CUPERTINO, California – Around this time every yearour smartphones become a reminder to always be ready for change.
That’s because Apple and Google are announcing updates to the operating systems that run our iPhones and Android phones. Soon, the software that makes the devices will have design adjustments and new features – in other words, new things to learn.
On Monday, Apple revealed iOS 16, the next version of its iPhone operating system. It will include new features such as a redesigned lock screen and the ability to edit text messages. Last month, Google introduced Android 13which features a simplified wallet application for storing credit cards and important documents such as vaccine records. Both companies also said they are improving their software for sending text messages.
The new iPhone and Android operating systems will arrive on our phones as free updates this fall.
Apple and Google often accompany these software updates with high-quality language and promises. “Today we’re pushing our platforms forward more than ever,” Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook said in a pre-recorded video for the event announcing the new software.
But in fact, many changes – especially the ability to edit text retroactively – are incremental improvements that feel as if they should have happened a long time ago. Here are the most notable updates to look for.
Apple is reviewing the iPhone lock screen
Apple said it has changed the first thing anyone sees using an iPhone: the lock screen.
In the past, people could only modify the wallpaper on their lock screens. But with iOS 16, iPhone users can customize the lock screen by choosing from different fonts and colors for the watch. People will also be able to pin “widgets”, which are basically shortcuts to programs like the phone’s calendar and a suitable data tracker, to the key screen.
These customizations could help us adapt our phones to our lifestyles. Keep in mind that the new software will allow an iPhone user to create a number of custom lock screens for different scenarios.
For example, a dedicated work screen could display a wallpaper of your office building and contain a calendar widget with your next meeting appointment. A key screen for personal time could show your dog’s wallpaper and exercise widget. The idea is that people will be able to switch between keystrokes to better accommodate their needs throughout the day.
The Google Wallet app is playing Apple
The pandemic has accelerated the use of mobile phone purchases as many people have moved to contactless digital payments to avoid touching cash. Apple has had a strong offer for electronic payments for more than five years with its Wallet software for iPhones, which enables people to make credit card purchases and carry important documents such as payments and health data.
Google, which has struggled to market its mobile payment technology, took the opportunity last month to delve deeper into payments with Android 13. For years, its Google Pay system has been severely Apple’s payment system has been delayed because few Android users understood how to use the technology.
Last month, Google renamed its digital payment app Google Wallet. The company has simplified the technology by embedding a shortcut to the wallet on the Android lock screen. It also plans to expand the software beyond credit cards, to include documents such as passes, movie tickets and proof of Covid-19 vaccination.
Google and Apple are expanding their messaging apps
Anyone who has sent text messages over the phone knows the digital divide between the so-called green bubble and the blue bubble.
When a text message is sent from an Android phone, it appears as a green bubble on the recipient’s screen, with images and videos often pixelated and distorted. This is because a green bubble message is sent through the phone company’s network, which automatically degrades the image quality.
In contrast, blue bubble messages sent between iPhone users go through iMessage, Apple’s proprietary messaging service, which maintains a high-quality look for photos and videos.
With Android 13, Google is trying to create its own blue bubble experience. The company is building technology in its messaging program called Rich Communication Services, which can send high-resolution images and large files. It will also allow people to create group conversations, like most modern messaging apps.
Apple, meanwhile, is making changes to iMessage so that iPhone users can edit or remember messages after they are sent. Retroactive message editing, which would save us the embarrassment of bizarre autocorrect typos or the random post text, has been a feature that people have wanted for years.
Both companies enforce user privacy
For now, no software update would be complete without the announcement of a Big Tech company that it cares about our privacy. That’s because technology companies want users to feel safe sharing personal data, especially as European regulators and others have broken about them on the matter.
So naturally, Apple and Google said they offer more protection to user data in their upcoming operating systems.
Apple, which has long allowed iPhone users to give family members and romantic partners constant access to their location data, said it would give deeper checks for such data sharing if an intimate relationship failed. Its new software feature, Security Check, will allow people to quickly review and revoke access to such data so that they can protect their information from abuse.
Google said it will give users more control over what data is shared with third-party apps. In the next version of Android, people will also be able to give apps access to only certain photos instead of their entire camera roll – a measure of protection against malware that has disguised itself as photo editing software.
If many of these tailors feel long overdue, it’s because they are. Just like the smartphone hardware updates have been made more and more incrementalthe software is also progressing better – but not noticeably.