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Here are the three biggest changes coming with iOS 10

The software is available on Tuesday as a free update.

While they won't be able to get their hands on a new iPhone until at least Friday, Apple customers can give their current phone or tablet a new lease on life by downloading iOS 10, which is being made available later Tuesday.

Apple is billing the free update as the biggest overhaul ever of its mobile operating system. Whether or not that is the case, there are definitely some significant changes. Here are three of the biggest.

Source: Recode | Apple

Messages are getting more fun

From bubbles to invisible ink to handwriting and stickers, the Messages app is getting the biggest overhaul in iOS 10 as Apple looks to compete with third-party efforts like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. Also, for the first time, developers will be able to plug into iOS 10, integrating bots and commerce.

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Siri is getting more useful

Developers will also be able to connect with Siri for the first time, so Apple's voice assistant will finally be able to do things more complicated than calling up a song or telling you the weather or a baseball score. For example, you will be able to request a car from a ride-hailing service, send payments to friends and use third-party workout apps.

Little is big

There are a bunch of tweaks in iOS 10 that by themselves might not be game-changers, but are nonetheless welcome little enhancements. Among the changes are multilingual typing, more interactive notifications and the ability to easily tell which songs are physically on a device, as opposed to those stored in the cloud. You'll also be able to hide Apple's default apps from your home screen.

But ...

While there clearly some good reasons to upgrade, there is one big reason to potentially hold off a bit: Bugs.

It's often prudent to wait until the first or second minor update of a new operating system to make sure any issues have been ironed out and that more software has been made compatible.

That said, Apple now widely beta tests its releases, theoretically meaning the new release should be less glitch-prone than in the early days.

You also need to make sure your device is compatible. To run iOS 10 you will need an iPhone 5 or later, any iPad Air or iPad Pro or the fourth-generation iPad, the iPad mini 2 or later or the sixth-generation iPod touch.

—By Ina Fried, Recode.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.