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By Jason Snell
September 26, 2016 4:01 PM PT
I like a whole lot of what Apple’s trying to do with Messages in iOS 10. Message-sending is the killer app of smartphones, and Apple’s text-and-photos approach to messaging was too basic. With iOS 10, Messages is fun again.
I love those stickers. They’re silly, sure, but they’re a ton of fun.
And effects! Don’t get me started. Sending the word
balloons, but with the Lasers effect? It’s the best. I really do enjoy sending messages with those effects, though I admit that my enjoyment is almost entirely ironic. It doesn’t matter. They’re silly and fun.
But here’s the thing: Apple has packed tons of fun things into Messages in iOS 10—but the interface itself has broken down. No, Messages isn’t as inscrutable as Snapchat, but it’s not what I’d call a well-designed app. It’s an app that’s full of features, but too many features are impossible to discover. Overall, Messages for iOS 10 is just way too complicated.
Let’s start with the blue up arrow, which has replaced the Send button. Its placement, where the old Send button was, is probably enough to get across what you do when you tap it, but I’ve seen numerous people upgrade to iOS 10 and then get confused how to send a simple text message.
What’s worse than the arrow itself is what’s hidden behind the arrow. If you use 3D Touch (or touch and hold on non-3D-Touch-capable devices), you get access to all those effects—four effects that animate the bubble you’re sending, and five that animate the entire message window. Those effects are fun, and once you know to use 3D Touch they’re pretty easy to send (though if your grip’s not secure, you could find yourself pressing the send button instead of bringing up the effects window).
What about discovery? There’s simply no way, short of trial and error, for someone to figure out how to send effects. This is a problem with a lot of the design of iOS 10, where there are lots of extra features concealed a tap or swipe away, but without any indication that there’s anything more you can do on that screen. (Try to toggle shuffle on and off in Music. You have to know to scroll the album art up to reveal the additional controls, but how would you know? Again, once you know the feature is there, it’s pretty nifty—but it’s just frustrating unless you are in on the secret.)
On the iPad, there’s an ink button parked on the keyboard. Tap it, and you get a white area where you can draw a message as if you were writing in ink. I don’t really understand the rationale for placing that feature inside a software keyboard, and I always forget that it’s there, but that’s where Apple has put it. On the iPhone, it’s even weirder—you get to the interface by turning your phone on its side so it’s in landscape orientation, at which point the writing space appears.
All the other features are located under a gray greater-than symbol to the left of the text input area. Tap that symbol and you’ll see three different symbols—a camera, a heart with two fingers, and the somewhat familiar App Store logo. The camera icon is clear enough, though you have to swipe to the right to reveal that you have access to a full-screen camera view as well as the traditional photo-library picker.
The Digital Touch view (the heart with two fingers) has been imported from the Apple Watch, and combined with a video-camera feature. I’m willing to accept that this is the most Snapchat-like of all Messages features, and that someone my daughter’s age might find it awesome. I find it a little confusing. You can tap a carat icon to take the Digital Touch panel full screen, so you can draw an animated messages in a larger space. There’s an animated panel just above it that shows you what different finger gestures will do, and if you tap it, a help page will slide up. For a simple, fun feature, it’s not so simple.
Then there’s the app store. I like the idea of a Messages app store, full of sticker packs and apps that can integrate the intelligence of standalone apps with the freewheeling conversation of a text message. But the complexity of this interface is pretty breathtaking. Here’s how to direct someone to the Messages App Store: Tap the gray greater-than sign, then the App Store icon, then the four-circles icon in the bottom left corner of the screen, then the icon with a plus symbol that’s labeled Store. Four taps to get to the App Store seems like a lot, but there it is.
Finally, let’s talk about the message window itself. Stickers can very easily cover your conversation, and it’s not obvious how to get them out of the way to read a text. The Tap Back feature, which lets you give a quick reaction of one of six icons to any given message, is invisible unless you go looking for it—or activate it accidentally.
I like Apple’s instincts in transforming Messages like it has in iOS 10. But the interface is in need of a lot of refinement. Some features aren’t at all discoverable, and others are buried behind complex chains of icon taps and slide-up interfaces. (I’m also not sure why Digital Touch and the ink-writing feature are different.) There’s a lot of fun stuff here, but for more people to embrace it, they need to be able to find it and use it with ease. A messaging app shouldn’t be boring—but it also shouldn’t be hard to use. In iOS 10, Apple has traded one problem for another.
