With Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) barely a month away, where the company regularly unveils the first developer previews of its iOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS platforms, more details are now starting to emerge on exactly what we can expect to see in Apple's next major operating system updates.
According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to "unleash a slew of new apps, features, and development tools," and while we've already heard about a few of these changes — such as the coming of Apple's unifying 'Marzipan' framework and core OS changes like dark mode — today's report focuses more specifically on the changes and improvements that will be coming to Apple's first-party apps, both on the iPhone/iPad and the Apple Watch.
The report notes that Apple is working on upgrades to Maps and Messages, as well as some significant improvements to the generally neglected Reminders app. On the wearable side, Apple is also expected to continue its efforts to make the Apple Watch more independent by bringing more of its first-party apps to users' wrists as well.
iOS 13, which is codenamed "Yukon" will also apparently include some new features that Apple had pushed off from iOS 12 in favour of focusing on stability improvements. Apple is also said to already be working on iOS 14, codenamed, "Azul," for next year, which will naturally add 5G wireless support as well as new AR capabilities.
The Bloomberg reports confirms some of the system-wide features we've already heard about, such as a Dark Mode, but provides the first deeper look at what Apple is doing with its first-party apps. Read on to see which apps are going to see big improvements in iOS 13.
As we've said before, Apple's Reminders app is actually a hidden gem that many users don't take a close enough look at due to its deceptively plain and simple nature. Granted, it's not an app for anybody with serious project management needs, but for many people it can get the job done without getting in the way.
However, there's also no doubt that Apple hasn't yet done as much with the app as it could; it's really evolved very little beyond its humble beginnings in iOS 5. The good news is that it looks like this will finally change in iOS 13, with Apple expected to beef it up to make it a better option for those with more sophisticated task management needs.
The new Reminders app is expected to gain a main screen with four default sections laid out in a grid that will allow users to see at a glance tasks that need to be done today, all tasks, scheduled tasks, and flagged tasks, accompanied by differently-colored pages that users can add items to. No other details are yet known, but reading between the lines it looks like Reminders may be a completely redesigned app, and while we're excited to see what it will offer, we're hoping that Apple doesn't sacrifice its elegant simplicity in the process.
With the digital healthcare landscape starting to get more competitive, Apple also plans to revamp its five-year-old Health app, introduced in iOS 8. The new app will apparently gain a section for "hearing health" that will track things like how loud you set your volume when listening to music, and the loudness of the external environment you're in.
There's also expected to be a new "day at a glance" homepage in the Health app, and Apple is reportedly going to take on period-tracking apps such as Clue, Flo, and Ovia with its own improved menstrual-cycle tracking.
The Apple Watch is also expected to gain two new health-related apps: Dose for tracking medication and setting related reminders, and Cycles for tracking menstrual cycles.
It's recently come to light that Apple has been cracking down on third-party parental control apps, citing security and privacy problems with the way in which developers have been forced to implement parental controls. The biggest problem this creates for end users, however, is that Apple's own Screen Time features aren't nearly as sophisticated as what most of the third-party apps are able to offer.
Not surprisingly, though, Apple is expected to improve Screen Time in iOS 13, with the report noting that Apple will let parents limit who their kids can contact based on time of day, so for example they could have the ability to chat with their friends disabled during certain hours, while still being able to contact their parents. While the report doesn't make it clear, how this will work, we're assuming that it will only apply to Apple's built-in communications apps like Messages, FaceTime, and Phone.
On the other hand, there's no word yet of any APIs that will allow third-party developers back into the tent. We expect it's too soon to have that ready for iOS 13, but we're definitely keeping our fingers crossed that Apple is already planning to address this for iOS 14, if not sooner.
While the reading experience itself didn't change, Apple's Books app saw a pretty significant redesign last year, focused around improving the ability to organize and discover books. This year it looks like Apple will be iterating on that with features that encourage users to read more, including an updated progress tracker and some kind of "rewards" system.
A Books app is also coming to the Apple Watch, but no, Apple won't be expecting you to try and read Game of Thrones on your wrist. The Apple Watch Books app will be all about audiobooks, which were moved into the iBooks app when Apple Music debuted back in 2015.
