(Pocket-lint) - The latest iPhone operating system update, Apple's iOS 10, is almost here. And it's full of promise that will change the way you use your iPhone or iPad.
We've been living with iOS 10 on both iPhone and iPad during the public beta phase and, briefly, on the new iPhone 7 at Apple's launch event in San Francisco.
But just how has the mobile operating system changed, and is it truly for the better?
iOS 10 review: Design
For the most part iOS 10 looks the same as iOS 9. There are tweaks here and there, of course, but the experience is still familiar and there are no shocks in the same way as experienced with the iOS 7 update.
However, iOS 10 focuses on layering, with more information and more options to hand. So rather than create entirely new ways of approaching things, Apple has evolved what we've seen in iOS 9, while managing to implement a bolder, clearer and cleaner user interface. On the lock screen, for example, everything is now contained in "bubbles", which we've found delivers a more contained experience.
It is interesting to see how much Apple is relying on iPhone users already being knowlegeable with the OS's history in order to be happy with the potential complexity of what is being offered. Power users are going to love all the nuances available, from Messages through to the new lock screen.
iOS 10 review: Lock screen
One of the biggest changes in iOS 10 is the new lock screen and how it works.
iPhone users with Touch ID may have found it frustrating that as soon as they touch the Home button the phone unlocks. In iOS 10 you can now "Raise to Wake" your device to see messages and notifications.
The Raise to Wake function works in a similar way to how it does on the Apple Watch: you need to lift or move the device with purpose to get the response. If you are one of those people who lays your iPhone on a desk or table, you'll have to physically pick up the phone, or press the power button, rather than merely giving it a nudge.
Like in the Watch, the feature it is not perfect every time. Pull the phone out of your pocket and it's all good, but tap it as you would the Apple Watch, and it does nothing. Failure to move with the necessary vigour results in the phone staying asleep, although we found Raise to Wake was a lot quicker to respond on the iPhone 7 in our brief hands-on at the event than the 6S we've been using during the iOS 10 beta phase.
Raise to Wake isn't the only new trick, though. Apple has removed the slide to unlock bar that has been on the iPhone since day one. In the age of Touch ID and the Home button, Apple believes you don't need it any more. Or, at least, not for the purpose of unlocking: iOS 10 now uses the slide gesture on the lock screen for other things. Four other things in fact.
Slide right to left to reveal the camera (it used to be a slide up). Slide in the opposite direction, from left to right, and you reveal the Notification Center with Widgets for things like Calendar, Weather, search options, and app suggestions.
Sliding down from the top of the screen reveals your notifications, or access to Widgets if you then scroll left to right again (more on those in a moment). Sliding up from the bottom of the screen gives you access to an enhanced Control Center which has now been spilt into three panels: Main controls, Music, and Home (more on that later).
It does all take a little bit getting used to - especially for accessing the camera. And over the months we've been using iOS 10 we've not found it to become second nature. We've not used the Widgets as much as we had hoped, and the inability to delete emails from the home screen is a missed opportunity.
All that said and done, where the lock screen wins is that you can now access so much information through notifications, Widgets, and even devices, that you'll find at times there is no reason to even go beyond it. It's great for glancing without digging deep.
iOS 10 review: Widgets
Put simply, Widgets are snippets from within an app, visible on the lock screen. That could be your Activity data, a football score, the latest headline, or shortcuts to controlling smarthome devices - without the need to fully open an app.
Indeed, Widgets could have the power to negate the need to open apps altogether. Once you've got the ordering of your selected Widgets sorted they can be incredibly powerful.
As is stands, however, Widgets are incredibly basic - and only editable within the app they are from; there's no centralised control. But they will become even more powerful when more app developers add support.
We like Weather, Battery (for checking up on the Apple Watch), Philips Hue for Scenes, and Activity, but we are sure more will come as the feature becomes more widespread among iPhone users.
iOS 10 review: Messages
If you do make it beyond the lock screen, you'll find Messages is the next big iOS 10 overhaul. Apple has looked at what messaging apps are doing - like Snapchat, Instant Messenger, Whatsapp, Line, and others - and tried to emulate it for iMessages too.
Aside from making emoji bigger so you can see the cute little things, there are a number of new types of message to tease and taunt your friends and family with. Whether that's messages that "slam dunk" their way into an inbox, or ones that are revealed after a pause, there is plenty to play with... if you remember.
And that's before you start to experiment with iMessage backdrops like fireworks or balloons, drawing messages in the same way Apple Watch users have been able to do for the past year, automatically getting suggestions to replace words with the right emoji, or play with the dozens of third-party iMessage apps that will also be able to tap into the experience. It's like BBM never went away.
