During Apple’s annual WWDC last week, the company revealed a dense list of software updates that will impact various Apple products. As software and app developers, we at Quantilus are particularly interested in the updates because they usher new possibilities for our clients. This roundup will focus on the significant updates for iOS 15, as well as the operating systems for Mac, iPad, and Apple Watch.
iOS 15 is the successor to iOS 14 and continues to add rich features for the operating system powering the billions of iPhones used around the globe. iOS 15 was the center of attention for the first half of this year’s virtual event, as Apple executives and employees walked viewers through the countless additions to the new software.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing guidelines, video calling dramatically increased this past year as people searched for alternative methods of communicating. In response, Apple added some new features to their popular FaceTime app.
- Grid View: When multiple people join a call, users will be placed into equally-sized squares that make it easy to identify the speaker and see everyone at once.
- Portrait Mode: Like the iPhone camera feature that lets consumers take detailed photos that focus on the subject, portrait mode can now be applied during FaceTime calls.
- SharePlay: Let’s users share their screen, music, and video during a call. Users can listen to songs together using Apple Music and share videos from Apple TV, Hulu, HBO Max, TikTok, and more.
- Spatial Audio: Callers will sound like they are speaking in the same room. A new microphone feature can also block out background noise and focus on the speaker.
- Scheduling & Links: FaceTime calls can now be scheduled, and links can be created for other people to join the call using an internet browser. Thus, making FaceTime available to non-iPhone users for the first time.
Time is valuable, and phones are a major source of distraction. So Apple went to the drawing board to help users combat distractions caused by the constant flood of smartphone notifications.
- Focus: Choose between a custom or suggested mode that determines which notifications will be delivered while the feature is turned on. (ex. Only texts from mom and school email notifications are allowed). Users can also create custom homepages that only feature pertinent apps while in Focus mode to help decrease distractions.
- Summary: Feature that gathers notifications that are not time-sensitive and provides them at a better time (ex. on your lunch break). Notifications are in order by importance.
Live text is s new feature that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to extract text from photos. Meaning, if there is text in a picture, Live Text will identify it and allow the user to take action. This can include searching the web, calling a phone number, transforming handwritten notes into digital versions, and more. Use-cases for the technology are below.
- Search the Web: If the photo is of a restaurant sign with a phone number on it, a user can highlight the number and call it. They could also highlight the company name and search it on the web.
- Digitize Handwritten Copy: If the image is of a handwritten journal entry, Live Text can identify the written copy and transform it into digital text for an email.
One of Apple’s oldest apps, Maps, underwent advancements to make the application more immersive than ever before.
- 3D Experience: When using Maps, users will experience a 3D world with multi-dimensional buildings, roads, bridges, landmarks, and more. Driving directions and night mode are also improved.
- Walking directions: When users exit a subway and are unsure which street they surfaced too, they can take a picture of the building across the street from the exit. Maps will then identify their location and provide augmented reality walking directions.
Other Notable iOS 15 Features
- Apple Wallet ID: Later this year, consumers will be able to add their state IDs and Driver’s License to Apple Wallet. Apple is working with the TSA to allow airplane passengers to use their digital ID when going through airport security.
- Find My: Lost or stolen iPhones can now be tracked if it’s powered-off or reset. Find My is now compatible with Airpods Pro and Airpods Max.
- Translate: Live translate feature is now available to make communication more seamless and natural.
- Health App: Users can now share their health data with family and doctors.
- Mail: Privacy Protection blocks the sender from knowing if and when you open an email. IP addresses are concealed, so senders can’t identify a user’s location.
Luckily for consumers, many iOS 15 updates for the iPhone are also incorporated in Monterey, including the new features for FaceTime, Maps, Live Text, and Notifications. There are also a few key macOS-specific updates that we cover below.
- Universal Control: Users can now toggle between a Mac and iPad using only one keyboard and mouse-no setup needed. Users can also drag windows and files between the two machines.
- Safari: The redesigned tab section allows users to see more of the webpage. Also, Tab Groups is a feature that lets users save, sort, and manage tabs.
The focus for iPadOS 15 was multitasking, which is evident by the new upgrades the operating system received.
- Quick Notes: A floating notepad will follow users between apps so they can take notes without having to switch to the Notes app. Users will also be able to tag people in notes.
- Split View: A multitasking feature that lets users experience multiple screens at once.
- Swift Playgrounds: Users no longer need a Mac to learn, create, and submit apps to the App Store.
- Respiratory Tracking: Apple Watch can now track respiratory breathing while a user is sleeping.
- Fitness+: Expect a bevy of new classes, including ones that revolve around musical artists such as Lady Gaga.
- Workout Options: Users can also track physical activity for two new workout types; Tai Chi and Pilates.
- Wallet: Users can now unlock their car with Apple Watch, along with starting the vehicle when the user is sitting in the driver’s seat. Additionally, in Fall 2021, consumers will be able to unlock their homes, office, and hotel room through the wallet app.
- GIF: WatchOS will now support GIFs.
Apple unveiled countless updates to its operating systems across its line of devices. Focusing on improving areas such as multitasking and reducing distractions is refreshing from a big-tech company, especially as consumers become increasingly conscious about the length of time they spend on their devices every day. However, will these upgrades shrink users’ screen time, or will these updates be ignored? Only time will tell.