iOS 10 review: What you need to know about Apple’s new mobile operating system

Screenshots of Apple's new iOS 10 operating system.

As Apple Inc. prepares to release its new iPhone line on Friday, the tech giant is also rolling out its latest operating system Tuesday as a free upgrade for iPad and iPhone users.

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Apple says the operating system will be available to users on Sept. 13 when you check for an update on your device, though we don’t know exactly when.

I’ve been using iOS 10 through all of its numerous beta iterations since June, right up until the next-to-final gold master version. Here are some of the biggest changes in iOS 10 that you can expect to see in the update and some impressions based on my day-to-day experience.

Overall design and new lock screen

Right away you’ll notice that things look a lot different from iOS 9, though still familiar. Everything is more bubble-like, with rounded edges separating different sections as opposed to the previous stacked block approach. Though it sounds insignificant, this actually helps with readability when you need to quickly glance for information or scan various notifications for information quickly since everything is a lot cleaner.

Speaking of notifications, they have become a lot more useful with what Apple calls “rich notifications.” Developers can insert images, audio or video right into notifications, plus you are able to interact with them without having to fully go inside the application. They can also be refreshed with the latest information if you didn’t have the chance to look at it right away.

The lock screen has been revamped, with the new bubble notifications helping to keep things organized. Rich notifications appear right on the lock screen where you can now also pull down the Notification Center from the top (you can do this now anywhere, for that matter). Swiping right on the lock screen will show the changed Today view that outlines what your agenda looks like as well as access the many customizable widgets. In addition, swipe left anywhere on the lock screen for quick access to the camera. Handy.

Handout / Apple Inc

Handout / Apple Inc

But what is most useful about the overall iOS 10 design change is the updated Control Center, which you access from swiping up from the bottom of the screen regardless of where you are. You will see the usual suspects of the flashlight (now with three brightness settings), airplane mode, screen brightness, calculator, night shift and more, but there is also a second page added if you swipe to the right. The new second page focuses exclusively on whatever audio you have playing at the time to give you easier control over skipping tracks, pausing, volume and more.

Finally, if you have an iPhone 6s or iPhone SE (or later), you can raise your iPhone to wake it up and look at the lock screen, then lower it to put the screen back to sleep. I use this constantly instead of tapping the power button to see if I have any new notifications, as most people do right now.

In terms of usability, the only major problem I had with the redesign is on the lock screen and Notification Center. Sometimes when you are trying to swipe right on a specific notification to get more information, it’ll think you want to access the Today window and move the whole window to the right. When it happens, I would get slightly frustrated and go into the application for the specific notification I wanted to read more in depth. This was something that has continually happened through all of the betas and right up to the gold master.

Messages get more attitude (and purpose)

With iOS 10, Apple is making its Messages app a lot more interactive and even fun. No doubt a response to the growing popularity of instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, Messages can now do a lot more than just sending text, photos, audio or video.

For starters, there are Stickers. And lots of them.

Apple has made an entire ecosystem where developers and brands can create  colourful (and sometimes moving) stickers. You can send them to people as either a standalone message or add them to photos, whether ones you sent or even other people in the conversation after you receive them. Some of the stickers are free like vintage Apple logos, Super Mario and even CBC stickers that include cartoon versions of on air personalities such as Peter Mansbridge or Rick Mercer. There are plenty of paid-for sticker sets, too, such as Star Wars, Peanuts or Disney.

Handout / Apple Inc

Handout / Apple IncThere are many, many stickers in iOS 10. Some you pay for, others are free.

When you send photos or videos to someone in Messages you can also mark them up with scribbles or text overlays — think Snapchat or Instagram Stories — plus you can take quick pictures without leaving the app with a shortcut below the keyboard.

There are new ways to send messages now, too. You can send individual messages with quirky animations that show when other people open them, like a “loud” effect that makes the text temporarily bigger when the chat is first opened or “invisible ink” that forces the receiver to swipe the line before reading. Handwriting is also available for you to scribble a quick something in the provided space.

Each line in a chat can be held to prompt a “tapback” response such as thumbs up, thumbs down, laughter, heart and more — similar to a social media network. It can be fun, but also a way to quickly acknowledge a response.

Handout / Apple Inc

Handout / Apple Inc

Then there are the emojis. Yes, there are new ones in iOS 10, but what some people will really like is built into the keyboard. Type your message out first then open the emoji tab and it will highlight words that you can quickly tap to replace them with emojis. Welcome to the future.

