Apples WWDC 2022 announcements lacked big, flashy new features, and Siri was largely MIA. But in the absence of Apple’s virtual assistant, we’ve had plenty of small but potentially significant software updates centered around a very real individual: you. And me. Developers know us as “end users”, but we are otherwise known as humans.
Humans are different from end users because we forget words, make typos, and accidentally hit send an important email before it’s ready. Humans also have individual personalities and strong opinions about fonts, and we’d like the devices we carry around 24/7 to reflect that a bit more. Historically, Apple has preferred to keep a grip on all aspects of its devices, from how they look to how humans are allowed to interact with them. This year’s WWDC gave us a taste of how Apple’s softening is clinging a bit to acknowledging the humans on the other side of its product pipelines. It’s a welcome development, but make no mistake – Apple isn’t backing down too lots of control.
For starters, Macs, iPads, and iPhones will be more forgiving of the mistakes we make. The Messages app on all three platforms will give you a 15-minute grace period after sending an iMessage to correct typos or undo the send altogether. Similarly, Mail will let you recall an email within 10 seconds of hitting send. Search in the Mail app is also getting an update to fix typos and use synonyms, as words are sometimes tricky.
Apple also tends to insist that its products be used in a certain way, sometimes ignoring the reality of how humans actually want to use its products. Remember all the years we spent pressing alarms on our iPhone because nothing happened because Apple wanted us to press “edit” first? Apple finally caved on this one in iOS 15.
This year, he recognizes another reality: we can’t always respond to a text or email the minute we read it, but we don’t want it to disappear in a sea of message threads. Rather than hacking a workaround like pinning a text thread to the top of your screen, Apple will let you mark text as unread, essentially letting you set a little reminder flag to send a reply. Mail will also move sent messages to the top of your inbox for tracking, because our inboxes actually act as to-do lists. That’s not really what a messaging app is for, but that’s how we use it.
Apple has also been hesitant to let iPad owners use their devices as many want: as laptops rather than giant iPhones. That’s not really going to change any time soon, but the company has made a substantial concession by adding Stage Manager to iPadOS, allowing multiple windows to be opened and resized for a more desktop-like experience (literally – this is also a macOS Ventura feature). There’s also a long list of other iPadOS updates, many of which seem minor but actually make a difference if you’re trying to use an iPad as your primary computing device, like the navigation buttons in the Files app and the ability to change file extensions. . And for Pete’s sake, it’s taken all this time but at least there’s finally a Weather app on the iPad!
Introduced just at the top of the keynote, Apple’s most obvious nod to the humans using its phones was the addition of plenty of lock screen customization options. You can change fonts, choose new colors, and add widgets to the lock screen. Here’s where you might be inclined to pull out your personalized stationery and write a letter to The edge Dot Com to yell at me Android phones have been able to do all of this forever. Relax, I know. Maybe Android 12 rubs off a bit on iOS. I don’t think that’s a bad thing for the people involved. And a revamped lock screen is a far cry from the system-wide customization options offered by Google’s Pixel phones and Material You. Same the new MacBook Air M2 the colors have an air of reserve about them it’s fun but not too fun.
But even after all these human-centric improvements arrive, you still live in the world of Apple. Even with the new customization options, the device will “undeniably remain an iPhone,” as software vice president Craig Federighi put it. Apple is putting more flexibility in its software and more control in the hands of its users than ever before, but everything is still on Apple’s terms. It will make concessions, like adding multitasking functionality to iPadOS, but to go as far as a true desktop experience on a tablet? Highly unlikely. There is a little more you in recent updates, but it’s still unmistakably Apple.
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