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Apple previews new software for iPhone and other gadgets

A person in a mask and carrying a computer is shown in silhouette near the Apple company logo.
An employee of a New York Apple store wears a mask. At an event Monday, Apple unveiled improvements to software that powers iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Apple kicked off its second annual all-virtual developer conference with a keynote that outlined new updates to its software for iPhones and other devices. The presentation highlighted more privacy options for paid iCloud accounts and a Find My service that helps track down errant AirPods but included no major product announcements.

The latest renovations in Apple’s $2-trillion empire come at a pivotal time for the Cupertino, Calif., company. Apple is facing legal and regulatory threats to its control over its App Store, a so-called “walled garden” that produces substantial profits for the company.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, and other executives outlined updates to software for Apple’s many devices, including MacBooks, iMacs, iPhone, iPad and Watch.

Apple’s new MacOS software, dubbed Monterey, supports what Apple calls “universal control,” which lets people use one mouse and keyboard to control an iMac desktop computer, MacBook laptop and iPad at the same time.

Forrester analyst Julie Ask said the improvements Apple showed off, such as universal control, played to Apple’s strengths in blending its products and services.

“The news today was nothing ‘new new,’ like, ‘Holy cow. How did they make that happen?’” she said. “But each of us picks up our phone 100 or 200 times a day, and they’re making 100 little moments a day better, more seamless and easier.”

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In a high-stakes lawsuit the could have big implication for apps and mobile gaming, Epic Games has at times seemed to help make Apple’s case as much as its own.

She pointed out Apple’s plan to support digital IDs including driver’s licenses and state IDs from “participating U.S. states” in its digital wallet as another example. Apple did not identify which states that would include.

“They have an army of people trying to get these deals signed,” she said. “Apple gets a lot of criticism for being so controlling. But they can do things other big brands struggle to do.”

A “live text” feature in iOS 15 will let you highlight text in photos and copy and paste it or look it up online. It will also integrate AirPods into its Find My service, which helps people find lost or misplaced Apple products.

Apple is introducing more privacy features to its paid iCloud plans, including a way to hide your email address, the ability to encrypt video, and a Private Relay feature of Safari that encrypts data from the web browser similar to a VPN.

Paid plan pricing isn’t changing. Users pay for any iCloud storage above the 5 gigabytes offered for free. In the U.S., those plans start at $1 a month for 50 GB of storage.

Apple didn’t announce when iOS 15 would be available, but the company traditionally releases the free updates to all compatible iPhones in September.


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