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iOS 16: The Big Features We Didn't See at WWDC 2022

Commentary: We still want these four iPhone features. Many of them have been on Android for years.

Apple's iOS 16 operating system
James Martin/CNET

This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.

Apple showed off a preview of the developer beta of iOS 16 at WWDC 2022. The iPhone update brings a lot of changes. But despite numerous upcoming features, there are several things that we see on other Apple products and Android phones that don't appear to be coming to iOS.

I don't mean to discount the good highlights, like the new customizable lock screens, the ability to edit and unsend iMessage texts and the Apple Maps makeover, among many others. But a few of these features that the iPhone still doesn't include aren't new at all and are pretty easy to find when you look just beyond the devices that Apple makes. 

What We Wanted: Always-on display
What We Got: It might be in the code

Many Android phones have included an always-on display over the past decade, which takes advantage of OLED screens by only lighting up the necessary pixels to show glanceable information like the time and some notifications. Even though Apple has been using OLED screens since 2017's iPhone X, there hasn't yet been implementation of this type of lock screen in iOS.

That could change though as according to a 9to5Mac report, the operating system makes multiple references to an always-on display within its code. While a code reference is far from any kind of confirmation that the feature is in active development, it's possible that Apple is considering the feature in a future device. 

A screenshot of the iOS 16 Messages app

In Messages you can edit previously sent messages.

Apple

What We Wanted: Better texting to non-iPhones
What We Got: A group texting improvement 

Apple's iMessage in iOS 16 is gaining the ability to edit and recall messages that haven't already been viewed, but these enhancements are still largely iPhone-only features that aren't advancing the overall state of text messaging within the phone industry. When it comes to texting any other phone that isn't an iPhone, iOS still falls back to the decades-old SMS standard which lacks conveniences like typing indicators and smoother group texting.

While Google has been getting phone carriers to support the RCS standard that includes these features — admittedly over the course of several years with setbacks — the standard currently remains Android-only with Google claiming that they would be happy to work with Apple for interoperability. 

The chances of that appear as bleak as ever, but there is some hope for group chats between the iPhone and Android phones. iOS 16 is adding support for message reactions sent over SMS, which currently arrive as a series of messages about how a person "Liked" or "Loved" a message.

Instead, the Messages app will now translate these into the appropriate icon, much like how it already does this when every participant in the group chat uses an iPhone. Google recently added a similar feature into its Messages app, translating iPhone reactions in the same way. This move isn't going to massively improve these group chats, but as a convenience I'll take it. 

Split View in iPadOS. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

What We Wanted: Split View on bigger iPhone models
What We Got: Nothing yet

Apple's iPad tablets have long included the ability to run two apps side by side, taking advantage of the larger screen. The iPad is also getting its own multitasking boost with iPadOS 16 thanks to the new Stage Manager. Android phones have similarly featured the ability to run multiple apps at once. But on the iPhone, even with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and its 6.7-inch display, there is no ability to use two apps at once.

Apple does allow some limited multitasking on iPhone, such as viewing a picture-in-picture video on top of another app, but it'd be great to occasionally view a condensed version of the Mail app alongside Safari or to place the Calculator app alongside a budgeting app.

Multiple lock screens displayed on and next to an iPhone.

iOS 16 gives you a ton of new ways to customize your lock screen.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

What We Wanted: More Home Screen, Settings menu customization
What We Got: New lock screen options

One of Android 12's big features is the ability to customize the entire theme of your phone -- including custom colors for the notifications pulldown. While iOS 16 is bringing more control to the lock screen, it'd be a great next step to go further and allow thematic tweaks that extend to notifications and the various settings menus.

Alongside a custom theme, it would also be great if home screens would allow for apps to be placed anywhere we want. While widgets can help with this (I use a full-width weather and calendar widget to push my first row of apps lower), some people might want to exclusively place their apps on the bottom row of their home screen. While the existing Focus modes and App Library feature already let you customize which apps you want to appear on home screens, allowing you free rein of placement would be the next logical step for customization.

The lock screen was a big focus during the iOS 16 presentation. Perhaps next year Apple will once again focus on the home screen. 

A phone with Pay Later at the top showing upcoming payments

Apple Pay Later in iOS 16.

Screenshot/CNET

New iOS 16 features could still arrive

While Apple at WWDC 2022 gave a first look at iOS 16, it did not provide any teaser about the upcoming iPhone 14 line presumed to arrive this fall. Sometimes Apple reveals specific iOS features alongside the new phone line, like how Cinematic Mode made its debut with the iPhone 13.

An always-on display in particular might be exactly the kind of feature that makes its debut with the next iPhone, especially if it's a feature that takes advantage of the higher refresh rate displays that debuted with the iPhone 13 line. The Apple Watch's always-on display for instance debuted with the Apple Watch Series 5, and was not otherwise available through a software update to other Apple Watch models.

It's also worth remembering that some of the new iOS features won't make it to every iPhone. For instance, Face ID in landscape mode is only coming to supported iPhone models, and it's currently unclear which iPhone models will be excluded. iOS 16 is also the first software update not coming to the iPhone 6S, the 2016 iPhone SE nor the iPhone 7 line.

We've reached out to Apple in case there is any development on the iOS 16 feature ideas that we're still hoping arrive before the software update's public release later this year.