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iOS 15.5 is here — here's the new features for your iPhone

Smartphone with an iOS 15 update screen and the Apple logo in the background
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iOS 15.5 is now available, and judging by the nature of the changes in this update, Apple is ready to move on to iOS 16.

The new update, widely available to the public after a beta testing period, mostly features under-the-hood changes, with a minimum of user-facing enhancements. That's a far cry from previous iOS 15 updates, which have ushered in a host of new features. The last big update to Apple's phone software, iOS 15.4, added the ability to use Face ID when you're wearing a mask plus a new voice for Siri, just as example.

Still, iOS 15.5 promises a few notable changes. Here's an overview of what the update delivers.

Episode management tools for Podcasts

Podcasts listeners who find themselves short on storage space for their iPhones will welcome an update to Apple's built-in Podcasts app for iOS 15.5. You can now specify how many episodes of each show you want to keep on your iPhone at any one time. As part of the update, older episode will get automatically deleted from your phone.

Before iOS 15.5, podcast episodes could pile up on your device, eating away at your on-device storage. That's particularly burdensome if you bought an iPhone back before Apple bumped the minimum storage to 128GB. Now, you can use a new setting to make sure that only recent episodes are staying on your device.

iOS 15.5 update podcasts

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The new control is a little difficult to find as it's located in the Settings app. Go to Settings and scroll down to Podcasts. After you select Podcasts, tap the Automatically Download option. By default, the feature is turned off, but you can specify that it downloads anywhere from the latest episode to the last 10 episodes. You can also specify downloads by time or just have the Podcasts app download all new episodes.

Putting a limit on the number of episodes you keep around can pay dividends right away. I set Podcasts to only download the three latest episodes, and ended up clearing off 56 episodes from my device. If you watch the following video (and follow Tom's Guide on TikTok (opens in new tab)) you can see how it helps immediately with your storage.

@tomsguide (opens in new tab)

♬ Never Go Wrong - Nicky Youre & david hugo (opens in new tab)

Easier payment methods for Apple Pay Cash in Wallets

Apple Pay Cash is a great way to send money to friends and family (or to receive money, which frankly, is even better). But its use in the Wallet app was so clunky, I often found myself heading to Messages when it was time to repay someone for dinner or tickets.

ios 15.5 wallet

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In iOS 15.5, it's much easier to request or send cash using Apple Pay Cash from within the Wallet app, as Apple has added buttons labeled Request and Send. Tap on either and you're prompted to pick a sender/recipient; from there you can enter an amount.

Apple Account Card

Apple Card Account

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Speaking of the Wallet app, it's getting another new feature as of iOS 15.5. You now have the option of adding an Apple Account Card to your digital wallet, consolidating the balances associated with your Apple ID.

The Apple Account Card revives and replaces the iTunes Pass, adding the ability to also pay for Apple Store purchases from you Apple account balance. That means you can buy Apple gear in addition to apps, music and other downloads.

Other iOS 15.5 changes

The other reported changes in iOS 15.5 are fairly minor or just Apple tidying things up. The most significant of these isn't even aimed at users, but rather app makers who want to offer subscriptions outside of the App Store. iOS 15.5 adds a way for these app makers to add links external websites where users can create or manage subscriptions. The feature is aimed at magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video services, and seems to be a way to keep any regulatory heat off of Apple and its closed ecosystem.

Other iOS 15.5 additions include:

  • A list of Sensitive Locations is now part of the Photos app to keep visits to place like Holocaust memorials out of the Memories slideshows that the app auto-generates.
  • The Home app adds Wi-Fi signal bars to show that a HomePod has a connection.
  • For iPadOS 15.5, Universal Control is now officially out of beta. That's the feature that let you use input devices across your iPad and Mac.

Code spotted during the iOS 15.5 beta process referred to Apple Classical, a rumored streaming app geared toward classical music. However, you won't find the app in iOS 15.5, which means Apple could be laying the groundwork for a new addition to iOS 16.

iOS 15.5 arrives three weeks prior to the Apple WWDC 2022 event in June. At that event, we're expecting to see an iOS 16 preview, as Apple shifts its development efforts toward the next major update to its iPhone software. Thats not to say Apple won't update iOS 15 going forward — indeed, after this article was published, Apple released an iOS 15.6 beta to developers and beta program participants. Future iOS 15 updates will likely be geared more toward bug fixes and security patches. The initial iOS 15.6 beta, for instance, has no release notes detailing new capabilities, suggesting that this is a maintenance release.

How to get iOS 15.5

Assuming you're not part of the iOS public beta and already have the software update on your phone, downloading iOS 15.5 is simply a matter of going to Settings, tapping General, and selecting Software Update. The new version should be waiting there for you to download.

Apple is also testing iOS 15.6 beta for developers currently. This update brings some minor tweaks ahead of the iOS 16 launch at WWDC 2022.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.