The iOS 10 changes that actually matter: ad tracking, camera changes, “press to unlock” and more

It’s that time of year! Photo by fldspierings on Flickr.

It’s iOS 10 release day, and everyone and their best friend is doing “10 [geddit??] things you need to know about iOS 10”. Most of them aren’t worth knowing, because

• you’ll discover them immediately when you update
• they’ve already been announced.
(Though I do love “how to update to iOS 10” stories. TL;DR: do an iCloud backup, or an iTunes backup, and then press the “software update” button in Settings → General → Software Update. Then wait while the internet falls to its knees.)

Let’s instead go a little deeper into the new OS, and point out the elements which you might not spot at first but which could potentially make a significant difference to your experience. I’ve been using iOS 10 through the betas on an iPad Pro and an iPhone SE, so that’s both the phone and the tablet experience.

Ad tracking

Remember how Apple introduced “Content Blockers” in Safari in iOS 9, and in parallel introduced “Safari Web View” for all apps – which meant simultaneously that you could install a mobile adblocker, and that that adblocker could be used in any app which opened web pages (such as Tweetbot, my weapon of choice for Twitter)?

The ad business had a collective fit over iOS adblocking, and it’s ready to have a second one now. Dean Murphy, who profited handsomely (and rightly so) from his Crystal adblocker, points out that with iOS 10, Apple is taking your ability to block targeted advertising one step further, even if you don’t want to install an adblocker.

On his blog, Murphy explains that “Apple is changing the way that the ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ setting works in Settings → Privacy → Advertising, and it seems to be causing a mini storm in a teacup among the adtech world.”

As he points out, while Apple got rid of the “UDID” (Unique Device IDentifier) for iPhones some time ago, in iOS 6 it provided the IDFA – ID For Advertisers. If you turned on “Limit Ad Tracking”, you’d be given a random new IDFA, plus a flag would be set telling advertisers you didn’t want to be tracked. But guess what! Advertisers don’t seem interested in saluting when that’s run up the flagpole.

So, says Murphy:

In iOS 10, when you enable “Limit Ad Tracking”, it now returns a string of zeroes. So for the estimated 15-20% of people who enable this feature, they will all have the same IDFA instead of unique ones. This makes the IDFA pretty much useless when “Limit Ad Tracking” is on, which is a bonus, as this is what users will expect when they enable the feature. These users will still be served ads, but its more likely they will not be targeted to them based on their behaviour.

This didn’t stop one guy over at Ad Exchanger wailing that Apple is “giving consumers a way to opt out of advertising altogether” (it’s not) and that people shouldn’t have the right to opt out of advertising. Which is quite a stretch. Murphy has some more figures on how much the adtech people aren’t losing by this move. But it’s still a good one by Apple, which fits well with its privacy story.

Open the camera, Hal

So you lift up your iPhone to wake it – did every other article mention it now has “lift to wake”? Yes they did (it’s triggered by the orientation sensors) – and now you have a screen with three little dots at the bottom. You’re in the middle; swipe right (that is, pull from left to right) and you get a ton of widgets.

But swipe left (pull right to left) from the home screen, and you now get the camera. This is such an obvious and timesaving move that it’s amazing it has taken four iterations of the “swipe” motif introduced with iOS 7 (7, 8, 9, 10 – that’s four) to get it right.

The Lock Screen in iOS 10 now shows you that the camera is off to the right (ie, swipe left). My arrows and text, obviously.

Having the camera a swipe left from the lock screen is quick, easy and a hell of a lot more convenient than having to swipe up, as has been the case since Apple introduced that route to the lockscreen camera in iOS 5.1 in March 2012.

You can understand why iOS 7 didn’t change that. People had had less than 18 months to get used to “swipe up” when iOS 7 was released in September 2013. Apple doesn’t do UI changes all at once. It taught people how to swipe, then a year later it introduced bigger screens where they’d need to swipe. So we’ve now had “swipe up for the camera” for just over four years. But it’s logical, and faster, to swipe left: it’s a shorter distance, it’s more natural for your thumb (I always found “swipe up” a struggle if I had the phone in one hand), and that screen on the right is unused virtual space.

