NEW YORK—It can remind you where you parked, announce aloud who is calling, and even automatically save you some space on your phone by removing music you haven’t listened to in a while.
Go grab iOS 10 if you haven’t already done so.
Apple’s free mobile operating system is indeed a major update for your iPhone (and iPad), with a gaggle of features, some large, but many small, that can collectively give a nice jolt to your perfectly functioning but aging handset. Of course, iOS 10 is at the very core of the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus that first hit stores Friday.
I’ve been using the software in beta for a couple of months, and for more than a week now on the latest iPhones. The update is well worth it.
Moreover, you can download the software with the confidence that Apple has fixed the issues that gave migraines to some of the first users who tried installing iOS 10 on Tuesday. (That said, please back up your phone or tablet first.)
To be sure, some of the features that come with iOS 10 represent more of a big deal than others—and yes, some find Apple playing catchup to rivals.
Search is better and so are notifications, and Apple Music is also vastly improved.
The Photos app now exploits advanced computer vision to automatically analyze and organize the images in your library—ask Siri, for example, to find the pictures you took at the beach or the ones that have a dog in them. Never mind that Google got a head start on Apple with this sort of thing. Or that the feature is not without flaws--my Siri dog query surfaced a few cats as well, and you'll find it may take awhile for the software to index a sizable Photos library, the status of which Apple could do a better job of letting you know about. The feature is useful, cool and I suspect will get better over time.
Siri itself now gets chummy with third party app developers, and though still a work in progress as some of those developers continue to update their wares, is freed up to do a lot more.
The experience isn’t perfect yet: One time when I asked Siri to book me a ride to a location in New Jersey, it first asked me which app I wanted to use on my phone: Uber, Lyft or local taxis. After selecting Uber, Siri asked me “what type of ride” I wanted: uberPool, uberX, etc? All good. But when Siri said Uber could get me a ride in two minutes, it had misread my destination and quoted me a much higher fare.
I had better luck during other tries.
You can also arrange to have Siri send money for you, through such apps as Square Cash or Venmo. This didn't completely go off without a hitch either. Siri couldn't find a friend I wanted to pay inside Venmo, even though the person is among my Venmo friends inside the app. I also ran into trouble with a Square Cash transaction.
But a lot of what makes iOS 10 worthwhile are the smaller niceties. Here’s a peek at ten.
*Announce the caller. You’ve long been able to identify incoming callers via Caller ID or by assigning specific ringtones to your contacts. New with iOS 10, however, is an Announce Call feature in which Siri will state the name of a caller (if known) when your phone rings. You can customize the feature in the phone’s settings, choosing whether to have Siri announce calls all the time, only when you’re wearing headphones, or only when you’re wearing headphones or in the car. If you prefer for your phone to remain mum, that’s an option too.
Meantime, calls from VoIP providers are now integrated into the Phone app.
*Transcribe voicemail. Through visual voicemail you could always see who was calling you and play back your voicemail messages in any order. Now you can read a transcript of those messages, though the feature is still in beta as reflected by transcripts that can be far off base.
*Multilingual typing. The QuickType feature on iPhone keyboards already takes a stab at predicting the three words you might want to type next. With iOS 10, however, if you’re texting with someone who speaks another language, you don’t have to manually switch keyboards to have the iPhone predict the next appropriate word in that other language. You can go back and forth and type in which language makes sense at the moment. Initially, the feature works with any pair of English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Chinese is also supported.
*Raise to wake. The moment you pull the phone out of your pocket or lift it off the table the display comes alive. If you consider this a distraction, you can disable the feature.
*Filter mail. Tap the new icon at the bottom left corner of your inbox and you can filter mail by the messages you haven’t read yet.
*Bedtime benefits. You may not go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. But the goal of the Bedtime feature (inside the Clock) app on the iPhone is to get you to try. You can set up bedtime reminders, wake up sounds, and populate sleep data into a third party sleep tracker and the Apple Health app.
*Remove music you haven’t listened to in a while. Choose this Apple Music setting to optimize the space on your phone. You can select a minimum amount of storage for music, depending your phone’s capacity, from 16GB (about 3200 songs) to 128GB (25,600 songs).
*Look up stuff. In the past you were able to highlight a word in the Notes, Mail, or Messages and choose a “Define” option. You can still get a dictionary definition for that word. But “Define” has been renamed “Look Up” to better reflect that it can do more—including finding related movies, TV shows, Web videos, locations, and Wikipedia entries.
*Get a parking reminder. Your iPhone can help you remember where you parked your vehicle. Assuming you were using Bluetooth in the car when you parked, Apple will record the location and plot it on a map. I’d like to see a bit more precision in how it works however. For example, in a “Today view” notification screen I was told that my car was parked 100 feet away from Churchill Rd., when I was parked on Churchill Rd.
*Adjust the flashlight. A flashlight is one of those handy utilities that has been readily accessible in the Control Center that slides up from the bottom of the screen. Nothing new there. What is new is that on iPhones that take advantage of the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch feature, you can now change the intensity of the light from bright to medium to low.
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