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Tech Matters: 3 great features on Apple’s new iOS 15

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 6, 2021

Leslie Meredith

Apple’s iOS 15 is now available to download. The company has already issued an update to fix a security problem, so it’s a good time to update your iPhone. The new system has two significant privacy features, along with the ability to FaceTime with friends who don’t use an iPhone.

If you have plenty of available storage on your iPhone 6S or newer model, you can download directly from your phone. Just go to Settings, General and then Software Update to install. If you’re short on storage space — the iOS requires 3.69 gigabytes to install — you’ll have to free up space manually by deleting videos, photos and apps or connect your iPhone to your computer and log in to iTunes. And yes, there is a PC version available for free. With the latter option, you’ll be prompted to update your iPhone to iOS 15, so follow the instructions. Be sure to opt for backing up your phone first and do allow up to an hour or more for the update.

Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection is a feature you’ll want to enable immediately. When you turn it on, it hides your IP address so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. It also prevents senders from seeing if you’ve opened the email they sent you. While this is bad news for any company that tracks its email results, it adds an additional layer of privacy that you didn’t have before.

You should see the option to turn it on when you open the Mail app for the first time after installing iOS 15. If you don’t, head into Settings, scroll down to Mail and tap on Privacy Protection. There, you can toggle on Protect Mail Activity.

The second privacy-related feature is Apple’s new App Privacy Report, an expansion of Apple’s no-tracking mechanism in Safari. (By default, Tracking is set to allow apps to request to track your activity while browsing. If you’d like to deny them all, toggle this feature off in Tracking found under Privacy.) This report will tell you which permissions apps are accessing and how often such as your location, camera and microphone. Perhaps more important, it also shows you when apps are tracking you through other apps and websites. To turn on the iOS 15 App Privacy Report, go to Settings, Privacy and scroll to the bottom and toggle on Record App Activity. The iPhone setting will record up to a seven-day report that you can send to yourself and review. You’ll have to give it 24 hours to get your first report.

At this time, the report is just a .txt file that must be opened on your computer, so email it to yourself. Soon, Apple will release an update to iOS 15 that will include a more readable report you can open right on your phone. If you are uncomfortable with any of the data you see, go back to each individual app in Settings and make adjustments.

On a lighter note, you can start a FaceTime call from your iPhone as usual and then send an invitation to friends who do not use an iPhone. This means that you can video chat with both Android phone users and those on a PC. You’ll send them a link that they can open in a web browser to join your call. It works similarly to a Zoom or Teams call. Here’s how to do it. Start by opening the FaceTime app on your phone. Note that you cannot start the call from a contact’s information page in your phone app as you would with a fellow iPhone user. Tap Create Link at the top of the screen. Then choose how you will send it: by Messages (text), email or a third-party messaging app like Teams. Messaging is great for someone who is usually on their phone, while you’d choose email if you think it’s more likely the person is on his or her computer. Add the contact and send. You’ll see the main FaceTime screen after you’ve sent the link to a friend. Tap FaceTime Link to start the call and then tap Join. As the host, you will then approve the recipient’s request to join the conversation and you’ll be connected.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past nine years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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