Quick Hands-On: iOS 16 Public Beta

Posted on July 13, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 22 Comments

With my Alaska cruise just a few days away, I naturally installed the iOS 16 public beta on my iPhone 13 Pro. What could go wrong?

Well, all kinds of things. But I’ve mostly had positive experiences with iOS betas and the past, and I have to hope and assume that the public beta has met some quality bar. Right?

And there were two key iOS 16 features I was eager to experience: the new lock screen, which promises to take this previously ignored bit of UI and turn it into something special, and Visual Lookup, the curiously-named feature that lets you press and hold on an object in a photo and share just that thing, similar to Photoshop.

So I did focus on those first, of course.

Well, I did after I finally got the iOS 16 public beta installed: for all its advances, Apple still hasn’t figured out how to quickly download and install software updates. From the moment I tapped “Download and Install” until it rebooted into iOS 16, it took my iPhone almost exactly 90 minutes. And I was babysitting it, too. Yikes.

Anyway, the experience of using iOS 16, even at this semi-early stage, is a bit more positive. The new lock screen looks like the old one by default, with the same wallpaper I’d configured, but with a bolder font for the time.

And the default desktop, likewise, saw only minimal—albeit unwelcome—change: there’s a new Search “pill” between the lowest row of icons and the Dock. It’s clutter, and I don’t want that there.

The first thing I tried was customizing the lock screen. Interestingly, you can do this from the lock screen: when you press down on the lock screen, the Lock Screen Customize screen appears with options to customize the current lock screen or add more (you can have multiple lock screens now in iOS 16).

I stuck to customizing the single lock screen I expect to use. Apple gives you three fields you can customize: the date, the time, and a new area below the time. As it turns out, the time field supports widgets, so you can add one widget—like moon events or the temperature—next to the time if you’d like. You can also customize the font and color used for the clock. And add some number of widgets to that new blank area under the time.

For my first pass, I didn’t customize any of that. Instead, I customized the wallpaper, which lets you choose between a nice range of featured Apple images, suggested photos from your own collection, or look elsewhere.

When you select a wallpaper, iOS 16 does that nice visual trick where part of the clock disappears behind part of the wallpaper. I’m not sure yet if you can customize or disable that yet, but it’s a nice effect. (Speaking of effects, you can also toggle depth effects and/or perspective zoom on the lock screen, of course.) And you can, as always, apply the same wallpaper to the home screen while you’re doing this.

I haven’t spent too much time trying to customize the lock screen with widgets, but once the basics were out of the way, I did go back and add a few. I added the weather (called conditions) to the date field first. And then I added widgets for battery, another city’s time, and an alarm to the new field below the time. Unfortunately, the city time is for Cupertino, despite the fact that the only city I have configured in Clock is Mexico City.

Also unfortunate, the addition of those new widgets removed the effect where part of the time appears behind part of the wallpaper. Sigh.

As for Visual Lookup, this works amazingly well. Basically, you use Apple’s Photos app to find a photo in which you’d like to isolate a person, an animal, or some other object. I found this cat photo, for example.

Then, you press and hold on the object, which will shimmer a bit as you do so, and then display Copy and Share items in a context menu.

I used Share to text this image of the cat to my wife. Very nice.

An image of my son and I was … less successful. But still pretty impressive.

Obviously, there’s a lot more going on with iOS 16, but time is short and I need to start packing and getting ready to leave. So I’ll check in later with more observations about iOS 16, given that I’ll be using it every day.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Quick Hands-On: iOS 16 Public Beta”

  1. anoldamigauser

    "With my Alaska cruise just a few days ago..."

    So you are back already? Ago should probably be away.

  2. jason_e

    Paul said.."Well, I did after I finally got the iOS 16 public beta installed: for all its advances, Apple still hasn’t figured out how to quickly download and install software updates."

    I decided today to install the Android Beta 13 on my Pixel 6 Pro. Its been over an hour now and still updating so I am not sure how this is so different than iOS. Looks like Google does not have it figured out yet either...lol. Yikes !!!

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yep. It's incredible how long these updates take. I just went from Beta 4 to 4.1 and that took forever too. Say what you will about Microsoft but they have at least figured out the mechanics of software updating. Apple and Google have not.
  3. ebraiter

    Holy craps. 90+ minutes in Paul's iPhone which is probably a top of the line iPhone. Those with slower ones may have 2 wait hours.

    [In comparison, going from Windows 7 to Windows 10 took me about 40 minutes. Ya. Comparing apples (err) and oranges.]

    • beckoningeagle

      I had an issue one time in which the source phone would overheat during transfer and shutoff. I had to hang it from the air-conditioning grill so that the New phone could get all the data. Fun times!

  4. jvpulver


    OT: Hope you have a good time on the cruise of Alaska. I was on that cruise several years ago. BTW, not all ports (i.e., cities) have cell towers. Hopefully your cruise ship has one. Or even better, wi-fi service to get to the Internet to make calls, send texts, and surf the web. If not, enjoy being "unplugged." ☺️


  5. Stabitha.Christie


    if you go into Settings > Home Screen you can turn of the little search pill dingus on the Home Screen.

  6. djross95

    Too bad that, in 2022, Apple still doesn't let you put icons where you want them on the lock screen. At this point, it must be purely spite.

    • Stabitha.Christie

      Yes.... the only conceivable reason that Apple hasn't added the feature that you personally really want is ... spite .... they are totes out to get you.... just you... whole reason the company exists.

      • Donte

        Always the sarcastic, Apple apologist.

        • Stabitha.Christie

          Nah... complaining about not having more flexibility to move icons is a legit gripe. Saying the reason that the feature isn't there is due to "spite" is objectively stupid.

  7. fishnet37222

    I'm running the beta on my iPhone SE 2022, and I do not have that search "pill" you mentioned.

  8. beckoningeagle

    Oh man! I envy you, such a beautiful place. I went when I was grandfathered in the initial ipad $29.99 unlimited data plan. Had absolutely NO SIGNAL in the whole state (well, 2G in Denali and Fairbanks). I'm sure things must've changed by now.

    If you go to the tours where you get to see animals, go for the longer tours instead of the 2 hour tours. I made the mistake of doing the shorter ones so that I could see more animals and it was a disappointment. People I knew that chose the long tours (5+ hours) came back with amazing pictures.

    • dougkinzinger

      We did Alaska as well back in 2012. Cell was better, and we did a one month "international" plan with our carriers (as my wife and I were on different carriers at the time) and I think we had Rogers and Telus service while we were up there, but we mixed a little Canada in there too so I could be conflagrating some memories.

  9. johnlavey

    I am using the beta too. Thanks for more illuminating information. BUT please and thank you for no more cat pictures. LOL

  10. mclark2112

    I have the beta running on my iPad, haven't taken the plunge on the Mac or iPhone... Haven't had any issues with the ipad.