Apple’s top new iOS 11 features 

Apple’s top new iOS 11 features Apple announced new features at the WWDC 2017. Here are the top 10 features to look out for this fall: The Apple Pay Cash Card will let users pay and receive peer-to-peer money transactions in iMessage. Siri will be able to translate in various languages, like English, French, Chinese, German, Spanish and Italian. Siri Male and Female voice get an update to sound more natural. “Intelligence” feature will let Siri make suggestions on what you might find interesting. Users will be able swipe up to get access to the redesigned control center, and use 3D touch to expand the options. …

The 27 most interesting new features in iOS 11

If there were one big lesson from the announcements at Apple’s developer conference Monday morning, it’s this: It’s getting harder and harder to add Big New Features to a phone operating system.

When iOS 11, the new, free iPhone/iPad OS upgrade comes this fall, you won’t gain any big-ticket feature. Instead, you’ll get a wholllllle lot of tiny nips and tucks. They seem to fall into five categories: Nice Tweaks, Storage Help, iPad Exclusives, Playing Catch-Up, Fixing Bad Design.

Nice Tweaks

Expectations set? OK—here’s what’s new.

  • A new voice for Siri. The new male and female voices sound much more like actual people.
  • One-handed typing. There’s a new keyboard that scoots closer to one side, for easier one-handed typing. (You can now zoom in Maps one-handed, too.)
The new one-handed keyboard.
  • Quicker transfer. When you get a new iPhone, you can import all your settings from the old one just by focusing the camera on the new phone on the old one’s screen.
  • Do not disturb while driving. This optional feature sounds like a really good one. When the phone detects that you’re driving—because it’s connected to your phone’s Bluetooth, or because the phone detects motion—it prevents any notifications (alert messages from your apps) from showing up to distract you. If someone texts you, they get an auto-response like, “I’m driving. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.” (You can designate certain people as VIPs; if they text the word “urgent” to you, their messages break through the blockade.)
No more distracting notifications while you’re on the road.
  • Improvements to Photos. The Photos app offers smarter auto-slideshows (called Memories). Among other improvements, they now play well even when you’re holding the phone upright.
  • Improvements to Live Photos. Live Photos are weird, three-second video clips, which Apple (AAPL) introduced in iOS 9. In iOS 11, you can now shorten one, or mute its audio, or extract a single frame from that clip to use as a still photo. The phone can also suggest a “boomerang” segment (bounces back and forth) or a loop (repeats over and over). And it has a new Slow Shutter filter, which (for example) blurs a babbling brook or stars moving across the sky, as though taken with a long exposure.
  • Swipe the Lock screen back down. You can now get back to your Lock screen without actually locking your iPhone—to have another look at a notification you missed, for example.
  • Smarter Siri. Siri does better an anticipating your next move (location, news, calendar appointments). When you’re typing, the auto-suggestions above the keyboard now offer movie names, song names, or place names that you’ve recently viewed in other apps. Auto-suggestions in Siri, too, include terms you’ve recently read. And if you book a flight or buy a ticket online, iOS offers to add it to your calendar.
  • AirPlay 2. If you buy speakers from Bose, Marantz, and a few other manufactures (unfortunately, not Sonos), you can use your phone to control multi-room audio. You can start the same song playing everywhere, or play different songs in different rooms.
  • Shared “Up Next” playlist. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, your party guests or buddies can throw their own “what song to play next” ideas into the ring.
  • Screen recording. Now you can do more than just take a screenshot of what’s on your screen. You can make a video of it! Man, will that be helpful for people who teach or review phone software! (Apple didn’t say how you start the screen recording, though.)

Storage Help

Running out of room on the iPhone is a chronic problem. Apple has a few features designed to help:

  • Camera app. Apple is adopting new file formats for photos (HEIF, or High Efficiency Image Format) and videos (H265 or High Efficiency Video Codec), which look the same as they did before but consume only the half the space. (When you export to someone else, they convert to standard formats.)
  • Messages in iCloud. When you sign into any new Mac, iPhone, or iPad with your iCloud credentials, your entire texting history gets downloaded automatically. (As it is now, when you sign in on a new machine, you can’t see the Message transcript histories.) Saving the Messages history online also saves disk space on your Mac.
  • Storage optimization. The idea: As your phone begins to run out of space, your oldest files are quietly and automatically stored online, leaving Download icons in their places on your phone, so that you can retrieve them if you need them.

iPad Exclusives

Many of the biggest changes in iOS 11 are available only on the iPad.

