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Apple focuses on speed and functionality rather than big features on iOS 12

That doesn’t mean there are no fun new features to play with, though

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We were already expecting Apple to unveil the latest version of their mobile operating system simply called iOS 12 at WWDC 2018. The rumors surrounding its new features were pretty quiet, so we didn’t really know what to look forward to.

As it turned out, Apple didn’t focus on making big changes to iOS, but instead made sure that it’ll work smoothly even on older iPhones and iPads. Although, that doesn’t mean there are no new features to be excited about.

iOS 12 may not have the grand change iOS 7 had years ago, but the new update does include some significant additions and improvements like Screen Time, Memoji, Group FaceTime, and grouped notifications.

Screen Time

This is similar to what Google introduced in Android P. Apple wants their uses to have a healthier balance with gadgets and life, so the Screen Time feature in iOS 12 will make sure you’ll get that. It details how much time you’re spending on your device and apps. It can break down app usage by category and also track which one is constantly bugging you with notifications.

You’ll be able to set limits for each app if they become too addictive. A “time’s up” message will display if your allotted time is over, but you can always ask for more if you still want to continue. Parental controls are also integrated in the app, giving parents great control over how often kids stare at their device’s screen.

Memoji and new Animoji

Memoji is probably the most popular of the announcements today. If Animoji lets us become our favorite emoji, Memoji will let you create a personalized character that you can animate. It’s pretty much like Samsung’s AR Emoji, but improved in a lot of aspects. Memoji let’s you have your own appearance, choose skin color, hairstyle, and accessories.

Animoji is not forgotten with a new roster of characters including a ghost, koala, tiger, and a tyrannosaurus rex (or simply T-Rex). Not only that, Animoji now has the ability to detect your tongue. If you stick it out, Animoji will be able to mimic that.

Group FaceTime

Apple’s built-in video chat app will soon be able to let friends have a video conference with up to 32 people. Like other popular video conferencing apps, group FaceTime sessions will have dynamic video windows that get larger when the user in that window is speaking. You might say it’s a boring update, but hold your horses.

If you don’t feel like showing your face in the call or wanna stir up some fun, you’ll be able to use Animoji and your Memoji character during calls. I can already imagine having a lively video conference even during work meetings.

Grouped notifications

At last! Grouped notifications is a long overdue fix to iOS’ messy notifications. In iOS 12, you’ll now be able to interact with or dismiss multiple notifications from the same app at once — just like how Android has been doing it for years. Aside from this, there are also new tweaks like individual setup of “Quiet” app notifications that will show up on your lock screen or not make a sound at all.

Better AR and a new Measure app

In iOS 12, augmented reality is still a focus feature. A more powerful AR experience is coming our way on Apple’s mobile devices along with a new Measure app. As the name suggests, the app is for measuring objects or distances around you. It’s practically an AR ruler similar to other third-party apps, but now made by Apple.

All about performance

As mentioned earlier, Apple is working to make iOS feel smoother and faster especially on older devices. Based on their test on a four-year-old iPhone 6, these are what they found about iOS 12’s performance: Apps launch 40 percent faster, the system keyboard shows up 50 percent faster, and the camera launches 70 percent faster.

“For iOS 12, we are doubling down on performance.” — Craig Federighi, Senior VP of Software Engineering for Apple

Apple focuses on what’s in the core to make sure the new update will not slow down older devices. This is probably to address the battery issues and intentional slow down fiasco. iOS 12 will be available for download later this year, but you can join the beta program to get ahead of everyone else. All devices running iOS 11 are eligible to get iOS 12 — nice!

Apps

US wants to secure itself from Chinese companies, apps via a Clean Network

An American internet firewall?

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ByteDance-owned TikTok is the hottest topic in the news right now due to its Chinese roots. The US wants to distance itself from these Chinese companies and apps to ensure there are no data backdoors or infiltrations. It intends to do so with a new concept dubbed Clean Network.

