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Next versions of iOS and macOS to be announced on 4th of June by Apple.

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Apple WWDC Event 2018 iOS 12 macOS

Good news for Apple folks and developers! The next iteration of iOS and macOS have been set to be announced on the 4th of June of this year. This time Apple is once again planning to hold WWDC in the San Jose McEnery Convention Centre from June 4th through June 8th.

Developers can apply for tickets starting from 22nd of March and the general tickets will be made available by Apple from 23rd of March. Tickets will be allotted by random selection and each ticket costs $1599.

Albeit, this year’s event is not going to be as jam-packed as the event last year. Last year, Apple introduced its HomePod, a new iMac Pro, a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. This year, Apple has just two things planned- iOS 12 and the successive macOS.

Well, by shreds of evidence from the past, it seems like Apple is going to mainly focus on speed and reliability for iOS 12 rather than just adding features that aren’t well optimized. This decision of Apple was made on the grounds of numerous complaints from people all over the iOS community. iOS 11 was extremely buggy when it was first announced and is still buggy enough to annoy the hell out of people.

This won’t be a significant upgrade.

Although, apart from the Apple’s decision to focus on reliability, we’ll possibly be able to witness some design changes on iOS as well. But it’s certain that those design changes won’t be as significant as the time during iOS 7 was announced.

Besides, iOS 12 is rumored to support Apple’s new feature of universal apps where you’ll be able to run the same app on your iPhone, iPad and your Mac. There are also talks in the air that 2018 models of iPad will support Animoji thanks to the incorporation of FaceID sensors. Tabbing in apps on iOS 12 is also going to be a probable feature.

Even though it won’t be a win for people expecting more from iOS this year, keep in mind that Apple is planning on a home screen redesign for iOS 13, which in its own way, is going to be considered as a major release.

iOS 12 will be available as a beta version to developers on June 4th itself right after the announcement. Public betas will be pushed later that month.

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Apple

iOS 12 In Fantastic Form For First Beta With Some Caveats

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Every year since iOS 5, around mid 2011, I’ve been using the iOS betas. A few betas have been rocky, something to be expected. Some have been really pleasant. At times they have made me wish I could revert back to a stable build without losing data.  But this time, in regards to stability, the iOS 12 beta has been the best I’ve ever used.

iOS 12 Stability and Performance

After a few days of toying around with the developer beta of iOS 12 on my personal device (don’t try this at home kids), the more I feel like Apple needed an update like this one. Right off the bat Craig Federighi promised iOS 12 would focus on performance and efficiency improvements. He couldn’t get on stage and say “Hey we know iOS 11 had some bugs so we’re going to fix them,” but we all understand that as the gist of his promise. The iOS 12 beta must feel so solid for this reason. Apple probably dedicated lots of resources to ensuring iOS 12 polished out the poorer parts of iOS 11.

For those who haven’t run beta before; poor battery life, crashing apps, sluggish performance, and running hot all come with the territory. Not once during my time in beta have I come across these kinds of issues. My phone lasts a full day, no problem. It hasn’t gotten hot, or even remotely warm for that matter. And although it doesn’t feel as fast as they promised, it’s faster than any other beta I’ve used. I have complete faith that the speed will end up at it’s promised level by release.

The only bugs I’ve come across are very minor. I’ve had one empty notification linger in Notification Center. Down Time durations (more on that later) have offset by a few minutes. My Movie Pass app crashes when I need to take a picture of a ticket stub. That’s it! I could’ve hit the jackpot and others aren’t having the luck I am, but from my perspective it has been smooth sailing.

Siri Advancements

Shortcuts and Siri

Currently Apple hasn’t included the Shortcuts app in developer betas, but I wish they did. Once available users will be able to link different actions together as a single command such as setting a reminder to get an umbrella if the weather forecasts rain. Apple purchased an app called Workflows, an automation app for people who enjoy tinkering, and essentially spun it off into a new built-in app. Workflow would have benefited from deeper access to iOS, and now they do. I can’t wait to create with it upon availability. The Siri aspect, however, doesn’t appeal to me.

