For years the Apple mantra was always “just works” and as Apple became more entrenched with their just cause of protecting user privacy — Google went the opposite way. Deep machine learning pushed Android to be preemptive and understanding — Google Now being the primary focus, but certainly not the only place this happens. Back on iOS we have always been siloed where one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, unless you explicitly tell each hand what the hell is going on. A task as tedious as it is to read about.
And while I typically don’t write iOS reviews, iOS 10 is Apple’s first step into the future of software which customizes itself to the user — and they figured out how to do this without compromising your privacy. People have been hesitant to embrace iOS as their only platform, but iOS 10 is what is going to push a great many people over the edge.
Let’s take a normal scenario to see how iOS changes things. My wife and I have been looking at houses on Zillow. Typically, for me, that means a lot of copy and pasting, or other hijinks to get a satellite view from Apple Maps (I can do it in the app, but I like to see images hopefully taken at different times — I’m odd like that, but I have reasons). It’s even worse when I wanted to drive by these places because I would constantly be switching apps and pasting in addresses.
With iOS 10 this changes a lot, now Maps knows what house and address I have been looking at, and it prompts me to use that address in Maps. Now the workflow is: look at house in Zillow, move to Maps, and tap the address suggested. No copying and pasting, it just is there, and there without Zillow being updated for iOS 10.
It was also crazy that the fastest way to get directions to the next event on your calendar, was by tapping the location field in Calendar, not from within Maps — completely counter intuitive. Under iOS 10, this again changes, now Maps knows that the location is on the calendar, is your next event, and puts the address one tap away inside of Maps — where it should have been the entire time.
There’s a lot of little things like this, because for once iOS knows what the other hand is doing and it’s about time. This is one of the biggest reasons why I say that iOS 10 is going to be a tipping point — because now iOS has tangible usability benefits over macOS. Limited still, yes, but significantly better in many ways also.
We’ve seen a shift where macOS is now looking and acting like a manual transmission — robust, accurate, and putting the user in full control. On the other hand iOS is very much acting like an automatic transmission — anticipatory, seamless, and convenient. What kind of transmission does your car have? Yeah…
While imperfect, the analogy pushes forth the common theme in iOS: make the OS better in ways people don’t expect. Don’t add a command prompt, file system, or any of the other so called power features, instead just slowly make iOS the best possible assistant to your life that it could be.
It’s going to be a hell of a next few years to watch.
As it stands, the first step Apple took towards this is by making iOS aware of context. That might sound trivial, but it is a substantial movement forward with iOS.
What’s an App?
For better or worse Apple made the word “app” a part of our language, but with iOS 10 the definition of an app is changing once again. It’s no longer an icon you tap on — now it can be a notification, or a part of another app completely.
One of the most used apps on my iOS devices is Messages — the center of my communications hub. I have always lived a good part of my days in Messages, but with iOS 10 I am not sure I can say that is true anymore…
Now instead of being in the Messages app proper, I am now mostly interacting with Messages (at the same level of fidelity) from within expanded notifications. Same experience, without me having to be pulled out of whatever I may be working on. This is a huge shift towards the macOS way of living. Where a message comes in and another app window comes on top of the current app windows. I can still kind of see what I was doing, but there’s now another app on top of that and it’s a fully functional app at that.
It’s a shift, but how big? It’s really going to depend on how fast third parties adopt the system, but it feels like yet another step in making iOS the most seamless computing platform you can use.
Long Overdue, Praise the Apple Engineers Who Did This
One of the most compelling reasons for me to use a third party email app on iOS, was so that I could read newsletters and send the linked items directly to Instapaper. With Mail.app you would have to open the link, invoke the share sheet, tap Instapaper. This has subtilely changed in iOS 10, now when you long press a link the system dialog which pops up has a new item: Share Link. Tapping this brings up the share sheet and access to all your extensions.
It’s a simple bit of magnificent glory.
Inside of Mail.app reading The Next Draft and wanting to send some links to Instapaper: tap, hold, share, done. To who ever at Apple implemented this: thank you, thank you very much.
Apple Remembered They Have a Server OS
I’ve mentioned this before, but I run my one Mac mini OS X Server with MacStadium — it hosts files, contacts, emails (it used to), etc for my digital life. So, naturally, since it is an Apple product you would expect it to work seamlessly with iOS. That’s cute, because OS X Server is like the bastard that iOS likes to pretend doesn’t exist in it’s perfect little world.
Here’s a prime example: setting up an email account in Mail.app. The assumption you would likely have is that Mail.app would recognize it is a Mac server, and auto configure the email account — just as it does with Gmail, iCloud, Hotmail, and a plethora of other accounts. Again, that’s a fucking cute thought, because the reality of the situation is that you have to manually configure the entire fucking thing.
This all changes in iOS 10. Now there is a an ‘OS X Server’ account option and all you enter is your username and password. By setting up your account under this option you get
four toggles actually you get access to any of the services you have turned on.:
- File Sharing
This is fantastic. You used to have to setup VPN separately, not any more as it is all configured with just the host domain, username, and password. So awesome. And while email is still a crazy mess, the VPN service is better than ever on iOS devices.
There Are Downsides
For starters, I don’t know what the hell the File Sharing option does. It would be logical that you could access file shares from an app which looks like iCloud Drive, or that you could save files to a share from the share sheet actions — but for the life of me I can see no place in iOS where File Sharing to an OS X server is present. It’s baffling.
There’s also a big problem with the email configuration: you have zero configuration options other than your email signature. Do you perhaps want to archive emails by default instead of deleting them? Too fucking bad.
Death to Phone Calls
It’s hard to avoid phone calls when the person who called you (and you rightly ignored) leaves a voice message. Shit, now you have to listen to it. Except, finally, Apple is joining in on the transcriptions of these messages.
And while not perfect, they tell you everything you need to know, in order to respond. I cannot tell you how much time this has saved me, and how much I love it. So glad to have it baked in to iOS now.
There’s more things in iOS 10, but that’s not what I am here for — the above things are what has really made an impact on my day to day usage of iOS 10. And as small as they may seem, they are like removing the rock from your shoe. Sure, it was a small rock, but it was annoying as shit.