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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
YouTube introduces new features to address toxic comments – TechCrunch
YouTube today announced it’s launching a new feature that will push commenters to reconsider their hateful and offensive remarks before posting. It will also begin testing a filter that allows creators to avoid having to read some of the hurtful comments on their channel that had been automatically held for review. The new features are meant to address longstanding issues with the quality of comments on YouTube’s platform — a problem creators have complained about for years.
The company said it will also soon run a survey aimed at giving equal opportunity to creators, and whose data can help the company to better understand how some creators are more disproportionately impacted by online hate and harassment.
The new commenting feature, rolling out today, is a significant change for YouTube.
The feature appears when users are about to post something offensive in a video’s comments section and warns to “Keep comments respectful.” The message also tells users to check the site’s Community Guidelines if they’re not sure if a comment is appropriate.
The pop-up then nudges users to click the “Edit” button and revise their comment by making “Edit” the more prominent choice on the screen that appears.
The feature will not actually prevent a user from posting their comment, however. If they want to proceed, they can click the “Post Anyway” option instead.
The idea to put up roadblocks to give users time to pause and reconsider their words and actions is something several social media platforms are now doing.
For instance, Instagram last year launched a feature that would flag offensive comments before they were posted. It later expanded that to include offensive captions. Without providing data, the company claimed that these “nudges” were helping to reduce online bullying. Meanwhile, Twitter this year began to push users to read the article linked in tweets they were about to share before tweeting their reaction, and it stopped users from being able to retweet with just one click.
These intentional pauses built into the social platforms are designed to stop people from reacting to content with heightened emotion and anger, and instead push users to be more thoughtful in what they say and do. User interface changes like this leverage basic human psychology to work, and may even prove effective in some percentage of cases. But platforms have been hesitant to roll out such tweaks as they can stifle user engagement.
In YouTube’s case, the company tells TechCrunch its systems will learn what’s considered offensive based on what content gets repeatedly flagged by users. Over time, this AI-powered system should be able to improve as the technology gets better at detection and the system itself is further developed.
Users on Android in the English language will see the new prompts first, starting today, Google says. The rollout will complete over the next couple of days. The company did not offer a time frame for the feature’s support for other platforms and languages or even a firm commitment that such support would arrive in the future.
In addition, YouTube said it will also now begin testing a feature for creators who use YouTube Studio to manage their channel.
Creators will be able to try out a new filter that will hide the offensive and hurtful comments that have automatically been held for review.
Today, YouTube Studio users can choose to auto-moderate potentially inappropriate comments, which they can then manually review and choose to approve, hide or report. While it’s helpful to have these held, it’s still often difficult for creators to have to deal with these comments at all, as online trolls can be unbelievably cruel. With the filter, creators can avoid these potentially offensive comments entirely.
YouTube says it will also streamline its moderation tools to make the review process easier going forward.
The changes follow a year during which YouTube has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to combat hate speech and misinformation on its platform. The video platform’s “strikes” system for rule violations means that videos may be individually removed but a channel itself can stay online unless it collects enough strikes to be taken down. In practice, that means a YouTube creator could be as violent as calling for government officials to be beheaded and still continue to use YouTube. (By comparison, that same threat led to an account ban on Twitter.)
YouTube claims it has increased the number of daily hate speech comment removals by 46x since early 2019. And in the last quarter, of the more than 1.8 million channels it terminated for violating policies, more than 54,000 terminations were for hate speech. That indicates a growing problem with online discourse that likely influenced these new measures. Some would argue the platforms have a responsibility to do even more, but it’s a difficult balance.
In a separate move, YouTube said it’s soon introducing a new survey that will ask creators to voluntarily share with YouTube information about their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. Using the data collected, YouTube claims it will be able to better examine how content from different communities is treated in search, discovery and monetization systems.
It will also look for possible patterns of hate, harassment and discrimination that could affect some communities more than others, the company explains. And the survey will give creators the option to participate in other initiatives that YouTube hosts, like #YouTubeBlack creator gatherings or FanFest, for instance.
This survey will begin in 2021 and was designed in consultation with input from creators and civil and human rights experts. YouTube says the collected data will not be used for advertising purposes, and creators will have the ability to opt-out and delete their information entirely at any time.