Once a Shortcut has been created, a verbal command can associate it with Siri. In concept, this is a great idea. But while using Siri in iOS I don’t have confidence it will work as advertised. For me, Siri has had a hard time with catching what I’m saying. Just earlier this week I asked her to find a restaurant nearby, Kon Bistro. Instead she heard “con bistro” and inexplicably gave me a list of three adult video stores and a Salvation Army. What? By the way, Google Assistant got me exactly what I needed (photo of both results below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Siri can’t fully understand what I’m saying, then how can I trust her to understand a command I make up? I’m concerned that Apple’s lack of development in Siri’s voice recognition will hinder what could’ve been an interesting feature. But even without those improvements, Google Assistants will still have shortcut-like functionality in Android P without the need for the user to preemptively set tasks up in a different app.

Apple needed to do far more to improve basic level intelligence for Siri in iOS 12. Hopefully the rumored overhaul next year will fix Siri.

But it’s not all bad.

Siri Suggestions

Siri Suggestions is a great idea that could use a slight tweak. Say you miss a call or inadvertently avoided someone’s text, Siri will give you a suggestion to contact them back via a darker notification on the Lock Screen/Notification Center. On my dad’s birthday I even got a suggestion to give him a call. But here’s the problem, that didn’t show up in Notification Center where I would have seen it. Luckily I already called him.

Some of these suggestions show in Notification Center such as the missed call prompt. Yet for some reason others, like my dad’s birthday, show up in the Search area underneath Siri App Suggestions. Why not put them all in Notification Center or all in the Search area? Splitting them seems unnecessarily confusing, especially for one of my favorite additions to Siri in some time.

A digital assistant should help you complete tasks without your continuous input, akin to a real assistant. Siri Suggestions marks a good step in that direction so hopefully Apple cleans this up before launch.

To be fair for both Siri features, Shortcuts and Suggestions, third party developers will really help bolster their usefulness. Unfortunately this can’t be done until iOS 12 releases to the public.

Let’s talk about some better stuff now.

Group Notifications

Although late to the game here, having grouped notifications on iOS is a godsend. My Notification Center has never looked cleaner, nor has it been easier to get rid of a large amount of notifications from a single app. Once notifications are grouped, usually after about four per app appear in my testing, they can be tapped on to expand. From there each notification can be handled individually or all cleared at once.

Another savior, letting you manage notification settings for each app directly from a notification. Before in iOS 11 when a notification gets swiped left options for clearing or viewing come up. Now there’s a new manage option. You have three options under manage: “Deliver Notifications Quietly” “Turn Off” or another option to jump to settings for more granular control.

Thank you, Apple. iOS fans can rejoice.

Digital Health

Screen Time

Easily my favorite addition to iOS 12, Screen Time allows me to get a better understanding of how I use my phone. After that Apple provides controls over how much time you get with each app, when your phone goes into Down Time, or which apps are always allowed.

I’m surprised by how much I’ve already enjoyed Down Time and App Timers. Currently I’m limiting myself to forty minutes of Reddit and thirty minutes of gaming. Initially I figured I’d blow through my time and have the rest of the day blocked, but instead I’ve found myself using those apps in smaller doses to save time. In many ways going to each app has been a better experience as a result. For example in Reddit I haven’t consumed everything new in the subreddits I follow in the morning and find myself reading the same stuff over again later in the day. Every time I use Reddit, I get newer content and an overall richer experience.

There’s some slight confusion over some of the categories that Screen Time tracks. I’m not entirely sure what would count as a “Reading and Reference” app or a “Social” app. The only social app I use is Twitter and the time for that doesn’t match the “Social” category. It would be nice if there were an option to select the “Social” category and see all applicable apps.

