Skip to main content

iOS 16 rumors — release date, features and what we want to see

iOS 16 concept designs
(Image credit: Hacker 34/YouTube)

The countdown to iOS 16's debut has begun. WWDC 2022 has been announced for June, and the leaks are starting to flow. So sooner or later we'll learn all about what Apple has in store for the next generation of iPhone software.

There's another reason to pay attention to iOS 16 beyond what the software update will mean for current iPhones. iOS 16 is going to make its debut at the same time as Apple's next round of flagship phones, arriving as the default software on those devices. So our first look at iOS 16 could also give us some hints as to what Apple has planned for the iPhone 14 models rumored to be arriving later this year.

We don't have a lot to go on at the moment in terms of rumored features for iOS 16, though the first reports about potential changes are beginning to trickle in. Because Apple develops its software in-house, it keeps a pretty tight lid on potential features right up until the big reveal at WWDC. Contrast that with the iPhone, where Apple's assorted supply chain partners are always tipping off leakers about the changes planned for Apple handsets.

Still, we've already heard a little bit about potential iOS 16 changes, with more rumors likely to come in the build-up to WWDC 2022 in June. We also have a few ideas about what we'd like to see Apple do with its phone software. With that in mind, here's what we know so far about iOS 16, including a potential release date and what phones will be eligible for the software update.

iOS 16 release date speculation

wwdc-2021-platforms

(Image credit: Apple | YouTube)

Apple usually previews its upcoming software updates during its annual Worldwide Developer Conference to give app makers some lead time in order to update their software to work with Apple's next iOS version.

Apple has already set a date for this year's WWDC — the event kicks off June 6 with an opening day keynote. We'd bet the house on an iOS 16 preview at that time. Once Apple previews its iOS update, it hands off a beta of the software for developers, usually during WWDC itself.

Apple also has a well-established public beta program for its software, with the public beta typically available by the end of the month or at the start of the new month at the very latest. So you'll probably be able to get your hands on a public beta by the end of June.

The final version of iOS 16 would likely launch in the fall alongside the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. We don't know when the iPhone 14 is arriving, but Apple tends to aim for a September launch. Expect iOS 16 to arrive at the same time.

What devices will run iOS 16?

Apple's last two software updates have worked on the same devices, with support extending as far back as the iPhone 6s, which first debuted in the fall of 2015. However, given the number of iOS 15 features that required more modern hardware, we're guessing that some old models are on the verge of getting cut off. Specifically, rumors point to the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE from 2016 losing iOS support with this release, with two sources claiming this.

iPhone 6s

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Owners of those phones can't really feel aggrieved should iOS 16 mark the cutoff point for Apple support. The original iPhone SE came out six years ago, and the iPhone 6s models will be 7 years old this fall. Given the advances in processing power in that time, it's only reasonable to assume, some iOS 16 capabilities may be beyond what those devices can support.

As for iPad support, Apple offers a separate iPadOS software update. This year's version will offer many of the same features as iOS 16, though with some tablet-specific capabilities as well, we'd reckon.

iOS 16 rumored features: what we could see

Apple has yet to tip its hand about iOS 16 plans, though a handful of leakers have suggested a few potential changes coming to the company's iPhone software later this year. The most persistent rumor involves ongoing enhancements to the widget feature first introduced by Apple in iOS 14.

Specifically, LeaksApplePro tweeted (opens in new tab) a claim that Apple was working on so-called "big widgets" that would house multiple widgets in one container. As described by LeaksApplePro, the big widgets seem a lot like Smart Stack widgets currently included in iOS 15, but the iOS 16 version would show multiple widgets at once instead of forcing you to scroll them.

Additionally, a screenshot demonstrating the big widget featured — which is apparently code-named "InfoShack" — also includes Control Center widgets for managing things like the iPhone's flashlight or an Apple TV remote.

ios 15 widgets

(Image credit: LeaksApplePro)

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, iOS 16 could contain the first official references to Apple's AR/VR headset, something it's been rumored to be working on for some time. 

As you may know, Apple's rumored to be working on a VR/AR headset coming out later in 2022 or possibly next year. (The latest report claims that project is being pushed back to 2023.) Beyond that, Apple is also said to be working on a wearable mixed reality device called Apple Glasses that would work with the iPhone.

Gurman doesn't detail what features there will be though. He's since hinted at new Apple apps for the new generation of iOS, but again isn't telling what those could be.

Those kind of devices will require a lot of third-party apps to be worthwhile. That would likely mean a new version of ARKit, Apple's collection of tools for building augmented reality apps that comes included with its iOS software. Because of the lead time needed to produce such apps, Apple could even provide a sneak peek of its mixed reality hardware during WWDC to motivate iPhone app makers to start incorporating AR into their software.

Jumping back to Gurman's iOS 16 report, the long-time Apple reporter contends that Apple could be working on "some fairly significant enhancements across the board, including an update to notifications and new health-tracking features." There's no further details on what those changes could be, but we have some ideas as to how Apple could improve notifications in iOS 16.

Additionally, Mac Rumors reported in late 2021 that this year's Apple devices like the iPhone 14 could add crash-detection features where a device would contact emergency services if it senses you've been in an accident. Such a feature would require new capabilities introduced in iOS 16, though Apple could hold off on previewing that capability until we're closer to the iPhone 14 launch.

iOS 16 concept designs

(Image credit: Hacker 34/YouTube)

While not an official rumor, an iOS 16 concept video from The Hacker 34 (opens in new tab) shows off a number of possible iOS 16 additions, highlighted by multitasking support to allow two apps to run on the iPhone's screen. Other would-be features touted in the video include customizable shortcuts for the lock screen, always-on display support and customizable icons.

iOS 16: What we want to see

We'd sure like to see that multitasking feature showcased in the iOS 16 concept video, and many of the rumored widget changes intrigue us. But we're expecting iOS 16 to usher in a lot of changes, and until firmer rumors about the software update's features come into focus, we're happy to make our own suggestions as to changes Apple can implement.

Clear All button: iOS and Android are always adapting each other's top features, and we'd like to see that continue with iOS 16. Specifically, Android has a Clear All button that makes shutting down all your open apps dirt simple. Add that capability to iOS, and the days of swiping up on an endless parade of apps on your iPhone comes to an end

Improved search tools in Messages: Apple recognizes that we spend a lot of time in the built-in chat app, making sure to pepper each iOS update with improvements to Messages. In iOS 16, we hope that includes new tools for looking through current chats. Specifically, we'd like to see the search bar in Messages get a little more sophisticated, adding the ability to add filters and fine-tune searches to make relevant texts easier to find.

Photos enhancements: Apple already builds some good photo-editing tools into Photos, and we really liked the enhanced Memories feature in iOS 15. For iOS 16, we'd like to see some additions that take a page out of Android's book. For instance, the Pixel 6 rolled out a Magic Eraser feature that removes unwanted people and objects from a photo. Given its expertise with AI, we think Apple could add something similar without working up too much of a sweat.

App overhauls: Every iOS update means at least one of the built-in apps gets a substantial upgrade — take a lot at the going-over Apple game Maps for iOS 15. We think it's News' turn to get the overhaul treatment — the app just doesn't look that impressive on the iPhone's screen, and we think that Apple could find better ways to present content. Similarly, Shortcuts is an excellent addition to the iPhone, but its interface isn't exactly inviting when it comes to creating your own automations and shortcuts. Better designed tools would make people more likely to turn to this very helpful app.

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.