But while all of this so far is admittedly fun, there are also couple of very practical changes to Messages.

First, there are rich links, which is a small preview of the content before leaving the application. But, more importantly, there are now app extensions that developers can add into Messages which will let you do things like book a dinner reservation or hail a cab in your conversation. This is essentially turning Messages into a full platform like Facebook is doing with Messenger.

More useful Siri conversations

Apple says Siri gets nearly 2 billion requests a week from users, but the software has been fairly limited so far. Now Siri has been opened up to developers so they can integrate voice commands and automation into their applications.

Look up more detailed sport stats, book another dinner reservation, send a digital payment to a friend or start a new chat in one of your (non-Apple) chat programs like WeChat. Over time Siri will be able to do a lot more, provided your favourite app integrates support.

Of course, Siri can only be useful if it picks up your phrases and requests correctly — and it is still necessary to repeat your request sometimes — but Apple says Siri continues to get better the more people use it. The other problem is you don’t always know which app has Siri support unless that developer makes it obvious, so there can be some trial and error to the discovery. However, Siri integration is something developers and users have long been asking for, so it is a very welcomed (and useful) addition.

Music and Maps overhaul

Both of Apple’s built-in Music and Maps apps have completely new looks.

Like with Messages, Maps has extensions that lets you do things like book a ride-sharing vehicle without needing to jump over to the separate application. It also has weather integration and quick directions to some of the places you often go to. Plus

Meanwhile, the Music app has had a major overhaul in design, too. Like with iOS 10 itself, there is a cleaner interface that focuses on big text, album covers and a more light-hearted colour scheme. Sections have been renamed to help you access your downloaded library easier, while also offering better Apple Music integration that is supposed to be more tailored to you based off of your listening habits. Apple has been pretty open about its focus on the For You section, which uses a combination of algorithm and human curation to offer music it thinks you will like.

The Music app itself may still take some getting used to for some people though, as it still isn’t the most intuitive design when it comes to knowing exactly what’s in each section — especially when you’re looking for something specific and aren’t familiar with the app yet. But as you explore the different sections and learn what is where, the app is definitely much easier to understand and use than before. It’s still not fully there, but it’s significantly improved.

Photos, Home, 3D Touch and the rest

As with any operating system update, there are many new features within iOS 10 — too many to list, actually.

Photos, for example, is getting new editing tools, while machine learning is being used to group photos and videos together more appropriately in its Memories section (and you can create fun little movies from them now, too). The more organized grouping is based on things like location or people, plus you can search for various things and Photos will try to find them based on object recognition.

Meanwhile, Home is a new application that brings all of your smart home devices — or Internet of Things — into one place, regardless of the manufacturer. This is handy as it saves you having to jump around to a different application for a different piece of technology in your home.

Handout / Apple Inc

Handout / Apple IncThe new Home app for iOS (and watchOS).

iOS 10 is also getting much more useful 3D Touch integration, which is a feature in iPhone models from the iPhone 6s and beyond. You press the screen down like a button to get extra options in nearly any situation now, such as an app icon, tweet, video game inventory system or photo editing tool. In iOS 9, 3D Touch was much more limited, but in iOS 10 it is quite literally everywhere.

As for the rest, there are plenty more features to be found throughout iOS 10, it’s just a matter of stumbling across them while exploring.

Overall impressions and availability

It’s not every year that Apple does a major design overhaul of one of its operating systems, but iOS 10 is one of the few times that the company chose to do it. In the past, these major changes didn’t always feel the most comfortable to the end user, however this time the transition is actually pretty smooth and the end product is a better one for it.

iOS 10 looks better, feels more intuitive and there is a good mix of enhancements for both productivity and pleasure. There are still some quirks, but as you use the operating system more you become more familiar with the changes. It’s still iOS, so don’t expect heavy customizable options like Google’s Android, but it definitely feels the most open when compared to other iOS iterations before it.

Maps offers proactive suggestions based on those places you frequently visit, current traffic conditions or upcoming meetings in your schedule.

Maps also has better search capabilities, offering more detailed results which include photos and ratings. There is also better Transit integration (in available cities) and more options when in turn-by-turn navigation mode.

All of these things are great additions and continue to improve Maps, but it does still seem to lag behind when it comes to current traffic conditions when compared to competitors like Google Maps.

[Source:-Financial Post]