This summer, Apple announced its new installation of its mobile operating system, iOS 10, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California, along with other improvements with regards to its software platforms. The new version of iOS includes improved Apple Maps, new Music and News designes, smart home integration, and improved AI and predictive typing, among others. But the key feature of iOS was Messages, and an entirely new way to communicate on iOS devices.
To put into context all the new features of messages, the executives of the company took an entire fifteen minutes to cover at WWDC 2016 – more time to cover than any other announcement at that keynote.
The update includes a very colorful, very unique and far more expansive way of communicating. When messaging someone, there are now three icons next to the text bar. Not much has changed with the first, which is the camera, with a new design in shortcuts to finding photos and videos wished to be sent over text.
The next icon is a heart with two fingers on it. This icon pulls up a black space on screen for users to draw on and interact with, called Digital Touch. This feature is far more in-depth than just users sending quick sketches in basic colors; one tap on the screen summons a small ripple effect ring that vibrates the recipient’s phone, a one-finger hold a ‘fireball’ is sent, a kiss with a two-finger tap, a heartbeat with a two-finger hold, and a broken heartbeat by holding two fingers and then sliding them down the screen to break the heart. Some users found that by accidentally tapping or making a mistake the OS like to send the Digital Touch message before it is finished.
The final icon is one of the most important and versatile features of the whole experience, and even goes so far as to highlight a key development in the entire ecosystem of Apple. There is now a button that summons the App Store. Not the App Store for installing and updating apps that have their own icon, there is now an App Store for Messages in iOS. This means third-party developers can make their own Messages app do do a number of things.
Stickers, small images that can be send or placed over text messages are available for purchase under this new App Store, animated emojis, and much more. All apps can be found by clicking the icon in the bottom left corner, and a small drawer for apps slides up for the user to pick which apps they want to use. Users can now request to play someone on Words with Friends in the app, meaning the user opens the little app, makes the first play on the board, and sends their friend their turn to move via text. Taking turns to playing digital 8-ball pool has never been possible – and easier – than now. Users can now search for an animated GIF in the app, rather than saving a photo and pasting it in later.
Students at LHS had very positive feedback to the new update with regard to Messages. Student Charlie Vaughters enjoys how games and gifs are integrated into Messages, something that he believes allows for more customization.
“I believe it’s much more expressive because I can draw things, which is a whole new form of communication, as well as send things I’d usually have to look up – very easily.” said Vaughters.
“The new iOS 10 update has a lot of cool new features for messaging that I love. I can be creative and write out my text in different colors, or I can make my texts have cool effects that express the tone I’m trying to convey in the text, and gifs are one click away.” said Kathleen Le, also a student at LHS.
This feature has much more significance to Apple and its ecosystem than being able to send a gif of a koala being punched in the face or Judge Judy rolling her eyes. Historically, Apple has always been very selective as to what it lets other people do in their ecosystem. Now, including Messages, third-party developers can make the most of the millions who use their iPhones, as Apple claims tens of billions of iMessages are sent every day. And it is not the first platform Apple partially gave up this year, Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, something that has fallen behind in the last few years compared to rivals like Amazon and Google. Now Siri can do various ‘extension’ tasks. Now Siri can be asked to book an Uber and send payments of money to friends.
Some features on iOS 10 are very similar to that of Facebook and Snapchat, but this update can be made available to every single iPhone older than the iPhone 4s, iPad mini 2, and iPod 6th generation, no social media account required.
Although these features make for a more diverse and unique way of digitally contacting someone, Le calls to the attention that sometimes the urgency of contacting someone trumps niche bells and whistles.
“I usually get in touch by texting, but I think calling is a lot simpler because the person you’re trying to contact will typically answer right away, rather than sending a text to a person and never getting a response back.”
The changes to iOS, mainly in Messages, are overall accepted and used by those who have it installed. Messages brings a large array of new ways to communicate and are a welcome response by some students at LHS, though the necessity of them remains to be seen for some.