By Jason Snell
September 13, 2016 10:55 AM PT
The release of iOS 10 marks the debut of a bunch of major new features to Apple’s Photos app. By far the biggest change to Photos is the addition of a comprehensive machine-learning algorithm that scans the contents of your photos to automatically identify people, objects, settings, and other items in your images without any help from you.
With both macOS Sierra and iOS 10, all the images in your Photos libraries will be scanned millions of times with machine-learning algorithms to identify faces, as well as more than 4,000 different scenes or objects. Every time you take a photo in iOS 10, Apple will scan that image for any possible information and use that metadata in several different ways. For all the photos already in your library, well—your device will need to scan them all, one at a time. That will take time and use a whole lot of processor power, so be sure to leave your iPhone plugged in overnight after you upgrade so that it can stealthily scan your photos while you sleep.
Photos exposes all the faces that it identifies via its new algorithms in the new People album. The rest of the machine-learning data is best discovered via the search box. Objects Apple identifies—including things like dogs, cows, and beaches—are organized in Categories, and you can search for them just by typing whatever you can think of. If you type dog, Photos will show you all the photos it thinks might feature dogs.
Another major addition to Photos is Memories, automatically generated collections of your photos. To create a Memory, Photos selects photos based on location, time, and even the people identified in the photos. You can tap on the header image at the top of any memory to view an automatically generated video highlight reel for that memory, a collage of audio and video clips that’s assembled by iOS. You can also tap on the clip and edit it, choosing a mood from a palette of choices such as Uplifting and Chill, and a length (Short, Medium, or Long). If you really want to go to town, you can add or omit items, pick custom music, and adjust the length down to the second.
The new Places album lets you browse all of your photos based on where they were taken. Maps are also more prevalent throughout Photos, most notably in Memories.
A new Details view lets you see more information about any given photo in your library. Open an image and then tap the Details button or just scroll. You’ll see the people Photos has identified as being in the photo, the location where the photo was taken (with an address, a map, and an option to show other photos taken nearby), a set of Memories related somehow to the contents of your photo, and even a link to see all the photos taken on that particular day.
Those “related Memories” links spread throughout Photos are cleverly generated based on the metadata gleaned from Apple’s machine-learning algorithm. An image of a baseball game offered other outings to the ballpark; an image of my mother offered collections of her various visits to our house and ours to hers.
When you’re viewing details of a photo, you can teach Photos the name of the person it detected by tapping one of the faces in the People section. Photos opens a screen for that face, with a collection of photos, related groups and people, places where that person was spotted, and related collections of photos. At the very top of that screen, tap the Add Name header and enter in the person’s name. Photos suggests names based on the Contacts list, but you can also assign a name that isn’t currently in Contacts. If you identify a person that’s already in People, Photos offers to merge the two entries into one.
I’m finishing up a new edition of my Photos Crash Course ebook that will cover a whole lot more about Photos on macOS Sierra and iOS 10. When it’s ready to go we’ll announce that here at Six Colors.
By Jason Snell
September 13, 2016 9:28 AM PT
The biggest change in iOS 10, the thing that required the most retraining for me, happens right at the beginning of every interaction.
In iOS 9, I began using my iPhone by putting my thumb on the home button of my iPhone 6S and pushing. Touch ID would sense my fingerprint and unlock the phone. Yes, it blew past all my notifications, but it was fast.
With iOS 10, I’ve needed to train myself to do things in an entirely different way.
First, there’s Raise to Wake. If you’ve got a 6S model (or if you’re someone waiting for their iPhone 7), you don’t need to do anything except lift your iPhone to see what’s on the notification screen. It has taken me quite a while to remember to limit myself to this gesture, but once I trained myself to do it, it was great: I can check the time and view my notifications without pressing a single button.
Then there’s Touch ID: If I raise my phone to wake it up while my thumb’s on the home button—but I manage to not push that button in, despite several years of training—the phone is now awake and unlocked, while still sitting at the home screen. I can interact with notification widgets and open items directly via 3D touch.
Taking a photo is different. You could always flip up from the bottom right corner of the screen to take a picture, but I found that gesture kind of finicky, and anyway, my muscle memory always resulted at me holding an unlocked phone at the home screen—so I’d need to flip up Control Center and tap the Camera icon to take a picture. With iOS 10, I’ve had to train myself—rather than pressing that button, I swipe from right to left to bring up the camera view. It’s a much better approach—once you train yourself out of old habits.
