Apple showed off a raft of new features for the Mac, Apple Watch and iPhone at Tuesday’s WWDC keynote. So many that the company breezed through most announcements and still talked for over two hours. I’ve had a chance to dive deeper into some of the announcements and pull out my favourite features, coming soon to a device near you.
The opening keynote at Apple's annual developer event, the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), has ended. Apple has announced updates to all four of their main operating platforms with lots of new features to macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. </p> <p>While some of the updates are significant, others are less so, depending on the maturity of the platform. Let's take a look at what's new and when you can get your hands on the new software.Read more
The iPhone received the most improvements. Apple claims the software is twice as fast to launch apps and scroll lists, and I don’t doubt them, so that would make iOS 12 an instant update for me already. But the feature I’m most interested in are the new Screentime options found in the settings app.
You need to turn on Screentime, but if you do your iPhone will begin monitoring your usage, and sharing insights with you. You’ll see daily habits like how often you pick up the phone, what app you tend to go to first, how often you scroll endlessly through Instagram, and how much time you spend (or waste, depending on your perspective) in social media apps in general. There’s no judgement here, just insights, but you can set yourself limits for an app or category if you choose.
Google has announced similar features are coming with its next Android release, and I applaud them too for tackling device addiction, something I struggle with. I’ve previously written about my own addictions and the tools I’ve used to monitor my phone usage, but these methods were less than ideal thanks to iOS security and privacy features. For these tools to be accurate and automatic, they needed to be baked into iOS, so it’s fantastic to see the care and attention Apple have given this feature. Of course Apple will never see this data, or share it with third-party apps. This is information for you to use or ignore.
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Piggybacking on the back of Screentime are new Parental Controls; the reports look the same, only here parent have the ability to limit an app or category on a child’s device, and those apps will not launch at all.
Parental Controls are now account based, again similar to what Google provides, meaning the same controls can be used across multiple devices, or set for all children in a household. This also allows Apple to move these settings from the child’s device to the parent’s, meaning it’s easier to change settings on the fly, or perhaps lock down Minecraft until someone cleans their room.
If you set up Facebook or Minecraft to have a one hour limit a day, when the app hits that limit the app will gracefully fade out, and a small hourglass appears beside the app. So not to torment your child, all notifications from that app are also blocked.
A child can request a little more time, 15 minutes, an hour, or a day, depending on their bargaining power. Thankfully, if you decline the request, they cannot ask again for the rest of the day, so you won’t be driven mad from notifications.
And speaking which, Apple is grouping notifications, and giving the ability to quieten an app’s interruptions directly from the notification, bringing iOS up to date with features Android users have enjoyed for a few years. Siri will suggest notifications that you might not want to see from apps you’re not really using, which will hopefully quieten notification spam from needy free-to-play games.
Notifications can be blocked completely with Do Not Disturb, and it’s easier to set up specific quiet times that will expire automatically, so you won’t need to remember to turn them back on. Say you have a meeting from 12-1, in Control Centre a simple tap will turn off notifications until the meeting is done. You can even set Do Not Disturb to locations as you’re entering a restaurant or movie, so you can enjoy some radio silence until you leave.
Siri is often ridiculed but the simple things it does — like adding reminders or calendar appointments — it tends to do well. Apple opened up Siri to a select few app types (messaging and navigation) with iOS 10, but now with Shortcuts, Siri is suddenly a lot more useful. Shortcuts allow developers to create a few different actions in the app, for example Spotify could add “Play Discover Weekly” as a shortcut, and then as an end user I could pick that shortcut and give it my own phrase.
Once you’ve set up a few, Siri Intelligence can predict the shortcuts you might want next based on your usage: showing you a ‘Play workout music’ shortcut as you enter the gym, or show a shopping list when entering a supermarket.
It’s not full app control — you can’t just ask your phone to buy 14 random things from a supermarket’s with your voice — but in theory you could set up a ‘staples’ shortcut of groceries, and have that ordered via voice.
There’s also a dedicated Shortcuts app, allowing you to string multiple actions together, so saying something like “leaving the office” could in theory trigger Pocket Casts to play my next episode and have Citymapper send an ETA to my wife (I’m name dropping those apps in the hope they’ll support Siri Shortcuts day one).
The Shortcuts app is based on the excellent Workflow, which Apple acquired last year. The App looks a little more friendly under Apple, and now being baked in to the system with Siri behind it, Shortcuts is infinitely more powerful. Still, once you get past the baked-in Shortcuts suggestions, the old workflow view is on show, and it’s wonderfully geeky. I’ll spend far too much time in this App. I might have to set myself limits.
The author travelled to California as a guest of Apple.