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iOS 12: What to expect

Apple this week announced iOS 12, bringing with it improved apps and promises of performance improvement on older devices, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose this week promised to make up for two years of underwhelming updates to iOS. 

The event was intended to give developers insight into the capabilities of the new version of Apple’s iOS, and what they can harness before the official release in September. Developers have access to the first iOS 12 beta now, while everyone else has access to the public beta at the end of the month. While this public beta might be tempting to install, Apple is notorious for releasing extremely buggy public beta versions of iOS which are not suitable if iPhone is your daily driver.

iOS 10 and 11 often introduced more bugs and performance issues than useful features and improvements. iOS 12 has been unveiled as the better version of iOS, which deals with these known issues and improves performance on the older iPhone and iPad models. This promise was solidified by offering the upgrade to every iOS device that runs iOS 11, which means that every iPhone from the iPhone 5S onwards can be upgraded. 

The performance upgrades were announced by using the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus as an example of an older device. Compared to iOS 11, iOS 12 is claimed to launch apps up to 40% faster, the keyboard displays up to 50% faster when requested, and the camera launches up to 70% faster from the lock-screen shortcut.

The only new iOS feature is grouped notifications. Users can group notifications by person or app if the person or app creates too many notifications on the iOS device. This feature has been a long time coming and has been a feature in Android since 2014.

True to its promise to jpin the fight against phone addiction, Apple introduced a new health app that doesn’t require any additional technology. The Digital Health Dashboard provides insights into how many times one picks up one’s phone, how much time one spends on particular apps and provides warnings when one is using an app too much. It can also be used by parents to monitor iPhone or iPad app time usage and block apps after a certain amount of time spent on them. 

For example, if you feel Instagram wastes a lot of time, you can prescribe an hour a day and no more than that. iOS will warn you when you have 5 minutes left to use it.

Animoji, the facial-tracking emoji videos on the iPhone X, has been improved by introducing tongue recognition. A new extension of Animoji called Memoji allows users to create virtual avatar-style emojis to use as an Animoji. This is clearly following in the footsteps of Samsung’s facial tracking AR Emoji.

Siri gets an update but not as great as one would expect. Siri Shortcuts is a new feature which allows users to create recipes for phrases, similar to the IFTTT app, which can be used to execute multiple actions. For example, one can create a Siri Shortcut to the phrase “I’m coming home” to turn on a smart home heater, begin boiling a smart home kettle, find the fastest route home in the Map app and start playing a favourite radio station via CarPlay.

CarPlay gets an upgrade, with the integration of third-party map apps like Waze and Google Maps. A great step forward in the direction of a great smart car experience with the iPhone.

Group FaceTime, a highly anticipated feature, has finally been made a reality. The update will bring the capability to host 32 participant FaceTime calls, with a promise of similar clarity to traditional 2-participant FaceTime calls.

AR Kit has also been improved and iPhones which support AR will receive an app called Measure. It allows a user to measure a line on any surface and get the length of a real-world object, without the need for a ruler. 

Finally, the Photos app receives smarter features, allowing users to share photos from events with everyone who was at the event, using the facial recognition software built into the app. The redesign makes the Photos app more user-friendly and provides the users with a glance at what happened a year ago and groups notable events. This brings the Apple Photos app closer to the powerful Google Photos app.

Overall, iOS 12 shouldn’t be anticipated for its new features but rather for its performance upgrades. This announcement has shown that Apple cares about its customers.

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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