And then there’s the widget view, accessed by swiping from left to right. I’m still getting used to that one, but it’s pretty great to lift my phone and make one quick swipe to see the current weather conditions and forecast from the Wunderground app.
And of course, if you really want to unlock your phone, do push in the home button. But do it knowing that it’s one of an array of options Apple provides.
We’re all so used to pressing the home button or swiping to unlock, and iOS 10 really doesn’t want you to try either of those gestures. So when you upgrade to iOS 10, think about the habitual gestures you make when you need to get to something on your iPhone, and try very hard to start unlearning it. You’ll be much better off if you do.
By Dan Moren
September 13, 2016 7:40 AM PT
iOS 10 will officially launch later today, but the floodgates have already opened for the brand new iMessage apps. If you’re already running iOS 10 by virtue of one of the beta channels, you can now install apps via either the iMessage App Store or by virtue of updating one of your iOS apps which itself includes an iMessage app.
The former can be a bit tricky, hidden as it is several layers deep; the latter can prove a bit overwhelming as all your existing apps add iMessage versions. Good news! I’m here to tell you how to handle both of these things. (Update: For a few more tidbits, check out this story too.)
Installing an iMessage app
Let’s start by running through how to install an app from the iMessage App Store.
Select a conversation.
Tap the App button next to the text entry field.
Tap the overview1 button (it looks like four dots) in the bottom left of the screen.
Tap the Store button (it has a + on it).
Hey, look! You’re in the iMessage App Store. It’s basically like the normal App Store, but with way more stickers. You can install apps from here just as you would from the iOS App Store, by selecting an app and tapping the button on its page that reads either GET or shows a price. (Yes, some iMessage apps cost money.)
Now that you’ve installed the app, it’s available via that overview button you tapped back in step four.
But as I said up top, this new platform means there’s a bit of a deluge, so I don’t blame you if you want to be a little more selective about which apps you have. So let’s walk through how to weed out your iMessage apps.
Turn off automatic installs or hide specific iMessage apps
By default, iOS 10 installs iMessage apps that accompany the iOS apps you already own. So, for example, apps like Fandango, OpenTable, and Evernote, which now include iMessage apps, will automatically show up in Messages.
If you don’t want those apps to install automatically, or you want to hide iMessage apps that have already been installed, no problem: just follow the above steps for installing apps, but when you get to the iMessage App Store, tap the Manage tab at the top of the screen.
On this screen, you’ll see sliders for Automatically Add Apps as well as for each individual app you have installed. Disabling a particular app will hide it from view in Messages, but you can always turn it on again later.
Overview? Gallery? Menu? I’m not sure exactly what to call it. ↩
By Jason Snell
July 15, 2016 11:31 AM PT
So we already knew that iOS can use Ethernet, courtesy of Phil Schiller back in March: “For example, you can plug in an Ethernet adapter to get on your corporate network,” he said while introducing the new Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. However, it has no user interface to speak of, so it just sort of silently works (assuming your Ethernet network assigns devices IP addresses via DHCP, which most do).
I’ve even heard suggestions that Ethernet support was built into iOS by Steve Jobs’s decree after a memorable Wi-Fi failure at a WWDC keynote.
What’s new is this: as pointed out to me by reader Chris Humphreys, when you’ve got an Ethernet adapter connected to a device running the iOS 10 beta, an Ethernet setting appears in the Settings app!
Unfortunately… there’s no content in that pane. But it’s there! Perhaps by the time iOS 10 ships, users whose Ethernet networks require more exotic settings will be able to set them directly in iOS, as we can today on the Mac. We live in hope.
Dan Moren for Macworld
July 15, 2016 5:05 AM PT
Every year, Apple organizes its new software releases around a few tentpole features, and this year it was pretty clear that the belle of the ball was the improvements to Messages—especially on iOS 10.
In some ways, messaging has always been a killer app, no matter the technological era. People have been typing to each other on computers for decades upon decades, and it would be hard to attribute the success of the Internet, at its most basic level, to anything other than people’s desire to connect with each other.
But what Apple is doing in iOS 10, while not unprecedented, shows a markedly different direction for the company. No longer content to embrace standards for trading texts, Apple’s now putting its own stamp—if you will—on the whole idea of sending messages. And like many of Cupertino’s decisions, that’s got its upsides and its downsides.
By Jason Snell
July 12, 2016 9:37 AM PT
So on yesterday’s episode of Upgrade I discussed the issues with using beta operating systems—how last year I had to install Yosemite on an extra partition on my Mac in order to record podcasts, because the El Capitan beta wrecked the reliability of my USB audio devices.
