The public beta of iOS 15 is out and available to install for anyone who wants to try it. Every handset that could run iOS 14 is eligible for the upgrade—that’s everything back to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus from September 2015. However, not every compatible iPhone will get every iOS 15 feature. Here’s the small print in full.
What it really comes down to is the amount of power your iPhone has under the hood. Certain iOS 15 features require the A12 Bionic chip or something more powerful, and that chip made its debut in the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR in 2018. Not only did it bring better performance than the A11 Bionic, it also had an improved Neural Engine for AI processing.
There are also a couple of features that only apply to newer models but that aren’t related to the A12 Bionic processor. If you don’t have an iPhone from 2018 or later, here’s what you’re going to miss out on—and why.
Portrait Mode: With the introduction of iOS 15, FaceTime is going to be smart enough to blur out the background behind speakers, just like the Portrait mode in the Camera app. The feature will only be available on newer iPhone models though.
Spatial audio: Older iPhones don’t have the processing capacity to create the effect of people’s voices coming from different directions either. Apple is promising to create “a sound field that helps conversations flow as easily as they do face to face.”
Augmented reality walking directions: If you’re using an older iPhone, you won’t be able to use the more immersive AR view for your walking directions, a feature Apple Maps is taking inspiration from Google Maps for with the introduction of iOS 15.
Interactive globe: Apple is making Maps more detailed and immersive, and the improvements include a 3D globe view with enhanced mountains, forests and other features...as long as you’re using an iPhone with at least an A12 Bionic processor.
Detailed city experiences: The extra detail in Apple Maps extends to roads, trees, landmarks, and buildings in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London—but you’ll need a newer iPhone to be able to see all these enhancements.
All of the fancy digital key systems that your iPhone can support through iOS 15—from unlocking your car to getting into your hotel room—require hardware that was introduced with the iPhone XS, so older devices are out of luck.
Live Text and Visual Lookup: iOS 15 can identify and process image text in a variety of apps in iOS 15, and also do some smart tricks—like telling you the breed of a dog you’ve photographed—but only with the A12 Bionic processor or something newer.
Zoom in QuickTake videos: QuickTake videos are where you press and hold the shutter button in the Photo mode in the Camera app. iOS 15 lets you zoom in or out during these videos with a swipe up or down—but you need newer iPhone hardware to be able to do it.
On-device Siri processing: Apple says Siri will process more actions on your iPhone with iOS 15, improving speed and privacy, but if your handset doesn’t have the A12 Bionic or something newer, Siri requests will still get sent to Apple’s servers for processing.
On-device Siri personalization: Not having the A12 Bionic CPU or something newer also means that Siri can’t calculate and save certain personalizations to your phone. These personalizations include new words and topics that you’re interested in.
Siri offline support: With the introduction of iOS 15, Siri is able to do more on your actual iPhone, without going online—think setting alarms, launching apps, adjusting the volume, and so on. Again though, this won’t apply to iPhones that were launched before 2018.
On-device dictation: As with the Siri features above, if you’re on an older iPhone then iOS 15 isn’t going to be able to process dictation on your actual device. Instead it’s going to get sent off to the cloud, which means that it’ll be a slightly less private and slower process.
Sorry, older iPhone owners, but you’re not going to get the stylish-looking animated backgrounds in the Weather app introduced with iOS 15, which show off the current meteorological conditions through computer-generated graphics.
If you’ve got iOS 15, some AirPods Pro or AirPods Max headphones, and some Dolby Atmos music, you can get the dynamic head-tracking component of Apple’s Spatial Audio feature, but you need at least an iPhone 7 handset as well for this to be available.
iOS 15 deploys some custom algorithms to keep an eye on how steady your walking is, but Walking Steadiness is a new feature exclusively for iPhone 8 and newer devices—if you’ve got something older than that, you won’t be able to access it.