There are dozens, if not hundreds, of new features scattered throughout the major software updates Apple releases each fall. But for anyone getting the highest billing (iOS 16’s new customizable lock screens, for example) there’s a whole bunch that gets little or 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 ensures that no new feature will remain unknown for long. Having spent a lot of time with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 over the past few months, I’ve developed my own feelings about the best features you might not try right away — the features that are often tucked away in an app you don’t have for a while. opened, or buried under different menu levels. And because I want you to enjoy it too, I’m sharing three of my favorites.
Weather or not
Dark Sky has been my favorite 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 liked it so much they bought it back in 2020. More recently, an in-app announcement confirms that it will no longer work as of January 1, 2023.
But the good news is that many of Dark Sky’s goodies have made their way into Apple’s very own Weather app. If you haven’t tried it in a while, I recommend you give it a try: there’s a lot more to it than you might think at first glance.
For example, all maps in the Weather app are now interactive; tap on one of them – temperature, humidity, wind speed, and so on – to get an overview of the entire day, as well as future days. There is also a summary field for each stat that provides a convenient, easy-to-read text summary of general conditions: for example, “Today’s temperature range is from 53° to 70°.”
Another example is that Weather now includes not only Dark Sky’s precipitation maps and forecasts, but also temperature and air quality maps (tap the Layers button in the map view). You can even see a list view of all your saved locations and quickly see the conditions in all your locations at once.
Yes, the Weather app can still be improved. There’s too much scrolling in some cases and burying some stats under an extra tap means you’re slowing down, but I’m really impressed with the Dark Sky features it includes, right down to rainfall alerts ( those, admittedly, are a bit 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 pour one out for it — it’s the Weather app that will crack first to replace it on my home screen.
The Apple Watch Ultra may have stolen the show at the company’s recent event, but one of the most useful features showcased in the release is actually available to owners of the Apple Watch SE and Series 6 and later: compass waypoints and the corresponding Backtrack function.
That’s built into the redesigned Compass app, which is also available to Series 5 Apple Watch owners, although they don’t get the Waypoint feature. The revamped Compass app is quite useful in its own right, showing you the current direction it’s looking and each bearing, and also offers several views that you can switch to by turning the Digital Crown. Those other views also provide your current elevation, slope, and latitude and longitude — all handy to have right on your wrist. You can also set compass bearings under the menu button at the top left, so that you stay on course during a walk.
But the real gems are the Waypoint and Backtrack functions. The first lets you quickly drop a GPS marker on your current location, which you can assign a color and icon to. These then appear in a small mini-map in the compass; scroll out on the Digital Crown and they’ll even appear on the compass ring so you can find your way to the location. (I also appreciate that it can automatically drop a waypoint to where you parked your car — useful even if you’re not in the wilderness.)
The Backtrack feature takes that up a notch; it can automatically drop waypoints that you can use to retrace your steps later. And if you’re in an environment without connectivity, it will even activate automatically. I was taking a walk in the woods last week and found that Backtrack was already running and showing me the path I had taken. (Luckily I remembered where I parked my car.)
Okay, this last one is a small thing, but it can make a big difference. Last year, while on a family holiday, my wife had to get her work PC on the Wi-Fi network. With Apple devices, that would be easy enough: the Share Password prompt just pops up and you’re done. But we soon realized there was no way to get this information from our iOS devices so she could just type the password on her PC.
iOS 16 finally fixes that problem. Not only can you see the password of the network you are currently connected to in Settings > Wi-Fi by tapping the information button next to the network name, but there is 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 and delete any of those networks’ passwords so you can’t automatically reconnect later.
It’s a feature that honestly should have been there in the first place, but that doesn’t make it any less of a welcome addition now, as it helps reduce a pain point with the iOS experience. But it’s one of those new features that might get lost in the shuffle among the flashy new headliners, another reminder that there’s a lot more to be found in Apple’s latest updates beneath the surface.