This year’s example was from iOS 10—I installed the beta on my iPhone, and I found that it was pausing audio randomly, making it difficult to listen to music or podcasts. It’s not something to get mad about; this is exactly what you should expect from beta software. But it’s a good example about how using beta software on devices you rely on can be disruptive.
In any event, after the show I heard from a few people on Twitter who suggested that I turn off the “Hey Siri” feature in order to solve the problem:
@jsnell Turn off “Hey Siri” to fix the audio pausing issues on iOS 10 beta.— Matthew Lanier (@twistofmatt) July 11, 2016
So far so good. If you’re running the iOS 10 beta and seeing this bug, give this workaround a try.
By Jason Snell
July 7, 2016 8:13 AM PT
macOS sierra is coming Thursday. Here’s where you should install it:
- Nowhere, if you aren’t willing to constantly back up all your data and take the risks of having an unstable Mac in your life for a few months
- Nowhere, if you aren’t willing to use the Feedback Assistant app to report to Apple about the bugs you’re finding
- On a secondary Mac, i.e., not the one you use to do your job every day, or
- On a separate partition on your Mac, so you can re-boot into El Capitan for safety, or
- On an external drive attached to your Mac—I bought an external SSD so I could run macOS Sierra on my iMac without messing with my existing internal drive set-up.
iOS 10 beta is also due today. Here’s where you should install it:
- Not on your main iPhone
- Not on your main iPad
- On an iOS device that you don’t rely on
The Mac has it easy—you can always reboot from a different drive if the beta software is giving you trouble. On iOS, once a device is on a beta it’s hard to revert. You’re on it for the duration. This is why you should avoid using iOS betas on your main devices until very late in the game, if ever.
Dan Moren for Macworld
June 24, 2016 5:08 AM PT
Once upon a time, all Apple wanted to talk about was apps. Then it wanted to talk about services. Now it wants to talk about apps… inside services… inside apps.
I’ve gotta say: it’s been a confusing progression.
Let’s back up. One of the most significant announcements to come out of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference was that Apple was opening up several of its core services—iMessage, Maps, and Siri—to third-party developers. While each of those systems have strategic applications, they also all happen to be services that work particularly well with one of the company’s other burgeoning platforms: watchOS.
Jason Snell for Macworld
June 16, 2016 9:34 AM PT
The app that got the most attention during the iOS segment of Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote was Messages, the unassuming text-messaging tool. A lot of people might have been baffled by the strange emphasis on adding animations, sketches, stickets, big emoji, and even third-party app access to an app as inconsequential as Messages.
That sort of thinking is unsurprising: I’d bet that a huge percentage of people in the computer-nerd sphere-including a whole lot of people who work at Apple-don’t think of Messages as anything but boring. Why jazz up something that’s fundamentally so utilitarian?
It turns out that when you unleash smartphone technology on billions of people of all ages and cultures from all around the planet, sometimes those billions of people use that technology in ways that the people crafting tech products in California might not anticipate. The messaging-app category, from WeChat to SnapChat to Line to Facebook Messenger, is huge. People love sending videos and pictures and stickers and emoji with their smartphones.
By Dan Moren
June 14, 2016 3:31 PM PT
I’m still processing the massive amount of information that Apple dropped at Monday’s keynote, including poring over all the previews of the upcoming OSes on the company’s website. But sometimes it’s about going with your gut, and my gut is telling me that I’d like to install these new upgrades as soon as humanly possible.1
I’ve checked in with my gut about which particular upgrades it’s the most interested in, and it very nicely came back with this ordered list, starting with a modest thumbs up, all the way to frothing-at-the-mouth excited.
I’m a daily Apple TV user, so it was great to see Apple take some steps towards correcting the biggest issues with the set-top box’s user experience. And just to be perfectly clear, we’re talking Single Sign-On here. Having recently given my parents my old second-generation Apple TV, I can attest firsthand to just how difficult it is for a non-technical person to go through the process of authenticating their apps.
Excited as I am for that streamlining, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the fact that it’s a benefit that just doesn’t come into play that much. Easier setup is great, but I only set up an Apple TV
once occasionally. The other improvements: Siri expansion, HomeKit integration, Apple Music, and even the new Apple Remote app are nifty, but none of it is going to immensely change the way I deal with my Apple TV. Dark mode is cool, though. (It would be great if it could auto-switch from light to dark depending on the time of day, Night Shift style.)
