iOS 15: Playing the expectations game

iOS 14.5 is about to drop and WWDC 2021 is only weeks away, so it seems this is a good moment to consider what’s next for Apple’s mobile systems.

iPad widgets and Home screen

As recently noted here, Apple is expected to make a few changes to widgets and Home screen layouts on iPads. Principally, users will be able to place widgets anywhere on the iPad Home screen, rather than only in the Today View column. You’ll also be able to replace all the apps on your Home page with widgets. And expect some changes to the lock screen also.

New icon designs

Apple has altered the icon designs for three of its less widely used apps: Apple Music for Artists; App Store Connect; and the Apple Developers apps. All three now look more 3D, embossed, with icons surrounded by a thin lozenge-shaped border. These revamped icons may suggest a new design language for iOS, particularly as the same design lexicography is visible in macOS Big Sur.

The last major iOS UI design took place in 2009.

Notifications changes

Enterprise users may like the improved notification controls, which become more responsive to status. Bloomberg recently claimed the OS will introduce more granular notification controls. These may include a little intelligence, so your device may not issue an incoming notification chime in the event you have set your status to driving, working, sleeping, or other custom categories.

Automated message responses

These changes to notifications could extend to message response. This means you’ll be able to create automatic message responses that will be sent to others if you are contacted while working, sleeping, or involved in other activities defined by the user.

At present, iOS will only share an automated response when the user is driving. Automatic message responses and notification changes should be of use to anyone trying to focus on getting work done.

Control Center gets a little like Big Sur

The Control Center is expected to see a redesign that makes it more consistent with Control Center on Big Sur.

Apple vs. Facebook

As Facebook continues to dilute privacy in WhatsApp, Apple may move to make iMessage a more effective competitor to the service. This would extend to conversation flows that act more like social network chats rather than messages.

Much more information on app privacy

Apple’s improved privacy menu will show users which apps are collecting data about them, a move that should make it much easier to identify apps that attempt to undermine Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rules.

This should be a welcome step, as it will make it much easier to identify developers prepared to disrespect customers by failing to disclose their privacy practices in transparent fashion. It will also be of value to enterprises putting together approved-app policies.

Dual biometrics?

somewhat dubious claim suggests iOS 15 will support dual biometric authentication for future devices, offering both Touch and Face ID. Conceivably this would allow users to demand both authentication methods are in place concurrently, and might also allow them to favor one above the other, such as when using Apple Pay while wearing a mask.

What devices will it support?

iOS 15 is currently expected to abandon support for iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and the last generation iPhone SE. The software may no longer support iPad Air 2 and the 5th-generation iPad and iPad mini. Once the OS is announced, you’ll be able to check their status here.

Pro apps for pro iPads?

iPad critics have always been able to use the argument that Apple doesn’t offer its pro apps — Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro, and Xcode — to iPad users, not even on the iPad Pro.

Might this be about to change?

It’s possible, at least for the latest M1-powered iPad Pro. All three apps have already been made native to run on M1-powered Macs, and while the architecture of both platforms is slightly different and memory requirements may limit what you can do with the apps when run on an iPad, the fact both machines run the same processor surely makes this more likely.

Adobe, meanwhile, says it is working to ensure its apps run natively on Apple’s M1 computers — and its experience developing Photoshop for M1 Macs surely shows what’s possible using Apple Silicon.

My take? One thing you need for a pro device is pro apps, and the opportunity to build those apps for iPad Pro has never seemed greater.

What Apple is saying

Apple isn’t discussing the future of its operating systems yet and won’t do so until WWDC starts on June 7. The company, however, is foreshadowing a little of its strategy. Marketing Vice President Greg Joswiak points out that as Apple makes its devices more powerful it creates opportunities for developers.

“When we created the very first iPad Pro, there was no Photoshop. There were no creative apps that could immediately use it. But now there’s so many you can’t count. Because we created that capability, we created that performance — and, by the way, sold a fairly massive number of them — which is a pretty good combination for developers to then come in and say, ‘I can take advantage of that.’ There’s enough customers here, and there’s enough performance. I know how to use that. And that’s the same thing we do with each generation. We create more headroom to performance that developers will figure out how to use.”

We’ll find out much more about this — and the APIs Apple intends to empower its developers to innovate with — at WWDC.

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