So all hail the new way of getting to the camera. Though in iOS 10’s first few weeks you’re going to hear lots of people saying “how do you get the camera?” and probably swiping up to Control Centre – though the camera is there. But be the helpful one, and show them the side swipe.

Not quite better: Control Centre/r access

I don’t know about you, but if I’m typing something in Messages and need to bring up the Control Centre, it’s akin to an Olympic event to raise it first time. More often I hit a few random keys first, and have to retry.

Pulling up Control Centre is tricky
Pulling up Control Centre is hit-and-miss if you have a keyboard running

This doesn’t seem any better in iOS 10; I think it needs some sort of border below the keyboard. It’s a difficulty that seems to have come in with iOS 7, so perhaps in a couple of years..

The other change in Control Centre (I’m going to use the British spelling dammit) is that it’s now split into two panes, which you swipe between as needed: non-audio stuff in the left, audio stuff (such as music playback and audio output direction) in the right.

Control centre
The new Control Centre in iOS 10 is split across two screens – swipe between them. It remembers which one you last accessed.

Update: I’m told by Ravi Hiranand that the Home app gets its own Control Centre screen, if you have it functioning. As I’ll explain below, I didn’t so I didn’t. (End update.)

This is another thing that will have lots of people saying “hunh?” as they try to get used to it; since iOS 7 (when it came in) it had been all in one place, but with the introduction of Night Shift on the iPhone 5S and above, it was all getting a bit crowded. One pleasing little touch: when you touch the volume slider to change it, the speaker buttons at either end light up. (Update: Marc Blank-Settle says this was already in iOS 9, and he’s right, it was. This is what makes software reviewing tough: you notice something for the first time just when it has always been there.)

Press to unlock

The most subtle change is that it’s no longer enough to rest your thumb (or other finger) on the TouchID button to unlock the phone/tablet. It certainly used to be the case that it was, but on the 6S range in particular this could mean that if you picked the device up to see what was on the notification lock screen, and particularly if you used a phone, chances were high you’d unlock the thing and miss what you actually wanted to see.

Now you have to actively press on the button to both identify yourself and to open the lockscreen. This also fits in with the new Taptic buttons on the iPhone 7 range, which don’t actually move, so that you have to tell them you’re there by actively pressing.

This seems like a trivial point, but in the first few weeks you’re going to hear lots of people whose muscle memory is built around resting their fingers on that button who don’t understand why doing that doesn’t unlock it. On such small things are perceptions of ease of use built.

However you can turn this off, at least on TouchID devices. You have to go to Settings ▶️ Accessibility ▶️ Home button, and there you’ll find “Rest Finger to Open” as an option. Lots of things are hidden down there in “Accessibility”.

Home button: accessibility options

You can revert to the old TouchID behaviour via Accessibility.

Deleting apps

Sure, you can delete the stock apps. Don’t bother. You’re not really saving any space. And that app you downloaded to replace it? Takes up more room and doesn’t get system-wide benefits.

Mail, now with filters

Speaking of stock apps, iOS’s Mail is creeping towards a vague parity with what OSX’s Mail could do in about 2000, when the latter was still in beta. Though it is way easier to triage email with swipes on a touchscreen than a keyboard and mouse.

In iOS 10, you can filter email, via a little “filter” icon at the bottom of the screen: tap it to change between filter criteria.

iOS 10's mailbox filter

You can filter mailboxes by Unread, Flagged and a few other criteria: tap the icon

We’re still stuck, though, with a very limited number of ongoing filter systems: you can’t set up a “smart mailbox” based on a phrase, for example, even though OSX has had that forever. Here are the options for filters:


This “what does that do?” thing about the filter icon is something most people will probably come across by accident. It’s helpful, but Mail is still some way from being a powerful app. It’s still only useful.

Maps: you can get there from here

In iOS 9, Maps began getting public transport details, and that has quietly been enhanced over the past year. The key change is that it’s much more sensibly laid out: search is on the bottom, and location plus settings are in the top right.

Even better: search is coordinated among devices, so that if you do a search on your tablet, those searches will also be on your phone. (Finally.)

