iOS 10 full review

It’s easy to dismiss Apple’s marketing because the new version of iOS is always “the biggest ever” update, but with iOS 10 there are significant changes and improvements which will make you want to upgrade today. iOS 10 is a free update on most iPhones and iPads: for details see iOS 10 release date and compatible devices.

Overall, the updates are relatively subtle: this isn’t like the seismic shift from iOS 6 to iOS 7 when the whole look was revamped. But several key apps have had big updates, including Messages, Maps, Photos and News. There are small, useful improvements in other apps, and there’s a new app: Home.

See also: How to get iOS 10

iOS 10 review: Lock screen

It’s before you’ve even unlocked your phone (or iPad) that you’ll see quite a few of the changes in iOS 10. One is that compatible phones will automatically wake when you pick them up, which is a great improvement. Now you can check the time and notifications without pressing any buttons, if you have an iPhone SE, iPhone 6S or newer.

Even if your iPhone or iPad lacks this feature, you still get ‘rich notifications’ on the lock screen. Essentially these are like the interactive notifications you’re probably familiar with already: you can reply to a message from the lock screen without unlocking.

iOS 10 review

One change that’s likely to be unwelcome is that ‘Swipe to Unlock’ is gone. It’s no more. To unlock an iOS device running iOS 10, you have to press the home button to bring up the PIN screen. On a device with Touch ID, however, this process won’t seem any different as a simple press will read your fingerprint and unlock the phone or tablet in one go.

Swiping to the right – once the phone is woken but not unlocked – now brings up the Today view where you can use the widgets you’ve set up to do things like checking a detailed weather forecast and seeing your next alarm or calendar event.

iOS 10 review - lock screen

To access the camera from the Lock Screen, you now have to swipe left instead of swiping up from the bottom right corner.

iOS 10 review: Control Centre

It’s still frustrating that you can’t customise the shortcuts in Control Centre, nor see at a glance which Wi-Fi network you’re connected to, but Apple has now split Control Centre over multiple screens.

The main one looks similar to iOS 9, but swipe left and you’ll find the media playback controls (and Airplay settings). A further swipe brings up the Favourite Accessories screen, which will be filled with Homekit shortcuts once you buy some smart home gadgets.

iOS 10 review

iOS 10 review: iMessage

Messages has undoubtedly had the biggest revamp, and is enough reason in itself to warrant upgrading from an older version of iOS. Sure, you can still use it as you always have, but there are lots of new things to do, with Digital Touch, Tapback, stickers and even a whole new app store... just for Messages!

iOS 10 review

Emoticons

One you’ll notice straight away is that words are replaced by emoticons as you type. To keep them (rather than the word) simply tap on them when they appear in the predictive suggestions box. Alternatively, finish your message and tap the smiley button on the keyboard and all words with associated emoticons will be highlighted in orange. Now you can tap on each to replace it with a picture.

iOS 10 review

Effects

When you’ve composed the message you have several options for sending it. On a 3D Touch screen you press hard on the blue upward-facing arrow to see them, or long press on a non-3D Touch screen.

iOS 10 review

Now you’ll see the new Bubble and Screen effects. The former are animations which determine how the message arrives on the recipient’s screen, while the latter serve up full-screen animated backgrounds when the message is viewed. Slam is a particularly good-fun Bubble effect, as is Invisible Ink, which has to be swiped by the recipient to reveal the hidden characters.

Digital Touch

On top of this is the new Digital Touch option. Here, you can draw a reply in your own handwriting, or even a picture. You can also annotate a photo, which is probably the most useful part of Digital Touch. To do this, tap the camera icon, add a photo and then tap on the photo in the message box before you send it. Now tap the Markup button in the bottom-left corner. You can write, draw, add a loupe (the middle icon at the bottom) or add text in different colours, sizes and three different fonts.

iOS 10 review

As with Draw Something (remember that?), the recipient will see your strokes animated as you drew them. But there’s more: you can press hard on a 3D Touch screen to immediately send a ‘fireball’ or tap with two fingers to send a ‘kiss’. There are other gestures to discover, too, and you can also record a video clip (it defaults to the selfie camera) and annotate it or use those gestures while you speak

Tapback

One more addition is the ability to quickly reply to a message with one of six reactions. These are added as an icon to the message you were sent – a bit like Facebook reactions.

iOS 10 review

App store and Stickers

Sending stickers is possible in plenty of messaging apps, and now you can download various stickers packs for Messages. Plus, there’s a new App Store just for Messages. When you tap the ‘A’ icon, you can check the store for new sticker packs and apps, send music from your library or swipe left to send animated gifs, which you can find by searching for them.

You can choose in the options whether or not to automatically add apps already on your device which work with iMessage. There's already a big selection to choose between, including free stickers packs such as Super Mario Run and apps - OpenTable, iTranslate, WordsWith Friends, plus paid-for apps such as games (Checkmate!) and utilities (Pennies Mini, which is for sharing budgets with friends and family). 

iOS 10 review

Expect to see a whole load of new apps and stickers packs added over the next few months.

iOS 10 review: Podcast discussion