The US wants to establish a clear line that ensures data of American citizens doesn’t land in Chinese hands. President Trump has already threatened to ban TikTok and ByteDance is scrambling to find a taker for its US, New Zealand, Canada, and Australian services.

“With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for the Chinese Communist Party content censorship,” Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said. He added that apps from China threaten privacy and spread malware, propaganda, and disinformation.

The Clean Network will ensure there are no Chinese components or devices in the telecom network. Similarly, the US will try to prevent China from accessing raw data from submarine cables that power the internet. For cloud setups, it’ll ensure that data of American citizens are saved on local infrastructure, avoiding Chinese players like Alibaba Cloud.

Telecom giant Huawei has been under the scanner since last year and the recent developments are definitely not in its favor. The Chinese phone maker is barred from using Google Mobile Services on Android, derailing its dominance on the global stage. With the ongoing hostility, other countries like India have also taken a hard stance against Chinese companies.

The US is also lobbying its strategic allies to ditch Chinese equipment citing security and privacy concerns. Practically, Huawei is the most hit in terms of revenue lost, followed by other companies like ZTE. While ByteDance can save some of its investment in TikTok thanks to a possible takeover by Microsoft, Huawei has no such cushion available.

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Google adds Safe Folder to Files app

For more privacy and security

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Have you ever had to lend your phone to a friend or family member for a quick minute, only to realize that — intentionally or not — they have started browsing on your phone. Smartphones are personal devices, and thus, might contain files that you don’t exactly want other people seeing. This is the situation that Google is trying to address with the Safe Folder.

Safe Folder is a secure 4-digit PIN-encrypted folder. It helps users store important documents, images, videos and audio files securely. This helps in keeping their personal files safe from being accessed by someone else.

The folder won’t allow users to take screenshots or screen recordings of its contents. It’s also locked as soon as users switch away from the app.  This means no content is accessible in the background and the PIN is required upon re-entry to the Files app.

Google didn’t just come up with this out of the blue. They conducted research and found that in certain countries — especially those with limited smartphone access — device sharing is a common occurrence.

Asked if this is a feature that can be extended to apps installed on the phone too, the Google representatives discussing the Safe Folder feature said they understand the need but can’t speak to any implementation or development of such.

That said, this is still a welcome addition for anyone who has ever encountered this scenario.

SEE ALSO: Nearby Share which is ‘Google’s AirDrop’ now rolling out

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Nearby Share which is ‘Google’s AirDrop’ now rolling out

Now supporting Pixel and Samsung phones

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After a long time in development, Google’s Nearby Share feature is now available on some Pixel and Samsung phones. The file-sharing feature enables direct transfer of files locally, improving speed as well as ease-of-use.

Apple’s iOS and macOS have a feature called AirDrop for a very long time now. Using local WiFi protocol, any large file can be swiftly transferred within the ecosystem. Android users have long been asking for a similar feature and it’s now available on a few phones.

If you want to share a file, just tap share, and wait for the nearby device to show-up. Select the device and the file will be off within a few seconds. This eliminates the need to upload the file on a cloud and later download it on another device. Bluetooth connection is radically slower than WiFi protocol and hence cannot be used for larger files.

The concept is on the same lines as third-party apps like Xender or Me Share. But, with a direct app from Google, Nearby Share can become a deeply rooted part of the operating system, much like the Play Store.

The receiving device will always have the option to “accept” or “decline” the file, so files are never transferred without explicit confirmation. However, the best part about Nearby Share is its cross-platform compatibility. It’ll work with Chromebooks, Windows, and Chrome browser. iOS support isn’t mentioned yet.

Nearby Share leverages Bluetooth and location, along with WebRTC, or peer-to-peer WiFi sharing. Lastly, the feature is backed by Google Play Services, so Huawei phones will again miss out on a simple app.

Although, Chinese tech giants like OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, realme, and more have created a consortium that shall support a similar file sharing app seamlessly across all their devices. Google is quite late to the game and these Android phone makers were kind of tired of waiting.

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