Let’s get one thing straight: Siri on the Mac? It’s about time. But despite that being the most prominent feature of the release, there are still a lot of questions to be addressed about the implementation. For example, one friend commented to me just after the keynote: “I have a Mac mini, which doesn’t have a microphone…how’s that going to work?” Presumably with an external mic, but Apple doesn’t sell its own, so that means picking up a USB mic or, say, a webcam.
The demo was also light on details about what Siri can do: yes, it can search your hard drive, or give you the weather, but what about automation? There’s more to the Mac experience than just finding files. Integration with OS X’s existing voice control would open up a lot of potential power, but do the systems co-exist? Does Siri absorb Dictation Commands? It’s unclear.
To me, the most interesting features that Apple showed off are those related to Continuity: Apple Pay and Auto Unlock, using authentication from the iPhone or Apple Watch in the first case, and Apple Watch for the latter. This is the kind of power I’ve been talking about in terms of Apple leveraging its broad ecosystems of devices: when you already have an authenticated device on your person, does it really make sense to have people enter a password again? Not so much.
Same with Apple Pay: yes, you could wait for Apple to build Touch ID into all of its Macs, but why bother when so many people have an iPhone with Touch ID sitting right next to them? (In cases where you don’t have an iPhone or Apple Watch, or have an earlier iPhone without Touch ID, I wonder what happens: perhaps you just get a text or enter a password?)
On the cloud storage front, Apple’s making a hard play against Dropbox by syncing your Documents and Desktop folders to all your Macs (and making them available on iOS via iCloud Drive). This is the kind of thing Apple should have been doing a long time ago, and frankly, having gotten used to Dropbox, I’m not sure that I’m in a hurry to have all the files on my Desktop (which I use as just a temporary holding place) on all my devices. And then there’s the sticky issue of iCloud reliability, which doesn’t always have the best reputation.
Which is a serious thorn for Apple’s other new cloud-based file feature, Optimized Storage. On the face of it, anything that clears “old” files to give me more disk space gives me the heebie jeebies. Remember the uproar earlier this year when Apple was even suspected of deleting someone’s Apple Music files? Yeah, now multiply that by a thousand for when somebody loses a crucial document.
This isn’t to say that it can’t work, just that I—and many others—are pretty wary about it.2 The track record here isn’t the best, whereas many of Apple’s competitors—including Dropbox—have made their names on making data reliability a priority. Also, what happens when you’re offline, or have a bad network connection and need an “old” file? Are you just out of luck? Like Siri, there are a bunch more questions to be answered here, especially before people want to commit their sensitive files to it.
Let me explain—no, there is too much. Let me sum up. iOS 10 is chock-a-block with things that I’m excited about. I have to be honest: when I added lock and home screen improvements to our iOS 10 wishlist last week, I figured that I was tilting at windmills. And yet, that’s exactly what we got. The Today view has moved from Notification Center to a screen accessible via swiping right from the lock screen, and has widgets that provide quick, glanceable information. Notifications on the main screen are actionable via 3D Touch (and presumably long presses on non-3D Touch devices?).
There are a couple of little touches I appreciated: that notifications no longer cause your wallpaper to darken and blur, for example. That’s contradictory to the idea of picking a beautiful wallpaper image, which was something Apple always promoted. The idea of Raise to Wake, which avoids the “too good” issue where 6s users’ faster Touch ID would skip right over the lock screen.
All in all, iOS is poised to get both a major increase in functionality by opening up many of its apps and services to third-party developers—Maps, Messages, and Siri—and a slight facelift in terms of design, right about the time that the iOS 7 look was getting a bit long in the tooth.
Then there’s the craziness that is Messages. I could have seen Apple’s approach going one of two different ways: trying too hard to be cute and hip, or succeeding by being thoughtful and fun. Much as my curmudgeonly nature wanted me to cultivate an instinctive dislike of the manifold effects and gimmickry in iOS 10’s Messages, I have to say it looks like it just might work. I was more charmed than annoyed—we’ll see if that lasts until after the fifth confetti explosion.
I surprised myself a little bit when I realized that watchOS 3 was the software that I wanted to install the most. There are a couple reasons for this, the most obvious being the sheer promise of the improvements in the newest version of the software. But also, it’s a tacit acknowledgment that, unlike my Mac and my iPhone (and even my iPad), the Apple Watch is simply not an indispensable part of my life. If my iPhone or MacBook dies, well, I’m in a tough spot. But I lived a long while without a smartwatch, and having beta software brick it sure wouldn’t kill me.