Ios9 10 maps
The Maps app is improved in iOS 10 (on right) over that on iOS 9 (left): it now puts search in a more accessible location at the bottom, remembers searches from other devices, and can offer ride-sharing app routes.

Notes, collaborate

Apple made something of collaborative editing coming to iWork at the iPhone introduction last week, but it’s offering exactly that in the new Notes: type up a note, and you can choose to share it with someone, who will see the changes that get made, and be able to edit it too.

Obvious use: shopping lists. As long as the person shopping (or suggesting shopping) doesn’t go out of range of data.

Under the hood: Siri and machine learning

The range of things that Siri can do hasn’t changed much in this update – at least, not visibly – but it is improving. And what’s really going to change is that it will be open to some developers, for a limited number of functions. I didn’t see any in the betas (you’ll have to see what developers do with it).

Photos are meant to get a tonne of machine learning. But it’s principally facial recognition, and the “Memories” function is – for me at least, having few photos with location tags – so-so. Yes, it’s nice to have photos collected together from particular days, but this isn’t Google Photos with its ability to find “photos of dogs” from an unlabelled corpus of pictures.

Update: Nick Heer points out that it does show you photos that match a keyword (singular is best). It hasn’t done this on the iPhone SE, but on checking my iPad and doing a search in the photos for “horse” I find that yes, he’s correct. iOS 10 calls them “categories”. You can discover what categories it has available by typing a single letter of the alphabet into the search box, and seeing what unravels. (Perhaps someone will make a list. What am I saying? For sure someone will make a list. And look – here it is.)

Photo search on iOS 10

Type a letter, get a list of categories

[end update]

Then again, the pictures sit on your phone, so possibly over time the capability will be there. (We simply don’t know how much processing power per photo is needed for Google Photos’ identification system, nor how many examples it has to see to hit its training targets.)

Finally: home screen widgets

Apple hasn’t gone as far as Google in Android, and nothing like as far Microsoft in Windows Phone, in terms of what widgets are able to do as a layer over the home screen. They don’t dynamically update while you’re not looking; they hurry to do it when you swipe across. Saves on background processing. But you can edit them, as before.

Home screen widgets on iOS 10

Yeah, that’s all

Sure, there’s a ton of other stuff. There’s:
• the update to Messages (annoy your iOS 10 friends by sending them “Happy Birthday” messages) which now means that it’s becoming something of a platform.
• Apple Pay on the web – possibly that should have been a feature above, but I never tried it out.
• Home. As an app. I couldn’t find any products that actually hooked into this, and I suspect it might be a while before I do. (Ravi Hiranand says Home found his Philips Hue light automatically, and “works better than the original app”.)
• Subtle thickening of fonts, so that text is easier to read. This is system-wide, and very noticeable in the re-thought Apple Music and in Maps.


So – should you upgrade to iOS 10? Don’t you love how this question is asked as if you might not? You’ve read a whole piece about it that you didn’t have to. You probably will. And yes, you should benefit. Some of the touches are clever, and some are overdue, and some are essential. But it’s all about getting the device out of the way.

The thing you’ll notice the most? Pressing the Home button. It’ll bug you gently for a couple of weeks. Then you’ll forget it. And after that, you’ll notice the Maps app’s improvements. And those you’ll probably forget; can you remember what it was like before? Hardly anyone can.

That’s the way with software: you change things wholesale, and within a few months nobody could draw what the old thing looked like. Believe me, though, if you came across a device running iOS 6 or earlier, you’d be amazed at how… primitive it looks. Pundits might have bitched about iOS 7, but it’s been a wholesale improvement in user interface.

One could wish for better, smarter AI, but that might have to wait a few years for more power on the device. Even so, the “Siripods” (aka AirPods) point towards Apple wanting us to have a closer verbal relationship with our devices.

iOS 9 review: longer battery life, more storage, and adblocking. What more could an iOS – or Android user – want?

Apple called this year’s WWDC “the epicentre of change”. So what did its iOS update bring? Photo by karmadude on Flickr.

iOS 9! It comes down the intertubes today! I’ve been testing iOS 9 on an iPhone 5C (equivalent to an iPhone 5) since the first beta, using a Three PAYG SIM so that it would have to connect to the mobile network (to test such things), and an iPad Air 2, and also an iPad 2.

