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WWDC 2019: What I want Apple to add to iOS 13 and the iPad Pro

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Is it possible to leave the Apple ecosystem?
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby asks ZDNet’s Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani if it’s feasible to happily leave the Apple ecosystem after being invested in their products. Read more: https://zd.net/2XtjT4v

With WWDC (Apple’s annual developer conference) just over a month away, I’ve started thinking about iOS 13. More specifically, the main features I want Apple to bring to the iPhone and — even more so — to the iPad Pro.

Also: Apple opens WWDC registration, conference begins June 3

It’s been far too long since the iPad line has received meaningful software improvements, and it shows. Multitasking feels clunky, mobile Safari is no longer good enough, and Apple’s pitch that an iPad can replace a computer has become tiring.

My wishlist from last year was partially fulfilled with iOS 12, which added parental controls, improved notifications, and iCloud Messages. But Control Center is still in the same spot, and we continue to have to use the same boring app grid. I still want to see these features changed in iOS, but instead of repeating my old requests, I’ve come up with some new ideas.

We have a good idea of features that are rumored to be included iOS 13, thanks to a series of reports from 9to5Mac. With that said, until it’s announced by Apple, nothing is official.

Across all iOS devices

With the iPhone and iPad sharing a core feature set, here are some features I’d love to see on all iOS devices.

VIP contacts for Messages

Apple’s Mail app has a VIP feature that allows you to set up new mail alerts for hand-picked contacts. I use it to eliminate unnecessary notifications, and it works well. Adding a VIP list to the Messages app so that, even when Do Not Disturb is enabled, message alerts from those most important to me will still prompt an alert and go a long way in eliminating unnecessary distractions. 

Also: It was the best of Apple, it was the worst of Apple

Dark mode

According to Google, using a darker interface on our phones not only is easier on our eyes, but it improves battery life. Android Pie has the beginnings of a dark mode, and early Android Q builds have an improved version. However, iOS currently lacks a true dark mode. Third-party apps have taken it upon themselves to implement a darker interface, but support at a system level is needed.

Get rid of the volume overlay

I agree with ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, who questioned why we still have to look at a floating volume display. Come on, Apple! Put a small indicator along the side of the screen, or at the top of the display, when the volume is adjusted.

Adrian has a few more suggestions for iOS, all of which make sense to me. Be sure to check out his post here.

iPad Pro features

When I reviewed the 12.9-inch iPad Pro late last year, I stated it is the best tablet I have ever used, but it’s still stuck in computer limbo. Here are some things I’d love to see Apple do in iOS 13 on the iPad Pro to make it more of a computer.

Better multitasking

The current multitasking system is a chore to use. Yes, using multiple apps in split-screen and slide over makes it possible to use more than one at a time, but it doesn’t go far enough. I want to pin an app to either side of the screen, leaving it open at all times.

According to 9to5Mac, iPad multitasking will gain windowed apps, or cards. The cards can be stacked and moved around, much like windows in a MacOS or Windows 10. I’m not sold on the idea, but then again, I haven’t seen how Apple is going to implement it. The bottom line is: The iPad needs a better way of letting you stay in specific apps while also moving between apps.

Also: Coming to an Apple store near you: The harder sell

Desktop-class Safari

This is by far the biggest change I want to see. Mobile Safari is fine for the smaller screened iPhone, but when I’m using a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there’s no reason it can’t render the desktop version of a website properly.

Whether it’s a formatting issue or the inability to tap on a button or link, bringing a desktop-class version of Safari to iPad is a key piece to the puzzle for a lot of people who are making the iPad Pro a true computer replacement. Myself included. 

Multiple user accounts

I still think the entire iPad lineup would benefit from multiple account support. Just like a Mac or PC, adding user accounts to the iPad means that households could share the same iPad without forcing everyone to use the same set of apps and settings.

Also: The secret tricks Apple store staff use to push certain products

Mouse support

Mouse support isn’t on my wishlist, but there are rumors that Apple will add mouse support as an accessibility feature. The new feature was first mentioned by MacStories’ Federico Viticci on the Connected podcast.

With proper mouse support — hopefully not limited to USB like Viticci hints at, but with Bluetooth support as well — the iPad will become a more viable option for power and enterprise users, as CNET’s Jason Hiner points out. 

WWDC starts June 3, 2019. Apple’s opening keynote usually walks us through major feature updates for all of its software platforms. Expect to see updates for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

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Twitter bans James O’Keefe of Project Veritas over fake account policy – TechCrunch

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Twitter has banned right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, creator of political gotcha video producer Project Veritas, for violating its “platform manipulation and spam policy,” suggesting he was operating multiple accounts in an unsanctioned way. O’Keefe has already announced that he will sue the company for defamation.

The ban, or “permanent suspension” as Twitter calls it, occurred Thursday afternoon. A Twitter representative said the action followed the violation of rules prohibiting “operating fake accounts” and attempting to “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts,” as noted here.

This suggests O’Keefe was banned for operating multiple accounts, outside the laissez-faire policy that lets people have a professional and a personal account, and that sort of thing.

But sharp-eyed users noticed that O’Keefe’s last tweet unironically accused reporter Jesse Hicks of impersonation, including an image showing an unredacted phone number supposedly belonging to Hicks. This too may have run afoul of Twitter’s rules about posting personal information, but Twitter declined to comment on this when I asked.

Supporters of O’Keefe say that the company removed his account as retribution for his most recent “exposé” involving surreptitious recordings of a CNN employee admitting the news organization has a political bias. (The person he was talking to had, impersonating a nurse, matched with him on Tinder.)