  • Mac features. In general, the big news here is the iPad behaves much more like a Mac. For example, you can drag-and-drop pictures and text between apps. The Dock is now extensible, available from within any app, and perfect for switching apps, just as on the Mac. There’s a new Mission Control-type feature, too, for seeing what’s in your open apps—even when you’ve split the screen between pairs of apps.
The iPad now offers a “Mission Control,” showing what’s going on in all your apps.
  • Punctuation and letters on the same keyboard. Now, punctuation symbols appear above the letter keys. You flick down on the key to “type” the punctuation—no more having to switch keyboard layouts.
No more switching keyboards just to type punctuation.
  • A file manager! A new app called Files lets you work with (and search) files and folders, just as you do on the Mac or PC. It even shows your Box and Dropbox files.
A Finder–a desktop–comes at last to iOS.
  • Pencil features. If you’ve bought Apple’s stylus, you can tap the Lock screen and start taking notes right away. You can mark up PDFs just by starting to write on them. A new feature lets you snap a document with the iPad’s camera, which straightens and crops the page so that you can sign it or annotate it. Handwriting in the Notes app is now searchable, and you can make drawings within any Note or email message.
The iPad grows ever closer to becoming a legal pad.

Playing Catch-Up

With every new OS from Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Microsoft (MSFT), or Apple, there’s a set of “us, too!” features that keeps them all competitive. This time around, it’s:

  • Lane guidance. When you’re driving, Maps now lets you know which lane to be in for your next turn, just as Google Maps does.
Lane guidance. At last.
  • Indoor Maps. The Maps app can now show you floor plans for a few malls and 30 airports, just as Google Maps does.
  • Siri translates languages. Siri is trying to catch up to Google Assistant. For example, it can now translate phrases from English into Chinese, French, German, Italian, or Spanish. For example, you can say, “How do you say ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ in French?”
  • Siri understands followup questions. Siri now does better at understanding followup questions. (“Who won the World Series in 1980?” “The “Phillies.” “Who was their coach?”)
  • Person-to-Person payment within the Messages app. Now, you can send payments directly to your friends—your share of the pizza bill, for example—right from within the Messages app, much as people do now with Venmo, PayPal, and their its ilk. (Of course, this works only if your friends have iPhones, too.) When money comes to you, it accrues to a new, virtual Apple Pay Cash Card; from there, you can send it to your bank, buy things with it, or send it on to other people.

  • iCloud file sharing. Finally, you can share files you’ve stored on your iCloud Drive with other people, just as you’ve been able to do with Dropbox for years.

Fixing Bad Design

Some of the changes repair the damage Apple made to itself in iOS 10. For example:

  • Redesigned apps drawer in Messages. All the stuff they added to Messages last year (stickers, apps, live drawing) cluttered up the design and wound up getting ignored by lots of people. The new design is cleaner.
  • Redesigned Control Center. In iOS 10, Apple split up the iPhone’s quick-settings panel, called the Control Center, into two or three panels. You had to swipe sideways to find the control you wanted—taking care not to swipe sideways on one of the controls, thereby triggering it. Now it’s all on one screen again, although some of the buttons open up secondary screens of options. And it’s customizable! You can, for example, add a “Record voice memo” button to it.
The new, customizable, somewhat ugly Control Center.
  • App Store. The App store gets a big redesign. One chief fix is breaking out Games into its own tab, so that game and non-game bestseller lists are kept separate.
After nine years, the App Store gets a new look.

Coming this fall

There are also dozens of improvements to the features for overseas iPhones (China, Russia, India, for example). And many, many enhancements to features for the disabled (spoken captions for videos and pictures, for example).

So what’s the overarching theme of the iOS 11 upgrade?

There isn’t one. It’s just a couple hundred little fine-tunings. All of them welcome—and all of them aimed to keep you trapped within Apple’s growing ecosystem.

