A deep dive in to the new OS releases that were made available to the public yesterday
Here we go then
Apple, yesterday made public, what I expect will be their last OS updates ahead of the New Year.
iPad, iPhone, watch & TV all received some form of updates yesterday – some more meaningful than others, but let’s take a look at some features you may find useful.
You can update your Apple Watch OS in one of two-ways. Either directly on your watch – Settings > General > Software Update, or via the watch app on your phone. Your watch will need to be on charge, with at least 50% battery, and close to your phone.
There was nothing radically new in watchOS 9.2 that I have found. Race Routes was the main feature. This lets you compete against your previous performance in Outdoor Run, Outdoor Cycle and Outdoor Wheelchair Workouts. The Kickboxing algorithm gets a bump, now giving better, more informed, and accurate metrics.
The Noise app has improved on-screen functionality, and has been made back compatible with AirPods Pro, first generation, and AirPods Max when you are using Active Noise Cancelling.
Other than that, the update consisted only of minor bug fixes, and tweaks to Family Set-up, Accessibility, and Crash Detection.
All that the tvOS got in this update was an improved UI. Now, next to the ‘Up Next’ button, you will now see larger show & movie premiere previews.
The two big headlines with iOS 16.2 were Freeform & Apple Music Sing.
Freeform was first spoken about at this summer’s WWDC. Yesterday, it finally made its full debut.
Think of Freeform as a creatives, collaboration tool. You can add links, PDFs, and images to a board. It can be used for sketching projects, designing mood boards, and brainstorming ideas, with the app serving as a creative space.
Freeform allows for multiple people to be working on a document, simultaneously, and will update, and sync in real-time, across all devices. Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, said;
“Freeform opens up endless possibilities for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to visually collaborate. With an infinite canvas, support for uploading a wide range of files, iCloud integration, and collaboration capabilities, Freeform creates a shared space for brainstorming that users can take anywhere.”
Apple has clearly put an awful lot of thought and effort in developing this app, and has big hopes for it. There is a variety of brush styles, and colour options. On iPad and iPhone, you can draw anywhere on the canvas, and, of course, it works with Apple Pencil as well, taking creativity to a whole new level.
You can even drag a board directly in to Messages, to invite someone new to join the project. FaceTime is built in to the app, meaning you can start a video call, without leaving the Freeform app.
Apple Music Sing
The other biggie, was Apple Music Sing. With this app, Apple have jumped headlong in to the karaoke market. Apple Music Sing is available on compatible iPhones and iPads, along with the newest 4K Apple TV. I don’t know if I am convinced if this seems ‘on-brand’ with Apple, and I’m pretty certain that I won’t be busting out in to song anytime soon. Maybe it’s just me being curmudgeonly, as Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, enthused;
“Apple Music’s lyrics experience is consistently one of the most popular features on our service. We already know our users all over the world love to follow along to their favourite songs, so we wanted to evolve this offering even further to enable even more engagement around music through singing. It’s really a lot of fun, our customers are going to love it.”
Looking at it today, you have featured playlists, that include Festive Favourites, Classic Love Songs, and Party Anthems. You can choose a playlist by genre, or decade. Once a playlist has been picked, you can then adjust the vocal levels of the song, to make singing over it easier. There is an option to sing duets, you have real-time lyrics, and there is even a background vocal setting as well.
Advanced Data Protection
This is something I wrote about, more fully, earlier this week. It has added numerous categories to the list, which are now end-to-end encrypted.
You’ll find the opt-in setting, under General > Apple ID > iCloud. Apps added include iCloud backups, Photos, and Message backups. Mail, Contacts, and Calendar are not yet end-to-end encrypted because these features need to interoperate with systems that use legacy technologies.
Before rushing to enable Apple’s ADP, though, just be aware, that should you lose or forget your password, Apple will not be able to help you restore your data. In that event, access to iCloud is also disabled by default.
Stage Manager External Display Support
M1 & M2 iPads, running iPadOS 16.2 and Stage Manager, can now be used with external displays. Stage Manager will support up to eight apps for multitasking purposes, rather than four.
If using an M1 or M2 iPad, there is also an option to drag & drop a window from your iPad to one of your other displays.
Always On Display
At last, an Always On Display, that is actually usable. I gave the first version of this a good go, but eventually, I couldn’t live with it no longer. The fact it hit battery life hard, and that notifications were always on show, just got to me in the end.
Well, now, with 16.2, in the Always On Display section, you have two, new toggles – Show Wallpaper & Show Notifications. I have both of those turned off, and now my lock-screen display is all black, apart from the time and widgets. It’s a much cleaner look, and, from what I could tell yesterday, kinder on the battery as well.
There are changes to this app, that I use virtually every day. By default, it will now be set to Contacts Only. You still have the option to set it to Everyone, but it only stays in that mode for 10 minutes. After that period, it will revert to Contacts Only. Apple says that this was implemented to cut down on AirDrop spam.
Emergency SOS via Satellite
Yesterday, this made it to the UK. Head to General > Emergency SOS > Try Demo. The idea behind the demo, is that you can familiarise yourself with the functionality of the app, before being in a stressful, real-life emergency. The demo mode, does not activate emergency services.
Emergency SOS via satellite offers a way for people to contact emergency services and alert emergency contacts, as long as you can get a clear view of the sky.
The satellite service is available for free for two years to all iPhone 14 customers. Apple has not disclosed what the pricing model will be once the free two years is up. The service is now also available in France, Ireland, and Germany too.
Bits and bobs
If there is any relevant weather information in your region, such as storm warnings, there will now be an Apple News page displayed in the Weather app.
Sleep & Medications are two new additions to the widgets you can choose to add on to your customised lock-screen.
Lastly, the Home app has had minor amends made to it, which Apple says will make the new Home app architecture faster, and more reliable performance in homes with many smart accessories. These updates were required following the addition of the Matter smart home standard.
I just checked, and it looks as if there is a firmware update on the HomePod Minis as well.
For me, the Always On Display was the update that I was most looking forward to. What about you, though? What were your favourite new features that you’ve come across in 16.2? Have I missed anything?
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