Apple reveals software updates with customisable iPhone lockscreen, Message editing and more

Apple's iOS 16, with lockscreen customisations
The company also unveiled a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Photo credit: Supplied / Apple

Apple has revealed major updates to the software running its devices as well as two new laptops at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Tuesday (NZ time).

MacOS Ventura was unveiled alongside iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and WatchOS 9 at the conference, with beta editions available to registered developers to download now.

Public betas of the new operating systems will be available to the public from "next month", Apple said.

One of the biggest changes announced is to the iPhone lockscreen, with new personalisation features available in iOS 16 for the first time.

Users will be able to change the colour filter of the image on the lockscreen, as well as choosing the font and colour of the time and date.

The subject of an image on the lockscreen can also appear in front of the time and date thanks to a new depth effect.

Widgets become available for the lockscreen for the first time including weather, calendar and a user's activity rings, previously only available on the Apple Watch.

The way notifications appear also changes as they will roll in from the bottom of the screen and stack rather than filling up the screen and hiding any personalisations.

Apple is creating an API to allow developers to make "compact and glanceable experiences" for the lockscreen, like sports scores and the location of car share drivers.

Focus functionality - which already exists to filter out notifications and signal to friends if you're unavailable - also extends to the lockscreen with different photos, fonts and widgets available for each focus setting.

Rumours of an 'always on display' for iOS 16 proved unfounded, however.

Analyst Mark Gurman, author of the Apple-focused Power On newsletter, said it was likely to be delivered with iOS 16. That feature would bring the iPhone into line with many Android phones, which have offered it for years.

That functionality may only arrive in the iPhone 14 Pro range to be released later this year, so it may be that the announcement has just been delayed.

The Messages app gets three new features, including the ability to recall a message via 'Undo Send' functionality.

Users will also be able to edit a sent message to get rid of any embarrassing typos, and message threads can be marked as unread to help prompt replies later.

Among other updates announced, Live Text, which allows users to select text in photographs, is also extended to video for the first time while changes to the spotlight search app will also enable searching of that text.

The new iPadOS 16 software
Photo credit: Supplied / Apple

There are big changes coming to the Apple Pay system too, but it's unclear if or when they will be available in Aotearoa.

Contactless Tap To Pay is being rolled out in the United States, allowing businesses to accept payments directly from iPhone to iPhone without the need for an extra payment terminal.

Apple Pay Later was also announced, allowing users to split the cost of a purchase into four equal payments over six weeks, with no interest or fees charged.

New Zealand is finally getting the updated map experience that was rolled out for bigger countries last year, however, while the Home app, which supports smart home functionality, gets a complete redesign.

Other changes include iCloud photo library sharing with up to five other people, and Safety Check functionality which allows those in abusive relationships to quickly turn off data and location sharing.

Personalised Spatial Audio, Quick Note on the iPhone and new Memoji customisations are also on the way.

The US technology giant also unveiled updates to its Car Play software including a new dashboard that could display the speed, RPM and fuel levels of the car, as well as changing the air conditioning temperature and tuning the radio.

It is working with a wide range of car makers, including Ford, Audi, Honda and Nissan to roll those changes out in new models, it said.

On the iPad, the new OS will finally offer a weather app, something that's long been missing from the device. 

But the biggest updates in iPadOS 16 are to bring it more into line with laptops, with better multitasking and display functionality. Those include customisable toolbars as well as colour reference mode for grading and compositing professionals.

Windows will be able to be resized for the first time and they can also overlap on the iPad once the new software launches thanks to the new Stage Manager functionality.

The iPhone being used as a webcam
Photo credit: Supplied / Apple

A virtual memory swap will allow memory-hungry paps to use up to 16GB of storage as additional memory for any intensive work.

Apple Watch's operating system also gets some new features with four new watch faces, including a redesigned astronomy face with real-time cloud cover of the Earth.

Fitness enthusiasts will get additional workout data including three new running form metrics - vertical oscillation, stride length and ground contact time - provided to help athletes improve.

And watchOS 9 introduces Sleep Stages for the first time, with automatic detection of REM, core and deep sleep for better analysis of a user's sleep patterns, while atrial fibrillation can be tracked with the new Afib History function. 

MacOS Ventura, the software running on Apple's desktops and laptops, gets some updates that are shared across all other software versions, including the ability to Undo Send of email in the Mail app and better multitasking options.

Apple also revealed it is introducing passkeys to eventually replace passwords to better increase user safety, it said.

TouchID and FaceID will be used to authenticate users, with the passkeys unable to be phished or leaked as they never leave the device.

They will automatically sync across Apple devices and the company said it was working with Google and Microsoft to ensure you can sign in on their devices using an iPhone.

Facetime calls will be able to be handed off for the first time, with seamless movement between any Apple devices.

That means, for example, users can start a call on their phone on the way home from work, and continue it on a MacBook by simply bringing the phone close to the screen.

Laptops will also be able to use iPhones as a web camera for the first time. Third party stands, developed with Belkin, will keep it in place.

As well as the camera showing a front-on view, the ultrawide camera also creates a down-facing desktop view, allowing users to share what's directly in front of them too.