Apple’s public betas of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 have dropped, and there are tons of useful new features. You’ll be able to FaceTime with people who don’t have Apple kit, you’ll be able to have movie nights with people you aren’t physically near, you’ll get a much improved iMessage, and the iPad interface gets some much-needed improvements. But my favourite features are the ones that’ll make certain people go absolutely purple with rage.
Those people are the aggressive advertisers, the unethical marketers, the notifications abusers and all the other people that will be first against the wall when the revolution comes. They’ve gone too far and Apple’s reining them in. And I think it's worth serious consideration if you’re wondering which of the best phones to buy this year.
Why iOS 15 means big changes for iPhone privacy
There are several key features in iOS 15 that’ll crack down on mental space invaders. The new Focus feature will enable you to limit specific app notifications and contacts so that the local pizza joint can no longer disturb you with special offers on a Saturday morning, and your meme-messaging pals won’t break your concentration at work. I’m very much looking forward to Focus, but while that looks great there are some other features I think will make a bigger difference to my privacy.
The first is App Privacy, which enables you to see not just what permissions an app has but how often it uses them – so if your social media app keeps accessing your microphone or an app keeps sending data to a server for no clear reason, you’ll know exactly how much it's happening. This is going to embarrass a few app makers, I’m sure.
The second is Hide My Email, which uses throwaway email addresses whenever you register with retailers and other “give us your email!” services. That means they never get your real email (it's all forwarded on to your real address), and if a particular throwaway becomes too spammy, you can just kill it. No more messages.
The third is Mail Privacy, which does to email trackers what Safari does to web trackers. No more invisible pixels that tell the sender not just that you’ve opened their mail, but what your IP address is. That’s alongside the improved Intelligent Tracking Protection that Safari will now also use to hide your IP address as well as block trackers, making it much harder for advertisers to build profiles.
Last but definitely not least there’s Private Relay. It’s a web proxy for Safari that effectively acts as a VPN for your web browsing, making it exceptionally difficult for sites to track you across the web to see what other web sites you visit (which is extremely common now).
This is important when you’re thinking about a new phone, especially if you weren’t thinking about the iPhone 13. With iOS 15, Apple is making life very difficult for the people who think they have a right to follow you everywhere you go and develop ever more sophisticated models of who you are, what you like and what your marketing weak points are. With iOS 15, Apple makes it clear that you should be just a customer, not a profile to be built and sold.