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Get Ready for Feature Deluge at Apple's WWDC | Developers

By John P. Mello Jr. May 7, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Apple plans to introduce a boatload of new apps, features and development tools at its World Wide Developers Conference next month, Bloomberg reported Monday.

As it does every year, Apple will use the WWDC, set to begin June 3, to reveal the next versions of operating systems for its hardware products.

For its mobile devices, new additions iOS 13 include the following:

Speed improvements and interface changes, such as new animation when launching multitasking and closing apps, and a cleaner look for the widgets that appear when swiping right from the home screen; A Dark Mode with a black and gray screen for night viewing; A new option that allows words to be formed by dragging a finger over the keyboard, as can be done with Android phones and with iPhone apps like SwiftKey; A refreshed health app with a new home page, a section on hearing health, and more comprehensive menstrual cycle tracking; The ability to use an iPad as an auxiliary screen for a Mac; and A revamped Apple Books app with an updated progress tracker and a new rewards system. Revamped iMessage

Apple also will be updating its iMessage and Maps apps.

Its refresh of iMessage will let a user choose a profile picture and display name and control who sees it. Users will be able to send sticker versions of Animojis and Memojis from the conversation view.

Apple's refresh of iMessage keeps the app competitive with Facebook, which dominates the market, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.

"iMessage is one of the few standalone alternatives to Facebook," he told TechNewsWorld.

"It's an open question about whether it will make the jump beyond iOS," Rubin said, "but they have to keep that level of competition in mind."

Maintaining a messenging app in the current climate isn't an easy task, he continued. "Google has struggled to organically grow a messaging application. They've taken many different approaches, but nothing seems to be able steal critical mass away from the other platforms."

Combining Location Apps

The remodeled Maps app makes it easier to set frequent locations. Groups of frequent places can be created, too, and a photo assigned to the group.

Two location apps, Find My Friends and Find My iPhone, will be folded into a single offering, and the iOS mail app will be able to mute threads and block mail from specific contacts. It also will provide simpler folder management.

A new system-wide Sleep Mode for iOS will tie into a refresh of the Bedtime tab in the Clock app. Bedtime currently tracks some sleep patterns, but the new version offers more capabilities.

On the home front, a revised Home app will have better integration with security cameras and the ability to view past recordings. Meanwhile, HomePod will support multiple users.

Sharing with iOS will be better organized with a revamped "share sheet" for photos and links. Recommendations for sharing content will be made automatically for a user's frequent contacts.

Better Accessibility Settings

Apple is testing a download manager for Safari, which will place downloads conveniently in a single location, Bloomberg noted. It also is revamping its Files app so it will work better with third-party software.

"I'm looking forward to better file management in iOS," said San Jose, Calif.-based Kevin Krewell, principal analyst with Tirias Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm.

"This is really where Apple fails in the 'Pro' line of iPads," he told TechNewsWorld.

The new iOS also will add some nifty new features to the iPad, such as a new multitasking interface and the ability to recycle through different versions of the same app.

Better hearing aid support is in the cards for iOS, as well as a more comprehensive Accessibility settings menu.

iOS and macOS Get Cozier

On the desktop, Apple is continuing to bind macOS with iOS. Developers will be able rework their iOS apps to run on the new macOS 10.15.

Apple will be bringing some of its own iOS apps to the new macOS, including its podcast app, the new combined Find My iPhone/Find My Friends app, the new Reminders app, and the Apple Books app.

"The ability to port iOS apps to macOS will be a multiyear program which will eventually have all Apple applications ship in one binary for all Apple platforms," Krewell noted.

"Maybe by 2021, we'll see complete blurring of the line between what is an iPad and what is a Mac," he predicted.

Although Apple continues to bring iOS and macOS apps closer together, the two operating systems likely will remain apart in the future, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, a technology market research and consulting firm in Foster City, California.

"Apple's not going to combine them, but they will continue to have more and more similarities across the board," he told TechNewsWorld.

"It becomes less and less important to combine the two over time, as you have more and more services," O'Donnell maintained.

"It's the services that get shared across the platform, and the underlying OS doesn't really matter as much," he added. "I don't think they will ever combine the two, and the shift to services cements that."

App Store App for Watch

On the watchOS front, version 6 of the operating system will add the following features:

An App Store app so software can be downloaded directly into the watch; A Voice Memo app for dictating messages into the watch; Animoji and Memoji stickers; An Apple Book app, as well as a calculator app; Apps for reminding someone when to take their pills and for tracking menstrual cycles; More "complications," snippets of data shown on the watch's face besides the time; and Several new watch faces.

There may be two hardware announcements at the conference, Bloomberg also noted. One could be a revamped Mac Pro desktop computer, and the other could be a new external monitor with high dynamic range support.

However, Apple's plans are fluid and could change between now and the event, the report notes. Also, the company could choose to push back some features until next year, which it did last year.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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