Apple debuts screen limits, Siri shortcuts and privacy updates
- At its developers conference on Monday, Apple announced dozens of features and improvements to its next mobile operating system, iOS 12, that are said to make iPhones and iPads run faster while also giving users greater control over their screen time and personal privacy. The company in September will release an app called Screen Time that gives users weekly reports of the apps they use and settings to limit usage. Parents will be able to monitor and adjust their children's app usage.
- Apple's Safari browser will have "intelligent tracking prevention" to help block social media "like" or "share" buttons and comment widgets from tracking users' keystrokes without explicit permission. Safari now also presents simplified system information when users browse the web, preventing them from being tracked based on their system configuration.
- Voice assistant Siri will get a feature called Shortcuts that works with a wider variety of apps and lets users program a routine like "going to work" that will provide a traffic report and turn on pre-selected music or news broadcasts. IOS 12 will also have shareable augmented reality (AR) and an integration between Apple CarPlay and Google Maps or Waze. A feature in Animojis called Memojis will let users create personalized animated emojis, while FaceTime will be able to handle group video chats of as many as 32 people at once.
For mobile marketers, Apple's updated operating system will limit the information that automatically gets shared with app developers, the most notable being Facebook. Without calling out Facebook by name, Apple took another swipe at the social network for its data-collection and sharing practices that precipitated the biggest privacy scandal in company history. With iOS 12, Apple will start asking Safari users to provide informed consent to being tracked by Facebook on websites that have Facebook-enabled comment sections, "likes" and "shares." Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Monday that the company requested "zero" personal data in its deals with Facebook, per NPR, highlighting how Apple wants to be perceived as a privacy-focused tech giant.
A majority of the iOS 12 updates surround fixing the bugs of its previous mobile software, iOS 11, which was introduced in September. The newest version is designed to make everyday tasks faster and more responsive with performance improvements. The camera will open up to 70% faster, the keyboard appears up to 50% faster and typing is said to be more responsive, while apps can launch up to 2x as fast. IOS 12 aims to bring necessary performance improvements to more devices than previous versions.
The new Shortcuts feature for Siri should make the voice-activated assistant more user-friendly, an important development if Apple hopes to catch up with leaders Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in voice-powered tech. "Shortcuts has the potential to level the playing field with Amazon, which previously had a huge lead in third-party developed Alexa skills for Amazon Echo products," Adam Fingerman, founder of app developer ArcTouch, said in a statement shared with Mobile Marketer. "If developers add Siri shortcuts to their existing iOS apps, the quantity and quality of voice-enabled apps for the Apple ecosystem — including iPhone, CarPlay, Apple Watch and HomePod — will greatly increase."
Aside from privacy and ramping up voice capabilities, another majority theme from this year's WWDC so far is a focus on mental health and the possible negative side effects of overusing smartphones and tablets. Apple's new "Screen Time" function aims to make people more aware of how much time they spend absorbed in their devices. It remains to be seen whether this greater awareness will actually curb anyone's screen time, though it's a smart move by Apple to align itself with this wellness-focused mission.
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