My takeaways: Apple’s given you more battery life and more storage for free. Plus some other nice things. Definitely worth any hassle in upgrading.

More phone storage, for free

iOS 9 is reputed to require less storage than iOS 8 – a feat that I think may be done by removing some unneeded resources from the packages, so that you only get what you need. Ars Technica’s review suggests that the savings once installed are minimal – a few hundred megabytes – in a comprehensive testg. (Joanna Stern at the WSJ says it needs less free space to install too – 1.3GB v 4.58GB for iOS 8.)

“App thinning” (officially it’s “App Slicing”, apparently) means that apps only download the resources that they need for the device you’re using. Put like that, it’s amazing that they didn’t to begin with, isn’t it? Still, given the proliferation of screen sizes, this should avoid games in particular from bloating up and taking over your preeeecious storage. (There’s also a method called “On Demand Resources” where games in particular can download just stuff needed for a particular level, which can then be deleted when it’s not needed. Apple’s taking the same approach with its Apple TV tvOS.) This means that you want developers to update their apps, so they take advantage of this: your phone should actually get emptier. Apart from those photos you take.

And also, for its next trick, iOS 9 updates will be able to work in chunks – so that you won’t need a colossal amount of storage free to do the incremental updates. (The iOS 8 ➡️ 9 update, less clear.)

A battery upgrade, for free

Android has had a “low power” mode since forever, but it isn’t on by default; you have to hunt it out and turn it on.

Low Power mode on iOS 9

The battery icon goes yellow but the phone goes on and on. Found through the new “Battery” mode in Settings.

iOS 9’s Low Power mode (found in a new Settings er, setting called “Battery”) isn’t on by default either, but when you hit 20% and 10% battery and the “20% battery” dialog comes up, you’ll get an option to activate it. And of course you can turn it on any time you like. When you recharge, it automatically turns off at 70% of charge. (Note: it’s only available on iPhones – not iPads.)

I’ve run my test phone on Low Power from 100% and got huge lifespans – around two and a half days, which included a fair bit of use. This is a big improvement. Note though that it will seriously slow down a lot of apps, and kills background refresh. But if you’re not using the phone for anything for a while, it’s great for extending the life. You’ll know it’s on: the battery icon turns an anaemic yellow. The screen brightness goes down, but I didn’t notice this particularly.

There’s also another battery-saving feature: if the phone is face-down (on a table, say), notifications don’t light the screen. Subtle, but worthwhile.

Even without using Low Power, I was getting good lifespans from both the iPhone 5C and iPad Air 2 I tested iOS 9 on: pretty much always better than iOS 8. This is unusual in a beta.

A poke in the eye for battery/storage upgrades

Low Power and the storage saving together represent something clever: Apple saying that battery life on its own and storage on its own aren’t enough to merit a device upgrade. After last week’s iPhone/iPad event, there was no shortage of people moaning that they’d rather have a thicker phone with a longer battery life, or more storage for the base model.

Actually: that wouldn’t drive new device sales, which is what Apple wants. A slightly thicker device wouldn’t suddenly last two days – you’d have to roughly double the thickness to get that. Furthermore, people would say “I’ll buy a battery add-on thanks – it’s cheaper.” This would Not Be Good for iPhone sales.

And storage: well, of course Apple upsells you from the low-end phone to the mid-range one. If you’re surprised by this… would it shock you to know that companies actually try to make profit? I find the argument about storage slightly tired; there’s more cloud storage available through Dropbox et al (though – shocker! – they will charge you too). But taking out unnecessary content from apps and the OS is a great way to reclaim some of that phone storage.

Parsimony in the cloud

Certainly, it’s annoying as hell that Apple only offers 5GB of iCloud storage – an amount that hasn’t changed since its introduction in 2011, although the prices for the larger storage amounts has fallen. 5GB isn’t enough for most people, but they equally can’t be bothered to update their storage, and certainly not pay for it.

