Even if you're not interested in the brand new iPhone launching this week, new software is launching for the Apple smartphone or tablet you may already own — expected in Australia overnight tonight or early on Wednesday. Here's a look at what you'll get when you upgrade.
iOS 10 looks immediately different thanks to the revamped lockscreen and new look notifications. It'll take a few weeks to get used to, but the lock screen will now light up and show notifications when you raise your phone, without you hitting the home button. Notifications can be more interactive in iOS 10, allowing you to quickly act on a notification, or see the latest footy scores updated in real time, without unlocking your phone.
The most obvious new feature of iOS is the bling added to the Messages app. Scoff all you want, but stickers and animations will probably convince more people to upgrade their operating system than any other feature in iOS history. The new messages app features are pretty fun, matching the silliness Facebook Messenger seems to do best. And thanks to Apple opening Messages to developers, we should see constant updates to the messaging experience (in fact Nintendo yesterday announced even it was bringing a pack of Mario-themed stickers to Messages, ahead of its new mobile game).
This might be controversial, but I think turn by turn navigation in Apple maps is now the best on any platform. Powered by TomTom, directions are accurate, maps are clear and easy to read, and the animations zoom in and out to give you a great overview of your next turn. It all adds up to an interface that works perfectly for quick glances while driving.
In fact, Apple Maps turn by turn has been pretty good for at least a year now, but no one bothered to check because point of interest data was still missing obvious landmarks. Thankfully, Apple have improved here too. I'm not sure where they're pulling data from these days, but searching for a beach, shopping centre, train station or anything else returned accurate results. The rest of Apple Maps is slick, and includes public transport information, at least in Sydney. And like Messages, Maps is now open to developers to integrate their ride-sharing services or restaurant reviews, so Maps should only get better with time.
The most impressive feature in iOS 10 is the revamped Photos app. Photos can now scan your library and identify faces and places directly on the phone. There's also a new Memories feature, which can automatically create slideshows and videos, set to music, of photos from a recent holiday. A feature that used to take a Macbook Pro hours to create in iDVD is now done in an instant on your phone.
But the feature that may have the most impact in the long term is one I couldn't test during the beta period, that is Apple elevating VOIP and third party messaging apps to system wide permissions. So what does that mean in english? It means allowing users to make and receive calls in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, or any other VOIP system, as if it were a native call.
It has the potential to change the way we think about mobile phone calling, the same way iMessage, Whatsapp and others made SMS redundant. What makes iOS 10's implementation so clever and potentially groundbreaking is your phone will learn what apps you tend to contact certain people on, and use that by default. So if you're always texting your sister via Facebook Messenger, but sending Slack messages to your colleagues, and Skyping your mum, iOS 10 will know, and suggest the right platform for the right person.
And by making the person, not the app, the most important variable in kicking off a call or text, Siri is able to control the experience. The app used almost becomes irrelevant. Siri can work with any messaging app, as well as photo search, ride booking, personal payments, and workout apps.
iOS 10 will be available as a free download for iPhone 5 and higher, iPod touch 6th gen, iPad mini 2 and higher, iPad 4th generation, as well as all iPad Air and iPad Pro models.