Google apparently said “AI” over 140 times during its two-hour Google I/O keynote last month.
So, what about Apple? Surely they’d have no choice but to follow in Google and literally everyone else’s footsteps and do the same?
Nope. In fact, I don’t think they said “AI” once during WWDC’s keynote on Monday.
This was despite more than two hours of announcements, many of which relied on some form of AI to function. “Machine learning”, “ML” (which is the same thing) and “transformers” (no, not that kind) were the closest we got to “AI” at Apple Park.
But we’re not here to debate Apple’s terminology or its fascinating reluctance to follow the crowd with one of the most transformative technological revolutions of our time.
Nope, it’s time to talk about the iPhone and what it’ll be capable of come iOS 17 later this year. These are my seven favourite updates from this week’s unveiling.
1. Phone and FaceTime stuff
You’ll soon be able to customise the phone calls you make to people, thanks to something called the Contact Poster. This allows you to use a photo of yourself, or a Memoji (is that still a thing?!) and pair it with a customisable font for your name. You can add some colour as a flourish and share it with the world.
Your Contact Poster will appear whenever you call someone (on their phone, obvs) and within certain sharing scenarios. It’s not going to transform your iPhone, but it does, once again, make it more personal. Oh, and it’s not a bad little ecosystem tie-in, is it?
We’re also getting Live Voicemail later this year. This basically uses AI – sorry, machine learning – to transcribe any calls you send to voicemail. Therefore, if it turns out to be your mum with an important message, you can choose to accept it. I really like this.
FaceTime has received a spruce up, too. In iOS 17, you can record a video or audio message if someone misses your FaceTime call and, finally, use FaceTime on your Apple TV with your iPhone acting as the camera. That gets my thumbs up, too.
Apple does this every year – there’s always at least one feature they add to the iPhone which is an immediate no-brainer, yet, no one else thought of it beforehand, and you didn’t know you wanted it until WWDC.
This year, that award goes to StandBy, which makes your iPhone far more useful when it’s docked and charging. Providing it’s in landscape format, your iPhone’s screen can display a variety of glanceable, incredibly useful information.
Whether you want to keep an eye on the time, have your calendar always in view, interact with music playback, or be treated to a slideshow of photos, it’s all there. And it looks brilliant. I particularly like the decision to include an Apple Watch Ultra-like Knight Rider mode for nighttime.
I can see myself using StandBy a lot – particularly if we start to see a wider implementation of Live Activities from third-party developers (that’s right – you can view them in StandBy, too!).
3. Interactive Widgets
I noted earlier this week that Apple appears to be unifying its operating system experience by implementing identical widget design and functionality across all of its devices.
And, no it’s somewhat unbelievable that this wasn’t possible until now (it has been on Android for quite some time).
4. AirDrop improvements
I use AirDrop constantly throughout the day to transfer video and other media files during my production process. To see this brilliant Apple ecosystem tool receive some love at WWDC was a wonderful thing.
They’re great updates, too. There’s a new feature called NameDrop, which allows you to share your contact details (yes, complete with your Contact Poster) by simply holding your iPhone near someone else’s. You can do the same with other types of AirDrop, too.
What I’d love, is for this to extend to the Mac and iPad, but there’s no note of that in Apple’s iOS 17 preview material, unfortunately. The ability to finish sending transfers over the Internet is super clever, though, although there are some unanswered questions.
In iOS 17, you’ll be able to initiate an AirDrop in the normal manner, but if you need to depart, the transfer will continue over the Internet. Does this apply to all types of data? What about particularly large files? Is it simply a case of sharing photos and videos that are already in iCloud? Time will tell, but it’s a smart update.
Rumours of Apple’s expected foray into the world of journaling started to surface earlier this year and were strong enough to force Day One developer, Paul Mayne, to issue a statement about their commitment to building the best journalling app on the planet.
Well, now we know what the first version of Apple’s journaling app looks like, and, more importantly, the stuff it can do.
As expected, it looks like a brilliant start.
The Journal app in iOS 17 pulls stuff from your photos, workouts, listening habits, and more, before giving you a prompt for the day to get those journaling juices flowing. You can also mark special days to revisit later and rest safe in the knowledge that your journal benefits from Apple’s strict approach to data security.
It’s all very clever, undertaken by AI – sorry, on-device machine learning – and, if it expands to the Mac and iPad (which, inevitably, it will), I’m afraid it probably will be curtains for most third-party journaling apps on the App Store.
Have you ever needed or wanted to say the word “ducking”?
In any situation?
No; no one has. Yet it remains the most frustrating experience during typing sessions in iOS – particularly if you regularly need to use the word you were expecting to appear. The same goes for ‘he’ll’ (why is Apple so against us using the word ‘hell’?!) and many others. And it’s made all the worse by the fact that iOS will point-blank refuse to stop autocorrecting the word when you try and amend it to what you wanted to say.
Well, good news – this teeth-itchingly annoying element of iPhone ownership will disappear when iOS 17 launches. Your preferred spelling and words will be learned over time, and you can revert back to the original word that has been autocorrected with a tap.
Oh, and they’re implementing Google Docs-like inline predictions for what you might want to type next, too. Via AI. Sorry, machine learning.
7. Adaptive audio for AirPods
There are a bunch of updates coming to AirPods Pro which will be made available in iOS 17. If I hadn’t lost mine recently, I’d be even more excited about these tweaks, but they’re definitely worth referencing.
Adaptive Audio will dynamically blend active noise cancelling and transparency mode to ensure you can hear whatever it is you’re listening to perfectly, regardless of your changing environment.
Considering how good these two features are already on the second-generation AirPods Pro, I can’t wait to see what these updates do.
Once I find my AirPods Pro, obviously.
There was a bunch of other stuff announced for iOS 17, but there isn’t time to dig into it today. This is mainly because I have little interest in it.
For instance, we don’t really use Messages in the UK due to our reliance on WhatsApp. I have no desire to try out stickers, either, because I’m 42.
Oh, you’ll be able to get Siri’s attention by just saying “Siri” without the “Hey” – and you’ll be able to interrupt her, too. This would all be marvellous, if Siri wasn’t still absolutely dreadful.
What are you looking forward to the most in iOS 17? Get involved in the comments!