Since 2011, the cost of storage has gone through two Moore’s Law cycles (halving in cost), so on that basis Apple ought to be offering 20GB for free. Then again, Dropbox only offers 2GB for free to begin with; it’s pretty easy though to upgrade that to 10GB through a few encouraging tweets, or used to be – I’m somehow at 10GB without paying anything.

iCloud backups don’t have to include your photos – iCloud Photo Library is a great way to get your photos into the cloud and out of the “iCloud backup” space. You can also get Dropbox to suck them up, or Livedrive, or of course Google Photos. iCloud backups remain terrific, though, and better than Android’s current offerings, because they back up all the app data, as well as most settings (excepting some mail and other important passwords). Some more would be nice, though.

Settings are now searchable

iOS 9: Settings are searchable

The Settings app is so giant that it needs its own search bar, and has done for a while. Go straight to Mobile Data, for example. At last.

Oh God I’ve been asking for this since forev… well, for a few years (iOS 6?) because Settings have become gigantic. Where does the passcode live? App Store restrictions? And so on. Now you just search (pull down in the main part of the Settings menu).

Keyboard: now in lower case

iOS 9 keyboard shows upper/lower case dynamically

iOS 9’s keyboard shows upper/lower case: end a sentence and it offers capitals. Don’t like it? You can turn it off.

Everyone else seems to be delighted that the keyboard now has upper/lower case – so that when you type, the keys Go Up And Down With Capitals. Personally, I find it distracting, even though I understand that for a lot of people this eases a frustration they’ve felt for ages. (Android users of course have had this since forever). If like me you don’t like it you can turn it off in Settings ➡️ Accessibility ➡️ Keyboard ➡️ “Show Lowercase Keys”.

A Back button? Sort of

Again, Android has had a “Back” button since forever. But it has UI/UX gotchas: if you pressed it, where would it take you? If you had jumped from one app into another (say from an email into the browser), would the Back button take you to the canonical place in the browser app – say, the last thing you had been looking at in the browser before that – or back to the email app? Usually it would be the email app, of course, but this wasn’t explicit.

The thing about the Back button is that it can be a user puzzle, but for a power user it’s great; if you’re the sort of person who keeps a mental stack of what you’ve been doing on the way through the phone, the ability to go back and back in time appeals. Windows Phone has had the same feature from its inception, so there’s clearly a perceived need.

iOS 9 gets its own "back" button system

Which app did you come from? Want to get back there? Here you go – as long as you don’t lock the screen.

Apple has bowed to the (perhaps) inevitable, but done it in its own way. The “Back” instruction isn’t a button; instead it’s a tab at the top left of the screen telling you how to get back, and which app it’ll take you back to.

It’s generated when you follow a notification that pops into the top of the screen (and haven’t we all prodded one of those by accident?), or when you follow a link such as “Show in Calendar” from apps such as Mail or Messages.

I see this as having a dual purpose. First is a user frustration/behaviour thing. Watch people using an iPhone, and you’ll often see them follow a link from an app to another app, where they do something; then to return to the previous app, they press the Home button and then launch the previous app. That’s evidently wasteful, and though you can say “people should use the app switcher” (double-tap on the Home button) it’s clear that they don’t.

Second, implementing the “Back tab” helps with what I see as Apple’s intention to get rid of the Home button.

The Back tab is some distance from perfect. It obscures network settings such as mobile signal strength or Wi-Fi connectivity, and knowing about those is often more important to me than figuring out which app to go back to. It doesn’t persist across screen on/off (so if your screen locks and you unlock it, the signpost back is gone). It’s also in the most inaccessible part of the screen if you usually hold your phone in your right hand.

San where?

iOS 9 uses a new font – San Francisco. I’ll be honest: I never noticed. I’m not generally a font person, unless you try to replace a serif face with a sans-serif one, in which case I’ll punch you. It’s the same as that on the Watch, which in my experience is more legible than that on iOS 8. But I’ll leave the dissection of the curve on the “6” and the length of the descender on the “p” to others.


Proactive aims to fulfil search before you search

Maybe these are the apps you’re looking for? How about some news? Location-aware apps also come into play when you’re out and about.