More from David Pogue:

Inside the World’s Greatest Scavenger Hunt: Part 1    •  Part 2   •   Part 3  •  Part 4  •  Part 5

The DJI Spark is the smallest, cheapest obstacle-avoiding drone yet 

The new Samsung Galaxy does 27 things the iPhone doesn’t

The most important announcements from Google’s big developer’s conference

Google Home’s mastermind has no intention of losing to Amazon

Now I get it: Ransomware

Google exec explains how Google Assistant just got smarter

Amazon’s Alexa calling is like a Jetsons version of the home phone

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, is the author of “iPhone: The Missing Manual.” He welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email

 

Watch Apple’s two-hour WWDC 2017 keynote in 19 minutes

Just days before Apple’s WWDC 2017 event kicked off, Foxconn employees dumped a bunch of rumors on Reddit, signaling tons of new hardware to come from the Cupertino-based company. From new iPhones to an AR glasses, the leaks suggested that there were quite a few hardware news to watch for. But just how many of them did Apple actually reveal in the opening keynote?

If you missed it, here’s a supercut of the entire two-hour keynote edited down to a snack-sized 19 minutes featuring iOS 11, iMacs, HomePod, and more. And when you’re done, you can check out more detailed looks at each story here.

iOS 11 makes the iPad feel more like a Mac

iOS 11 isn’t coming out until this fall, but Apple had the preview loaded up on its new 10.5-inch iPad Pro today for members of the press to check out. I got to the play with the operating system for a few minutes while handling the tablet, and what stands out the most is just how complicated it’s starting to feel — but in a way that shows the platform is evolving, not getting harder to use.

The biggest updates in iOS 11 are on the iPad. And for once, iOS is taking hints from macOS, instead of the other way around.

iOS’s new dock, in particular, feels like it’s come straight from the Mac. It can now hold as many apps as you want, and those apps retain their previous windowing state when they’re opened up again — so something you had in split-screen will stay in split-screen when you resume use of it. It’s a little bit like the Mac’s Spaces features.

The dock hides much like it does for fullscreen Mac apps, too. But instead of moving your mouse cursor down, you just swipe up to reveal the dock again. Swiping to find the dock feels really natural, and, more importantly, it’s handy. I’ve never felt like I was able to quickly move around iOS, but it already feels like iOS 11 will start to change that.

Part of that is because Apple has also brought something that resembles Mission Control to the iPad as well. If you swipe up on the dock (or do a single long swipe while the dock is hidden), all of your open apps, including ones you have in split-screen, will appear in a grid. It’s way more efficient than the existing task switcher, which required you to move through apps one at a time. (One other interesting note about all this swiping: it sure helps to obviate the need for a Home button!)

This all comes together to help make iOS feel like a big interconnected workspace, instead of a storage container for a bunch of disparate apps. Apple’s new drag-and-drop feature is another example of that. You no longer have to use the awful share sheet to move a single file around; you can just drag an object around the operating system until you find the app you want to put it in.

Selecting multiple objects for drag and drop is pretty easy: you press and hold on a single object, then tap any additional objects with another finger. It seems ideal for moving a few items at once, rather than the contents of an entire folder, but it’s still a huge improvement over the old way of moving things around, where every item felt locked into an app until it went through the magic “share sheet” and got spit out on the other side.

Apple’s new Files app ties into this, too, as a central hub for moving things around. The app is basically just Finder from the Mac, but it’s been upgraded in a really smart way: cloud services like Dropbox and Box are build right into the sidebar instead of with premade folders for photos and movies. Tags are there, too, and I expect to use them exactly as infrequently (never) as I do on the Mac. But hey, they’re pretty easy to apply thanks to the drag-and-drop feature.

On one hand, all of these changes complicate the iPad and could make the device harder for some people to use. The operating system no longer feels like it’s as “on rails” as it used to be. But in my quick use of iOS 11, the interactions all seemed to make sense, especially as someone coming from the Mac. That’s something I’ve been hoping Apple would do for a long time, and it’s shaping the iPad Pro into something much more similar to a traditional laptop.

