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Approximately 80 percent of 911 calls today come from mobile devices, but outdated, landline-era infrastructure often makes it difficult for 911 centers to quickly and accurately obtain a mobile caller’s location.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.
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.
In an update rolled out last week, Apple fixed two of my longstanding annoyances with Apple Music: there is a new screen that lists popular albums coming soon, and every upcoming album now features an actual release date.
Here's Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:
Apple appears to be rolling out a series of updates for Apple Music today, including a small but useful new section called "Coming Soon," which allows subscribers to check out new albums about to be released over the next few weeks.
In another addition, Apple is now making it possible to easily see album launch dates on their respective pages on iOS and macOS. In the Editors' Notes section, following the traditional encouragement to add the pre-release album to your library, there's a new line that begins "Album expected..." followed by the album's specific release date. Some albums not listed in Coming Soon still have a release date specified on their pages, so this update appears to be a bit more wide-ranging.
As someone who likes to keep up with new music, I'm glad to see Apple pushing these small but needed improvements to the service.
Furthermore, as noted by AppleInsider, the iOS 12 version of Apple Music features the ability to search for songs by lyrics. I've been using the beta on my iPhone and iPad for the past week, and lyrics search has already saved me a few minutes I would have otherwise spent looking for songs on Google. Built-in lyrics differentiate Apple Music from Spotify, so it's good to see Apple expanding support throughout the app.
Speaking of smaller features I wouldn't have expected to see at last week's WWDC, Bryan Gaz, writing for Digital Photography Review, has noticed some welcome improvements to camera import and RAW files in iOS 12:
Now, when you plug in Apple’s SD card to Lightning adapter (or camera connection kit), the Photos app will show up as an overlay on whatever app you’re using. This comes as a much less invasive method than previously used in iOS 11, wherein whatever app you were in would be switched over to the full-screen Photos app for importing. It also means you can multitask more efficiently, importing photos while getting other stuff done.
Now, when photos are detected on a card, iOS 12 will automatically sort through the content and determine if any of the photos have already been imported. If they have, they will be put in a separate area so you don’t accidentally import duplicates. Another new feature is a counter on the top of the screen that lasts you know how many photos are being displayed and how much space they take up on the memory card. This should help alleviate the guesswork involved when trying to determine whether or not you have enough storage on your iOS device.
I've never imported photos on my iPad using the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader because I don't have a camera, but I know that the import process is one of the pain points for photographers who want to use an iPad in their workflows. The idea of having Photos show up automatically in Slide Over upon connecting an external device is interesting; it perfectly ties into the iPad's focus on drag and drop for multitasking and file transfers. It seems like this approach would work nicely for importing files from external USB devices if only Apple decided to add support for those too.
Update: After looking into this more closely, it appears that Photos only appears automatically upon connecting an SD card if it's already in Slide Over mode. This isn't as convenient as DP Review's original report, but at least all the other improvements mentioned in the story are indeed part of iOS 12.
Every year when Apple introduces the latest versions of its software platforms at WWDC, information streams out in two major phases: we get the biggest, most important announcements during the opening keynote, then afterward, once the new beta builds are in the hands of developers, we find out all the additional details not meriting on-stage attention. In that vein, here's a roundup of all the smaller details we've discovered so far in iOS 12 and watchOS 5 that weren't covered in our initial overviews.
Every year a major new version of iOS is released, adding a wealth of powerful improvements that transform the way we use some of our most important tools in life. In comparison to updates in recent years, iOS 12 – which Apple introduced at today's WWDC keynote – doesn't have as many flashy new features or major changes to system apps. When it gets in public hands this fall, lots of users may install it and not notice anything different. And that's partly on purpose.
Apple spent a lot of time this year focusing on performance improvements that make iOS run better on a wide assortment of devices. In iOS 12, even though your iPhone or iPad may not be getting a major Home screen redesign or anything similarly noticeable, one change Apple hopes you will recognize is that your device runs better than ever before. In addition to being available on all the same hardware as iOS 11, iOS 12 claims to bring a Camera that opens up to 70 percent faster from the Lock screen, apps that launch up to twice as fast, smoother animations system-wide, a keyboard that loads up to 50 percent faster, and more response typing. These may not be the kind of details that make for great marketing campaigns, but they make the tasks we do every day better.
It's not fair to call iOS 12 a release mainly focused on fixing bugs and improving performance, however. Apple has also put together an impressive assortment of features, big and small, which will empower you to do things with your device that wasn't previously possible. There are impressive new automation capabilities integrated deeply with Siri, improved tools for monitoring how you use your devices, excellent new features for Messages, FaceTime, Photos, and more, and the arrival of ARKit 2.
Here's an in-depth look at all that iOS 12 will bring when it launches this fall.