Sometimes I see that number following the latest release of iOS and do a double take: really? It’s been around that long? Seventeen iterations into the iPhone’s software and you wouldn’t think there’d be much left to do, but with this latest annual update to its flagship platform, now available as a public beta ahead of its fall release, Apple’s packed in a surprising amount of features—and cleaned up some shortcomings of prior versions.
Perhaps the most significant indication of the iPhone’s maturity is that it’s now largely in sync with releases from its siblings: many features this time around are coming to all of Apple’s devices, so we’ve broken out some of the common features in another piece.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of iPhone-specific innovations in iOS 17. On the contrary, not only has Apple spent a surprising amount of time with a core piece of functionality that most people don’t think about—yes, we’re looking at you, Phone app—but it’s also introduced a brand new way to use your smartphone.1
I’ve been using iOS 17 for several weeks, and while I’ve encountered the usual assortment of rough edges typical of a beta, none have been significant enough to make me wish to go backward. So, without further ado, let’s dive into what this newest update offers and why you may want to take the public beta plunge before the fall rolls around.
When I buy a new iPhone, I tend not to spring for the top of the line where storage is concerned. Generally I’m okay going for a smaller capacity phone, because I don’t have a ton of data, but it can get tight at times1, because as someone who writes a lot about iOS, I do download a lot of apps.
I definitely don’t want to spend my time going through apps and deleting the many I don’t use anymore, so I’ve gotten used to letting the system manage my apps for me, thanks to the Settings > App Store -> Offload Unused Apps feature. This basically keep an eye on your app usage and, if there’s one that’s been just sitting there for a while without being opened, it offloads it.
Note that this doesn’t delete the app in question: it still shows up on your device, and your data is still intact. But the next time you try to launch that app, it’ll have to be redownloaded from the App Store.
Most of the time this is fine, but I’ve increasingly run into scenarios where I want an app that’s been offloaded—usually because it’s an app I only need sometimes. For example, the last couple times I’ve been out on a hike, I wanted to use the bird identification app Merlin, only to find that it—and its hefty data packs—had been offloaded.
So, my modest suggestion is that Apple provide a way in iOS for you to flag certain apps as “not to be offloaded.” That way I don’t have to worry that I’ll be out somewhere with no connectivity in desperate need to know what bird that is and no way to find out, like some sort of 17th amateur ornithologist.
Kick back, relax, and grab a drink with a little umbrella in it because the summer of betas has arrived. iOS, macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, there’s a beta for you, a beta for you, a beta for everyone!1
Look, yes, everybody will tell you not to put betas on your devices. They say it’s to protect you, but we all know it’s just because they want to keep all of that beta hotness for themselves.
Who cares about them, whoever they are? Your phone is your castle, and you should be able to install whatever leaky, drafty software on it that you want. Come on in, the water’s fine! Even if it is in a moat! Did I mix my metaphors too much? Who cares! HOT BETA SUMMER!
To be fair, I shouldn’t be too cavalier about just diving into untested software willy-nilly. It is important, after all, to practice safe beta software installation.…
Even for what is reputedly a somewhat smaller than usual annual update, iOS 17 still brings with it a host of new features. As the beta process begins, there’s plenty to investigate and try out ahead of the software’s full release this fall.
But as I perused the capabilities that are part of this latest upgrade, something interesting struck me: an older technology appears to be having its moment in the sun, as Apple embraces its utility in a bunch of new ways. That’s great not only because it means new features, but also because—as it’s something that’s been around for a while—those new features will be available on any iPhone that runs iOS 17.
I speak, of course, of the iPhone’s near-field communication (NFC) chip.
The problem is the thin line between encouragement and assuming everyone is a robot. At best, Apple’s exercise system wants you to maintain a strict 100% record, forever. And it periodically nags you if you’re not improving your stats. Ran a marathon the previous day? “Your rings are usually further along by now, you slovenly disappointment!” 97% full of snot due to flu? “Get up, lazybones! Or I will hurl your streak into the sun!”
I am one thousand percent in agreement with Craig on this front. Many, including myself, have argued that Apple ought to come up with a system that’s more lenient: rest days, streak recovery1, streak pausing, whatever.
