Apple's iOS 10 Is All About Small, Subtle Changes

At WWDC, Tim Cook described the iOS 10 update as “the mother of all updates”, and “the biggest iOS update ever”. I’m not too sure about that, but there are a few major changes I’m looking forward to when the update comes later this year.

An ongoing theme of the the iOS 10 preview was the opening up of built in apps and services to third party app developers. As an example, you’ll soon be able to book an Uber directly within the maps app, or um, book an Uber directly in Messages. But the integration all app developers have been waiting for is finally here, Siri is now open to third party apps.

I’ve always loved the fantastic third party apps available for iOS, but until now, Siri has not been able to talk to those apps directly. Now it can. If you prefer Fantastical over Calendar, Wunderlist for to-dos, or WhatsApp for messaging, soon you’ll be able to directly access those apps via Siri to create an appointment, set a to-do, or reply to a message.

For me, the most welcome changes were the continued improvement to the design language on display. I was never really sold on the dramatic changes to iOS 7, the flat neon icons, the obscure glyphs, the wafer thin fonts. iOS 8 and iOS 9 have reigned in some of the more gratuitous aspects of the ‘flat neon’ redesign, but it seems that iOS 10 has redefined it completely.

This new design was most noticeable in the redesigned Apple Music and Apple News apps. Menus looked immediately more readable and navigable, as glyphs made way for nice fat fonts. There were even bold fonts and colours on display, they've made a welcome return to an operating system recently obsessed with thin black type on white backgrounds.

Outside these new apps, notifications now look clearer and easier to read. Rather than thin white text over a Gaussian blur background, notifications now sit above white translucent bubbles. These improved notifications make the lock screen far more useful, you can now easily interact with any notification you see. And this new and improved lock screen will appear the moment you pick up your phone.

Apple spent an inordinate amount of time on the new features of its Messages app. The new Messages has borrowed some features from Facebook Messenger — including stickers, website previews and ‘shouts’ and ‘whispers’. A few more features from Snapchat are there too, you’ll now be able scribble over the top of videos before you send them.

And Apple’s keyboard will now suggest the perfect emoji as you type, and if that’s not enough, a new feature called “emojification” will scan your messages before you send them, and suggest any words that can be replaced with cute little pictures. I realise all these features are aimed at people much younger than me, but I don’t care, they look fun and I can’t wait to try them.

And as predicted, Apple have once again highlighted their commitment to user privacy. Apple's predictive smarts have a tough battle against Google and Facebook, who are a little more free

and easy with user privacy. Apple confirmed their user data scanning would happen on device, not in the cloud, to help your data remain private. And when Apple does need the wisdom of the crowds, to provide trending word suggestions in the keyboard, and traffic information maps, it will anonymise the data it collects. Apple have described this as differential privacy, and it's this commitment to privacy that sets Apple apart from its rivals. How this works in the real world will be fascinating to see.

Peter Wells travelled to WWDC at the invitation of Apple.

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