Swipe left or downwards from the main screen, and you’ll get the phone-wide search that was there in iOS 7 and taken out (eyeroll) in iOS 8. But you also get “suggestions” – apps you might like, or if you’re out and about, things you might be looking for (food and petrol often came up). Proactive is hard to evaluate until you’re using something as your main phone for quite some time; I was using iOS 9 on a secondary phone. Like Siri, this may be one of those things that improves quite substantially once more people are using it.

The “Proactive” pane also now contains your recent contacts, with fast access to phone/messaging. Discussion is below in the “odds and sods” section.

Hey, Siri, how did you get better?

There’s no mystery in why Siri is better now than it used to be; more people are using it. Apple artificially restricted it to the 4S upwards on its introduction in 2011 (it had worked fine as a third-party app on lots of earlier phones, because it’s a network-connected service; Apple wanted to make it a reason to upgrade). Since then, hundreds of millions of people have been using it and processors have got faster, so there’s a huge corpus of data to work with. It’s great on the Watch; it’s getting used a lot now.

In iOS 8, a charging phone would respond to “Hey Siri” plus your query (eg “what’s this song” – always nice). In iOS 9, it’s available when not charging too. This could be problematic (news reports about Syria are often a cause), but there is training to your voice. We’ll see how this goes. And yes, Motorola did have this a couple of years ago. Apple, though, has been cautious about the potential battery hit. Plus, of course, it’s a temptation to upgrade.

Content blocking, and Safari everywhere

Content blocking in iOS 9

You enable content blockers in Safari’s settings. Some – such as 1Blocker, on the right, offer a lot of tweaking

Unmentioned in the WWDC keynote, but a “wow!” moment for those who twigged it, is the ability to block content – including websites and scripts – from Safari in iOS 9. On its own, that wouldn’t be so dramatic, but iOS 9 also lets any app that shows a web view, such as when you click a web link in a tweet (which usually brings up a proto-web browser inside the app) use Safari to do it, still inside the app.

This has a couple of benefits: if you’re viewing a page that needs a username/password (say, a subscription paper such as the FT or WSJ or Economist) then Safari’s iCloud Keychain can fill it in for you automatically; second, the aforesaid content blocks come into play.

And wow indeed – content blocking, aka adblocking, makes a big difference. Pages are cleaner, less annoying, load tons faster. There are going to be lots of people making good money from adblockers in the App Store very soon. Installation is straightforward: you download the “app”, and then in Settings ➡️ Safari ➡️ Content Blockers, and it will appear there as an option. As it says, none can send any information back about what they’ve seen or blocked. You can also configure particular things about the blocking within the apps themselves.

I tried three – Crystal, 1Blocker and Blockr. Crystal is simplest; Blockr the next; and 1Blocker has a huge list of options, making it super-tweaky configurable. Crystal and Blockr have already been approved for sale through the App Store.

Noticeable among 1Blocker’s blocking groups is “adult sites” – which suggests another use for content blockers inside enterprises, where IT departments, not to mention management, don’t want staff viewing Teh Pr0n on company phones. Locking them down and installing a content blocker is going to be popular, I think.

Note though that Content Blocking doesn’t work inside apps that use their own layouts – so Facebook is protected from this incursion. And as we’ll see, Apple’s own ad-served app is safe too.

Content Blocking will only work on 64-bit devices, which means the 5S upwards. This is due to compiler limitations (according to an Apple staffer.) This is frustrating, since they worked fine on my 32-bit 5C. Even so, I think Content Blocking is going to have a huge impact.

Public transport directions

Public transport in iOS 9 is back.. sort of

It’s fine if you want to go from Brighton to London to Edinburgh – just don’t try going any further.

Apple made much of how iOS 9 has public transport directions – something that had been missing ever since the ejection of Google as the mapping default in iOS 6 which left a huge gap for Google Maps and Citymapper and various others to work back in to. (Citymapper seems to get the usability vote.)

While it seems to be great if you live in China (300 cities!) or the US, it’s not that stunning in the UK. Major cities are covered (London, obviously) and major train routes (London to Brighton, for example, and Birmingham) but it’s far from comprehensive: no public transport data for Edinburgh or Glasgow, for instance.