Ultimately, these systems are here to help encourage us to be better, which is great. But as Craig points out, that can backfire when a streak is broken, especially due to circumstances out of our control.2
I absolutely love that Knotwords lets you recover a broken streak when you finish a new seven day streak. ↩
Personally, as someone who in this past month has had both COVID and a flare up of a mobility issue, any bit of fitness streaks are utterly destroyed. ↩
iOS 17’s Live Voicemail finally makes this iOS 13 feature useful for me
Some software features have a delayed impact, like the clap of thunder reaching you seconds after a lightning strike. They may not be useful right away, but at some point something comes along that makes you realize that they’re just what you needed.
For example, take Apple’s introduction of Live Voicemail in iOS 17. Not only is this technologically impressive feature—which uses your phone to answer incoming calls and transcribe the voicemail being left as it happens—handy in and of itself, but it actually reverberates backwards through time to make an older iOS feature more useful.
Because Live Voicemail finally means I can turn on another feature that I’ve been tempted to use since iOS 13: Silence Unknown Callers.1
I’ve always been reticent to turn on Silence Unknown Callers because I worry too much about missing important calls. There are simply too many times that I get a call I don’t want to miss from, say, a doctor’s office, or a delivery person, or a contractor. Let’s be frank: I’m not going to add all these people to my contact list. And in some cases, even if I do have them in my contacts—the urgent care line in my child’s pediatrician’s office comes to mind—a call doesn’t always come from the same number.
But in iOS 17, if you have Silence Unknown Callers active, callers with unrecognized numbers will go straight to Live Voicemail, allowing you to decide whether or not to pick up. (Meanwhile, numbers that are already marked as spam by, say, your carrier, won’t even trigger this.) For those of us old enough to remember answering machines, it’s the equivalent of screening your calls. It helps insure that you can still get the benefit of not having to answer every call while not ending up playing phone tag with that one person you’ve been trying to catch.
Dan Kois, writing at Slate, bemoans one of my biggest annoyances with the iPhone keyboard:
No, no, I’m not searching for “luxury poisons for the rich.” But my Google searches, like hers, are lousy with periods. According to prosecutors’ filings this week as they urged the judge to deny bail, internet searches found on her phone included “what is a lethal.does .of.fetanayl” and “how to.permanently delete information from an iphone remotely.” I, too, somehow end up typing searches into my phone that are full of periods where I wanted there to be spaces, as if I’m William Shatner, emphasizing.each.word.I.type.
This has driven me bananas for many years now. Is it just my big thumbs missing the spacebar? Or is Apple overcorrecting on making sure the period is in there if I want to type a web address. I’m not saying, unlike Kois, that I never want to put a URL in this field, but I definitely search much more than I enter an address by hand, and this does end up more frustrating than useful.
The latest updates to Apple’s platforms have promised improved autocorrect and predictive text—is it too much to hope they might eliminate the dreaded period problem as well?
—Linked by Dan Moren
June 20, 2023 1:52 PM PT
Apple adds passkeys to Apple ID, iCloud logins
As our resident passkeybeat editor, I was glad to see that Apple has now added the ability to log in to your Apple ID or iCloud.com using a passkey instead of your password. The feature’s been rolling out today, and can be tested on devices running the iOS/iPadOS 17 or macOS Sonoma betas.1
Using this feature on iOS/iPadOS is pretty straightforward: when you go to an Apple website that requires your Apple ID to login, including iCloud.com, the Apple Developer site, or the Apple ID management site, you’ll be asked if you want to sign in and authenticate with Face ID.
On the Mac side, when you enter your Apple ID in a browser, you’ll see a new option to Sign in with iPhone. Clicking this will bring up a QR code that you can scan with an iPhone or iPad, which will in turn authenticate you with Face ID on that device, and then log in on the Mac. I’ve confirmed that it works not only in Safari, but in Chrome on macOS Sonoma as well.
I do find it a little bit odd that the macOS implementation currently doesn’t seem to let you use Touch ID on your Mac to log in, rather kicking you to verify via your mobile device. On the one hand, that does bestow the additional security of using a second factor—an item that you have—but that’s not required on iOS or iPadOS, which would seem to be at more risk of being lost or stolen.