Down Time

Bed time has also gotten a lot easier for me. I’m often browsing through Twitter and Reddit late at night when I should be asleep. With Down Time I’m shutting down distracting apps between 11 PM and 7 AM. I still allow phone and text messaging since I don’t get hooked into those easily, but everything else is off for the most part. Sleeping has become genuinely easier since now I’m usually reading a book before bed rather than burying myself in my phone.

One odd issue I had occurred in time frame adjustments for Down Time. I noticed that if I set up my range to be from 11 PM to 7 PM, iOS might change it to 10:54 PM to 6:54 PM. It’s always six minutes off so I’ve been able to circumvent the issue by changing it to 11:06 PM to 7:06 PM.

Overall

Thus far iOS 12’s first developer beta has shocked me by being the most stable beta I’ve ever used. Any bug I have found hasn’t been a deal breaker. Apple has done fantastic work, and if beta 1 works this well I’m eager to see how well future builds perform. Especially the full release.

For reference, I’m using an iPhone 7 Plus. Different devices may perform differently. Also if you are experiencing bugs, please report them in the Feedback app. Everything I’ve mentioned as a bug I’ve reported. Gossiping and blogging doesn’t fix the issues!

Keep it here on The 8-Bit for more updates on the iOS 12 betas as they release!

 

 

 

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Are iOS 12’s Grouped notifications better than that on Android?

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After a lot of imploring by fellow iOS users, Apple finally has decided to sport grouped notifications in its flagship OS. This was way overdue. Android has had notification grouping since around 5 years now, and it’s improved year after year. Its latest iteration– Android P also has some new notification perks.

Just as you know, notifications play a conspicuous role in owning a smartphone. It’s a way for your device to communicate with your senses. Imagine not getting nudges everytime you receive a message from work! It could ruin the core aspect of your life; and this indicates how much we depend on our smartphones– so much that the mere concept of missing notifications could turn into dreadful nightmares.

iOS 12, though; comes along with notification grouping as a major highlight amongst a plethora of new advancements. And there’s this one thing that makes iOS notifications way better than the way Android offers them. I’m not saying that iOS notifications are “hands-down” better than those on Android, but one aspect of it; the one that makes a considerable difference is what makes iOS kind of ahead of the game. And that aspect is:

Customizing grouped notifications.

Yeah, you can customize the way you group notifications, and it’s not the way you think it is. It’s far more avant-garde. Also, it’s a bit difficult to explain how it works but I’ll do my best to keep it as simple as possible.

It’s far more avant-garde.

Let’s take WhatsApp, for example. Usually, notifications from it appear in a string spruced up in chronological order. And that gets out of hand easily when you expect a hundred messages from your SO, as you have to scroll below until you reach to the first text. Now, imagine getting such notifications from five different chat apps at the same time, and you’ll know why the old notification system was deceptive. Thankfully, that changes with iOS 12. With it, you can now group notifications based on an individual contact (considering WhatsApp). So, basically; you have two options:

  1. Group all notifications from an app no matter how many individual contacts texted you.

    Grouped Notifications iOS 12

    Notifications from the app grouped all together.

  2. Group notifications in a way that texts from individual contacts have their own groups. All of this from a single app. In our case– WhatsApp.

    Grouped Notifications iOS 12

    Notifications from the app grouped individually based on contacts.

While this is not a huge appraisal, it affects the time you previously required to scroll through ungrouped notifications. And it significantly simplifies stuff. Well, it’s not just limited to that; you can also opt to turn off group notifications if by anyway grouped ones offend you.

Although, there’s a thin line in between when it comes to the argument of whose notification grouping is better. Android, by default, offers to group notifications. You don’t have to delve into the settings to manage how you show notifications, instead just swipe on a notification to extend it more right off the bat– allowing to show messages separated according to their individual contacts respectfully (in WhatsApp’s case). On the other hand, swiping, again and again, could be a lot of work for a lot of people. So preference to one-time settings could be golden. And iOS 12 kinda nails that.

The user preference model works the best in this case!

