It’s been a couple weeks and I’ve been reading to posts and listening to podcasts from the nerd herd. A few thoughts on the announcements by Apple as well as some of the reactions in the community. It was widely rumored that this year would see a focus on optimization rather than new features. It seems we’re getting both but perhaps more emphasis on optimization. This was expected and many folks thought it best. There have been a lot of complaints about some of the changes introduced with iOS 11. I’ve largely been happy with those changes but some were not. But it seems that with iOS 12, this year, more than any in recent memory, people are actually satisfied. At least for now. The complaints will come once the honeymoon is over.
Though I use my Mac less and less, I’m happy to see Apple affirm that it is committed to the Mac. Not that I had any doubts but I’m weary of hearing the complaint of the past 2 years that Apple does not care about it’s Mac users and even that it might not be committed to the long term future of the Mac. It’s just silly. For the moment, at least, the Mac oriented crowd seem mostly satisfied.
As predicted by many, a focus on optimization which is, of course, always welcomed. But, also, some new features as we might also expect. Nothing like last year’s amazing addition of iPad features but some nice additions. Early reports by beta users confirm that the optimization, especially on older devices is significant and that the speed increase is very noticeable. This is great news not just for users on older devices (many in my family still user older iPads and iPhones) but also a show by Apple that while they do want to sell new devices they also understand the value of maximizing the time that devices can continue to be useful. This is not only good for users but for the environment.
One thing I think nerds often forget is that the “norms” aren’t so obsessed with operating systems and new hardware. They just want devices that they understand how to use and which they can depend on. Based on my observations, the new and flashy is often just added financial cost and mental energy they have to expend figuring out why their devices are behaving differently. This seems especially true with older folks or at least the older folks I interact with. It seems just as people are getting comfortable with new features and changes the os changes again and trips them up.
I’ve written before about my hope for a proactive Siri. In short, I was hoping for the ability to configure “Siri Scenes” which might be integrated with a more powerful Home app. With Shortcuts we might be getting that or parts of it.
Shortcuts App and App Shortcuts
Everyone seems happy and excited about the transformation of Workflow into Shortcuts app. In addition to the new app, App developers will now be able to offer simple shortcuts to users, increasing discoverability and at the same time allowing the user to customize the Siri-based activation with their own phrase. This will be big. Not sure how many “normal” users will use it but it appears Apple has done a great job in making it easy to take the first step. I suppose App Shortcuts with the ability to assign a custom phrase is the Apple equivalent to Alexa’s skills with a key difference being that these are based on the device rather than the cloud. And Apple’s solution seems to easier for average users. It also gives them the added opportunity to take the next step to begin using the Shortcuts app to begin assembling even more powerful actions.
The Shortcuts app is Workflow with deeper system integration, namely Siri and Homekit. It appears that older Workflows will, for the most part, continue to work. That’s great news for those that have invested a lot of time into development of of these kinds of systems. One such person is Federico Viticci who has, of course, already written quite a bit about the new Shortcuts.
Based on what I’ve read it appears I’ll get at least part of what I was hoping for when I wrote about the above mentioned “Siri scenes” in that I’ll be able to set-up a workflow that includes Home scenes. My ideal morning routine would be an automation beginning at a predetermined time. A light would come on at 10% brightness. Then a little bit later that light goes to 40%. Then my HomePod chimes with an alarm as my coffee maker kicks on with yet another light. Then Siri would read me the weather and any calendar events. Last, she would ask if I wanted some music or a podcast. Or, perhaps just play music or a podcast.
Some of this is already possible with Home scenes set to a schedule. But while the new Shortcuts app can call on the Home app the Home app cannot, in reverse, be scheduled to open a Shortcut which is what I was hoping for. This kind of scheduled Shortcut would give the appearance of a proactive Siri at normal or specified bedtime and wake-up times. If I’m correct that the new Shortcuts cannot be scheduled for a time I’ll settle for a mix of automated and voice initiated actions which previously would be limited to scenes in Home. It’s still a step forward.
Oh, the horror of having to actually do something myself. Will I be able to muster the strength and courage to croak out a few words to Siri?
This has been a part of Siri for awhile though I’ve not found it all that useful. Maybe it will be improved enough that I’ll make use of it. Every morning I walk the dogs and do an “outdoor walk” workout on the Apple Watch. I start that using Siri then I pick music or a podcast to listen to. Everyday. I’d guess that Siri will suggest music or a podcast as well as starting an outdoor walk. That’s fine but I don’t think it will help much. I’m hoping to be surprised.
Certain things mentioned regarding updates to Siri’s knowledge are things I’ve already noticed are present. They don’t seem like new features. That’s not a problem and I guess it’s possible that Apple has just added some new things under the hood. Regardless, I’ve found Siri’s knowledge base to often be very helpful and from what I’ve read, it seems that Siri already does far more than most people realize. I suspect, many haven’t used it that much and this is Apple’s chance to draw attention to it.
Photos is getting smarter with more Siri-powered searching and when combined with Messages, we will have an enhanced, smarter flow for sharing via event and face recognition. A welcome addition. Also, the improved import process looks very nice!
Some really nice improvements here. Group calls now supported with up to a ridiculous 32 participants! Audio FaceTime calls can now be made with HomePod or AppleWatch. It’s now integrated with Messages. New effects too, most notably: Animoji, filters, text effects, shapes, sticker packs. Basically, it looks as though they’ve spiced it up with a bit of flavoring from their Clips app.
Speaking of Messages and Animoji, well, of course there is Memoji and new Animoji, longer Animoji and more effect and filters. Also, as mentioned above, tighter integration with the Photos app.
Screentime, Notifications and Do Not Disturb
I’m not going to say much other than I’m glad they’re adding these features. I’m sure most of us will be horrified at how much time we spend looking at screens. Do Not Disturb is getting some useful refinement. That said I leave Do Not Disturb on 24/7 due to the number of spam calls I get. I wish Apple offered a general option to only accept calls from contacts. Then I could use Do Not Disturb for other things. As it is, I have to use it to filter all my calls all the time.
Nice that various apps are making their way from being iPhone only to the iPad. I use Apple News a lot and am looking forward to the new sidebar.
New iPad Gestures
Shrug. Glad that this will match up with the iPhone X. Not happy about the control panel being by itself and accessed via a pull down from the top right. I’d rather it stay where it is in the Multitasking view.
There’s more but I’ve just hit on a few of the things that stood out the most. The page at the top links to Apple’s more complete list.