Top 10 changes to Apple’s iOS10 (some inspired by Facebook and Google)

ios10
iOS10 will be rolled out to Joe Public in the fall

From pre-installed apps that can be deleted to more heartfelt messages with predictive emotions, Apple’s newest operating system looks set to tie us kidults ever more closely to our mobile devices.

Unveiled yesterday in San Francisco, iOS10 is the technology giant’s largest and most advanced update yet. The annual refresh has been rolled out to developers and a beta version will be made available in July.

Everyone else will get the new OS as a free software update in autumn, notably iPhone 5 and later, as well as all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, fourth-generation iPad, iPad mini 2 and later and sixth-generation iPod touch. The iPhone 4s will not be supported, making the device officially obsolete.

Obligatory iOS10 quote

“iOS10 is our biggest release ever, with delightful new ways to express yourself in Messages, a native app for Home automation, and beautifully redesigned apps for Music, Maps, and News that are more intuitive and more powerful, making everything you love about your iPhone and iPad even better,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice-President of Software Engineering, said in a media handout.

iOS10 adds Siri intelligence into QuickType and Photos, automates your home with the new Home app and opens up Siri, Maps, Phone and Messages to developers — while increasing security and privacy with powerful technologies like Differential Privacy,” he added.

Without further ado, then, here are the 10 most significant changes to the new software.

  1. Don’t ever leave Messages

Animation is coming to the Messages, which Apple says is the most frequently used iOS app. In a move that appears to have been inspired by, and paradoxically, a strategy to counter the rise of messenger apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp, Messages is being radically overhauled.

The new Messages will automatically suggest replacing words with emojis, and for that “Aww!” moment on special occasions, messages can be animated to take over the screen, filling it with confetti, balloons or fireworks.

To make sure you don’t exit the conversation, rich links will let you read content and play media without leaving the conversation. Developers will also be able to create apps specifically for Messages, so users can peel and paste stickers into conversations, personalise a Gif, edit photos, make an appointment and send payments – all without leaving the app. Are advertisements next?

So far, so meh. The features we really like, though, are invisble ink, where the message only shows up once you’ve swiped over it, and handwritten notes! (Do post-millennials even write any more?)

Better yet, for those who text and drive (yes, we know you’re tempted), a new feature called tapback lets you respond quickly with a single tap – in a way that appears similar to responding to calls from a locked home screen.

  1. Goodbye, default apps! But not quite.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the space all those pre-installed apps take up on your 16GB handset, you’ll be able to delete up to 23 of them, including Contacts, Compass, Music, Stocks, Videos, Watch, and – perfect for the always-sunny UAE – Weather. So you can free up more space to download more apps – yay!

Yes, Contacts is on that list, and if you remove Contacts, you won’t lose your contact information. You can still find all of that information in the Phone app, the company says on its help page for removing built-in apps.

Some apps appear to be too closely tied to the system to be uninstalled: Camera, Clock, Messages (of course!) and frustratingly, Health. Game Center isn’t going away either. We feel your pain.

  1. Uber Maps

Ever use Waze or Google Maps because Apple Maps just doesn’t cut it? I know I do. In a move designed to make Maps more intuitive – similar to Messages – you’ll soon be able to book services such as Uber and Lyft from within the app.

The app has also been simplified. As with the Google home screen, Big Brother will now be suggest – or predict – where you should go next and what you should do, based on information already in your phone, such as calendar appointments, and on routines, such as a prompt to leave for work on time.

You’ll also be able to look up coffee shops, restaurants and gas stations en route to your destination, but crucially, the app will tell you how much time each stop will take – so you can figure out if you can fuel up and make your Jafza appointment on time.

Of course, this being Apple, Maps has been redesigned to look prettier than before.

  1. Siri grows up (a little), gets serious

Apple is desperately trying to help its developmentally challenged five-year-old achieve what other little ones are doing better.

Its biggest move has been to open up the talking digital assistant to third-party developers, so you’ll be able to order it to do much more. Get your mind out of the gutter now! We’re talking Siri for messaging, photo search, payments, workouts (haven’t figured out how that would work yet) and ride booking. So yes, you can tell Siri to book you an Uber.

In the car, Siri will be able to control CarPlay apps, access climate controls and adjust radio settings within automakers’ home apps.

Siri’s also going to improve the QuickType keyboard with suggested replies based on where you are or what’s on your calendar. So if your Mum wants to know when you’re coming home, Siri will be able to tell her. (We don’t recommend trying that, though… Mums are too smart for Siri.)

  1. Photos memories

What’s life without a little nostalgia? Like those irritating reminders of where you were three years ago to the day that keep popping up on Facebook, the Photos app’s Memories function will “automatically help you remember events, trips and people from the past, grouping them into easy-to-access themed albums.