Apple is updating these all the time, though, so this may be more of a stealth improvement, rather as has happened with Maps – which are unrecognisably better than when they launched in 2012.

Multi-window multitasking

On the iPad Air 2, and any other device with a large-enough screen and 2GB of RAM (the iPad mini 4, iPad Pro.. and 6S Plus? Not sure about the latter) you can bring in other apps by sliding in from the side (charming, you can hear Microsoft saying), and then scroll them simultaneously, and resize them – to half-and-half, or 3:2. No other sizing is allowed.

iOS 9 multitasking: browse in one, pick another app..

With one app running, pull in from the right and then swipe down for available apps..

Choose an app, and both run at once

By default, the second app runs in a window two-fifths of the screen. But you can resize it..

iOS 9 multiwindow resized

Two apps side by side on an iPad! Lap it up, folks.

Multitasking is one of those things where you need a specific use case; watching a video while you read something, perhaps, or (the one I found) copying data from a web page into a spreadsheet. Clearly it’s Apple chasing after business users who will have more uses like that than the average person sitting at home drifting through Facebook.

All the news that’s fit to.. something

Apple News: broad

Rather like Apple Music, there’s “For You”, and then “Favourites”, “Explore” and Search. (I hadn’t saved anything).

Remember all the excitement over the new top-level domains, things like “.amazon” and “.balloons” and “.weboughtthisforbraggingrights”? Well, someone bought “.news” and now Apple (which didn’t buy it) is making use of it.

The Apple News app has a ton of sources, though in the beta I could only get access by changing my region to the US; once it’s live, it should be available in the US, UK and Australia.

I had mixed results; News only appeared in beta 3. I chose to get news about technology, science and business; I was nonplussed then to get CNN stories about celebrities. But more recently it has improved somewhat. I think that pressing the “Love” button at the bottom of a (read) story will improve the results you get.

You can share stories you read on Twitter or Facebook, and this is where the “” bit comes in – links you share begin “”. This presumably means Apple can see what stories are getting the most traction and have been read.

For those who like a good conspiracy, note that Apple is offering its own publishing service into Apple News, and that this will be monetised via its iAd service (ie advertisers buy space on iAd, rather than just showing the publisher’s ads).

And guess what? Content blocking (aka adblocking) doesn’t work in Apple News. So if you follow a link to a story inside News, you see ads; if you open the same story in Safari when you have adblocking running, you don’t see ads. I predict this will have some publishers furious. I don’t see Apple retreating from having content blocking enablers on Safari, though. Get some popcorn.

Odds and sods

The app switcher (double click on the home button) is changed: rather than a side-by-side set of frames of the apps, it’s now an overlapping fan of the apps, which you pull to the right. Same method to kill apps (swipe them upwards).

The app switcher change also means that the “recent contacts” and “favourite contacts” that used to appear above the app switcher in iOS 8 are now in the Proactive search screen. Clearly, too few people used the app switcher, and too few used those contacts via the app switcher, for them to merit that space. (I can’t recall a time that I contacted someone via that above-the-app-switcher method.)

Notes have been updated so that they can do to-do lists, and alaso take your crude finger drawings, and you can stuff things into them from Safari via the share sheet. I didn’t test this, as if you update the format it’s not back-compatible with iOS 8 or earlier. (You get a suitably big warning.)

More camera folders. Selfies and screenshots get their own default folders, along with (deep breath) Favourites, Panoramas, Videos, Slo-mo, Bursts, and Recently Deleted.

Quick replies in all apps, not just Messages. When Notifications come down from the top of the screen, you could respond quickly in messages; now you can do it for all apps where replies are possible.

Folders can now contain other folders. So if you want to hide those Apple apps you can’t (yet) delete really thoroughly, here’s how.


Health app: now with menstruation

All these are focussed on women. Good.

Look! It now recognises that some humans menstruate and ovulate. Amazing, sure. This was well overdue; it should have been in last year’s release, and would it have killed Apple to include it in a point release some time in the past 12 months?

