Apple (AAPL) unveiled iOS 12, the next major software update for iPhones and iPads, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on Monday. Apple also discussed a new update for the Mac operating system.
Apple Senior Vice President of Engineering Craig Federighi emphasized that with iOS 12, improving speed on devices was paramount — a declaration likely in response to previous criticism that older iPhones get slower with software updates.
“For iOS 12, we’re doubling down on performance,” said Federighi.
Even owners of the iPhone 6S, which launched in 2015, should benefit. Federighi said iPhone users can generally expect apps to get 40% faster, with the Camera launching up to 70% faster.
Other iOS 12 updates, as my colleague Dan Howley predicted, include updates to Apple’s augmented reality software tools. Dubbed ARKit 2.0, the upgrades add the ability for multiplayer AR games on separate devices. In other words, both players will see the same scenario through their phones’ displays. Google, in comparison, already takes it one step further with software that can bring both Android and iPhone players in the same AR space using so-called “Cloud Anchors,” which syncs up users’ positions across different devices.
Augmented reality goes multiplayer
Apple also announced USDZ as part of ARKit 2.0, a new AR-focused file format Apple developed in partnership with Pixar that lets users share 3-D models. Abhay Parasnis, CTO of Adobe (ADBE), took the stage to announces USDZ support across Adobe Creative Cloud.
“With Creative Cloud, designers will be able to use apps they’re familiar with to create amazing AR content,” Parasnis explained onstage.
Photos and search for iOS 12 also received updates. Now, the Photos app recognizes faces in photos you’ve taken and suggests you potentially share those with that contact. Want to quickly find the photos you took at a concert or sports event? Now you can search for the name of the band or sports team to pull those up. Also, Photos will now recommend key moments or places it thinks are important to you.
In an effort to catch up somewhat with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, Apple announced a new Siri app called Shortcuts that lets users create verbal commands that will have Siri perform a number of functions they can pre-program.
Memoji for Messages
On the Messages front, Apple introduced Memoji, which lets users create their own personalized Animoji, or animated emoji, down to that new hairdo and sunglasses.
The company also trotted out some new Animoji, including a ghost, a koala, and T-Rex.
Group FaceTime, which works on iPhone, iPad, Mac, with audio available for the Apple Watch, takes the idea of group video chat to another level for iOS users by letting up to 30 people all participate in the same FaceTime. Federighi demonstrated how group FaceTime works, with a row of tiles at the bottom displaying all the FaceTime participants. As someone speaks, a video window above that row of that speaker enlarges.
“I can’t wait to use group FaceTime every Sunday with the leadership team,” Apple CEO Tim Cook quipped during the onstage demonstration.
Another significant improvement with iOS 12? A new set of features focused on digital health that helps users track how much time they spend using specific apps on their devices, as well as how much time they spend using their devices overall. Screentime, for instance, offers users a weekly activity summary of how they’ve much used their iPhone or iPad.
“Equipped with this insight, you can make decisions about how you want to spend your time with your device each day,” explained Federighi.
If some tech-savvy Yahoo Finance readers have a distinct sense of Déjà vu, that’s because Google (GOOG, GOOGL) announced its own Digital Wellbeing initiative nearly a month ago, which lets Android P users glimpse how much they use apps like Gmail or YouTube on an hourly, even daily, basis. In theory, being able to see that kind of data at a glance can help users better manage their time. IOS 11, in comparison, does not offer any such granular insights. However, it does display some basic stats under Settings, such as how many apps, photos, videos and songs users have stored on their devices, as well as how much space that content takes up on their iPhones or iPads.
Apple’s digital health features for iOS 12 arrive as big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple face increased scrutiny for issues such as data privacy and “tech addiction” — an over-dependence on gadgets and the internet.
Meet mac OS Mojave
Meanwhile, macOS Mojave, named after the Mojave Desert, includes some nice touches, such as a “Dark Mode,” which switches up your desktop and apps to darker, more muted colors as the day goes on.
There’s also desktop “stacks” — virtual piles of icons auto-organized to keep that that desktop neater and less cluttered — and Markup for Finders: take a screengrab, then tap on that thumbnail to edit it. Another feature, Continuity Camera, lets users snap photos with your iPhone, which instantly show up instantly in your Mac document.
The App Store also received a much-needed facelift that makes it more closely resemble the iOS App Store. In addition to a fresh coat of virtual paint, there’s a greater emphasis on “curation,” some original content and highlighted content written and developed by a staff of Apple employees behind the scenes.
Federighi also made a point to discuss increased security measures that protect user data. In addition to protecting areas of user data like location and contacts, the Apple exec said macOS Mojave would now also secure user data related to the camera and microphone.
Apple also bolstered security and privacy with its Safari browser. For instance, Safari now makes it harder for trackers to track you by automatically “shutting down” the tracking on share buttons and comment fields.
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