Another interesting tidbit: I can’t locate the saved passkey in the Passwords section of System Settings on my MacBook Air running Sonoma. This suggests it’s not synced between your devices, but perhaps using a distinct passkey generated on each iOS device. Neither is there an option right now to add such a passkey to a third-party password manager, like 1Password.
I also did test and was able to confirm that failing the Face ID authentication multiple times2 will revert to the device’s passcode, so it doesn’t add any additional security for those worried about someone with their passcode gaining access (or changing) their Apple ID details.
It’s certainly good that Apple is eating its own dog food here, given how much they’ve pushed passkeys, even if the implementation does seem a bit odd.3 While this may not provide as much additional security as the hardware security key support added earlier this year, it’s decidedly easier to use.
I’ve verified that it also seems to work on macOS Ventura in some cases—specifically via third-party browsers like Chrome and Arc. ↩
Which I achieved through the very scientific method of “putting my finger over the Face ID camera.” ↩
Granted, every company seems to take a different approach to introducing users to passkeys at present, which is one thing that may slow adoption of the technology. ↩
Christina Warren, writing at Inverse, has a good overview of Apple’s impressive Game Porting Toolkit:
It turns out that Apple added DirectX 12 support via something it is calling the Game Porting Toolkit, a tool Apple is offering to developers to see how their existing x86 DirectX 12 games work on Macs powered by Apple silicon. That toolkit largely takes place as a 20,000 line of code patch to Wine, a compatibility layer designed to bring support for Windows games to platforms such as Linux, BSD, and macOS. Wine, which is primarily supported by the company CodeWeavers (which also makes a commercial version called CrossOver), works by converting system calls made to Windows APIs into calls that can be used by other operating systems. It isn’t emulation, but translation (an important semantic difference).
I’ve been meaning to write something about the significance of this game porting toolkit, but Christina has done a great job of summing up not only why it’s technically impressive, but also what the possible ramifications are.
Gaming on the Mac has been a fraught experience for decades, and it’s certainly possible that this toolkit will follow in the footsteps of other failed appeals to the gaming market. But one significant difference is that all of this technology is here, now and already works. You can, as numerous YouTube videos prove, download and run a recent Windows title and have it play surprisingly well. Will this entice developers to the previously untapped Mac market? Unclear, of course, but you can’t say Apple hasn’t made it easy for them.
Hardware was by no means in short supply at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference—not only did Apple launch three new Mac model, but there was also that little matter of a revolutionary spatial computer. But just as the company uses its annual gathering to show off what software features are coming down the road for its platforms, it turns out that it’s also the ideal occasion for Apple prognosticators to read between the lines and see what additional hardware devices might lie just beyond the horizon.
This year, more than most, shed some light on a few places that Apple might be looking to expand its footprint—notably in the home. That’s a market where Apple has staked a few meager claims in the past, but hasn’t really invested in expanding over the past several years. But if this year’s software news is any indication, that may be about to change.
June 7, 2023 8:34 AM PT
Apple highlights new services features coming later this year
Apple announced plenty of new features at WWDC this week, but it’s bundled up a few services-related announcements in a new press release, some of which have been hitherto unknown.
Apple Music, for example, will now feature credits for music, letting you see the various artists on a track. And all Apple Music radio shows will now be available in Apple Podcasts as well. On the Apple TV, you can use the Continuity Camera support in connect with Apple Music Sing to see yourself onscreen during karaoke.
The previously mentioned crossword puzzles in Apple News+ will include both a daily crossword and mini-crossword, which is being produced by The Puzzle Society.
Apple Podcasts gets a refreshed Now Playing design, better queue controls, and the ability to show episode-specific art. In addition, podcasts will be able connect subscriptions between apps and podcasts—so, for example, Bloomberg subscribers may be able to get access to specific podcasts.
There’s a new series page available in Apple Books, which gathers various titles together and shows both ebook and audiobook editions, as well as related suggestions.
Apple Cash will now feature both recurring payments (weekly, biweekly, or monthly) and the ability to automatically top up your balance when it’s low.
IDs in Apple Wallet will be available to businesses for age and identity verification. You get to see what information is being requested before you agree to share it, as well as if it’s being stored, and then authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID. Apple says this will work without the need for new hardware.
