NEW YORK—Curious about the iPhone 8? Here’s what’s coming, courtesy of Apple’s introduction of its new operating system.
Apple kept news of a tenth anniversary iPhone under wraps on day one of its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif.
But Tim Cook & Co. revealed plenty about the software that will be at the new iPhone’s core when it arrives, likely in the fall. As with prior iterations of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 11 also promises new features for current iPhone models. And Apple also reserved special love for iPads that the company can only hope helps revive a sagging brand.
iOS 11 was released as a developer preview today. Here are eleven of the changes coming to iOS that caught my attention:
The faddish popularity of last summer’s Pokemon Go release gave iPhone users an early sense of what augmented reality is all about, essentially layering characters and other “fake” stuff on top of the real world.
Using a platform called ARKit, developers will be able to exploit computer vision and take advantage of what Apple maintains will be “the largest AR platform in the world,” given the vast user base of iPhones and iPads that are out there. I’m eager to see the many ways developers might do just that, in gaming, commerce and more. One thing we know: augmented reality almost always makes for a cool demo, even in its simplest form as when an Apple executive made a faux steaming cup of coffee appear on an otherwise barren tabletop.
*Pay your friends in Messenger.
Watch out, Venmo, PayPal and Square. Apple is enabling person-to-person payments inside the Messages app, via Apple Pay and with an assist from Siri. Apple still has some explaining to do when it comes to the finer details. For example, Apple executive Craig Federighi said on stage that when you receive money from a friend it will go into an Apple Pay Cash card, of which I’d like to learn more.
*More useful maps.
At least two of the new features coming to the Maps app are potentially very handy. Apple is adding what is says are detailed floor plan maps at a variety of shopping malls and major airports. And Apple will also provide a “lane guidance” view when you take the wheel of a car.
*Do Not Disturb While Driving.
Speaking of driving, this genuine safety feature is good news for drivers too easily distracted by notifications and alerts.
When you turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving, iOS 11 will silence alert and notifications while keeping the screen dark. iOS 11 will use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to measure that you’re moving in a car and if so, to suggest activating the feature. If it is activated, anyone sending you a message will get an automated response telling them that you’ll see their message when you get where you’re going. If the message senders want to alert you about is truly urgent, they can reply urgent in the message to permit it to get through to you.
*A smarter Siri?
The proof will be in the pudding. But Apple insists that through machine learning and artificial intelligence, Siri will indeed get smarter in iOS 11, and also learn more about how to please you with personal experiences and suggestions by learning what you’re doing inside the Safari, News, Mail and Messages apps. Your Siri interactions are synced across devices (and encrypted.) I don’t know how much you’ll appreciate the new, supposedly more natural-sounding male and female Siri voices. But international travelers will likely appreciate the fact that Siri will be able to translate English words and phrases into Chinese, French, German and Spanish.
*Enhancements to Photos.
iPhone photographers ought to welcome new features coming to the Photos and Camera apps, though of course I haven’t put any of these to the test yet. (And who knows what kind of camera will be built into the next iPhone?) Such features include the ability to shoot Portrait Mode pictures (currently a feature on the iPhone 7 Plus only) with optical image stabilization. iOS 11 also lets you add effects and trim the short video snippets inside Live Photos images. And a new format called High Efficiency Image File Format can reduce the file size of the pics you take on an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.
*New design for Control Center.
New designs of any kind take getting used to but the changes to the Control Center where you can turn on Airplane mode, adjust the audio and more looks to be a positive step. Control Center packs such tools now in a single view, which you can get to with an upward swipe gesture. Meanwhile, a new lock screen also brings notifications into a unified view.
*New design for App Store.
On the design front, the App Store is also getting a makeover. Highlights include a new Today view with featured app content–valuable real estate for chosen app sellers of course–as well as a dedicated Games section.
*One handed keyboard.
This is another feature I’ll need to try. But Apple is promising easier one-handed typing, with easy access to numbers, symbols and punctuation.
*A richer music experience.
Apple Music subscribers will be able to follow, contribute and listen to shared playlists with friends and create profiles so they in turn can follow you. What’s more, Apple has opened up Apple Music to developers, giving them full access to the 40 million songs in Apple’s cloud catalog. Apple noted on the WWDC stage that Nike can add exercise playlists through the catalog, or Shazam can automatically add the songs it identifies to your music collection. Meantime, while the newly-announced $349 Siri-controlled HomePod speaker isn’t coming until December, the new AirPlay 2 feature in iOS 11, will let you control Apple TV and third party speakers in multiple rooms around the house, using Control Center, the Home app or Siri.
*IPad only benefits.
Beyond the iPhone, Apple says iOS 11 is the biggest software release ever for the iPad. Two benefits worth mentioning: drag and drop support and a new Files app, both of which would make a tablet such as the iPad Pro that much more like a Mac.