So, where does it take us? Well, in conclusion, the winner depends on the user’s preferences. If you like swiping down thrice to reveal individual notifications, Android is where you want to be. If you like more simplistic notifications– yet effective enough, then iOS might be your go. Although, in my opinion (not that it matters), iOS has a better notification setup. And I’m not saying this because I’m biased towards Apple products and services, or something; but I feel that with iOS 12’s notification system, Apple has nailed the customization part– which is usually Android’s role. In Android, you’re not allowed to turn off grouping, while you can easily do that in iOS 12.

Most other publications on the web have stated iOS 12’s notification system to be as good as Android’s; some of which are– The Verge, BGR, etc. But, that fact is clearly refutable.

The latest iteration of iOS from Apple also has other new stuff that you might wanna know about. However, it’s set to release for everyone this fall. Until then, you can test it out by registering as a developer or if you are already one, you can install the beta profile from Apple.

 

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The Peaks and Valleys of WWDC 2018

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Today Apple held WWDC 2018 to announce their much anticipated software updates. iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS all got new features, and despite being smaller in features there’s still much to talk about.

Apple from the very beginning setting the stage with iOS claiming that the focus was performance and stability improvements. So, although there might not be as many user features as prior updates, the new features here are meaningful. However, some don’t quite meet that standard.

In my opinion, here the peaks and valleys of WWDC. First the positives…

Peaks

1. Porting iOS Apps to Mac

Looking back, we might see this as the most important feature announced today. At the tail-end of the macOS announcements, Craig Federighi gave us a sneak peak of Universal Apps now incorporating iPhone, iPad, and for the first time Mac.

The Mac App Store has had issues with Mac developer retention for some time now. Getting iOS developers to come over has been a whole other issue. iPad apps were quickly adopted by developers because it shared so much in common with iPhone development. All that a developer really had to do was update the UI. Mac, on the other hand, currently requires a whole new app be written.

This transition to Universal Apps across OSes comes in two phases. Phase 1 we saw today. It starts with Apple porting some of their own apps to Mac, which include: News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos. Phase 2 comes next year and will open up tools to developers allowing them to port their own iOS apps.

Hopefully these new additions, plus the new Mac App Store design, create greater incentive for developers to bring their apps to Mac. From where I’m standing, these tools could make a big difference.

2. Screen Time and Digital Health Features

Last month Google showed off their bevy of “Digital Wellness” features, and while they might have gone farther, it’s great seeing Apple take steps to make your time spent with your phone healthier.

All these Digital Health features show up in a few different ways. First were some additions to Do Not Disturb. Now in Control Center you’re able to associate Do Not Disturb functionality with a particular location (where you work) or a calendar event (a specific meeting at work). Even when using the Bed Time function added last year, Do Not Disturb will automatically turn on.

Screen Time is the biggest Digital Health feature added. In settings right under Do Not Disturb a new tab dubbed Screen Time will show you how long you used your phone, how many notifications you received, how many times you picked up your phone, and your most used apps. From here that data can be broken down by current day or week. There are also options to set timers per application or type of app determined by its category in the App Store.

3. macOS Dark Mode

The most immediately apparent update to macOS Mojave is the new Dark Mode. First off, it’s gorgeous. Holding back from using the developer beta of Mojave just for Dark Mode has been a trying effort. I’ll manage, somehow. There’s not much to say other than to look at these beautiful stills.

4. Siri Notification Suggestions

We’ll talk about some of the other Siri features later, but a smaller addition comes in form of task suggestions seen in Notification Center. Let say that you missed a call from someone and you haven’t called them back yet, Siri will add a notification suggesting you call that person.

I’ve already had experience with this on my phone can already see it has a useful tool to remind me of smaller important items I might have forgotten otherwise. These suggestions also show up in the Search Field. The idea is that after Siri has learned some of your routines she’ll send you handy tidbits when you need them most.