None of that should undercut the importance of what Apple showed off with watchOS 3. Not just in terms of features, but also in realizing where the missteps in the previous versions were and, as Jason already commented, being willing to simply toss out features that didn’t work.
The Friends button will not be missed by any of my actual friends, whom I have managed to stay in touch with despite not sending them heartbeats and little sketches. Nor will I be pouring one out for the departed Glances, whose reach always seemed to exceed its grasp.
It remains to be seen if the speed and responsiveness that Apple showed off during the keynote will be replicated in the real world, but if it’s even a fraction thereof, it will still be a massive improvement. I also applaud Apple using this opportunity to redirect developers towards making apps that are easy to access and don’t hide functionality away beneath several button presses.
As a brand new type of device, the Apple Watch was a bit like the protagonist of a bildungsroman, unsure of its potential in life, but in watchOS 3, it seems like it might finally have grown into its role.
My frustrations with the Watch have been well documented, and though I rarely go a day without wearing it, I’ve often struggled to find a use for it beyond checking notifications and setting timers for steeping a cup of tea. But the Apple Watch I’m seeing previewed in watchOS 3 looks a lot more like the device we were first sold.
Well, I could install the betas, I guess, but I’m also not completely crazy. Settle down, gut! ↩
My anxiety fuel goes all the way back to iDisk, which deleted a bunch of irreplaceable files for me in 2008. ↩
By Jason Snell
June 13, 2016 5:14 PM PT
This is how Apple advances the four operating systems it develops: On a Monday in June at its annual developer conference, it announces the high-level details of the next major update of those operating systems. Developers get access to an early test version of the operating system that day; the general public will get the option to upgrade for free sometime in the fall.
That Monday was today, and we got to see previews of iOS 10, tvOS 10, watchOS 3, and macOS Sierra. Developers will now spend their summer planning new versions of their apps to take advantage of new features of those operating systems. Hardy users will test-drive public releases of the new operating systems starting in July. Thus begins an annual tradition, the summer of new Apple software.
(For some audio reactions to the contents of the keynote, check out Upgrade 93, recorded 90 minutes after the event ended.)
Here’s a quick gloss on the major announcements:
Apple had the choice between doubling down on some of the bad design decisions of the original Apple Watch OS, or tossing them away and coming up with something new. They did the right thing: merging Glances with apps; retasking the side button with bringing up the new app dock; and allowing key apps to run in the background and launch quickly. One of the most common tasks of the Apple Watch, responding to messages, will become much less complex. You can “scribble” text replies and watch as they’re converted to text, the same idea Google recently introduced for Android Wear. Fitness apps will have more power, including the ability to run in the background and have access to all watch sensors.
This is all good. When the Apple Watch was first announced, Apple was taking a guess about how it would be used. Over the past year, we’ve all learned a lot about how the Apple Watch works in the real world. Apple has been taking notes. I’m encouraged by the signs of change.
The tvOS update seemed to be the most minor of the four Apple platforms, but still: Single sign-on will make it much easier for cable or satellite TV subscribers to take advantage of video streaming apps without having to repeatedly log in with their credentials. More live TV deals make the box more appealing for cord cutters. The Remote app will finally become a full Siri Remote. And those who prefer to watch their TV in the dark will have their retinas saved by a new dark mode.
tvOS is still in need of a lot of refinement. Unlike some of Apple’s other platforms, this feels like one that’s in constant flux, with new features and fixes being pushed out a lot more regularly than once a year. It’s been necessary in order to address some major shortfalls of the product’s initial release last fall; I hope this pace of progress will continue in the future.
It finally happened. After a decade and a half, Apple has retired the X—all hail macOS. The California place names, however, remain intact, as this name refers to our very own mountain range, the Sierra Nevada.
As has been the case with most recent macOS updates, Sierra has a lot of features that connect the Mac with other Apple devices. You’ll be able to unlock your Mac with an Apple Watch, and sync your clipboard among all your Apple devices. Apple Pay will be integrated with Safari for easy web purchases. A new picture in picture feature will let you float a video in the corner of the screen, just as you currently can on the iPad.
iCloud Drive is being extended in some interesting ways, including automatic syncing of the Desktop folder, and a systemwide storage optimization feature that does for your files what Photos did for your photo library—offload it into the cloud when you’re running low on drive space.
Some people love windows, and other people love tabs. If you love tabs, macOS Sierra will thrill you, because it will feature a tweak that lets apps spawn new windows as tabs inside an existing window. (I am not really a fan of tabs, so this feature is not for me.)