Some other stray impressions:

  • Control Center looks pretty complicated and intimidating and kind of like a Cubist art piece, especially on the iPad where it’s displayed in one long vertical strip. That being said, a lot of people are going to love how many more controls are exposed here, including a toggle just for cellular radio. Press and hold on certain panels, and they’ll pop open to offer even more buttons, too.
  • I couldn’t hear Siri super well given how loud the demo area was, but the updated female Siri voice sounded about the same and still had a robotic edge to it.
  • The swipable key feature, where you’re able to drag down on a key to get a special character, was only present on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. On the larger model, you still had to use the keyboard with special characters. That may have just been because this was an early demo, and I hope so — the swiping feature was way faster than switching to another keyboard (especially for something like inserting parenthesis).
  • The iPad I was playing with didn’t have any notifications. And without any notifications, the new notification shade (which is just the lock screen) seemed a bit strange. It was the first time I felt a little bit like I was lost.
  • I was able to play with Apple’s ARKit live in the demo room. It works just as advertised, with a cup, lamp, and chair properly settling down on a table and scaling to the right size as I moved the iPad around. There wasn’t much to do beyond that yet, but it worked, and it’s the kind of thing that people will likely have a whole lot of fun with if Apple builds features like this into the iPhone’s camera. Think built-in Snapchat World lenses. Sorry, Snap.

WWDC 2017: iOS 11, HomePod, and everything else you need to know

June means one thing in the tech world: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is here. Apple CEO Tim Cook gave the WWDC 2017 keynote speech earlier today in San Jose, California. From the highly anticipated Siri speaker to the new iOS, Cook gave Apple superfans a lot to look forward to in the months to come.

WWDC welcomed developers and attendees from 75 countries around the world in it’s biggest conference yet. Tim Cook and company had six major umbrella announcements to share.

If you couldn’t watch the keynote live or keep up with the live blog, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you missed from day one at WWDC.

iOS 11

Among the most highly anticipated updates from WWDC 2017 was iOS 11. And Apple didn’t let us down. As was speculated, Apple finally decided to bring drag and drop into our iOS lives. In old the days, users had to copy and paste everything between apps. Now, you can simply drag the items you want to come into another app when in Split View. 

Drag and drop on the iPad.

Drag and drop on the iPad.

Image: Apple

iOS 11 is also packed with changes to Siri. Siri now uses deep learning to offer more natural male and female voices. There is new visual, Siri can understand your context better, and you speak to the device to be translated into other languages. And anything that Siri learns about you on one device will go on every device.

Some more updates are a unified lock screen and notifications center, a redesigned control center, and and updates to Messages. Finally, Apple Pay will allow you to pay friends and family, much like Venmo. Maps gets indoor maps of malls and airports as well as lane guidance for navigation.

HomePod 

Image: wwdc

Apple enthusiasts have been wanting their own speaker for quite some time now. At WWDC on Monday, Tim Cook and company introduced just that. The HomePod is essentially Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo, only it’s designed with an emphasis on music. That means HomePod is bigger since it needs to house a four-inch woofer in addition to seven tweeters. Siri is of course built-in so users can interact via voice and it has the new job of “musicologist,” responding to natural-language commands about music (“Play something mellow,” et al.). HomePod will also do common tasks like alarms, timers, conversions, and some web-search queries, and it also works with HomeKit devices.

App Store redesign

The App Store is getting a makeover. First of all, Apple gave the store a completely new design, something that has never been done before. It starts with a brand new tab called Today. This will show the app of the day and game of the day on a daily list. Users can also scroll down to see what they may have missed in previous days. 

Games also have their own space. The biggest new releases, what people are playing that week, and tips from game editors will all be available in the Games tab. 

Image: wwdc presentation

When a developer submits and app to Apple, it’ll get reviewed faster than ever before — within 24 hours of being submitted, if not sooner. App listings will also get improved, media-rich cards to help users get the most information on each app they may want to download. 

MacBook and MacBook Pro refresh

Apple gave both the ultra-thin MacBook and the MacBook Pro a small but relevant refresh, giving both lines the latest Intel Core chips, the 7th-gen Kaby Lake. Battery life and weight are the same, but the pricing for the 13-inch MacBook Pro (with no Touch Bar) gets its price reduced to $1,299.

Image: wwdc presentation

On brand with Apple’s environmental friendliness, the new MacBook is free of harmful components and is easily recyclable. 

iMac Pro

Apple surprised everyone with a new iMac model called the iMac Pro, said to be the most powerful iMac yet. The display will be 43 percent brighter and can now support up to a billion colors, making it more true to real life than ever before. The desktop features monstrous processing power — a Xeon processor with up to 18 cores and discrete Radeon Vega graphics.

