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6 travel-friendly features coming to Apple's newest iPhone software

June 07, 2021
7 min read
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Every June, Apple unveils its latest software improvements for its devices.

Monday, June 7 marked the beginning of the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, and Apple's virtual keynote included details of what's coming to iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches this fall.

While there's a slew of features included in the new iOS 15 that'll soon power your iPhone, six of them are significant enough to get travelers particularly excited. Let's take a look.

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A digital ID for TSA checkpoints

Gone are the days of fumbling through your bag to find your ID while waiting in the airport security line.

Beginning in late 2021, you'll be able to scan your state ID card or driver's license using the built-in iPhone camera, and it'll instantly be verified and stored securely in your iPhone's wallet.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

The feature will debut with a handful of yet undisclosed states, but the technology paves the way for a more seamless airport security screening experience.

During the keynote event, Apple teased that the TSA is working to accept a digitized version of your ID. Once it launches, all you'll need to do is authenticate your digital ID card using a quick face scan or fingerprint and present a mobile boarding pass to the TSA officer at security.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

Apple promises to expand this technology to retailers and venues in the future.

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Hotel keys in Wallet

A digital ID isn't the only travel-friendly feature coming to your iPhone wallet.

Apple is also building hotel room key support directly into the Wallet app. If you're staying at an eligible hotel or resort, you'll be able to bypass both the reception desk and the hotel mobile app to get your room key. Simply opt in for a digital key through Apple Wallet.

On your day of arrival, your iPhone will automatically check you into the hotel and create a digital room key in the wallet. All you'll need to do is authenticate your phone, and you'll be in your room within seconds.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

At launch, Apple is partnering with World of Hyatt to deploy this new feature at more than 1,000 properties worldwide.

Of course, some elite members might still want to stop at the front desk to inquire about upgrades and benefits, but for most users, this will make the hotel check-in experience faster and more efficient.

Digital keys will also make their way to garage doors, homes and corporate security badges when iOS 15 launches later this fall.

Revamped Apple Maps for easier navigation

The revamped Apple Maps in iOS 15 will make it much easier to get around when you're on the go, especially in some of the world's largest cities.

The redesigned Maps experience includes much more detail around roads, trees, buildings and more. During the keynote, Apple panned and zoomed into landmarks in San Francisco to show off the level of detail.

Zooming into buildings and structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge brings up a realistic 3D rendering for easier navigation. Additionally, Maps now builds in an elevation profile directly into the map itself, making it easier to get a sense of an area's elevation and topography.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

When using Apple Maps for navigation, you'll soon see more detailed turn-by-turn instructions, including street-level perspective on complicated interchanges to improve your odds of making the correct turn or getting into the right lane.

If you're traveling to a new city and using public transit, you'll appreciate that Apple's adding augmented reality walking instructions to its maps. That means you can pan your iPhone camera around nearby buildings, and a large arrow will overlay on top of the live view, pointing you in the right direction.

By the end of 2021, the new Apple Maps city experience will be available in London, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Live Text helps you quickly get key info

Say you're on the go and take a picture of a business card or a sign hanging at your favorite store.

Previously, those pictures were static — if you wanted to jot down the email or phone number in the photo, you'd need to first find the shot, trigger your short-term memory and quickly go back and forth between the photos and mail or phone apps to manually copy and paste the text.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

With Apple's "Live Text" feature, all that useful information is now automatically scanned by the software and presented to you as actionable items.

So, that business card you snapped? Tap the email and you'll instantly be brought into a new mail message with a pre-filled "to" field. What about that sign hanging at your favorite store? Quickly tap on the phone number in the picture to give them a ring.

Built-in system-wide translation

Whether it's quarantine restrictions or testing requirements, international travel during the pandemic is challenging. Add in a foreign language, and some might not even want to venture outside the country.

Though Apple's not solving the former, the company is making it much easier to work with a foreign language directly on your phone, iPad or Mac.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

With system-wide translation, any text you highlight can quickly be translated at the touch of a button. You'll no longer need to copy and paste the text into a dedicated translation app to find the info you need.

This feature also works when taking pictures of words or phrases written in a foreign language. Simply highlight the text and you'll be presented with an option for translation without leaving the photos app.

Notifications to match your mood or travel style

When I'm on the road for work, I only want to receive notifications from select apps — Slack, Outlook or an airline's mobile app to name a few.

I prefer to catch up on the rest once I'm at the hotel or in the airport lounge.

(Screenshot courtesy of Apple)

With the latest iPhone software, you'll soon be able to customize your notification preferences to what you're doing. "Focus," as Apple calls it, allows you to select what you want to focus on. If it's work, then you can choose to exclusively receive work-related notifications.

When I upgrade my iPhone later this Fall, I'll create a "flying" theme that'll allow notifications from my top travel and work apps. I'll also switch on Do Not Disturb mode, which will automatically display my "busy" status to anyone who attempts to send me a message.

Bottom line

Apple's forthcoming software update promises to give users a number of new travel-friendly features that are sure to make hitting the road easier than ever.

With two major wallet updates, you'll be able to add hotel room keys and state identification to your device, allowing you to bypass the check-in desk and streamlining the airport security experience.

Apple's latest Maps update improves the navigation experience, whether you're driving or exploring a new city on foot.

Plus, if you're traveling internationally, the new Live Text and system-wide translation features make it easier than ever to understand and communicate in a foreign language.

Ultimately, Apple's newest iPhone software has the potential to make all of us better, savvier travelers. Here's to hoping that borders are open and travel is back to pre-pandemic levels when iOS 15 is released this fall.

Featured screenshot courtesy of Apple

Featured image by (Screenshot courtesy of Apple)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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