For his part O’Keefe said he would be suing Twitter for defamation over the allegation that he operated fake accounts. I’ve contacted Project Veritas for more information.

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Consumer groups and child development experts petition Facebook to drop ‘Instagram for kids’ plan – TechCrunch

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A coalition of 35 consumer advocacy groups along with 64 experts in child development have co-signed a letter to Facebook asking the company to reconsider its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, which Facebook has confirmed to be in development. In the letter, the groups and experts argue that social media is linked with several risk factors for younger children and adolescents, related to both their physical health and overall well-being.

The letter was written by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that often leads campaigns against big tech and its targeting of children.

The group stresses how influential social media is on young people’s development, and the dangers such an app could bring:

“A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to adolescents. Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” it states. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing. Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development,” the letter reads.

Citing public health research and other studies, the letter notes that excessive screen time and social media use can contribute to a variety of risks for kids including obesity, lower psychological well-being, decreased quality of sleep, increased risk of depression and suicide ideation, and other issues. Adolescent girls report feeling pressured to post sexualized selfies for attention from their peers, the letter said, and 59% of U.S. teens have reported being bullied in social media, as well.

Another concern the groups have is the use of the Instagram algorithm which could suggest what kids would see and click on next, noting that children are “highly persuadable.”

They also point out that Facebook knows there are already children under 13 who have lied about their age using the Instagram platform, and these users will be unlikely to migrate to what they’ll view as a more “babyish” version of the app than the one they’re already using. That means Facebook is really targeting an even younger age group who don’t yet have an Instagram account with this “kids version.”

Despite the concerns being raised, Instagram’s plans to compete for younger users will not likely be impacted by the outcry. Already, Instagram’s top competitor in social media today — TikTok — has developed an experience for kids under 13. In fact, it was forced to age-gate its app as a result of its settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which had investigated Musical.ly (the app that became TikTok) for violations of the U.S. children’s privacy law COPPA.

Facebook, too, could be in a similar situation where it has to age-gate Instagram in order to properly direct its existing underage users to a COPPA-compliant experience. At the very least, Facebook has grounds to argue that it shouldn’t have to boot the under-13 crowd off its app, since TikTok did not. And the FTC’s fines, even when historic, barely make a dent in tech giants’ revenues.

The advocacy groups’ letter follows a push from Democratic lawmakers, who also this month penned a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to express concerns over Facebook’s ability to protect kids’ privacy and their well-being. Their letter had specifically cited Messenger Kids, which was once found to have a design flaw that let kids chat with unauthorized users. The lawmakers gave Facebook until April 26 to respond to their questions.

Zuckerberg confirmed Facebook’s plans for an Instagram for kids at a Congressional hearing back in March, saying that the company was “early in our thinking” about how the app would work, but noted it would involve some sort of parental oversight and involvement. That’s similar to what Facebook offers today via Messenger Kids and TikTok does via its Family Pairing parental controls.

The market, in other words, is shifting towards acknowledging that kids are already on social media — with or without parents’ permission. As a result, companies are building features and age gates to accommodate that reality. The downside to this plan, of course, is once you legitimize the creation of social apps for the under-13 demographic, companies are given the legal right to hook kids even younger on what are, arguably, risky experiences from a public health standpoint.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also today launched a petition which others can sign to push Facebook to cancel its plans for an Instagram for kids.

Instagram Letter by TechCrunch on Scribd

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Facebook to test new business discovery features in U.S. News Feed – TechCrunch

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Facebook announced this morning it will begin testing a new experience for discovering businesses in its News Feed in the U.S. When live, users to tap on topics they’re interested in underneath posts and ads in their News Feed in order to explore related content from businesses. The change comes at a time when Facebook has been arguing how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update will impact its small business customers — a claim many have dismissed as misleading, but nevertheless led some mom and pop shops to express concern about the impacts to their ad targeting capabilities, as a result. This new test is an example of how easily Facebook can tweak its News Feed to build out more data on its users, if needed.

The company suggests users may see the change under posts and ads from businesses selling beauty products, fitness or clothing, among other things.

The idea here is that Facebook would direct users to related businesses through a News Feed feature, when they take a specific action to discover related content. This, in turn, could help Facebook create a new set of data on its users, in terms of which users clicked to see more, and what sort of businesses they engaged with, among other things. Over time, it could turn this feature into an ad unit, if desired, where businesses could pay for higher placement.

“People already discover businesses while scrolling through News Feed, and this will make it easier to discover and consider new businesses they might not have found on their own,” the company noted in a brief announcement.

Facebook didn’t detail its further plans with the test, but said as it learned from how users interacted with the feature, it will expand the experience to more people and businesses.

Image Credits: Facebook

Along with news of the test, Facebook said it will roll out more tools for business owners this month, including the ability to create, publish and schedule Stories to both Facebook and Instagram; make changes and edits to Scheduled Posts; and soon, create and manage Facebook Photos and Albums from Facebook’s Business Suite. It will also soon add the ability to create and save Facebook and Instagram posts as drafts from the Business Suite mobile app.

Related to the businesses updates, Facebook updated features across ad products focused on connecting businesses with customer leads, including Lead Ads, Call Ads, and Click to Messenger Lead Generations.

Facebook earlier this year announced a new Facebook Page experience that gave businesses the ability to engage on the social network with their business profile for things like posting, commenting and liking, and access to their own, dedicated News Feed. And it had removed the Like button in favor of focusing on Followers.

It is not a coincidence that Facebook is touting its tools for small businesses at a time when there’s concern — much of it loudly shouted by Facebook itself — that its platform could be less useful to small business owners in the near future, when ad targeting capabilities becomes less precise as users vote ‘no’ when Facebook’s iOS app asks if it can track them.

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