Image: wwdc presentation

The new iMac Pro will have twice the memory of the standard 27-inch iMac, built-in 10Gigabit Ethernet, and a dual fan to better air flow and cooling. It will be available in December starting at $4,999. If you want a beast for editing VR footage, this is your baby.

Apple Music revamp

Apple Music, which now stands at 27 million users, introduced the new “Friends are Listening To” feature, which can be set to public or private to let you see what your friends are into these days. Along with that, Apple announced MusicKit so developers can better integrate Apple Music as a service in other apps.

MacOS High Sierra

Apple released the new MacOS High Sierra, which is all about deep technologies. Safari gets blocking of autoplay videos on websites. Mail search will have a Spotlight to identify your most wanted mail, new Javascript that is faster and crazy updates to graphics. Metal 2 will open doors for better graphics as well as VR. 

Image: wwdc presentation

Among other updates, photo faces, tags and likes will now be automatically synced across devices. There will also be new editing tools and the ability to create photo books with third parties right from Photos. 

watchOS 4

The Apple Watch just got a major bump. The first thing announced was new watch faces. With watchOS 4, Siri uses machine learning to show you what you need to know (like what’s coming up on your calendar and when the sun will set that day). You can also choose the Kaleidoscope face or one of the new Disney-inspired faces, which live play whenever the face is raised. 

Image: WWDC Presentation

Perhaps the newest update with watchOS is the healthy initiative. The watch gives you monthly challenges based on your past experience and use, visual celebrations for milestones reached, and inspiration with updates on how close you are to goals.

Image: wwdc presentation 

Apple also added a pool swim workout with auto sets and the ability to track multiple workouts in a row by swiping over to the current workout. You can also now track indoor workouts at the gym by exchanging data in real time between equipment and your watch. Even better, you can pick a playlist that automatically starts when you begin your workout and control the music right away by swiping left. More updates, like the blinking flashlight for night runs, continuous monitoring of paired glucose sensors, and calorie-burning data will be available with a free upgrade this fall. 

tvOS update

The Apple TV app got a small but very relevant update at WWDC on Monday. Apple TV users will finally get a dedicated app for Amazon video, including Prime. Apple promised more Apple TV updates later in the year.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 is the next generation of Apple’s AirPlay wireless streaming tech, and it now supports audio in multiple rooms as well as HomeKit devices. It can be used for Apple TV, Siri and music playlists (which can be accessed by multiple people without interrupting sound flow). 

ARKit

Apple finally planted its flat in the world of augmented reality. Apple says its ARKit is the largest AR platform in the world. ARKit includes scale estimation, motion tracking, ambient light estimation, and support for Unity, Unreal and SceneKit virtual environment development tools. It will be available this fall with the new iOS 11. 

CarPlay and Do Not Disturb While Driving

If you’re in a moving car, your iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 will automatically go into Do Not Disturb While Driving mode. This will mute all notifications and send your contacts a message letting them know you will get back to them when you reach your destination. Passengers can, of course, simply declare that they’re not driving to get access to their phones. 

Photos

Image: wwdc presentation

The update to Photos will give you better image quality, improved low light performance, and depth API. Users can now capture a frame in a live photo to make it the key photo, instead of the one that was originally captured. You can also enjoy photos in the memories app, which uses machine learning to identify sporting events, weddings, and babies. You can use computer vision to create a seamless loop of a photo or add a bounce. Finally, you can now select long exposure to get more movement and effects on your photos, among other updates. 

iPad Pro

The new iPad Pro still weighs just a pound, but has some serious new updates. It’s supposedly the perfect size for a full-size on-screen keyboard and full-size smart keyboard as well. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s got a 20% larger screen than the 9.7-inch iPad, but its overall dimensions aren’t significantly bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad thanks to 40% slimmer bezels. The display’s not quite edge-to-edge as rumored for the iPhone 8, but it’s still nice to see the bezels get shrunken down. It supports 30 languages and boasts the first Japanese keyboard. It comes with an Apple pencil, uses ProMotion, a new photo-editing app, and so much more. 

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Apple plans to make iOS the largest augmented reality platform around, overnight

Pokemon Go was undeniably one of 2016’s biggest gaming success stories, offering a wholly new mobile experience that hinged on location-based gameplay and augmented reality technology. Today at WWDC 2017, Apple unveiled ARKit, a new platform that will allow developers to integrate computer vision into their projects with greater ease than ever before.

Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, debuted ARKit with a live demonstration on stage. He used an iPhone to run a test application that could place virtual objects on a surface in front of him at the touch of a button.

The coffee cup that Federighi set on the table remained in place as he moved around with his iPhone in hand, without the kind of stuttering or unwanted rotation that can break immersion in this kind of experience. He went on to add a lamp to the scene, which cast a realistic shadow from the coffee cup to demonstrate the way virtual objects can interact.

ARKit will provide fast, stable motion tracking that developers can build into their apps. It’s capable of seeking out planes like tables and floors, it can estimate how much ambient light is in the vicinity, and it’s capable of balancing the scale of various objects to ensure the scene is congruent.

The utility will apparently work alongside third-party frameworks like Unity and Unreal as well as Apple’s own SceneKit to give developers more freedom in their creative process.

Apple is bullish that ARKit will become the largest AR platform in the world overnight, thanks to the hundreds of millions of iPads and iPhones already out in the wild, already capable of running content created using the tools. The company has already been working with some big-name partners, with IKEA and Lego both having experimented with the platform.

Meanwhile, Niantic has used ARKit to make Pokemon Go even more immersive. The way that Pokemon are rendered in real-world environments has been improved, integrating them into their environment with a greater sense of place and space.

Wingnut AR, a sister studio of Peter Jackson’s movie production company, then demonstrated its usage of the technology on stage. A standard table top was transformed into a sci-fi battle, with explosions and artillery covering the surface and spilling out into the ‘skies’ above.

ARKit is set to launch as part of iOS 11 later this year.

Apple launches WatchOS 4.0 with smart Siri watch face, improved fitness tracking

Why it matters to you

If you’re an Apple Watch owner — or thinking of becoming one — the device is about to get a lot smarter and easier to use.

Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the latest and greatest iteration of WatchOS, its smartwatch operating system. WatchOS 4, as the new version is called, was unveiled at Apple’s WWDC, and boasts a number of great new features.

Perhaps the biggest change to WatchOS comes in the form of a slew of new watch faces, and the smartest and most interesting of those has to be the new Siri watch face. As the name suggests, this face intelligently selects information that you might need at any given moment — and that information will change throughout the day. The face will pull from apps like the Calendar app, as well as the Home app, to offer controls for smart home devices that you often use at a certain time of the day.

Perhaps the biggest change to WatchOS comes in the form of a slew of new watch faces.

The Siri face isn’t the only new watch face — Apple also continued its partnership with Disney, and will offer watch faces for Toy Story’s Woody, Jessie, and Buzz, as well as an update to the Kaleidoscope watch faces, which offer a slightly less intelligent but slightly more visual take on the Apple Watch watch face.

Of course, one of the most important features of the Apple Watch is its fitness tracking, and Apple has improved the watch’s Fitness and Workout apps. The Workout app now supports custom workout algorithms for high-intensity training, which will be helpful for those who prefer to work out at the gym rather than going on runs or swimming.

You can also now much more quickly and easily start a new workout while you’re already in a workout — simple swipe left and hit the “+” button, then scroll through the workouts available. Apple is also now working with gym equipment manufacturers to deploy NFC chips — meaning you’ll get the information from gym equipment on your watch, which should make for more accurate tracking.

The last major update in WatchOS 4.0 comes in the form of the Music app, which will now automatically update selected playlists and favorites that you can play using your AirPods.

The WatchO 4S update perhaps isn’t as big as previous updates to the operating system, but the changes that are coming should help refine the Apple Watch experience a little more.

Apple’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a more efficient multitasking tablet

Earlier today Apple announced a new version of the iPad Pro, a 10.5-inch model that is technically just a little bit larger than the earlier 9.7-inch tablet but, with 40 percent smaller bezels, offers much more screen real estate. Like all of the high-end iPad Pros its an impressive piece of hardware, with a brighter display, a new 64-bit A10X Fusion chip, and something called Pro Motion that increases the refresh rate and, Apple claims, makes the accessory pencil even more natural-feeling.

