Apple unveiled a smarter Siri personal assistant Monday that includes some features already offered by Google, but the company emphasized that it’s improving Siri without compromising its commitment to user privacy.
An update to the iPhone and iPad operating system coming this fall will deliver a Siri that’s able to search through more apps than ever and offer users’ information based on what it thinks they might want to know. That includes automatically adding event invitations to the Calendar app, telling iPhone holders who might be calling based on an unknown number matching one in an email and launching the Music app when someone plugs in headphones in the morning because that’s become their routine.
Apple made the announcement to kick off its weeklong Worldwide Developers Conference, a gathering for appmakers to learn about Apple products.
“We think these kind of intelligence features make a huge difference in iOS 9,” Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, told an audience of media and software developers at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Google Now, part of Google’s mobile app, has similar “intelligence.” But without naming Google, Federighi said Apple’s version keeps users anonymous. Apple might show freeway traffic data based on a user’s location, but it doesn’t associate that location with a person’s Apple ID for example. Last week, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook also called out competitors that were “gobbling up” data about people and trying to make money mining that information.
Apple reiterated its privacy message in revealing Monday a new app called News, which will include articles from ESPN, Wired and other publications. Information about what someone reads will be kept private and won't be shared with other companies, Federighi said.
Overshadowing the announcements was a new service, Apple Music, that includes streaming songs, radio and music-related videos, and social media posts.
But Apple showed off much more too. For the first time, iOS 9, Apple's updated operating system, includes a Maps app that has public transit directions. It will be limited to select cities in the U.S. and China.
IPhone owners looking to use their device as a credit or debit card at retailers will have more options because Apple Pay will now support both store-branded cards and loyalty programs for places such as Dunkin Donuts' and Walgreens.
On tablets, iOS 9 introduces multitasking to the iPad Air 2 so that users can interact with multiple apps at once; swiping through emails with one hand and editing a document with the other are among the possibilities. Or users could watch a basketball game in a mini-window while answering emails in a bigger window.
Most importantly, Apple plans to reduce the file size of the update so that users won't be scrambling to delete photos and videos to make room for it.
Beginning this fall, iMac and Macbook users will be able to upgrade to El Capitan for free. It brings the ability to search through computer files through more conversational queries, like “Mail I ignored from Phil” and “Documents I worked on last June.”
The trackpad will become friendlier. Swiping across it like crazy will magnify the black arrow on the screen to help users spot it. Apps will have more swipe gestures, mimicking some of the swiping abilities of a smartphone. Safari is getting a feature called “Pinned tabs” that will let users choose certain websites they want to be loaded and ready to view every time the browser is launched.
Other under-the-hood improvements should make apps load faster, Apple said. PDFs, for instance, should load four times faster when using the Preview app.
Apple said little about the Apple Watch, other than that apps should be getting quicker because they’ll soon be able to run directly off the watch’s internal system instead of the iPhone to which it’s connected. Small changes in the watch's underlying software, watchOS 2, include new watch faces and more apps that take advantage of Watch's microphone and crown. The update is expected to be available for free this fall.
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