There are dozens–if not hundreds–of new features strewn across the major software updates Apple releases every fall. But for every one that gets top billing (iOS 16’s new customizable Lock Screens, for example) there are a whole slew that get little, if any attention. It’s hardly fair, but hey, that’s life: we can’t all be the stars of the show.
Fortunately, the massive number of people looking at these updates helps ensure that no new feature stays unknown for long. Having myself spent a large amount of time with iOS 16 and watchOS 9 over the past several months, I’ve developed my own feelings on which are the best features that you might not immediately try right away—the ones that are often squirreled away in an app you haven’t opened for a while, or buried under several levels of menus. And because I want you to enjoy them too, I’m going to share three of my favorites.
Weather or not
Dark Sky has been my go-to weather app since its release, and though I’ve experimented with many others, I’ve always gravitated back to it. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who was a big fan—Apple thought it was so good that they bought it back in 2020. More recently, an announcement in the app confirms that it will cease to function starting on January 1, 2023.
But the good news is that a lot of the niceties of Dark Sky have made their way into Apple’s own Weather app. If you haven’t given it a try in a while, I encourage you to check it out: there’s way more in there than you might think at first glance.
For example, all of the cards in the Weather app are now interactive; tap on any of them—temperature, humidity, wind speed, and so on—to get an overview of the entire day, as well as future days. There’s also a summary field for each metric that gives a convenient, easy-to-read text digest of the overall conditions: for example, “Today’s temperature range is from 53° to 70°.”
For another, Weather now not only includes Dark Sky’s precipitation maps and forecasts, but also offers temperature and air quality maps (tap the layers button in the map view). You can even look at a list view of all your saved locations and quickly see the conditions in all of them at once.
Yes, the Weather app could still be improved. There’s too much scrolling in some cases and burying some of the metrics under an additional tap at times means you interact with it slower, but I’ve been genuinely impressed with the Dark Sky features that it incorporates, right down to precipitation warnings (which, admittedly, are a bit buried: tap the list icon, then the three dots in the top right, then select Notifications).
When Dark Sky does eventually give up the ghost—and I’ll be pouring one out for it—it’s the Weather app that’ll get first crack at replacing it on my home screen.
The Apple Watch Ultra may have stolen the show during the company’s recent event, but one of the most useful features demonstrated in its introduction is actually available to owners of the Apple Watch SE and Series 6 and later: compass Waypoints and the corresponding Backtrack feature.
That’s built into the redesigned Compass app, which is available to owners of Series 5 Apple Watches as well, though they don’t get the Waypoint feature. The revamped Compass app is pretty handy on its own, showing you the current direction it’s facing and any bearing, as well as offering different views that you can switch to by turning the Digital Crown. Those other views also offer your current elevation, incline, and latitude and longtitude—all handy to have right on your wrist. You can also set compass bearings underneath the menu button on the top left, helping you stay on course during a hike.
But the real gems are the Waypoint and Backtrack features. The first lets you quickly drop a GPS marker at your current location, which you can assign a color and icon. Those then show up in a little mini map inside the compass; scroll out on the Digital Crown and they’ll even show up on the compass ring, helping you navigate your way to the location. (I also appreciate that it can automatically drop a waypoint to where you parked your car—useful even if you’re not out in the wilderness.)
The Backtrack feature takes that up a notch; it can automatically drop waypoints that you can use to retrace your steps later. And, if you’re in an environment without connectivity, it’ll even activate automatically. I took a walk in the woods last week, and discovered that Backtrack was already active, showing me the path I’d taken. (Luckily I did remember where I parked my car.)
Okay, this last one’s a small thing, but it can make a big difference. Last year, during a family holiday trip, my wife needed to get her work PC on the Wi-Fi network. Using Apple devices, that would be easy enough: the Share Password prompt just pops up and you’re done. But we quickly realized that there was no way to get this information off our iOS devices so that she could simply type in the password on her PC.
iOS 16 fixes that problem, at long last. Not only can you see the password to the network you’re currently connected to in Settings > Wi-Fi by tapping the information button next to the network name, but there’s now an Edit button in the top right corner of the Wi-Fi screen that lets you see all the networks you’ve previously connected to. From there, you can view any of the passwords of those networks, as well as delete them, preventing automatic reconnection later.
It’s a feature that should have been there in the first place, frankly, but that doesn’t make it any less of a welcome addition now, since it helps decrease a pain point with the iOS experience. But it’s one of those new features that might get lost in the shuffle amongst the flashy new headliners, just another reminder that there’s plenty more to find in Apple’s latest updates beneath the surface.