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iOS 13

Cook started his presentation about the operating system which powers the iPhone by noting that 85% of active iOS devices are running iOS 12. He took a shot at Google, noting that the last numbers Google reported indicated that only 10% of Android devices are running the latest OS, which he says shipped prior to iOS 12. 

Apple's most popular operating system will receive some new features this fall, too.  Despite having so many active devices on the latest OS, the first two "innovations" Apple announced came from other systems: dark mode and gesture input. Dark mode is probably welcome to everyone with an iPhone X or XS variant, since OLED displays can save power by not drawing a mostly white, static screen. Gesture input is something I've enjoyed since Swype came preinstalled on my first smartphone (an LG Optimus V, if you're curious) in 2011. To say this addition is overdue is a gross understatement. 


Is this Android?  No, it's iOS 13.

Another welcome change is rebuilt Maps data. Apple says it's driven and flown over four million miles collecting refreshed street and aerial data that will make its maps much more accurate. That's welcome news to this writer, since Maps frequently instructs me to make a U-turn in the middle of busy streets and or drive around the back of a building to make sure I've "arrived." This new (and hopefully improved) mapping data will launch for the whole United States by the end of 2019 and the rest of the world sometime after that. 

System apps besides the keyboard get new features, too. The Music app will display time-synced lyrics while listening to your favorite songs. The Photos app will get some new lighting options for portrait modes and new filters and effects when editing. You'll be able to rotate your portrait-oriented videos before uploading them to YouTube without downloading a third-party app, too. Let's be honest: we've all hit the record button and then held up the phone horizontally like we're supposed to only to have the video come out sideways. 

Two AirPod owners will be able to justify their purchase by bumping their phones to instantly share music from one device to the next. AirBud owners will hear Siri reads a messages as they come in and prompt the wearer for a reply. Speaking of Siri, Apple demoed a new "Neural TTS" version of its digital assistant. The company used machine learning to teach Siri to speak with a more natural voice. It seems like we've heard this before, so we'll see if it sticks this time around. Though Siri's voice does sound more natural, it hasn't escaped the Uncanny Valley just yet. 

Home Pod gets Handoff with this update, so you can easily switch your music, podcast, or in-progress phone calls from an iOS device to Apple's smart speaker. Multi-user support is coming to Home Pod in the form of voice recognition. It will now learn the voices of the people who live in the house and tailor its responses to those users' voices. That includes musical preferences—telling a Home Pod to "play some music" should respond with that user's preferred playlists. 

Privacy, privacy, privacy!

No, the subheading does not mean that Steve Ballmer took the stage at WWDC yesterday. Instead, "privacy" was the word that Apple used in an attempt to differentiate itself from its competition in both the desktop and mobile worlds. The topic came up in demo after demo. Not-so-humble brags about protecting user privacy accompanied the new Find My features in Catalina, for instance. Apple has been advertising privacy-focused features and policies since the first of the year. 

Location privacy is a big deal in iOS 13. Users have more granular control over location sharing, for instance. A new option allows users to share their location with an app only once before it has to ask permission to access the location again. Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi also says the company has closed off access to detecting local networks as a means to circumvent location sharing controls. iOS 13 will also give users access to more detailed reports about which apps request location data and how often. 

Apple has also debuted its own single sign-on technology imaginatively called Sign In with Apple. That means that instead of signing into an app with a Facebook or Google account, users could potentially sign into an app with their Apple ID. In fact, once Sign In with Apple is commercially available,  Apple will require any app that allows third-party sign-in to support this service. 


Sign In with Apple

The company is also trying to combat spam a couple of different ways. First is an option to send all unknown callers directly to voicemail jail without collecting Go or passing $200. The second is through email obfuscation. iCloud will generate a random email address for apps users don't want to give their real addressses to, and once those randomized addresses become spam magnets, users can disable them. 

HomeKit privacy also took center stage yesterday. New home security cameras from Netatmo, Logitech, and Eufy will be able to upload encrypted video directly to iCloud so that users can keep an eye on their homes, and that data will disappear after 10 days. That storage won't count against the iCloud subscriber's storage limits, either. HomeKit-enabled routers from Linksys and some ISPs will keep smart devices from phoning home automatically, too. 

The Mac platform didn't get left out of the privacy party. In addition to Find My and Activation Lock, Mac users will enjoy additional confirmation prompts the first time an app attempts to capture audio or keyboard input. Catalina will also prompt users when an app tries open a file in the Documents folder, other media folders, external drives, iCloud Drive, or the desktop. The operating system also resides on its own read-only volume, which may finally kill the Hackintosh.