5. Third Party Support For Siri Watch Face

Another small, but potentially big feature here. Last year watchOS 4 introduced the Siri Watch Face with contextually relevant cards in place of the standard complications. This year the watch face gains support for third party apps via the new Siri Shortcut API. Third party integration makes this watch face infinitely more practical with the potential of seeing transportation times, news updates, and whatever else third party developers cook up.

Valleys

1. Increased Animoji Support

Flag this one as highly subjective and very much my own opinion. Many people are going to love these new Animoji and they’ll love FaceTiming their friends as their very own Memoji. Not me. Animoji has always hit a sour note for me and with iOS 12 I’m finding their inclusion that much more frustrating. Beyond FaceTime invites in Messages, Animoji was the only new addition to Messages.

It’s not the inclusion of new Animoji that upsets me, if there were other features to discuss among Animoji I’d have no problem. But it was the only update, and Apple spent a lot of time on it. Which leads me to…

2. No RCS

RCS is the spiritual successor to SMS and includes many practical additions such as read receipts, typing indicators, and rich links. It has been adopted by all the major carriers, and would make texting someone on Android (aka a non-iPhone user) a far more pleasant experience. It’s also far more practical and necessary of an update than additional Animoji.

To me, not including RCS would be like not including Bluetooth 5.0 or a new WiFi standard. Why exactly wasn’t this included? I’m very curious. It can’t be because of security, because SMS already lacks end to end encryption.

3. No iOS Dark Mode

When video leaked of macOS and the included Dark Mode a few days ago, I became hopeful we’d see the feature come to iOS as well. Alas, I was wrong. Maybe there are challenges bringing Dark Mode to iOS and that don’t exist for Mac. iPhone X and future OLED devices would benefit greatly from a Dark Mode. OLED screens don’t have to power black pixels, which could have resulted in a lot of power saving goodness if there were an iOS Dark Mode. I’m sure it’ll come eventually, just would’ve been nice to have seen it released in parity with macOS.

4. tvOS

What is there to talk about, really? Dolby Atmos support. A single new screen saver. And an admittedly cool Zero Sign-In feature for TV passwords let down by support from only one provider. None of this warranted being featured in a keynote that already ran too long, Apple shouldn’t have dedicated time to tvOS on stage. They could’ve left it out.

5. Siri Shortcuts Aren’t Enough

For me this is one of the biggest letdowns of WWDC. Siri has fallen behind competition with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Cortana; and she really needed this year to catch up. Siri Shortcuts seems to be trying to catch up on third party app support seen on other assistants. At a quick glance it would appear Apple has done so, but a second thought changes that outlook.

Essentially the feature takes advantage of available deep links into apps allowing you to go somewhere specific in an app. By going to a deep linked area of an app you’ll be able to tell Siri you want to create a command for that specific information you’re seeing in the app and create your own command to reach it.

Here lies the problem. For starters Google Assistant already has similar functionality, the difference being that the user doesn’t have to point Google Assistant where to go, it just know to go. Siri has to be trained per function, per app. A lot of voice activated requests are thought of on a whim and aren’t initiated preemptively. Who thinks they’ll have a question in a few hours and sets it up ahead of time? Seems like the user is doing work that Siri should be doing instead.

Even though requests can accomplish more complex tasks thanks to the integrated Shortcuts app, they all still require the user come up with a command and consistently use that command verbatim. Stray from the command and you’ll get a different result. Notably Siri falls behind competition on voice recognition as well, and there was no word about and update there.

It’s not a terrible feature, but it certainly doesn’t help Siri catch up to competition.

More to Come

iOS 12, macOS Mojave, watchOS 5, and tvOS had many other features that couldn’t all be talked about here. Increased privacy while browsing, Group FaceTime, grouped notifications in iOS, Camera Continuity, among others were also highlighted during Apple’s event. Stay tuned for more updates and a look at unannounced iOS 12 beta features and overall impressions in the coming days while we get our hands on the software.

 

 

 

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