Location sharing will now be available via both Messages and Maps via Find My, letting users share their location or request to see someone else’s location, so that you can get directions to them.
These features are part of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS Sonoma, tvOS 17, and watchOS 10, to be released later this fall, though it’s not currently clear whether all of these will be available at the time of their release.
Though all of Apple’s operating systems got attention during this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, watchOS 10 got perhaps the biggest overhaul, not only changing fundamental ways that users interact with the device, but also how information is presented on the wearable.
Some of this information was shown off during the keynote, but the WWDC session Meet watchOS 10 goes into more detail about how the Apple Watch’s design language is changing—and make no mistake, this is a major change. In many ways, the evolution of watchOS 10 feels similar to the way iOS 7 upended the way iPhone apps were designed, if somewhat less radical overall.
On the interaction side, Apple’s revamped both of the watch’s physical controls. The side button, which prior to watchOS 10 brings up the Dock, instead summons Control Center.
Likewise, the Digital Crown’s usage has been expanded; in previous version of watchOS 10, rotating the crown while on the watch face was limited only to interactivity within certain faces—adjusting the height of numerals on Metropolitan, for example, or letting you advance or rewind daylight on Earth in the Astronomy face. But on many faces it did nothing at all, a strange omission that left one of the device’s key tactile interactions underutilized. In watchOS 10, turning the Digital Crown while in the watch face brings up a new set of widgets.
Using the Digital Crown within apps is also now more standardized within watchOS 10. For example, you continue to be able to scroll through apps that use a list-based view—such as Mail—but in other apps with multiple screens, Apple has instituted a more rigid vertical pagination system that lets you essentially scrolls through multiple demarcated tabs rather than, say, an endless page.
It’s also worth noting that Apple has updated the increasingly unwieldy Home Screen of the Apple Watch in watchOS 10. Previous versions gave you the option of the classic Grid view1 or a List view. I’d always gravitated to the former, as frustrating as it could be, because it was easier for me to remember where something was spatially than scrolling through a lengthy list.
The new Home Screen option seems to aim for the best of both worlds, providing a fixed width grid that Apple says is “consistent organization” of apps that you can scroll through with the Digital Crown.
With watchOS 10, Apple’s pushing a strong change to the design language. Early rumors suggested a focus on glanceability, but what was missing from that discussion was that it wasn’t simply about redesigning the current interface, but about how Apple suggests developers design their apps.
One major way this is coming to the forefront is with three specific layouts that Apple is providing for apps: Dial, Infographic, and List. Of those, List is perhaps most similar to existing apps, like Messages and Mail, while Infographic is used in apps like the World Clock, where there’s one screen of information but you can toggle between different things like multiple locations. Dial, meanwhile, seems to take its inspiration from the watch face itself, featuring large central content with icons in the corners.
Overall, there’s a big focus on the “single page” nature of apps in watchOS, rather than apps that let you scroll through a bunch of content. Take, for example, the Activity app in the current version of watchOS. When you launch it, your activity rings are front and center, occupying the entire screen. You then have the option to both scroll down to see more information, as though you are viewing a web page, or swipe to other screens for additional information (Sharing and Awards).
In watchOS 10, those endless scrolling app pages are being discouraged. Instead, an app would present a single discrete page showing all relevant information on a single screen, and then you would page through different tabs of information. So, for example, in that Activity app, one page shows full-screen details about your Move goal, the next about your Exercise goal, and the third about your Stand goal.
Likewise, horizontal tabs, as in the current version of the Activity app, are also being phased out, since it requires you to navigate by swiping, which can obscure the display.
Apple’s also encouraging the use of background content—a color, gradient, or even animation—that conveys additional information about the current screen. Like giving a red-tint to your Move ring page, or showing the current conditions at your location in animation in the Weather app. That provides more context about what you’re looking at, and helps ground you in a particular view.
Even further reinforcing the emphasis on single page views, Apple’s discouraging the use of hierarchical navigation in watchOS 10. Which makes a lot of sense: most times when you’re interacting with your watch, you don’t want to be diving through menu after menu.2
Fundamentally, Watch interactions are measured in seconds, not minutes. The design language that Apple is encouraging in watchOS 10 seems like it will help make those interactions much more efficient when it comes to helping users see the information they want at a glance and then go back to their day.
