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iOS 10 brings bigger emojis, better Siri and facial recognition to iPhone

The next version of Apple’s software for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 10, will feature enhanced 3D touch features, expanded Siri, and an improved lock screen, plus overhauls to Photos, Music, and Messages.

Apple has also improved notifications, allowing apps to provide rich notifications that are activated via 3D touch gestures in the notification pane and the widget pane and via the lock screen.

Siri is now open to third-party developers, which means apps like WeChat can be accessed straight from the voice-control window. While the Apple QuickType keyboard now has part of Siri’s machine learning to allow it to predict your responses based on what is happening on the rest of the phone.

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Apple Photos now has the facial, scene, and object recognition built-in, which is performed on the device, as well as the ability to view your photos on a map and to automatically group photos for topics, trips, people, and other activities in what Apple calls “Memories.”

Craig Federighi of Apple Inc. talks about photos within iOS at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California.

Craig Federighi of Apple Inc. talks about photos within iOS at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters
Apple Maps also got an overhaul to make it smarter, scanning your calendar for places and learning from your typical actions, adding third-party integrations such as Uber and a new dynamic view for driving directions, which is integrated into Apple’s CarPlay.

Apple made a big deal about how its machine intelligence features were powered by data stored on the device itself, not via cloud-based processing as with most other artificial intelligence features.

Craig Federighi, the head of software, described it as Apple’s differentiator with end-to-end encryption and advanced anonymization where taking data off the device for development is necessary, saying: “Great features and great privacy. You demanded it.”

Apple’s Phone and Messages apps were upgraded. Messages gained rich links for video and websites and larger emoji and prediction for “modification” that allows semi-autonomous replacement of words with emoji. Message bubble animations and instant responses similar to Facebook were also added, plus the ability to handwrite messages, while iMessages has been opened up to third-party developer additions. The phone app also gained transcription for voice mail and integration with VoIP apps such as Skype, making them appear like the native dialer app.

Apple Music was also redesigned, as was Apple News, with breaking news notifications and subscriptions. Apple’s HomeKit home internet of things also got an upgrade with a dedicated Home app on the iPhone, integration into Control Centre, and the use of the Apple TV as a central hub for remote control of HomeKit devices.

Eddy Cue walks the WWDC faithful through changes to Apple Music.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, walks the WWDC faithful through changes to Apple Music. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
The update is rolling out now to developers, along with a new development kit. It is expected to be available to the public via a beta program in the next few months. The final version of iOS 10 is expected to be released in September to users via iTunes or directly through the Settings app on iPhones and iPads.

As part of the new update, Apple showed off some more pressure-sensitive 3D touch gestures on the lock screen, greater multitasking features, and more advanced Night Shift features that help limit the impact of device use on sleep.

The tenth version of iOS will support the iPhone 5 and newer, and the iPad Air and newer, including the iPad Mini 2, older iPhones, and iPads, will be left on iOS 9.3.

Apple also unveiled the latest version of its watchOS 3 for its smartwatch, which is set to improve native app support, speed them up and give them a greater ability to operate when not connected to an iPhone.

“Our top focus has been performance. Your watch should respond instantly, and it should be updated before you look at it,” said Kevin Lynch, vice president of technology for Apple. “It’s about seven times faster, but it feels a million times faster.”

One of the biggest criticisms of the Apple Watch is the time it takes for apps to load and perform actions, often longer than simply pulling out an iPhone from the pocket. Apple hopes to address speed issues, as it tried to with watchOS 2, although new Apple Watch hardware is likely required to bring them up to speed with the rest of its devices.

There’s a new Control Centre for quick settings and a live dock of apps. Apps can now update behind the scenes so that they’re ready when you need them, while Apple has redesigned many of its apps to be quicker to activate the most common actions, often within one tap.

Apple has also implemented handwriting recognition functionality called Scribble, which allows users to write out words one letter at a time, an SOS emergency call function, and activity sharing for fitness competition between friends and family. The company has also refined its activity tracking for wheelchair users and added a meditation app called Breath.

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