As is its wont, Apple previewed the next version of its iOS mobile operating system during this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and while it offers a number of new features and capabilities, a few in particular reflect broader trends in the mobile industry.
Enhanced Augmented Reality
The most eye-catching of those is probably its refined support for Augment Reality, allowing users to interact with persistent virtual objects that can be seen through its phones and tablets. This has been a strong focus area for Apple’s rival Samsung, and may even hint that Apple has some kind of headset in the works for release later this year – though it certainly didn’t say so. What is clear is that Apple is banking on users becoming more interested in AR experiences.
A Smarter Siri
Another focus area in iOS 12 that is perhaps less visible but likely more important is new functionality for Siri, Apple’s AI assistant platform. A new feature called Siri Shortcuts allows users to create customized actions for Siri, to be triggered by certain phrases; and Apple has launched new APIs to help developers take advantage of this functionality. What’s more, in a press release announcing the improved Siri functionality, Apple asserted that Siri Shortcuts will allow “any app to work with Siri,” pointing to much broader capabilities for the AI platform.
This all reflects a wide and heightening enthusiasm for AI technology in the tech sector. Earlier this year, for example, Samsung hosted an Artificial Intelligence Summit, and announced plans to open research labs in Canada, Russia, and the UK; and more recently, Qualcomm and Baidu deepened their existing partnership to put an even stronger focus on the development of on-device AI technologies. Everyone recognizes that AI will be an increasingly important part of the user experience going forward, and Apple is evidently keen to keep Siri competitive.
More Privacy and Security On the Web
Finally, Apple appears to be acknowledging a growing unease about privacy and security among end users. iOS 12 will enable Safari, Apple’s web browser, to prevent social media platforms from tracking users via ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons, and will make less hardware system information visible during browsing. Meanwhile, Apple is also introducing its own password manager system, which will automatically create and store strong passwords for authentication through Safari. While Apple itself is more of a proponent of biometric authentication, it’s an acknowledgement of the prevailing use of password security online, and an attempt to overcome its main shortcomings.
None of these new features are available yet, of course – not to consumers. But developers got their hands on the technology this week, and iOS 12 will officially launch this autumn, presumably together with new hardware from Apple.