Apple's iOS 10 is due this fall, along with MacOS Sierra, and you can expect new features, including Home. But mostly the release will bring much-desired optimizations to Messages, Maps, Music, and Photos, plus little perks like finally letting you delete some of Apple's native apps.
Don't want to wait until fall? You can preview iOS 10 through Apple's public beta program. You need, at minimum, an iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, or an iPad Pro (or a more recent version of any of those devices). Be sure to to create an iTunes or iCloud backup, in case something goes awry or you want to revert to a previous update. Then go download the iOS 10 beta. Read on for our tour of iOS 10's highlights.
Apple's native messaging app comes to life with new, more dynamic ways to communicate. Open up Messages and tap the arrow to discover two new options alongside the camera icon: App Store and Heartbeat.
App Store. Tap App Store to see a menu button that opens up Recents, Store, Music, and #images. You can also use App Store to access apps without leaving Messages, such as Venmo to make payments. Music lets you share what you're currently listening to, and use #images to search and send photos and GIFs from Apple's extensive library.
Heartbeat. Once only an Apple Watch feature, Heartbeat opens a pad where you can sketch a word or drawing in one of seven colors. Your friends will see it render as if you were writing it on their screen. Hold your fingers down on the pad to send your heartbeat in a heart-shaped box, or get someone's attention by sending a tap (it looks like a circle).
More visual messages and quick responses. Type "Happy birthday" and balloons will overtake your friend's screen. Type "Congratulations" and confetti will fall. Tap your recipient's message bubbles and send one of six quick responses, including a heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, Haha, exclamation points, and question marks. Or tap the emoji icon to swap out words for emoji. Typing is less of a chore when contextual predictions kick in. Type something like "I'm available at," and the app autosuggests free times from your calendar.
Additional new features include the abilities to draw over videos (as in Snapchat), change the look of message bubbles, send text in invisible ink (which your recipient can open with a swipe), and type in two languages simultaneously.
Reservations and suggestions. With iOS 10, you'll be able to book OpenTable and Uber reservations in Maps. Maps gets proactive with suggestions based on where you are and tells you the fastest way to get there -- see which gas stations, restaurants, and coffee shops are nearby. However, we couldn't test this feature, because the third-party apps that can connect to Maps aren't live yet.
Topics. The News app now breaks up articles by topic, so you can find the stories you're interested in more quickly.
Photo groupings and Memories. Photos now scans your iCloud library and groups photos by specific people, animals, places, or events. A search bar up top so you can look for them based on keywords. The Memories function takes photos from important events and puts them together in mini movies, backed by music. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any Memories videos to play in our iOS 10 beta.
For You. To compete with Spotify's excellent Discover, Apple Music now has a For You page that puts music recommendations, specifically for you, in one place. Whether you're playing an old favorite or a new discovery, you'll see the lyrics at the same time.
Online shopping. Apple Pay, once reserved for in-person purchases, is now available for online shopping. When it's time to purchase, just tap the Pay button.
Remote control. The new Home app connects to your HomeKit-ready appliances, so you can control your house lights, doors, and shades with your phone or tablet. If you add appliances to the app, they will be accessible from your Control Center's third pane.
Siri for non-Apple apps. Siri is now integrated within many of your favorite third-party apps, so you can ask it to book an Uber for you, Venmo a friend some money, or post on Facebook.
Raise to Wake. Turn on your phone just by picking it up.
Rich notifications. Check out photos and videos or answer messages directly from your notifications.
Widgets. Native apps like Calendar, Weather, and Stocks now have little widgets that you can see on your lock screen. Use 3D Touch to peek into the information you need.
Bedtime and wake-up reminders. Open the Clock app and tap Bedtime on the bottom rail to access this wonderful new feature. Answer a handful of questions -- such as how many hours of sleep you'd like, when you'd like to be reminded to go to sleep, and when you want to wake up -- and select the relaxing music you'd like to wake up to, and Apple will push you to get your beauty sleep.
Native app deletion. You can finally remove some of Apple's native apps, such as News, Stocks, or the Apple Watch app. However, you can't delete Health, Photos, Wallet, or the App Store.