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iOS 16: Rumors Are Flying as Apple's WWDC Conference Approaches

From release date to new features, here's the buzz about Apple's next big iPhone update.

Various iPhone models head to head on a blue background
Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple's annual WWDC conference kicks off in just a few hours, and today we might catch a glimpse of the next iPhone and iPad software: iOS 16 and iPadOS 16. 

It's possible WWDC 2022 will give us answers to some big questions: Will older devices, such as the 2016 iPhone 7, get iOS 16? How will iOS 16 compare to iOS 15 (which brought a number of exciting features, including a tool that lets you scan text from a piece of paper)?

Plus, the flagship software updates aren't the only new things expected to debut at WWDC 2022. It's likely Apple will introduce updates to MacOS and WatchOS, the brains behind the Mac and the Apple Watch, respectively. We might even see some new hardware (an M2 chip, perhaps?). 

Here's everything we've heard about iOS 16 so far. Keep in mind that Apple has yet to confirm any of the new operating system's features. Again, we'll probably get some insight at Apple's WWDC keynote, which you can watch live from home.

Read more: iOS 16 Wish List: New iPhone Features We Hope Apple Debuts at WWDC

Release date: When is iOS 16 coming out?

Apple usually announces the next iOS at its yearly WWDC event and releases a public beta soon after. It's safe to say we'll learn more details at WWDC, where Apple showed off iOS 15's upgrades last year. 

We could very well see iOS 16 roll out in September, as the next iOS typically arrives at the same time as the next iPhone. Last year, for example, Apple released iOS 15 on Sept. 20, about a week after the iPhone 13 event. Should Apple's iPhone 14 event take place this September, as iPhone events usually do, iOS 16 would likely be quick to follow.

Compatibility: Will iOS 16 be available for your iPhone?

Even as Apple churns out a new version of iOS every year, the operating systems are compatible for many old models, with iOS 15 working smoothly on the 2015 iPhone 6S. But the French website iPhoneSoft claims a developer at Apple leaked that iOS 16 will work on iPhones that have an A10 processor or higher. That's the iPhone 7 and up -- and not the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus or the SE 2016.

iPhoneSoft also says iPadOS 16 "will probably not" be compatible with the iPad Mini 4, iPad 5, iPad Air 2, or 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. 

iOS 16's rumored new features: Big widgets?

A hallmark of the iPhone user experience is the grid of small app squares that dot the home screen. But LeaksApplePro suggests that iOS 16 is bringing "big widgets" to the table. The image that LeaksApplePro tweeted appears to show apps displayed in larger squares and rectangles than usual, leaving room for more information such as the day's weather, specific reminders and the song that's playing. The image has been met with some skepticism, with some saying the Apple TV remote logo is inconsistent with the remote's appearance. 

Now playing: Watch this: Everything We Hope Apple Will Add to iOS 16
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As for other features, iOS 15 brought upgrades like grid view and call scheduling to FaceTime -- and it's possible that with iOS 16, Apple could opt to make FaceTime look even more like Zoom in this era of telework and videoconferencing. And as tech giants push the metaverse hype and rumors of an Apple VR or AR headset fly, it's possible that iOS 16 could incorporate some meta elements, though Apple CEO Tim Cook has carefully avoided using the word.

How to download the iOS 16 beta (when it's available)

Downloading a new operating system eats up quite a bit of space on a phone, so you'll want to get rid of storage suckers like old photos, videos and apps. Then you need to back up your phone so you don't lose anything important should the update go awry. If you're wondering how to do that, our checklist from the iOS 14 release provides a step-by-step guide.

To try out the public beta once it comes, you'll need to enroll in the Apple Beta Software Program. (Note that last year, CNET cautioned against installing the iOS 15 beta too quickly.)

Looking for more information about the latest from Apple? Check out CNET's rumor roundup for the iPhone 14. If you're on the hunt for new ways to use your iPhone now, take a look at these iOS 15 settings to change and hidden features. Plus, here's everything to know about iOS 15.5, the latest iPhone update.