iOS 16 update might bring two huge changes to the way you use your iPhone

The iPhone 13 Pro Max lying on a table, face up, showing the home screen
(Image credit: Future)

If there's one thing you likely engage with more on your iPhone than all the apps and social media platforms, it's the notifications telling you to keep checking back on these apps, and the iOS 16 update could bring a big change to the way these work.

This comes from top Apple leaker and analyst Mark Gurman who, in his Power On newsletter, made a prediction about iOS 16, which will likely debut at the June WWDC 2022 conference.

According to Gurman, iOS 16 will get "fairly significant enhancements across the board, including an update to notifications and new health-tracking features," presumably referring to iPhones' built-in pedometer and the Apple Health app with that latter comment.

Gurman does suggest Apple Watches will get some health improvements too, so perhaps the Apple Health changes will change the way they play together.

It's worth pointing out that Gurman also states "I'm not expecting an end-to-end redesign of iOS's interface," so this probably won't be as big a change as, say, widgets that were added in iOS 14.

Now, what Gurman means by "significant enhancements" isn't clear, so the changes to these two features could affect the user interface (the bit you see) or the code and algorithms running the show (the bits you don't see). 

Either way, if these are the big selling points of iOS 16, it's likely Apple will make all clear at WWDC.

Analysis: the war for attention

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously views the streaming platform's rivals not as Amazon, Disney and Apple, but sleep or video games, as mentioned in this 2017 interview.

Tech giants are constantly fighting in the 'attention war', vying for their platforms and apps to be the way you while away your time and money. When it comes to smartphones, notifications are the infantry in this war.

Notifications aren't designed to remind you of an important happening in an app; they're designed to sucker you back in, and draw you away from countless alternatives. If you receive a Twitter message or an Instagram comment, which social media platform do you open up? Certainly not Facebook.

However, as time goes on and as users become more tech-literate, this infantry becomes less effective - we're desensitized to all the notifications we get. If you're anything like me, you ignore more notifications than you pick up your phone for.

With that in mind, iOS 16's notification changes are almost necessary, to change notifications from "that annoying 'ding' that you ignore" into an actual useful reminder of important goings-on.

Perhaps this change could be in the way they look, so you have more ways to respond - some Android phones let you respond to notifications from third-party apps with quick responses, which stops you from having to spend ages going into the app and writing a response.

Alternatively, this could be some AI smarts to stop the overwhelming deluge of notifications you can receive. Maybe if you're in a busy group chat, or have a viral tweet, or an email chain with constant responses, the iPhone will package these responses into one notification to save your ears.

For now, only Apple knows what notifications upgrades iOS 16 will bring. But it's going to need to consider where its priorities lie, with users or with tech giants, as each new change could have consequences in the attention war.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.