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iOS 10 preview: A sad present for a milestone birthday

Galen Gruman | July 20, 2016
A misguided redesign of several screens to accommodate widgets and a small set of enhancements detract from iOS's 10th anniversary

One change does make sense, and that is the elimination of the swipe-to-unlock gesture on the lock screen. Not only did Apple lose that patent, the prevalence of Touch ID on its devices makes the swipe unnecessary; just tap and go.

On the (now) fairly old pre-Touch ID devices supported by iOS 10 (the fourth-generation iPad, iPad Mini 2, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and sixth-generation iPod Touch), you have to press the home button to get the password screen to unlock the device -- no more awkward than side-swiping to get that password screen. (With an option in the Settings app's Accessibility section, you don't even have to press the button; just rest a finger on the screen for these older devicEs.)

Beyond these changes, you have to look hard for changes in iOS 10. None is earth-shattering or even enough to stop traffic:

  • Web support for Apple Pay is one new capability.
  • Also new is Note's ability to share notes with other people, which the iWork apps got a few years back.
  • Messages gains a lot of gewgaws such as Apple Watch-style heartbeat messages and stickers certain to appeal to tweens and to adults needing a silly break.
  • Safari supports iOS 9's split-window iPad view. (That should have happened in iOS 9.)
  • The Phone app can now transcribe voicemails, and third-party phone apps are now integrated into Contacts and other core services.. 
  • iOS gains MacOS's dictionaries for spell-checking, as well as the ability to select the ones you want to use. Now autocorrect will be less likely to "correct" foreign words and phrases.
  • Settings separates the configuration of Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Reminders, which had previously been set up in the same Settings window.

Maybe the biggest is the new ability to tap the Filter button in mail to see only unread messages in your inbox, and to change that filter to another attribute if desired. Much handier than typing Unread in Mail's search box, but fundamentally a minor "finally!" refinement.

These are all welcome, but hardly big deals.

Still missing are important functions for mobile users: the ability to create and edit groups in Contacts and use them as addressees in Mail, and to at least import Mail filters via iCloud from your Mac if not create and manage them directly. In a world of spam, it's criminal that iOS devices can't filter out all the junk themselves. They certainly have the processing capacity to do so.

I wish Apple would invest in Mail, Calendar, and Contacts as it does in Messages and Maps -- communications are core to mobile users, and these old technologies are ripe for major advancements. Here's one idea: Look at all my calendars and tell all the affected servers when I'm busy, not merely the one the specific appointment is in.

 

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