The new elements can be ignored if wanted, and for most we suspect they will be. Yes, they add fun to the experience, but after the initial excitement you could find yourself reverting back to your old ways and completely ignoring or forgetting about them.
iMessage apps, meanwhile, offer a range of different things including, probably most importantly, stickers. Some are free, others you'll have to pay for, but most are fun. They range from cats to veggies, to premium third-party ones like Star Wars emoji, and are no doubt going to be a massive hit for Apple and developers keen to get on board. It's not all stickers though, other apps include IMDB, City Mapper and Scanbot Go.
How iMessage apps will be received is anyone's guess. We suspect there will be a handful of apps that will be really useful to a handful of people, but for the rest of us it will probably go unnoticed andd just add to the noise.
iOS 10 review: Home
After seemingly years of talking about HomeKit, Apple has created a dedicated app to allow iPhone and iPad users to not only access their HomeKit-enabled devices, but also create Scenes to allow different HomeKit devices to talk to each other.
The app itself is simple, yet powerful. Broken down into three main areas - Rooms, Scenes and Automations - you can quickly access all the HomeKit devices in your house, view them room by room, or create automations based on specific triggers. We've covered Home in much greater depth in our HomeKit preview, linked below.
What Apple Home really gets right with Home is the "one app to rule them all" approach. And it really starts to shine above and beyond dedicated device apps when you pair multiple devices together. It's at that moment everything snaps into place.
iOS 10 review: Photos
Apple hasn't really touched the camera app in iOS 10. For older iPhone users (i.e. not the new iPhone 7 range) there are no new shooting modes to experiment with. The iPhone 7 Plus gets a 2x zoom feature and dedicated Portrait mode, but every other device running iOS won't.
Apple has always had a strong focus on photography and many of those iPhone users who are generations deep will have amassed years upon years of photos. And iOS 10 wants you to find those photos quicker, whether through search or suggestions.
The Photos app will now scan your complete library and then attempt to track people, places, events, and a few other things to group photos together to make them more relevant and easier to find. That might, as we've found, be photos from a place you've been, a collection of photos based on a date, or even a collection of what Apple thinks are some of your best photos over a given period of time.
The intelligence stems further, too, allowing you to ask Siri to try and find a photo for you - perhaps of a dog or a beach - and we've found on a number of instances when it's saved us from scrolling back through a good seven years of phone pics trying to find "that photo".
Start looking at your Memories and, as you might expect, the rabbit hole runs deep. There's the ability to play slideshows of collections, see photos in a given collection, who is in the collection, where the collection was taken, and then related collections. You can then share that collection as a mini movie.
If you shoot a lot of pictures then after upgrading to iOS 10 expect to lose yourself for the first couple of days in the Photos app.
iOS 10 review: Siri
Apple has made Siri available to developers, allowing them to access the voice assistant to not only build it into their apps, but allow you to ask Siri to interact with apps on your behalf. You will be able to conduct a photo search in IM or stop and pause your runs in apps like Runkeeper, for example, all via Siri.
However, this is one of the features that we've not been able to fully test yet, given availability, but we will be updating this review as and when supported apps become available.
iOS 10 review: Extras
iOS 10 isn't just about Message enhancements, a new Photos app, and HomeKit. Across the board there are new and upgraded features: from a handy quick shortcut, to unread mail in the Mail app, or being able to remove the Stocks or Tips apps from your home screen so you never see them again.
For iPhone users with 3D Touch, apps will now be able to give you more information without you having to open the app. Apple Maps gets new features too, while Apple Music and Apple News have both had a complete overhaul, making them a lot easier to use.
iOS 10 review: iPad
There are just two specific features in iOS 10 for iPad: the ability to split-screen two Safari windows side-by-side in Split Screen mode; and Swift Playgrounds, an app designed to get people and kids into coding.
Both appeal in their own ways, and although it sounds incredibly geeky we really appreciate the Safari add-on. For us, having one window with our content management system open, and other with details of a story from a manufacturers' website or email, has made our workflow a lot easier.
The notion that iOS is a simple operating system is now a long and distant memory. In iOS 10 Apple has focused on layering the experience with even more complexity and depth than ever before.
iOS 10 isn't about redefining or dumbing down, more about adding functionality on top of what, for many, is an incredibly functional experience already. It's a bold move, given that some of that complexity might be overwhelming to a brand new iPhone or iPad user.
But Apple has got the balance right. Yes, your two-year-old will still be able to navigate iOS 10, but while once upon a time they would have been classed as geniuses, now they will only be scratching the surface. And for power users the depth of features is richer than ever before.
So should you upgrade to iOS 10? The simple answer: yes, of course. There are many new features, tricks, and goodies to be found in iOS 10 that to not upgrade, would simply see you missing out.