And then there’s Siri, which comes to the Mac for the first time. The Mac had had voice control features for a while, but now the entirety of the Siri feature set appears to be embedded into the Mac, including some fancy additions like hooks into spotlight for file searches, and the ability to save searches (and potentially other stuff?) in Notification Center.
It all sounds good, but of course, the devil is in the details. This summer’s beta releases will tell the tale.
Every time I say iOS 10 I hear “OS X”, and it’s going to be a while before I get over that. Oh well. As always, the latest iOS revision offers an avalanche of new features, including big changes to the lock screen (including solid 3D Touch additions), Control Center, and Notification Center.
The biggest story for developers is this: iOS 10 is a door that seems to be swinging wide open. Developers can now hook their apps directly into Siri for the first time, though for right now it’s limited to a few types of apps: messaging, ride booking, photo searching, workouts, payments, and VoIP calling. More will undoubtedly follow down the road. There’s also a new Maps integration that lets apps connect directly to the Maps app and perform actions inside, and Messages integration with apps as well. iOS used to famously be walled off—apps were all islands unto themselves, more or less. iOS 10 is set to bust down more of those walls.
Finally, there’s Messages. What was previously an unassuming text-messaging app has gotten a radical makeover. If you think messaging is all about sending texts, you have not been paying attention. Some of the biggest apps in the world are messaging apps, from SnapChat to WeChat. People love sending emojis, stickers, and other fun reactions to each other. And Apple has clearly gotten the religion: the new Messages is full of stickers, emojis, animated reactions, and even whole-screen takeover animations with sound effects. Yes, your friends may annoy you with these features if you’re a stick-in-the-mud. But all told, these features give Apple’s own message service a chance to not be completely irrelevant to a new generation of phone users.
The most disappointing thing about the keynote was something not mentioned very often: the iPad. iOS 9 added numerous solid iPad productivity features, but there were almost none mentioned in the iOS 10 section. I’m hopeful that some new iPad features are bubbling beneath the surface, ready to emerge during the summer betas or even in a 10.1 update later this fall. Don’t let this be all that iPad users get until next year, Apple.
There’s a whole lot more to cover, and a whole week of festivities in San Francisco this week, too. Stay tuned to Six Colors for a whole lot more in the days ahead.
By Six Colors Staff
June 7, 2016 12:48 PM PT
It’s a big birthday for Apple’s mobile operating system this year: version 10. That’s a pretty significant milestone—I mean, the Mac’s been around for more than 30 years, and it’s still on version 10. iOS has expanded a lot since the days that it was just the iPhone OS, and in that time, most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked off. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still plenty of improvements to be made. In fact, now that we’ve been using our iOS devices for nigh-on a decade, I think we have a better handle on the kind of capabilities that we value.
There likely won’t be any major iOS hardware announcements at WWDC: a new iPhone isn’t likely to arrive until the fall, the current iPad line-up is still pretty new, and the iPod touch…well, let’s just say it hasn’t been getting a lot of love, but a developer conference isn’t the place for it. But that’s fine, because there’s a lot more that can be brought to our existing devices with a new operating system update. Here are a few things we’d like to see in iOS 10.
Like Hansel, voice-based intelligent agents are so hot right now. Apple’s in a weird position with Siri, in that it was the first major tech company to bake the intelligent agent right in to its mobile operating system, but since Siri’s release, it’s only made modest improvements to the feature. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google, as well as third-party companies like Viv, appear to be pushing hard into the same space.
Hence rumors that Apple is working on a Siri API to roll out next week, which would provide third-party developers a framework for letting their apps work with the intelligent agent. That’d not only give users more options for features, but it would also take some of the onus off of Apple to provide that functionality. And it would go a long way towards bringing Siri up to date and providing stiffer competition with offerings from the likes of Amazon. Not to mention that the Siri API on iOS would also be a boon for Siri appearing on the Mac.
Home/lock screen makeovers
I swear, they’ve been on the list for as long as I can remember. But to this day, iOS’s lock and home screens remain largely unchanged from their earliest days. If I want to see any information at a glance that isn’t in a notification, I have to either pull down the Today view of Notification Center (and then wait for it to refresh), or actually go into my phone, and then open the relevant app.
I get it: these kinds of widgets and easy, glanceable information are exactly what Apple’s trying to offer with the Apple Watch. But not everybody’s going to buy the Watch (and that device has its own set of challenges), so why not bring those complications from watchOS back over to iOS, and let developers create widgets of discrete functionality for the lock and home screens? I’d love to have easier access to the current weather or a quick glance at my current step count.