For most people the first question to ask is probably: Okay, well how big is it? We didn’t have a 9.7-inch model on hand to compare the two, but I can tell you that the 10-inch iPad felt like a “normal”-sized iPad and isn’t nearly as ginormous as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

What’s more interesting are the new iOS 11 multitasking features for iPad that are borrowed from macOS. In some ways it feels as though Apple has stopped trying to convince its iPad users (or potential iPad customers) that they should just figure out how to be productive despite mobile limitations, and has acknowledged that some people might actually like to be able to manipulate apps and files on mobile. In some ways it’s even reminiscent of what Microsoft was trying to do with Windows 8 on Surface tablet, as my colleague Tom Warren astutely pointed out.

The first thing you’ll notice about the new iOS 11 on iPad is that there’s an app dock at the bottom of the display. It automatically appears on the home screen, but when you’re in an app you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to pull up the dock at any time. From there, you can drag and drop another app to the side of the screen to put it in multitasking mode. Some, like iMessage, even exist as floating sidebars now, rather than apps that snap onto the side of the screen.

After using the iPad Pro for just a few minutes I’ve pretty much determined that a dock is one of the simplest and yet best things Apple could have done for iPad, which I’ve had a hard time accepting as a true productivity device, but there’s more.

You can now switch between iPad apps by activating a Mission Control-like interface using a four-finger swipe. This casts apps into spaces and lets you look at all of the apps that are opened or running. The four-finger swipe felt a little awkward and not-entirely-responsive on the iPad I tried it on, but iOS 11 is still in beta for now.

Drag and drop is also worth mentioning. In iOS 11 you can open two apps side-by-side — let’s use Mail and Safari as an example — and drag and drop web content directly into an email draft. You can also drag and drop any app into the dock, or just move it around the home screen (and the little delete “x” won’t appear as you’re doing this). Apps still fall into Apple’s predetermined arrangement of application icons, which means you can’t move apps anywhere; and you still can’t put files anywhere you want on on the mobile home screen. But Apple thinks it has a solution for that, too.

Which is Files, the thing that was leaked just before WWDC kicked off today. I didn’t get the chance to play with this app much, and again, I was using it on a pre-registered demo model. But one of the more interesting features of this is the ability to use multi-touch to grab a bunch of files from one folder and drag them into another. You’re supposed to press down on one file first, and then you can use your remaining free fingers to tap other file thumbnails, and they’re immediately added to your selection.

There are other new iPad Pro-specific features too, like the fact that text you write with the accessory Pencil can be indexed in Spotlight search results. And of course there’s an Apple-made smart accessory keyboard for this particular size and model.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro goes on sale today and ships next week; while iOS 11 ships to consumers in the fall. The iPad costs $648 for the 64-gigabyte base model and creeps up from there, which not surprisingly puts it firmly in the category of very high-end tablets, unlike the $329 model we reviewed a couple months ago.

Despite the fact that Apple’s iPad sales have been declining for the past several quarters, Apple seems determined to make iPad work as a serious computing device, not just a tablet people use to shop and browse and consume. This is clearly another step in that direction.

Apple’s new tablets pack cutting-edge hardware, revamped software

Why it matters to you

If you’re in the market for an iPad that can replace your PC, the new iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9 come the closest yet.

Apple took the wraps off the new iPad Pro lineup at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on Monday. The iPad Pro 10.5 and the iPad Pro 12.9 — the company’s latest slates — replace the iPad 9.7 and last year’s iPad Pro 12.9, respectively. They both boast sleek, slim designs, cutting-edge hardware to match, and revamped software with a focus on productivity.

Design is the highlight of the new iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9. The tablets’ Retina displays, which have the same physical footprint as the iPad Pro models they’re replacing, feature narrower bezels and Apple’s True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts color temperature based on surrounding lighting conditions. They also boast wider color gamut, as well as  Pro Motion, a new innovation that uses a combination of software and hardware to improve the iPad Pro’s screen refresh rate from 60Hz to 120Hz.

Under the hood of the new iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9 is Apple’s six-core A10X processor and 12-core GPU, a significant step up from the iPad 9.7’s processor. Apple says it’s 30 percent faster than the A9X, 40 percent faster in graphics, and 500 times faster than the original iPad. Apple says it’s incredibly energy efficient, too — despite all those performance improvements, the new iPad Pro models last an impressive 10 hours on battery.

