Apple releases iOS 10 beta to the public today.
Apple isn’t expected to bring out a brand new iPhone until September at the earliest, with the next iPad presumed to follow sometime after. But Apple has already unveiled the iOS 10 software that will be at the very core of its latest devices, and as of today has started making a public beta available for you to try on your current handsets.
Doing so carries the usual risks of any pre-release software: your device may run cranky and certain apps might misbehave.
If you’re brave enough to proceed now, back up your current device through iTunes, and then head to https://beta.apple.com/. That’s also incidentally where you’ll find the beta for macOS Sierra for Mac computers, which I got a chance to preview a couple of weeks ago, and which Apple is also releasing to the public today. The same risks apply.
I’ve been trying out the iOS 10 beta for a few days on a loaner iPhone from Apple, and as to be expected not all the promised features, and there are several, work properly yet. Some depend on updates to third party apps that haven’t been made available. For example, Siri might help you get a lift through Lyft, but it requires an upcoming refresh of the Lyft app. Apple has for the first time opened up Siri to app developers.
When the Lyft app is updated, you’ll be able to arrange a ride through Siri
Speaking of Siri, when I made a request that it send a message to myself, it asked me to train it on how to pronounce the “Edward” and the “Baig.”
While some of the latest features, including those in the Messages and Photos apps, has Apple playing catch-up to rivals, they collectively add a bunch of enhancements that I think most iPhone and iPad users will like.
Among the highlights:
*Overall experience. I’ll start with the generally more useful and redesigned lock screen. Swipe to the left and you can summon your Today view, revealing widgets for such things as the weather, your calendar, stocks, Siri app suggestions and news headlines. Swipe down and Spotlight search is also available from here, though you may have to unlock the device to see result. For that matter Spotlight is now available from every other screen, including from inside apps.
You can also wake up an iPhone 6s, 6s Plus or SE just by picking it up, which is pretty handy. But this raise to wake feature doesn’t work however on older iPhones or the iPad.
(iOS 10 compatibility itself dates back to the iPhone 5, 6th generation iPod, and iPad mini 2, iPad Air or 4th generation iPad.)
*Photos. The Photos app can scan your phone for pictures and videos from an event, say, or trip and automatically place them into collections called Memories. From my Photos library, the software automatically generated Memories of a 2011 business trip I took to Japan, and a 2014 family weekend up in Maine, among others. The software is also supposed to automatically create movies made from one of these Memories, complete with theme music and transitions, but in the beta anyway, I couldn’t get such movies to play.
Meanwhile, if you swipe up on a photo, you can see related info for that image: where it was shot plotted on a map, for example, plus shortcuts to other photos taken that day or of people and places that somehow relate to the shot.
Apple can also scan your library to recognize people and objects in a scene, making it easier in theory to search for them later. It’s promising for sure but still seems like a work in progress–we’re still talking beta after all. But a search for the word “dog” did indeed surface many pictures of my pet.
Photos app inside iOS 10
*Maps. Apple has refined the Maps with such soft touches as displaying the temperature of your location in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Perhaps more useful are the quick controls that are a swipe away that make it simpler to search for gas stations, or places to eat along your route or that let you adjust the volume of the voice helping you navigate.
If you take advantage of Apple CarPlay or Bluetooth in your vehicle, the Maps app can now automatically show your parked location.
The real test of Maps will come when I spend more time seeing how well it does in getting me from place to place.
*Messages. Here’s where you’ll find a lot of the fun stuff coming with the new operating system. You can draw or markup photos before you whisk them off, or send messages with stickers, including some from third party apps that will be sold through a dedicated App Store for the iMessages app.
You can take advantage of the Digital Touch feature first introduced on Apple Watch, which among other things lets you share hearts or sketch out something in your own handwriting. You can also send messages with bubble effects or make messages disappear entirely until the recipient (who needs a compatible device) swipes to reveal the underlying content. One of my favorite features is the ability to tap certain highlighted words in a message you’re about to send to replace them with an appropriate emoji, perhaps a picture of the fruit substituting for the word “banana.”
You can tap to replace a word with an emoji
There is a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to find and exploit all these Messages features however.
I’ll quickly mention that with iOS 10, Apple has also provided fresh designs for its News and Music apps. In the latter, there’s now a “downloads” section in your library that makes it easier to find the songs that already reside on your device, useful if you want to listen to something without an Internet connection.
New to iOS 10 is a Home app for controlling lights, locks, thermostats and other accessories around your house that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit technology.
If you pass on the beta now, you can get iOS 10 for free when Apple formally releases the software in the fall.