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iOS 12 Will Add New Emergency Calling Feature

Apple has announced a new emergency calling feature for iOS 12, which wasn’t revealed at WWDC two weeks ago. The new functionality will provide automatic, precise location information to first responders when iOS 12 users call 911 in the United States. According to Apple’s press release:

Approximately 80 percent of 911 calls today come from mobile devices, but outdated, landline-era infrastructure often makes it difficult for 911 centers to quickly and accurately obtain a mobile caller’s location. To address this challenge, Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) in 2015, which estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.

Apple today announced it will also use emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centers, improving response time when lives and property are at risk. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centers’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.

The FCC has mandated that mobile phone carriers locate callers within 50 meters 80% of the time by 2021. According to Apple’s press release, Apple’s HELO technology is capable of meeting and exceeding those standards today, and with the adoption of RapidSOS’s protocol this fall in iOS 12, those benefits will be enjoyed by 911 call centers too.


Fixing 3D Touch

Eliz Kılıç:

I should start with the obvious. 3D Touch is broken! The user experience is far from great. Apple introduced 3D Touch and its new related interactions Peek and Pop in 2014. It’s been almost 4 years since its first introduction, yet people don’t know/use 3D Touch. Why would they? Even tech-savvy users don’t know which buttons offer 3D touch. Let alone regular users.

What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them? Look at this screenshot and see if you can tell which of the buttons can be 3D Touched.

I couldn't agree more with the idea of "decorating" buttons with 3D Touch visual cues.

Here's the thing: I use 3D Touch a lot, and I love the fact that it's the modern equivalent of a contextual click, but, anecdotally speaking, I've never seen any of my friends or relatives use it. Not the quick actions on the Home screen, not peek and pop. It's like 3D Touch just isn't there for them. It's hard to say whether the very concept of 3D Touch is flawed or if iOS' design prevents discovery of this unique interaction. However, the argument that an interface with little depth doesn't lend itself well to a gesture built around pressing into UI elements is a compelling one. It'll be interesting to see what happens with future iPads and iPhones, too.

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Apple Announces Video Deal with Oprah Winfrey

In a brief press release today, Apple announced a multi-year deal with Oprah Winfrey to produce original video content. From the press release:

Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.

The project joins more than a dozen others that have been signed by Apple for video content in the past year or so. There is no word yet on when the programming might be released, but CNN Money reports that Oprah is expected to have an onscreen role as a host and interviewer.

Competition among Apple, Netflix, and Amazon for original video content continues to heat up. Against the backdrop of consolidation among traditional media companies and telecommunications companies like the recently-closed AT&T/Time Warner merger, the stage seems set for major shifts in the video entertainment industry.


WWDC Opens Up


I've witnessed a slow but encouraging evolution take place over the past six years that has transformed WWDC for the better. When I first flew to San Francisco in 2013, WWDC was a self-contained event. Other than the Thursday night bash, the conference happened entirely within the fortress-like hulk of Moscone West. Developers and others in town for the week gathered outside the convention center in restaurants, bars, and hotel lobbies, but there were few organized activities if you didn't have a ticket. That's changed.

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Behind the Mac: A Video Series Profiling How Creators Use the Mac

Apple has debuted a series of four videos on its YouTube channel called Behind the Mac that focus on the Mac as a tool to unleash creativity.

Three of the videos profile individuals. Recording artist Grimes is interviewed about how she uses a MacBook to create music, Peter Kariuki explains how he built an app to monitor driver safety in Africa, and Bruce Hall, a legally blind photographer, shows how he uses a Mac to process his photographs.

The fourth video is an montage that includes clips of each of the creators along with other people using Macs to make art. Interestingly, the spot includes a wide range of Mac laptops ranging from the white polycarbonate MacBook to current MacBook Pros. Each of the videos closes with the prompt ‘Make something wonderful.’

What I like best about these videos is their focus on the work of each creator. Like many users, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of updates to parts of Apple’s Mac lineup and issues with its laptops’ keyboards, but I still enjoy seeing what even older-model Macs can help people create. I expect we’ll see more of these videos debut in the coming weeks.




Twitter Announces News Features, Opt-Out Push Notifications, and Redesigned Moments

Twitter has begun introducing a series of features aimed at highlighting the news and events of the day. The company has also updated how Moments are displayed in the official Twitter app. According to Twitter, the goal of the changes is to make it easier for users to follow the news without having to know which accounts, hashtags, and Moments to follow.

Current events is the primary focus of the new Twitter features, many of which will not be rolled out for weeks or months according to a Twitter blog post. The Explore tab now includes breaking news stories displayed as captioned image banners across the top of the section. Tapping into a story opens a collection of images, video, and tweets in a horizontally scrolling narrative.

Below the highlighted story, Explore is divided into separate sections according to topic. My sections include ‘Trends for you,’ and ‘Today’s Moments’ followed by topical tabs like Software Engineers, Gal Godot, Technology Journalists, and Indie Game Developers. The quality of the content of each section is hit or miss. As you can see from the screenshot below, Twitter’s definition of ‘Software Engineer’ is loose and I got a section full of tweets about Gal Godot because, as Twitter helpfully explains, I liked an MKBHD tweet that mentioned her.

Twitter could use some help figuring out who is a software engineer, and adding a section dedicated to Gal Godot after I liked one MKBHD tweet mentioning her is a bit of a stretch.

Twitter could use some help figuring out who is a software engineer, and adding a section dedicated to Gal Godot after I liked one MKBHD tweet mentioning her is a bit of a stretch.

In the coming months, Twitter plans to add breaking and personalized news at the top of users’ feeds similar to the sports news feature that the company introduced in 2017. Twitter has said that it plans to start sending users push notifications based on their interests in the coming weeks too. From Twitter’s blog post, it appears these will be turned on by default requiring anyone who doesn’t want to see the notifications to turn them off:

Now we’re experimenting with sending notifications to you based on your interests (like who you follow and what you Tweet about), so you won’t miss a beat. You can always turn off these notifications by going to your recommendations settings and toggling to not see news.

Twitter is also changing Moments to scroll vertically like your timeline and adding a dedicated World Cup page.

None of these changes has a meaningful impact on my Twitter use because I use a third-party client, but they still bother me. I prefer to manage what I see on Twitter myself. Twitter may think it knows what I want to see, but judging from the suggestions in my Explore tab today, it’s ability to do that is questionable. Also, the addition of notifications that will be turned on by default strikes me as tone deaf considering current efforts of companies like Google and Apple to help users better manage notifications.

For now, the changes are contained mainly in the Explore tab. It will be interesting to see how users react when the changes spread to targeted news in their timelines and they begin receiving push notifications about raccoons climbing skyscrapers.


Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation

In my Future of Workflow article from last year (published soon after the news of Apple's acquisition), I outlined some of the probable outcomes for the app. The more optimistic one – the "best timeline", so to speak – envisioned an updated Workflow app as a native iOS automation layer, deeply integrated with the system and its built-in frameworks. After studying Apple's announcements at WWDC and talking to developers at the conference, and based on other details I've been personally hearing about Shortcuts while at WWDC, it appears that the brightest scenario is indeed coming true in a matter of months.

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone – not just power users – can reap the benefits.

While it's still too early to comment on the long-term impact of Shortcuts, I can at least attempt to understand the potential of this new technology. In this article, I'll try to explain the differences between Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts app, as well as answering some common questions about how much Shortcuts borrows from the original Workflow app. Let's dig in.

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