iOS 15's now available: How to use FaceTime on Android, Focus mode and more

Apple's new iOS is ready for the iPhone 6S and later. Here's how to make the most of the update.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
6 min read

With iOS 15, your iPhone is about to get so much more powerful. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple's new iOS 15 operating system is now available, bringing new features and capabilities to every iPhone from 2015's iPhone 6S all the way through to 2021's iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple announced iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 in early June, revealing features like being able to have a FaceTime call with someone on Android or Windows and a new Focus mode. Other features, like SharePlay, which lets you hold movie watching or music listening parties over a FaceTime call, were revealed but need more time before they come to the public release. 

The installation process is easy peasy, and our early impressions with iOS 15 are finding that the enhancements aren't radically rearranging the iPhone experience (if you don't like a change, you can generally find a setting to change it back). But you might also want to wait to update to iOS 15, especially if you are using an older iPhone, just to make sure there aren't any surprises when you do decide to install it.

In the meantime, here's how to use six particularly noteworthy iOS 15 features that you should test when you get it.

Watch this: iOS 15 best features: How Focus mode improved my iPhone

FaceTime comes to Windows and Android

When Apple first unveiled FaceTime, its video and audio calling platform, Steve Jobs infamously said the service would soon be open source and available to everyone. Well, that didn't happen. Apple kept the feature to itself, adding it to every piece of hardware it sells.

However, after most of us spent a year during the pandemic lockdown using Zoom on a regular basis, Apple is finally expanding FaceTime to include Android and Windows owners

Instead of releasing an app for either platform, you'll send a FaceTime link via your preferred non-iMessage platform to your Android or PC using contacts who can then use a browser for the video call. To create a link, open FaceTime and tap either the Create Link or New FaceTime button at the top of the screen. Create Link will automatically generate a FaceTime link and open the Share Sheet for you to pick how you want to send the link to someone else, while New FaceTime will ask you to enter a contact's name and then send the link through Messages and open the FaceTime call on your iPhone or iPad. 

The person who receives the FaceTime link will need to open it, enter their name when prompted and then tap Join after previewing their video. 

Better late than never, right? 


Forget a cluttered notification tray. iOS 15 attempts to fix it. 


Live Text is a magical tool for your Photos library 

Google Lens has been around for a while now, using your phone's camera to identify text in a photo, translate foreign languages or identify real-world items like animals or plants. And now, your iPhone is getting its own version of Lens called Live Text. 

There are multiple ways to use Live Text. You can use it before taking a photo in the viewfinder by tapping on the Live Text button that shows up, or you can go into the Photos app and open any picture in your library. Whether you enabled Live Text before taking the photo or opened an old picture, you should be able to highlight any text, including items like phone numbers, email addresses or street addresses, and then share, call or use that information however you want. I haven't stopped using Live Text since I installed iOS 15 a few weeks ago. 

Watch this: We found these amazing features in the iOS 15 beta

Notification summaries are a welcome change

The iPhone or iPad's notification tray can look overwhelming at the end of the day as your phone receives countless alerts from random apps. With iOS 15, there's a new Notification Summary feature that's designed to help tidy up your notifications. The first time, an app asks for permission to send you alerts right away or if they should be included in your summaries. 

To customize your notification summary, go to Settings > Notifications > Scheduled Summary. You can add as many scheduled summaries as you want, and pick the exact time they'll be present under the Schedule section. Select Apps in Summary to view all of your installed apps, including the average number of notifications you receive from each app daily. Slide the switch to the On position for each app you want to delegate to your summary. 

When it's time for a summary to show up on your lock screen or in your notification shade, you'll see the number of alerts you've received in a clean preview card that even shows you previews of some of the alerts. Tap on the number to expand the card and see your individual alerts. It's a welcome addition to the iPhone and iPad, if you ask me. 


Focus modes make it easier to pay attention to what's important. 


New Do Not Disturb settings keep the Focus on what matters

Do Not Disturb is a convenient feature when you want your phone or tablet to be completely silent and avoid any interruptions, but the all-or-nothing approach isn't ideal in every situation. 

Apple added a new Focus mode in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 that takes DND to the next level. You can create custom Focus profiles that will allow only the apps you select to alert you while keeping the other apps quiet. 

You can even select which contacts you'll still receive alerts, be it messages or phone calls. Everyone else who messages you while you have a Focus profile enabled will see a status notification letting them know you're currently busy and you'll see the message at a later time. 


Shared With You makes it easy to find anything that a friend has sent you in Messages. 


Photos, links and recipes are always at your fingertips 

Whenever a friend or family member shares a photo with you in Messages or sends a link to a recipe you've been bugging them for, it's good practice to save the shared item right away. Otherwise, you'll be forced to scroll back through your conversation history to find it. It's a hassle. 

Shared With You is a new feature that is debuting in iOS 15 that will make it easier to find, well, whatever's been shared with you. More specifically, your iPhone and iPad will now automatically show you photos and videos that a close friend has shared with you in the Photos app. Links sent to you will appear in a new Shared With You section on the homepage in Safari. The same can be said about links to news articles in the Apple News app and TV shows and movies in the Apple TV app. 

Better yet? You don't have to do anything for it to start working. There's no setup, no remembering to toggle a button. After updating to iOS 15, it'll start showing you all the stuff you used to lose track of and forget. 

I'm most excited about the Photos integration. I have so many pictures in conversations that I should have been saving to my Photos library, but now that will automatically be done for me. 

Watch this: iOS 15 brings AirPods upgrades

The Mail app is no longer a privacy nightmare

Virtually every newsletter or email you receive from a large company has small tracking pixels embedded into it. Even the links within an email can alert the sender when you've clicked on them. 

Companies use these tools to measure and track if emails are being opened, links are being clicked and other important metrics. However, some people don't like the idea of being tracked. 

So Apple built a new privacy tool into its Mail app. You can find it by going to Settings > Mail > Privacy Protection, which should be on by default. Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address so the person who sent the email can't see where you're located, and it also stops the tracking pixels from letting the sender know you've opened it.