After adding support for indoor maps in iOS 11, this year's Apple Maps update will focus more on letting users keep track of their favourite places. Reports note that it will be easier for users to set frequent locations like home and work addresses, and then navigate to them, as well as creating groups of locations that they can add their own photos to. There's also expected to be some interface improvements for navigating to suggested destinations.
We don't believe that Apple normally cares too much about competing with third-party apps — after all, it makes no money from them directly, and it's far better to encourage a strong App Store ecosystem, where the company does make money from its cut of paid apps — however in this case, we can see how its to Apple's advantage to draw people to Apple Maps rather than Google Maps or Waze, since the quality of much of the data in its mapping service comes from anonymous crowdsourcing of things like traffic patterns. It's the one area where Apple really does care about your data, albeit in an entirely anonymized form.
Apple's Messages app is expected to get a bit more social, borrowing the WhatsApp feature that will allow you to set your own profile picture and display name, and also choose who sees it.
There will also be a new section for Animoji and Memoji stickers, allowing users to send static versions of their favourite virtual animations. These stickers will also be available on the Apple Watch, synchronized from the iPhone.
Find My iPhone and My Friends
As we reported last month, Apple is planning to merge its Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps into a single unified app, internally code-named "GreenTorch" while also adding support for its own Apple-designed beacons that can be used to track other physical items like backpacks and keys.
We've already heard that Apple Mail will be getting some much-needed love in iOS 13, including the ability to automatically organize emails into different categories, helping to filter out routine emails like newsletters from those that are actually important. Other rumours have suggested a "read later" queue might be coming as well.
The latest report adds to this mix, noting that the new app is expected to simplify folder management while also allowing individual conversation threads to be muted, and incoming messages to be blocked from specific contacts.
We haven't heard much about Apple's HomeKit framework recently, and it seems that the company has for now reached a peak level of device support with the addition of several new smart TVs to the mix.
It doesn't look like iOS 13 will bring any major changes for device support, but the app will provide tighter security camera integration, and more significantly the ability to actually view past recordings, rather than just looking at live feeds.
It looks like Apple will be expanding its Bedtime feature from iOS 10 throughout the entire system, with a new "system-wide Sleep Mode" that can be enabled from Control Center, automatically setting Do Not Disturb, darkening the Lock Screen, and more. We're also hoping this will include some much-needed improvements to the Bedtime feature itself, such as setting different schedules.
This is likely a first step to the sleep tracking features that could be coming to the Apple Watch next year, but also will hopefully include APIs to allow third-party apps to more effectively plug into it as well.
Files and Safari
While Apple has made some good strides in recent iOS versions, file management on iOS is still a bit of a mess compared to how it works on the Mac, since of course everything is siloed within individual apps.
With iOS 13, however, it looks like Apple will continue to make some improvements, and while there's no word yet of the one thing we're really hoping for — support for external storage devices — the new Files app will apparently work better with third-party software.
More interestingly, Safari may also be gaining a downloads manager to allow users to actually keep track of anything they've downloaded through the browser in a single location — something that's desperately needed for those who want to use the iPad Pro as a serious computing platform.
Apple has been working to untether the Apple Watch from its iPhone dependency at least since the debut of the Series 3 with its own cellular radio, and it looks like watchOS 6 is going to take another big step in this direction.
According to the report, Apple is adding the App Store directly to the Apple Watch, so you'll no longer need to use your iPhone to install apps, and will also be adding the Voice Memos and Calculator apps to the wearable device — two apps that have seemed like rather odd omissions from the very beginning, especially when you consider how popular calculator watches were in the eighties. These will join the Books app for listening to audiobooks, and two new health-tracking apps, Dose and Cycles, for handling medication reminders and menstrual cycle tracking, respectively.
As we'd expect in a major watchOS update, Apple is also said to be working on several new Watch Faces, along with additional Complications for tracking more information such as audio book status, hearing aid battery life, and measurements for external noise and rain data.