Twitter finally shuts down its abandoned prototype app twttr – TechCrunch
Twitter is shutting down its experimental app twttr, which the company had used publicly prototype new features back in 2019. The app was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019, then launched to testers that March. Its primary focus had been on trying out new designs for threaded conversations, including things like how to branch replies, apply labels and color-code responses, among other things. Some of those tests eventually turned into Twitter features and the twttr app was no longer being used.
The idea to design in public was an interesting experiment by Twitter.
Most companies roll out internal beta tests, followed by smaller-scale A/B tests to a percentage of their public user base to get feedback about new ideas. But with twttr, the company actually invited its users to be a part of the much earlier stage development process.
The concept for twttr had been spearheaded by Twitter’s then Director of Product Management, Sara Beykpour (then Sara Haider — she and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour have since married). But Sara announced last year she would be stepping into a new role at the company and Twitter’s new product director in charge of conversations would be Suzanne Xie, who had joined by way of Twitter’s acquisition of Lightwell.
Work on twttr appeared to stop around the time Xie stepped in, as no other significant updates were released to twttr’s TestFlight user base. And Xie left Twitter this fall for Stripe.
Now, it seems that maintaining the largely unused app no longer makes sense for the company.
Twitter announced its plans to formally shut down twttr today, saying it was turning off the app in order to work on new tests related to the conversation taking place on Twitter itself. The shutdown appears to be immediate. Though the app may still function for those who have it installed, when the TestFlight build expires in 26 days, that may no longer be the case.
It’s not likely that twttr had many dedicated users at this point, especially as the app lacked Twitter’s newer features like Topics and Fleets, for example, and was no longer offering new experiments to test.
Salesforce buys Slack in a $27.7B megadeal – TechCrunch
Salesforce, the CRM powerhouse that recently surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, announced today it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal. Rumors of a pending deal surfaced last week, causing Slack’s stock price to spike.
Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” Butterfield said in a statement.
Every worker at every company needs to communicate, something that Slack can ably empower. What’s more, it also facilitates external communication with customers and partners, something that should be quite useful for a company like Salesforce and its family of offerings.
Ultimately, Slack was ripe for the taking. Entering 2020 it had lost around 40% of its value since it went public. Consider that after its most recent earnings report, the company lost 16% of its value, and before the Salesforce deal leaked, the company was worth only a few dollars per share more than its direct listing reference price. Toss in net losses of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending July 31, 2020, Slack’s uninspiring public valuation and its winding path to profitability and it was a sitting target for a takeover like this one. The only surprise here is the price.
The new deal also puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with its arch rival and sometime friend Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market. Microsoft, which passed on buying Slack in the past for a fraction of what Salesforce is paying today, has made Teams a key priority in recent quarters, loathe to cede any portion of the enterprise software market to another company.
What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they need to do can be done in Slack.
The company’s historic growth helped Slack raise over $1 billion while private, earning an impressive $7 billion valuation before going public last year. But while the Glitch-to-unicorn story appears simple, Slack has always faced entrenched competition from the likes of not only Microsoft, but also Cisco, Facebook, Google and even Asana and Monday.com.
Today’s deal comes after Salesforce’s purchase of Quip in 2016 for $750 million. Quip brought a way of socially sharing documents to the SaaS giant, and when paired with the Slack acquisition gives Salesforce a much more robust social story to tell than its internal option Chatter, an early attempt at enterprise social that never really caught on.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce was interested in Twitter in 2016, the same year that Microsoft was reportedly interested in Slack, but eventually walked away from that deal when shareholders objected, not wanting to deal with the controversial side of the social platform.
Slack was founded in 2013, but its origins go back to an online multiplayer game company called Glitch that was founded in 2009. While the game was ultimately a failure, the startup developed an internal messaging system in the process of building that company that later evolved into Slack.
For Slack, the path to the public markets was fraught with hype and outsized expectation. The company was famous, or as famous as an enterprise software company can be. At the time it felt like the its debut was the start of a long tenure as an indie company. Instead, that public life has been cut short by a huge check. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of tech.
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