The new iPad Pros are also notable for the the similarities they share with the outgoing iPad Pro 9.7 and 12.9. They have the same four-speaker technology introduced on last year’s iPad, which adjusts bass and higher frequencies according to the position in which they’re held. And their cameras are the same as the iPhone 7’s, including a 12-megapixel f/1.8 sensor with optical image stabilization on the rear, and a 7-megapixel HD camera on the front.

Apple is also shipping new accessories alongside the new iPad Pros. USB-3 and USB-C adapters will work via a dongle, and there’s a new sleeve for the Apple Pencil.

New software additions — courtesy of iOS 11, the upcoming version of Apple’s mobile operating system — include a full-size on-screen keyboard, called the Flick keyboard, that will support more than 30 languages at launch. A new predictive area in the iOS dock can switch between apps, and a new drag-and-drop feature lets you move images, text, and URLs between panes of split-screen apps by tapping and holding on them.

Those aren’t the only improvements in tow. Infinity Photo, an editing tool, lets you mock up photos in real time. Notes has a built-in document scanner that the Apple Pencil can launch from the iPad Pro’s lock screen. And a new app — Files — provides access to the iPad’s on-device storage. You can search tags across third-party storage providers, and dive into nested folders, recent documents, and even iCloud content.

Finally, Apple has revamped some of the Apple Pencil’s tools. You can mark up any document that prints using AirPrint, and create a PDF — or handwritten email via iOS’s Mail app — on the fly. Even better: Handwriting is searchable across apps.

The new iPad Pro 9.7 and iPad 12.9 ship next week. Both come with double the base storage — 64GB of memory versus 32GB — and start at $650.

Apple HomePod speaker favors sound over Siri

Apparently Apple knows Siri kinda sucks, because it was the last thing mentioned in the unveiling of the new HomePod speaker. That’s why it’s dumpily named as a successor to the iPod, not Apple’s old-but-unwise voice assistant.

The $349 HomePod Wi-Fi speaker has seven beam-forming tweeters, a custom subwoofer, multi-channel echo cancelling and acoustic modeling in an Apple-y little futuristic shell, trumpeted VP Phil Schiller. Only after gabbing on and on about its sound quality and elegance did he throw up a final slide of the limited range of non-music voice assistance HomePod can provide.

Going head-to-head with Google Home’s speech recognition or Amazon Echo’s voice command developer ecosystem could have been disastrous. It’s frustrating yet permissible when Siri stumbles on your phone where you can easily default to your thumbs. But on a screenless speaker like HomePod, if Siri sucks, the whole gadget does too.

So rather than let you try and fail to ask HomePod anything, Apple focused on making it somewhat competent at a few categories of questions. At least it can transcribe and send messages, do basic translation, read you news and control your IoT devices. And it’s got music covered, letting you request similar songs, get production details and discover music by genre or date.

Apple says it will unlock more HomePod Siri functionality eventually, making use of the six internal microphones. And to court the privacy buffs, it only listens and sends anonymized, encrypted data back to Apple after you’ve said “Hey Siri” rather than constantly eavesdropping.

But really, this is Apple’s admission that it needed to kick the voice command can down the road a bit and strengthen Siri — but it goes gunning for Google and Amazon. In the short-term, it can focus on defeating long-time partner Sonos for multi-room audio, which iOS will soon support natively through HomeKit and AirPlay 2.

HomePod might be a bit underwhelming, and the unseemly name is equal parts camping gear, alien hive and dishwashing detergent. But Apple is the master of the slow invasion. The iPod also started as just music, allowing Apple into your pocket, until the tech improved so it could display video before blossoming into the iPhone. That device was just a multi-touch feature phone with a few Apple utilities until it became everything with the App Store launch.

With sleek branding, favored integrations with Apple’s other products and the company’s retail footprint, HomePod could mature into a true contender if Siri can get smarter.

But for now, Apple is stuck hawking sound quality where many mainstream consumers can’t tell the difference. And Apple’s prestigious position as the luxury lifestyle device maker doesn’t give it as much advantage in selling gadgets that sit on a shelf. You don’t necessarily need the smallest or prettiest smart speaker because fewer people see and judge your status by it like they do with your phone.

Apple will have to compete with other tech giants over software smarts you can’t see, where it’s lagged recently. Like a brutish house guest that’s always breaking or messing up your stuff, Siri might be too stupid to let inside just yet.