How to Update Your iPhone to iOS 15

New features include screen sharing with FaceTime and more granular Do Not Disturb options

Iphone iOS 15 update Photo: Apple

The iPhone 13 doesn’t arrive in stores until Friday, but you don’t have to wait till then to upgrade your phone. Apple’s new iPhone operating system is available for download right now.

Better known as iOS 15, it promises a host of improvements, including the ability to stream movies, TV shows, and music together with friends and family members on FaceTime; redesigned notifications that can be grouped together and delivered at the time you choose; and the introduction of voice search and helpful third-party extensions on the Safari web browser. 

Below you’ll find more info on the best new features alongside tips on how to update your phone to iOS 15.

If you own an Apple tablet or smartwatch, note that the company has also released updated versions of iPadOS and watchOS. iPadOS 15 works on tablets dating back to 2014’s iPad Air 2 and watchOS 8 on models as old as the Apple Watch Series 3.

First, Back Up Your iPhone

Updates don’t always go perfectly, which is why it’s smart to back up your phone’s data before switching to iOS 15. If your data is deleted accidentally, you’ll be able to restore it from the backup.

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You can back up your phone to the cloud or to your computer’s hard drive. Just make sure you have enough storage. When you sign up for iCloud, Apple gives you just 5 gigabytes of storage free. Most people have far more than that stored on their iPhones. If you need more space, you’re going to have to pay a little extra. For example, 50GB of storage costs 99 cents per month.

Ideally, you’ve set your phone to back up automatically on a regular basis. In addition to making the process a little easier when you want to update the OS, it also will keep you from losing all your favorite photos and other files if your phone is lost or destroyed.

To see when your phone was last backed up to iCloud, go to Settings > your Apple ID > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Once you’re there, you’ll have the option to “Back Up Now.” Go ahead and do that.

Then Go to Settings

Once the phone is backed up, tap the Settings icon > General > Software Update (the second item from the top). You’ll probably see a notification that an update is ready. If not, select Software Update anyway and your phone will search for it. Then just download and install it. This could take several minutes.

Don’t worry if you don’t see the iOS 15 update right away. Apple rolls these updates out in stages. Not everyone gets them at the same time.

If your phone battery isn’t fully charged, plug the phone in before you start. Upgrading takes a lot of juice. You’ll also need a few gigabytes of free storage to run the update, so start deleting stuff now if you need to.

According to Apple, iOS 15 is compatible with every iPhone dating back to the 6s, which was released in 2015.

What's New in iOS 15

Many of the iOS 15 improvements help with collaboration and keeping in touch with friends and family, which is fitting, given the ongoing complexities of the pandemic.

FaceTime fun: You can now enjoy movies, TV shows, and music with other people while video chatting on FaceTime, thanks to the new SharePlay feature. Like “Ted Lasso?” SharePlay’s picture-in-picture effect lets you catch the on-screen action and your pals’ reactions. The feature is compatible with Disney+, HBO Max, and Spotify but not Netflix. Not yet, at least.

FaceTime on Android, sorta: Android and Windows PC users can now participate in FaceTime calls. But first you have to send them an invitation with a link that opens a window in their web browser.

Well-timed notifications: You can now group your notifications in batches and arrange to receive them at your preferred time of day. Sports scores in the morning? News headlines at lunchtime? It’s a good way to cut down on unnecessary distractions.

The redesigned notifications also feature more lines of text and larger app icons to improve at-a-glance legibility.

New camera trick: The Live Text feature lets you “take action” on objects in an image inside your camera app or photo library. If you point the camera at a business card, for example, the feature will help you quickly create an email using the address printed on the card.

Better focus: Think of the new Focus mode as an expanded version of the Do Not Disturb feature that first appeared in iOS 6 in 2012. The upgrade gives you more granular control over which apps and people are allowed to trigger notifications and “break” your focus, so to speak.

Safari superpowers: In addition to letting you search the web using voice commands, Safari now supports browser extensions, small apps that you can download from the App Store to extend the browser’s capabilities—by, say, blocking ads or automatically filling in your passwords.

Headshot image of Electronics editor Nicholas Deleon

Nicholas De Leon

I've been covering consumer electronics for more than 10 years for publications like TechCrunch, The Daily (R.I.P.), and Motherboard. When I'm not researching or writing about laptops or headphones I can likely be found obsessively consuming news about FC Barcelona, replaying old Super Nintendo games for the hundredth time, or chasing my pet corgi Winston to put his harness on so we can go for a walk. Follow me on Twitter (@nicholasadeleon).