Apple's iOS has reached a significant milestone in reaching its tenth iteration, and Apple continues to pump out the changes with renewed momentum. If there are some themes running through the latest release, it is that Apple is making iOS and the built-in app experience "richer," making them "bolder," and making them more "intuitive." When you're actually in them, that is. When you are not, you can still get things done through your apps via the upgrades to Siri, without needing to open them at all. If you thought that iPhone apps had somehow reached the conclusion of their evolution, Apple has shown with iOS 10
, that there can never be enough reinvention, reimagination and reinvigoration of the user experience.
Before we start, we will put this piece into context by reminding our readership that this is a developer preview, and that it will likely go through a number of iterations before its final release. To this extent, we certainly don't expect that everything will necessarily work as advertised, but we can say that it feels great to use so far, and that many, if not all of the highlighted features during Apple's keynote are functional and very useable.
One of the most interesting aspects of the iOS 10 update is just how much emphasis Apple has placed on the Messages app. In its iOS 9 incarnation, it has certainly been effective, and Apple acknowledged during its WWDC16 keynote that Messages is the most frequently used app on the iPhone. However, the upgrade that it has given Messages in iOS 10 is quite extraordinary. Apple has really lavished the feature upgrades on Messages in iOS 10, so much so that it creates the impression in our minds that this goes well beyond Apple's typical attention, and towards making it a great user experience, to making the app a strategic lynchpin of the iOS 10 and iPhone "one, two" combination.
When you look at how much time and energy Apple has invested in creating a monster messaging app loaded with killer features in iOS 10, Facebook's $1 billion investment in buying WhatsApp starts to make a lot more sense. At the time, that seemed like an incredible amount of money for messaging service, but getting customers to use your messaging service, and primarily, or only, your messaging service is clearly a critical factor in maintaining the stickiness of the platform. Apple has gone out of its way to make Messages on the iPhone the only messaging service that you ever want to use.
Messages is the flag-bearer for what Apple now means when it talks about "rich" experiences. We will take a closer look at it in the coming days as there are so many new features in Messages, it needs a deeper dive.
The "rich" theme continues with notifications. You could always respond immediately to notifications in iOS 9, but now you can also view photos and videos from within a notification as well. It's part of another theme in iOS 10, one that emerges with the latest iteration of Siri, discussed below. With rich notifications, you will be popping in and out of the Messages app, or YouTube, for example, a whole lot less than before. It makes a much more seamless and fluent user experience, and is a little like how Quick Preview works on the Mac, where you can tap the spacebar on a selected item to listen to music, or watch a video, without launching the QuickTime app, or iTunes, for example. It's a great addition to the iPhone. At the moment, some of this functionality is only available
on the 3D Touch-enabled iPhone 6s models, but will be coming across to other models in future betas.
As was rumored ahead of WWDC16, Siri got a significant boost in terms of its capabilities with other apps. Apple has launched SiriKit for developers, opening up APIs to Apple's intelligent voice assistant for the the first time. We haven't really had a chance to give this a try yet, as developers will need time to work the necessary frameworks into their apps. However, the possibilities are endless in terms of what you will be able to do with voice recognition on your iPhone moving forwards. Using Siri to catch an Uber or Lyft ride is soon going to be a reality, as Apple demoed during its keynote, and we are looking forward to seeing how other developers integrate it into their apps.
The Maps app has also been given a major overhaul. We've been using the new iOS 10 to navigate over the past couple of days, and the way it presents the route and the relevant information you need for your journey is now much clearer and more easy to glance at while driving. It is a good example of what Apple is talking about when it says that apps are also "bolder" in iOS 10. By clearly seeing in large bold type your estimated time of arrival (which is continually updated in real time), as well as the time left on your journey and the remaining mileage, you feel a lot more confident behind the wheel. With the added ability to search along your route for gas, food, or coffee built right into the app directly, instead of swiping to the left of the Home screen for that info, it is now much richer and better for the revision.
The new Home app looks set to give HomeKit (the developer framework for home automation first introduced in iOS 8), the boost it needs to really become an attractive, fun, and easy to use way to bring centralized home automation. In the past, with each piece of HomeKit-compatible hardware you added to your house, there was an app for that. So now, rather than setting aside a whole iPhone or iPad screen dedicated to controlling all of your individual HomeKit-enabled hardware, controlling it can now all reside within the Home app. It certainly makes it a whole lot easier for everyone concerned, and you do wonder why Apple hadn't made this move sooner. However, better late than never!
The Music app in iOS 9 was an abomination
. It was so geared to shoveling the Apple Music subscription service down our throats that it completely lost sight about how Apple built an empire through on the iPod and iTunes. At least one of our staff members refused to use it and actually subscribed to Spotify instead, even though he a free 12-month carrier-sponsored membership to the service. As we have discovered in our hands-on
with the new Music app for iOS 10, Apple has listened to the feedback it has received from the Apple community and created a hugely improved app, by restoring ease of use and balance between user libraries and the Apple Music service. It is a welcome return to form by Apple.
While the Notification Center still remains with a swipe down from the top of the Home screen, widgets have now been moved to the left of the Home screen, to where Spotlight search can still also be found. The prompts to find nearby gas stations and restaurants, for example, can now be found in the Maps app with a swipe up from the bottom of the Maps app screen -- this makes a lot of sense, and in doing this, widgets find their own happy little home. As a consequence of the move, we think that widgets will now come into their own on iOS, as they will be more visible, and therefore much more likely to be used.
Photos have always been one of the greatest selling points about the iPhone experience, and this is not just about the quality of Apple's camera optics. Apple's Photos app is one of the best out there, at least as far as manufacturer-installed camera apps go. This time around, there is an almost Facebook-like "Memories" function that automatically collects your recent photos and video clips, and can turn them into automatic slide shows with music. You can easily edit the content and change the style of the music to fine-tune the finished product. Naturally, you can then share these with your friends on social networks or via email, for example. We can see this being a very popular addition to the Photos app, along with the new "intelligence" features that can analyze and organize photos automatically through face and scene recognition.
Deleting Apple apps
For the first time, Apple is giving users the option to delete a number of Apple's pre-installed applications and later download them, if needed again, from the App Store. Currently, at least 21 pre-installed apps can be deleted
, although this will only yield about 150MB of additional storage space. However, for many users, it will be a relief to be able to avoid having to hide unused apps in a folder tucked away on some distant screen. Some have wondered why Apple didn't mention this at its WWDC16 keynote -- but it's not hard to understand that the company didn't want to have a potentially embarrassing roar of approval from the audience on hearing of the news.
Update: It appears that at the moment, the apps may not actually be completely deleted off your device, but just hidden. Apple may or may not change this approach before release. It is, however, still an improvement.
Initial concluding thoughts
It was always going to be interesting to see the direction that Apple would take iOS with its tenth major iteration. Again, it has been touted as the biggest release of iOS yet, which is saying a lot, as there have been some huge additions to iOS over the past few years. At this early juncture, it is clear once again, that Apple has been far from idle between releases. User feedback has played a big role in many of these changes, and it is for the better. The new iOS 10 comes across as a mature, highly capable, and sophisticated operating system that has a renewed sense of user-centricity in its design and execution. We can't wait to get the final version in our hands later this year, as it is clear that Apple has put everything it can into making this the best version of iOS yet.