Apple’s next major operating system updates will include an emphasis on privacy, as well as helping users to gain greater focus and use their various Apple devices better in tandem with each other, Apple executives said Monday. The company used its keynote address at the virtual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021 to unveil an array of updates coming in the next version of the iPhone operating system—iOS 15—as well as new features in the next iPad and Mac operating systems, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. The three operating systems will debut in the fall and will include a number of “breakthrough innovations,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the keynote.
In keeping with the approach taken in recent years at WWDC, the company did not make any major new hardware announcements during the event—not even around the company’s in-house processors. Last year’s WWDC 2020 conference had featured the announcement of the company’s first Arm-based processor for the Mac, which was ultimately dubbed the M1. But Apple did not offer any updates on the plans surrounding its Mac chips during the WWDC 2021 keynote Monday.
What follows are details on Apple’s five biggest announcements at WWDC 2021.
iOS 15: Privacy and Siri
At WWDC 2021, Apple executives said the company is doubling down on enabling user privacy with the announcement of several new privacy controls in iOS 15. One new feature is Mail Privacy Protection, which hides a user’s IP address and location from senders of emails—while also preventing senders from seeing if an email has been opened or not. Another new capability is the App Privacy Report, which provides users with an overview of how apps are treating privacy. The report shows how apps are using the permissions that users have granted—for instance, revealing how often apps have accessed information such as location, photos, microphone, camera and contacts during the past seven days. In addition, the App Privacy Report shows which third-party domains the app has contacted.
Apple is also enhancing privacy related to use of the Siri voice assistant in iOS 15. By default, all audio will now be processed on the iPhone itself, eliminating any chance of unwanted audio recordings being made. The on-device speech recognition for Siri will also improve performance of the assistant while allowing users to make many requests, such as launching an app or controlling music, without an internet connection, Apple said.
iOS 15: Notifications and focus
With the goal of reducing distractions and helping iPhone users to focus on what they’re doing, iOS 15 will introduce several new features unveiled on Monday. One feature, dubbed Focus, will let users filter their notifications and apps to assist with what they’re trying to focus on at the moment. Users can create a custom Focus or use a Focus that is suggested, such as work or sleep. Senders of messages that have been blocked will be able to see the user’s status as unreachable.
Apple is also launching a new notifications experience in iOS 15 as a way to further help with cutting down on distractions. The experience will include a new notification summary that collects notifications that are not time-sensitive, and delivers them at a more ideal time (such as the evening or the morning). The summary also automatically arranges notifications by priority using on-device intelligence, Apple said. Messages from people will still be allowed through and will not go into the notifications summary, the company said.
iOS 15: Live text
Another new feature in iOS 15 aims to make it easier for users to convert text found in images into text that can be used on the device. The new Live Text feature leverages on-device intelligence technologies to recognize the text in a photo, and let users copy and paste that text elsewhere. For instance, users can point their camera at written text, copy that text and then paste it into another document, Apple said. Pointing the camera at a phone number will offer the option to call that number, meanwhile. Live Text will understand seven languages to start, Apple said.
For the next version of the iPad operating system, iPadOS 15, Apple touted a number of new features at WWDC 2021. To assist with productivity, iPadOS will introduce a multitasking menu that will appear at the top of an app, which can be tapped to convert the screen into Split View or Slide Over. Meanwhile, a new area on the iPad screen, called the shelf, will let users more easily multitask using apps that have multiple windows, such as Safari.
Another new iPadOS 15 feature is Quick Note, which lets users create a note in other apps besides Notes. For instance, users can paste a link into a Quick Note while using Safari, without leaving the browser. Those notes will still be stored in the Notes app, Apple said.
New iOS 15 features such as Live Text, Focus, Mail Privacy Protection, the App Privacy Report and on-device Siri speech recognition will also be available in iPadOS 15, the company said.
For the next version of the Mac operating system, dubbed macOS Monterey, Apple announced new features such as Universal Control, which lets users work across Mac and iPad using a single mouse and keyboard. Key capabilities include the ability to drag and drop content between Mac and iPad devices, Apple said. The company is also introducing AirPlay to the Mac, allowing users to play or present content from their iPhone or iPad on their Mac display.
For the Safari browser, Apple is launching a new tab design that aims to increase the amount of the page that users can see while scrolling. The design includes a new tab bar that combines tabs with the tool bar and search field. In addition, Safari will introduce Tab Groups, which lets users save tabs into customized groups. Tab Groups will sync across a user’s Apple devices, the company said.