't an Apple innovation, but with Passkeys on iOS devices, they should be more widely adopted and, well, used. However, I have yet to find any occasions to put them to the test.

And there are even more notable features:

  • Apple Maps features multi-stop routing functionality, which can also be synchronised with your Mac. Travel prices are also indicated while using public transportation. 
  • In terms of photography, you can now apply foreground blur to Portrait mode shots, and Apple has enhanced cinematic style video recording - at least on some devices. Cinematic mode will be available for iPhones 13 and later.
  • The Home app has been simplified, including lights, speakers, TV, and other categories. The tiles have been updated to make distinguishing between all of your linked devices easier. There are also Home app lock screen widgets now. 
  • Apple has made the Fitness app available to everyone; the activity monitoring features no longer require an Apple Watch. The motion sensors on your iPhone will assess your steps, distance, and exercises to provide a rough calorie burn figure as well.
  • Door Detection in the iPhone's Magnifier mode is a new accessibility function if you have a smartphone with LIDAR. ('Pro' iPhone models begin with the iPhone 12 Pro.) In Magnifier, a new detection mode provides more thorough descriptions, as well as people detection and image descriptions. 
  • Apple has finally enabled hands-free call termination using Siri. Sure, that seems sudden, but until today, hang-ups needed a physical tap. You may also change the amount of time Siri waits before responding to your voice requests.


iOS 16 offers another significant improvement for Apple's normally slow-to-change mobile operating system, this time improving your iPhone lock screen in a variety of ways. In my assessment, I concentrated on the lock screen because it is an indisputable element of the iPhone experience. Other changes are minor, but there are a lot of them, and they add up. (Apple, FYI, has introduced seven more nose variations for Memoji.)

Some additions, such as accessibility updates for LIDAR-capable phones and Passkey support, I haven't been able to test. You may not notice all of the changes, as with many iOS releases. Many people will find the medication reminder features useful and straightforward, while others will be unaware they exist. Sports enthusiasts will like the dedicated News app option, but what if you don't care about football? You may try out the lock screen widgets and configure several Focus modes. Or not. However, kindly enable Haptic typing and never again allow your iPhone to produce those typing sound effects.


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