Come on, Apple, it’s the honeycomb. We all call it that. ↩
That said, there are exceptions to the rule for apps that really need it, like Settings or Mail. ↩
Processing the keynote is like taking in a big meal: sometimes you have to just sit back and digest. So much information flies by that it can be hard to pick out the details that are important to you, but as I compiled the list of features that didn’t make the keynote cut, I found myself thinking about all the new capabilities that would make the biggest difference to me right now.1
A link to the past
Not mentioned in the keynote itself, but something that I’ve been looking for ever since Apple started really doubling down on the features it’s adding to Notes: the ability to link notes together.
Currently I’ve dabbled with Obsidian as a place to keep information about my novel writing, in part because the ability to interconnect my documents in a wiki-like format is absolutely critical to being able to keep track of what is basically a huge database of information.
I’m very curious to see how linking notes actually works, and whether it’s as straightforward as, say, Notes’s ability to add tags.
As the Six Colors Resident Passkey Enthusiast, I’m interested in any implementation details connected to the next evolution of security. And this year Apple delivered on my top feature request: the ability to share passkeys with others. Even better, it’s backwards compatible to passwords as well.
I share social media accounts for several podcast with my co-hosts, and while 1Password does make it easy to share credentials with them, not all of them use the app. But with this feature built into Apple’s platforms, it’s a much easier sell. Plus, it keeps the passwords in sync if one of us changes it.
This is also a big deal for my household, where most of the passwords to shared accounts like my streaming services are shared with my wife (and occasionally with my parents as well). Being able to easily keep that information synced between the two of us will ensure that she can log into the Apple TV if it suddenly starts asking for a password to be entered again.
There were more than a few criticisms of the Apple Studio Display’s webcam, but the company’s now addressed what might be the biggest: the previous inability to control the crop of your image. This could lead to some weird looking images, especially when using the Center Stage feature.
A shortcoming that has now been addressed! Both Apple Studio Display and Continuity Camera now offer controls to pan and zoom the image, letting you present exactly the face you want to show to the world. And users the world over have heaved a sigh of relief.
A FaceTime for television
I play in a regular Dungeons & Dragons game via Zoom, and my current setup is to extend my MacBook Air’s display to my Apple TV, and put a Split Screen of Zoom and our game board, in Chrome.
But this is annoying, because in order to get both my wife and I on camera, I have to put the Air on a footstool and drag it into place. And then we always end up with our eyes on the TV, and not looking at the camera. I’d actually tried to use my iPhone in Continuity Camera mode at one point, but it turned out that you couldn’t use both that feature and AirPlay at the same time.
So the announcement that FaceTime will now come to the Apple TV—and, more to the point, third-party apps like Zoom—will be a big improvement. I’m curious to see whether or not there will be a way to do a Split Screen so I can still put up my Chrome screen, though.
My complaints about typing on my iPhone are well documented, and at long last, it seems Apple has heard the plaintive cries.
Apple promised a bunch of new improvements to typing on the iPhone, including improved predictive typing and better autocorrect. The latter is potentially a big deal, since I’ve found myself often struggling to type a coherent sentence on my iPhone, all too often ending up with words changed into other words I didn’t want, even while other seemingly obvious errors went unfixed.
This is one of those changes that, if it indeed pans out, is going to be a huge quality of life improvement. Especially if it means I can enter a web search phrase in Safari without typing ducking periods between each word.
No, I am not going to install the betas on my devices while traveling, I am not a madman. ↩
The features that didn’t get discussed onstage at WWDC
Apple’s Monday keynote at WWDC was jam-packed as usual, but even at two hours there’s never enough time to cover everything that the company is rolling out in its latest platform updates—especially when you’re updating five major platforms and rolling out a brand new headset.
So, as usual, I’ve perused the product pages for Apple’s latest updates to pull out the details about all the new features coming later this year.
I’ve broken these features down by platform, though as always, many of Apple’s features are available across all its devices. As ever, there may be more to come, but this is the most current list I can find as of this writing.
The Back Page: Release Notes for Apple Reality 1.0.1
We’re delighted you’ve chosen to embark upon Apple Reality. Today is the first day of a whole new world for you, and we hope that you enjoy living in it as much as we did creating it.
