Cupertino, California: There was a sense that this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) would be pivotal moment for the tech giant, with a new chapter to write for operating systems that define the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch experiences. Apple Intelligence, which is Apple’s take on artificial intelligence overlays for iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia, has rightly cornered most of the attention. Yet, beyond this, the software platforms are changing quite significantly.

There are many improvements landing on the iOS 18 platform for iPhones. (Apple)

“Incredible updates,” is how Apple CEO Tim Cook described the changes that are lined up, at the WWDC keynote. “Profound new intelligence capabilities that we hope will inspire developers and make our platforms even smarter and more useful than ever,” he added. Apple Intelligence (AI) and major updates to some of Apple’s own apps and experiences including Photos, Mail and Messages, will be available to all users later this year, as part of iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia. watchOS too gets a new Vitals app for a closer analysis of metrics including heart rate, respiratory rate, wrist temperature, sleep duration, and blood oxygen while sleeping.

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Apple Intelligence: AI gets a new meaning?

There are many layers to Apple Intelligence, which Tim Cook as a “personal intelligence system”. Unlike artificial intelligence implementations in Android phones, Windows PCs and standalone generative AI tools, Apple’s integration of machine learning and AI models in iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia will run much deeper. Across Apple’s own apps and the expectation being that developers will utilise the updates for the App Intents framework to integrate compatibility, functionality will reside within the app or invoke the updated Siri assistant.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president for software engineering at Apple, explained to HT with an example. “Where there’s a blinking cursor system, you could spell check, copy paste or draw in the Writing Tool. In addition to drawing in the Writing Tools, you can choose to take advantage of some of the advanced composition and creative capabilities of ChatGPT and that code instead of via copy and pasting can just flow right in line and can revise what you’re working on in our apps or in a third-party app. And this also extends to image generation scenarios,” he says.

Core to Apple Intelligence are multiple models that they’ve built in-house, on-device processing, a smarter Siri, the privacy focused Private Cloud Compute for server-side processing, updates for App Intents framework that’ll allow third-party apps to plug into the intelligence features and an optional OpenAI ChatGPT-4o integration. Some headline functionalities it’ll introduce include summarising a lengthy document or long emails, priority notifications and reduced interruptions, smart replies for emails that draw from choice-based questions and AI writes the replies for you, or even rewrite complete emails, improve handwriting in notes or do detailed searches within Photos.

iOS 18: Customisations, Message updates and Passwords

There are many improvements landing on the iOS 18 platform for iPhones, with the ones you’ll almost immediately notice being the customisation options such as icon placements (Android users may legitimately raise an eyebrow) and a more detailed Control Center. Beyond that, the Messages app which also adds complete RCS standard support which should make your friends with Android phones happier (the bubbles still remain green though, not blue), an updated dark mode which gives app icons a rather pleasant hue, a redesigned Photos with detailed search, and a new Passwords app, are important. Apple Mail will now have on-device categorisation for sorting and defining which mails may be time sensitive or transactional. Safari’s next version will have machine learning powered overlays to get contextual information about what’s on the webpage – article summaries, location to a business or listen to an artist’s music.

The Passwords app is an evolution of the Keychain functionality that kept logins and passwords synced across a user’s devices. Beyond passwords, the app will also hold passkeys and verification codes. There’s a thicker privacy envelope on iOS 18 too, with a user getting more controls over how accessories connect with their iPhone, an ability to lock apps as well as the option to hide some apps. Image Playground, which finds deep integration within Messages for instance, will be do text to image generations in three predefined styles (that is, Animation, Illustration, or Sketch).

iPadOS 18: Math Notes are the coolest iPad app, ever

While a lot of the iPadOS’ new smarts come from the Apple Intelligence Suite, the iPad will finally get a calculator app. It has been a demanded feature for many years, and Apple had earlier said they’d only introduce one which had more functionality than the one on the iPhone. This surely has, and it is called Math Notes. Users can type or write mathematical expressions and see them instantly solved. In their own handwriting, if handwritten using an Apple Pencil. These solved calculations will reside within the Notes app.

Speaking of which, the Notes app will attempt to improve the handwriting quality for notes written down. Apple insists this will not change the handwriting style which is often unique to individuals. Also, Apple Pencil users will be able to add space, scratch out a sentence, or paste typed text in their own handwriting. Updated formatting smarts mean a paragraph will automatically reflow to fit.

Some apps will also get a floating tab bar, which stays above the content, and can be customised for quicker access to most used functionality. The extensive updates that Apple has lined up for iOS with regards to home screen customisations, a more visually versatile dark mode, Messages and Photos, will figure in iPadOS 18 as well. Safari too, which means there is no significant change in how the Safari browser on an iPad remains closer still to the mobile version on an iPhone, than a full desktop experience on a Mac. For some users, that may be a limitation.

macOS Sequoia: Mirroring an iPhone, is as cool as gaming

Windows PC users may scoff upon hearing this, but as is often the theme, Apple’s done it later than Microsoft’s Phone Link yet taken a few steps further forward still. The iPhone Mirroring functionality, detailed at WWDC and set to arrive on Macs later this year, will allow users to completely replicate their iPhone on a Mac screen in a windowed app – it’ll have the exact same home screen, app layout as well as access to apps and responding to notifications. That’s not it – it’ll unlock the ability to drag and drop files between the connected iPhone and Mac computing device, which will be incredibly convenient for anyone working on a complex video edit, for instance.

The Passwords app, Safari’s machine learning context layer and the Apple Intelligence updates are synced with the iPhone and iPad.

For Apple, persistent efforts over the last couple of years are beginning to bear fruit, as popular game titles are arriving on the Mac. Ubisoft will release Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Alongside, Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise including Resident Evil 7: Biohazard will also be released in the coming weeks. Apple confirms that the next major expansion of World of Warcraft: The War Within, too, is coming later this year. “Also on the way are Frostpunk 2, Palworld, Sniper Elite 4, and RoboCop: Rogue City,” they confirm.

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