What we’re loving is that the new app allows you to make Instagram-ready mini-movies from your photos with the Memory Movie feature, which automatically provides theme music, titles and transitions between shots. Again, kinda like Facebook.

One way it does this – hello again, Big Brother – is through advanced computer vision that groups together people, places and things inside your images with on-device facial, object and scene recognition. Presumably you’ll be able to turn off the feature too. “This intelligence brings Memories and related photos to life in a way that’s personal and meaningful to you, while maintaining your privacy,” Apple’s obligatory handout says.

  1. Home App for Simpler Home Automation

After Apple TV and HomeKit, Apple’s bid to become a legend in your living room has been beefed up with a new Home app for your mobile device. Think of it as a remote control for everything in the smart home that automatically triggers events based on time of day or action.

You’ll be able manage accessories individually or as a group, so they work together, you’ll be able to do it remotely and you’ll be able to do it all with Siri. In theory, you should be able to tell Siri to get Apple TV to download and stream the first season of Freej (or Game of Thrones) before you get home.

Apple will continue to provide support for HomeKit, with nearly 100 home automation products now using it, from thermostats and lights to door locks, video cameras and window shades. US developers will begin integrating these devices into new homes this year, although their UAE counterparts are a little behind the times.

  1. Read the funky Music

It may have 15 million paying customers, but Apple Music is still a little clunky, so it’s been given a makeover for iOS10. Bigger cards and bolder fonts are a welcome change, and a lovely black and white UI should help everything stand out nicely.

From a software perspective, the Browse function has been modified so music is easier to find. A Hot Album will show you what’s trending, while new music, charts, curated playlists and other ways will help you navigate the minefield of new music.

The Library feature comes straight to the front and is divided into five sections: artists, albums, playlists, songs and downloads, a brand-new category that lets you find everything you’ve ever saved.

Apple also promises that noobs will have an easier time, thanks to a Discovery Mix and a redesigned For You feature, as well as a new Search tab.

Thankfully, Radio isn’t going away, and Beats 1 and Elton John’s Rocket Hour are both staying.

Our favourite feature? Lyrics that are automatically integrated into Music, so you can read the words as you listen, so 25 years after Smells Like Teen Spirit was released, you might actually be able to understand what he’s singing (never mind the marbles in his mouth…)

  1. New News is OK news

In what feels like an afterthought, iOS10 brings some of its intuition to News, with a For You tab that organises everything into distinct sections so you can find things more easily.

Hand-picked stories from Apple’s editors are also new; like Facebook, Cupertino’s biggest looks like it wants to become one of the world’s biggest editors.

It also improves breaking news notifications that appear on the lock screen and pull-down notifications panel, as well as integrating paid subscriptions to over 2,000 publications.

There’s more that can be done, such as integrating blogs or allowing citizen journalists to upload content directly, perhaps syncing with a Twitter feed – but clearly even Apple can’t keep up with the pace of change in the news business.

  1. Keepin’ it private

With all that prediction and automated suggestion, iOS10 promises to keep private things that ought to stay private, partly by encrypting data and partly by avoiding profiling – so it says.

“iMessage and HomeKit use end-to-end encryption to protect your data by making it unreadable by Apple and others. iOS10 uses on-device intelligence to identify the people, objects and scenes in Photos, and power QuickType suggestions. Services like Siri, Maps and News send data to Apple’s servers, but this data is not used to build user profiles,” the media handout says.

The company is using a technique called differential privacy to sift through users’ data while maintaining anonymity. This means injecting noise or spurious information into users’ data to scramble what is collected, so Apple’s computer scientists can improve product intelligence without being able to identify users. Apple says the technology will help improve QuickType and emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep link suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes.

“When it comes to performing analysis of your data,” Federighi said at the conference. “We’re doing it on your devices, keeping your personal data under your control.”

  1. Experiential overhaul

Overall, iOS10 claims to improve the way you access everything you need. A host of incremental changes around the UI deliver improvements you didn’t know you needed.

The new Raise to Wake feature automatically wakes up the screen as soon as you lift it from (we presume) the bedside table, so you can see all your notifications at a glance on the Lock screen.

And after Night mode, a bedtime alarm in the Clock app lets you set a regular sleep schedule and receive bedtime reminders.

Notifications, Today view and Control Center are all easy to access with just a swipe or a press, while deeper 3D Touch integration is being rolled out for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus – so expect plenty of new app updates.

Phone users will benefit from integration with third-party VoIP calls, voicemail transcription and a new caller ID extension for spam alerts.

Finally, Safari is also being updated. Built-in updates include a split-view for iPad, an integration with Notes and Live Photos editing. You’ll also be able to pay for purchases more securely, with Apple Pay being integrated into the browser – so hopefully it’s goodbye to those fraudulent phantom transactions in South Korea.

For more information, head over to the Apple site.