We spend a lot of time navigating through the lock and home screens on our iOS devices, and rather than them just being way stations for us to pass through en route to our apps, it’d be great if they offered a little more utility along the way.
Cut, copy, paste and text selection was missing for a long time on the iPhone. Those text-handling features didn’t arrive until iOS 3, but they’ve remained largely unchanged since then. The problem is that they’ve become increasingly finicky. Trying to select just the portion of a web page I want to copy has turned into a battle for me, trying to seize one of those blue text-selector handles and not having it snap away because the software thinks it knows what I want.
Thanks to the improvements Apple made last year to iOS on the iPad, text selection is far easier with a hardware keyboard. In a lot of places, text selection via a hardware keyboard works just as it does on the Mac: you can use the Shift key to extend a selection, the Option and Command keys to jump to select by word and line, respectively. Thumbs up to all of that.
But on the iPhone in particular—and I’m talking the 6s, which isn’t exactly small—you can sometimes end up with some wacky selection artifacts. I’m not sure if there’s a better solution out there: though I like the 3D Touch additions Apple has made for moving the cursor, it’s certainly not the most obvious of mechanisms.
I don’t know what’s going on with autocorrect. In the early days of the iPhone it seemed to adroitly compensate for this novel experience of thumb-typing on a touchscreen keyboard, but lately—whether because we have gotten better at said typing or because its algorithm has gotten worse—it’s gone from providing useful and handy nudges here and there to flagrantly changing what we want to say into either awkward miscommunications or outright garbage.
Sure, we could all turn autocorrect off and see how much worse our typing is then, but I’d hope there’s somewhat of a middle ground there. Perhaps autocorrect could expand its dictionary to include more words (there are certainly more words in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in Apple’s philosophy), or perhaps it could simply be a little less aggressive about swapping in its own substitutions—especially, and I can’t believe how often I see this, inserting substitutions that aren’t words for ones that are.
This, that, and the other
There are plenty more improvements that could be made here and there in iOS 10. Just off the top of my head, an improved dictionary interface, better GIF support, a version of Preview for iOS, and Handoff for Music and iTunes. I’m interested to see if Apple continues expanding the use of 3D Touch, perhaps adding some implementation in Control Center, and I’d welcome an overhaul and rethink of Notification Center. Not all of this is going to get done this year, or perhaps ever, but Apple certainly has its choice of what to focus on for iOS 10. Let’s just all agree that the company needs to make finding emoji on iOS way easier. —Dan Moren
As an iPad Pro user, I’m on the record as requesting lots of iPad Pro-related improvements in this, the first major iOS release to happen after the release of the iPad Pro. Support for external keyboards needs to improve, including the ability to set different settings (such as autocorrect and auto-capitalize) for hardware keyboards and the software keyboard. On-screen multitasking in iOS 9 is a first draft—the next version needs a better app picker, and the ability to pair apps so that they launch together in split-screen mode. The ability to run the same app twice in Split View (hello, Safari!) would be great, too. And of course, some sort of drag-and-drop gesture would be amazing.
It would be pretty great if Apple found a way to bring Split View and Slide Over to the iPhone, though (based on Google’s demo of the feature in Android) I’m skeptical if there’s room even on an iPhone 6S Plus for a split view. Slide Over actually feels like a better fit for the iPhone, since it doesn’t take up extra space on the screen but lets you temporarily peek at another app. Still, I’m going to be of an open mind here: If Apple can find a way to make Split View work on the iPhone, it should do it.
iOS needs to handle files better, specifically on external drives. I should be able to attach an SD card (or even a USB hard drive) full of files to my iPad Pro and import the files I need; right now, if it’s not a video or audio file, I’m out of luck. As a podcaster, I want more sophisticated audio support, including the ability for more than one app to easily use the microphone and speaker at once, and the ability for an app to record system or microphone audio directly, no matter what other apps are running.
Jason Snell for Macworld
April 14, 2016 1:47 PM PT
Of all the conventions of traditional computers that iPhones and iPads flout, perhaps the biggest is the concept of saving documents to files and folders. So much of the personality of the Mac is defined by the Finder, an app devoted entirely to organizing the files and folders on your various local and networked storage devices.
iOS has gradually moved toward allowing users to take a more sophisticated approach to document management over the years. With iOS 10 it’s time for Apple to extend that support even further.