With Apple Reality, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to not only provide you with an immersive experience but to actually improve on reality itself.
We’re committed to making Apple Reality the best reality you can experience, and to that end we plan regular updates to add new features, improve existing capabilities, and fix any bugs that may arise. A major update coming later this year will add one of our most requested features: the ability to experience multiple realities.
Today, we’re releasing Reality 1.0.1. This launch-day update is recommend for all Reality users and includes the following enhancements, bug fixes, and security updates:
Corrected inconsistent rendering of sky that could make it appear white or gray and fixed issue where it could leak.
After months of rumors and speculation, Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is imminent. In just a few short days, all that rumor and speculation will finally be answered, and we can make way for…new rumor and speculation. (At least then it will be based on things we’ve actually seen.)
But as we enjoy our last hurrah before the hurricane of news and updates hits, it’s time to compile a look at what exactly we might be expecting when Apple executives appear (in a no doubt slickly compiled video) at Apple Park next week, and what isn’t likely to make the cut.
Prioritizing Apple Music Classical for Android over Apple’s other platforms does make sense, though. The separate app is based on Apple’s acquisition of Primephonic, which was a standalone classical music subscription service, and the Android app went away with Apple’s purchase. That’s similar to how Apple Music for Android has served as a replacement for Beats Music for Android.
Well, yes and no. I’m sure the Apple Classical app leverages a lot of Primephonic’s work, but just looking at the app also makes it clear that it’s drawing heavily from Apple Music; it seems unlikely that it’s more technically challenging to bring Apple Classical to the Mac and iPad than it is for Android.
That said, Apple could very well have metrics from both Apple Music and Primephonic showing which devices people use to listen to classical music, and it decided to prioritize where there were more users. I also wonder if developers of Android apps at Apple might have somewhat more availability than engineers working on apps for its own platforms—especially right now.
Despite all that, the lack of support for macOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and CarPlay definitely feels a bit awkward. Here’s hoping a subsequent release will not only improve the Classical app for iOS (which hasn’t been substantively updated since launch) but also bring users of the rest of Apple’s platforms into the fold.
When it came to enabling third-party apps to speak via Personal Voice, Apple put privacy measures in place similar to those it imposes for photos, location, and other bits of personal data in its care. Such apps can only hook into Personal Voice with the user’s permission, must be running in the foreground, and receive only enough access to read text in the voice, not to get at the data used to generate it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the privacy implications, but the implementation of this feature certainly seems that it will be harder to abuse than something like ElevenLabs’s voice cloning tech. For example, just having to spend fifteen minutes training the model with a random set of words is going to make it a lot harder to create a model of someone else’s voice without their knowledge, even if it does give me shades of training the ViaVoice dictation software circa 2000 by reading Treasure Island to it.
More than a decade ago, on the heels of the iPad’s announcement, I took to the pages of this very magazine—then still available as a physical object shipped to your home—to describe it as not just a third device, but a third revolution.
And at the time it was: Apple’s attempt to once again remake the idea of personal computing, a thesis it would return to several times in the subsequent years, perhaps most cogently expressed in the “what’s a computer?” ad from 2017.
But in recent years, that future has seemed in jeopardy, as the iPad has entered a kind of holding pattern, like the understudy waiting in the wings that’s never asked to step into the main role. The Mac, which seemed poised on the brink of retirement, not only kept trucking along, but even garnered a late-career resurgence with the transition to Apple Silicon. The iPad’s big break suddenly evaporated.
This past week, Apple once again took a step towards the idea of the iPad as the modern-day computer replacement with its long-awaited announcement of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the platform—but is it too little, too late?
As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference approaches, so too does the rumored announcement of the company’s much ballyhooed mixed reality headset. Expectations for the device are high—as is the reported price tag—and much of the tech community is waiting with bated breath to see if Apple can deliver a game-changing device where other competitors have foundered.
If Apple does manage to pull a rabbit out of its hat, the company will surely attribute that success to its signature ability to combine hardware and software into one seamless package, delivering a product in the way that only Apple can.
But there’s another element of Apple’s business that will play a big part in whether or not Apple’s headset is a hit, and you don’t have to go very far down the company’s balance sheet to find it: services.