Apple reveal iOS 10 details
THE next version of Apple's mobile operating system has been revealed, with a full release expected to be made available to users in September.
Messages and Photos have been made fancier, while Siri and Apple Maps have been tweaked to make them work with a wider range of apps; Apple Music has been given an almost complete redesign, and there have been changes to the lock screen and notifications.
Developers can already download iOS 10 to start working with it, and a beta version will get a limited release in July.
But not everyone will get to play with the new operating system when the full version is released; Apple devices made before 2012, such as the iPhone 4S or original iPad mini, won't be supported.
Messing with Messages
The app most people are likely to use most, Messages, will soon be far more expressive - or far more annoying, depending on our attitude to emojis and animations.
Among the gimmicks added to Messages, Tapback is probably the least likely to annoy, offering as it does six very quick message responses, including a simple thumbs up and thumbs down, as well as slightly cartoony exclamations and question marks for instant reaction.
Users can also replace perfectly good words with emojis, or add stickers, or even full screen animations such as balloons, confetti or fireworks to their messages - for when a simple "woo!" followed by a smiley face won't do.
For those of us with decent handwriting, however, there's the chance to send messages using our own scrawl; the recipient will see it animate as if we're writing on their screen.
There are signs that Apple are becoming a little less precious about some of their software (if not their hardware) in the fact that parts of Messages have been opened up to third party app developers for the first time.
Apple say this will allow users to share content, send money to friends, place orders for food and so on, all within Messages.
Siri opens up
Maps and Siri are also being made accessible to external developers for the first time - so it could be possible to order a takeaway or book a cab to a location by clicking on it within Maps, or to get Siri to access and operate a host of new apps through voice control.
For those who aren't a little frightened by the idea of Siri learning about us to better serve us, some of that intelligence has now been added to QuickType - to help it predict what we want to write based on what else is going on at the time.
Say, for example, we're messaging someone to say when we're available next week to meet up: Apple say QuickType will be able to check our calendar or location information to make suggestions to us.
Impressively - and also simultaneously worryingly and reassuringly for those of us still bothered by the idea of our phones having all that knowledge about us - Siri and Quick Type don't need any outside help to do all this.
When they bring up this kind of contextual information, or recognise faces and objects in our photos, all the processing required to do so happens inside the device in our hands - unlike devices powered by Google's Android, which has to send our details to the cloud for further processing.
Bloatware be gone
Apple have also decided to give us some control over the stuff we don't want on our phones, making it possible for the first time for owners to remove a large number of their preinstalled apps:
|Find My Friends||Home||iBooks||iCloud Drive||iTunes Store|
|Voice Memo||Watch app||Weather|
We're sure there are some people out there who do use the Stocks app, but we're also fairly sure that plenty of users will take great delight in finally being able to get rid of at least some of the bloatware on their phones.
In their defence, Apple say that all together these apps only take up about 150MB of space, and that deleting a preinstalled app may "affect related system functions" - but they will all be available to download from the App Store again should that happen.
Who'll miss out
But as we mentioned above, not everyone who owns an iThing will get to enjoy these new or improved features.
As well as withdrawing support for the iPhone 4S and earlier, and the first iPad Mini, other devices being left behind by iOS 10 include the iPad 2 and 3 and the fifth generation iPod Touch.
People with an iPhone 5 or later, any iPad Air or Pro, or a iPad fourth generation, an iPad Mini 2 or later, or the sixth generation iPod Touch should find their devices are more than capable of running the new OS.
As Ars Technica have pointed out, if the Apple device in your life contains an A5 chip, it won't be able to run iOS 10.
These older devices have struggled to cope with the processing demands of the more recent updates - so rather than make them even slower and less reliable, Apple have decided not to make the new OS available to them.
Owners may well miss out on the chance to ditch unwanted apps and integrate others - but they'll also be spared the temptation of sending messages full of balloons and unnecessary emojis.