There must be a load of other things that I’ve overlooked. Let me know what they are in the comments.


iOS 7 and iOS 8 adoption after release

Apple’s data shows rapid takeup of iOS 8 and 9; other sources such as Mixpanel and Fiksu confirm it

All these things – the longer battery life, the extra storage, the public transport directions, the content blockers (particularly those) – are going to be available from about 1700 GMT, if Apple’s servers can bear the crush. (There’s also a 9.1 beta available if you want to live in the future.) iOS 9 will run on every phone since the iPhone 4S, and iPads since the iPad 2. If you’re running iOS 8 on any of those, it should be an improvement in speed, battery life and storage.

We can predict that within a month or so, iOS 9 will have at least 50% adoption, based on previous experience: in the past two releases, it has hit 50% or more after five weeks.

That’s about 200 million or more iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches running it. All the changes in this – especially those four picked out above – are going to get a lot of discussion. Apple has been very canny. iOS 9 takes some ideas from Android – upper/lower keyboard, back button, low power – and made them slightly more usable. But then it’s gone to places that Android hasn’t, and made them a reason to stick with iOS. Content blocking in particular is tricky on Android – you have to download a specific browser and make it your default, or sideload an app; neither is a big pursuit. With mobile viewing so big, it might be a cold Christmas for some publishers. (Read my views on adblocking, if you haven’t already.)

Android fans will mutter about the things Apple has finally caught up with. But that misses the point. Apple is playing its own game: and this one is about keeping its existing iOS users loyal, and tempting non-users aboard with things that are both familiar and unavailable.

Should you upgrade? Yes. Back up first to iCloud (if you can – dammit) or iTunes. And then enjoy it.

Other stuff you might also like to read here:
Review: this is the worst Apple Watch ever. (Think about it.)
Analysis: Q2 2015: Premium Android hits the wall
Analysis: the adblocking revolution is months away in iOS 9 – with trouble for publishers, advertisers and Google

Start up: PC shipments slump (again), are reviews broken?, Tidal’s challenge, monetising Android and more

Now containing fewer PCs. Photo by runner310 on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mercury News editorial: Google’s YouTube Kids should meet TV ad standards » San Jose Mercury News

It’s disappointing that Google didn’t voluntary follow the Federal Communications Commission’s longtime TV standards with its online YouTube Kids app, which ignores basic protections for children whose developing brains cannot grasp the difference between ads and entertainment.

The Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, has jurisdiction over online commerce, and it needs to catch up. Google apparently decided to push the envelope, given its mission as a public company is to maximize profits.

But as one of the Valley’s biggest success stories — it could reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion in this decade — Google should be a leader in taking responsibility for the welfare of children viewing products designed for them. So should Netflix, Apple and any other Valley company producing or contemplating kids programming.

Now the FTC is investigating. You won’t however have been surprised by Google’s behaviour if you read my piece on Google, EC, antitrust and the FTC, which looked at the tenets the search company works by.

Product reviews are broken » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

I still think the world needs independent product reviews. There is enough prior misbehaviour on behalf of companies to suggest such third-party reviews can serve a purpose by giving consumers value. The problem is that many reviewers don’t know what kind of value that is. The move into personalized wearables has largely turned the traditional tech gadget review into an artifact from a begone era. The nature of the tech review should have changed, but many tech reviewers haven’t adapted their review process to this new wave of technology. While adding video may represent a new dimension to the review, the underlying premise of the review needs to be rethought.

I agree with Cybart. Reviews have turned into a mess; the desire on social networks to attract attention by being outrageous dilutes the thoughtful ones. And commenters’ desire to attach a single value to a device’s “worth” – is it one star, five stars? Why is that four stars but this five – wipes subtlety away in pursuit of a blunt distinction.

How TIDAL can deliver on its promises » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

With streaming, music fans don’t need to waste time listening to music they don’t like upon first listen. They can bypass the duff. They also tend to listen less to any single piece of music in general because they have so much other music to choose from at no additional cost. Artists earning a 150th per stream of what they earn from a download is thus only part of the problem. Most of the time their mainstream fans (and by that I mean not their top 10% of super fans) aren’t listening to them enough.

Scale will come, but it will take time.

The theory is that this will be fixed by scale, that a massive installed base of users will result in bigger listening volumes.  But it’s not that easy.

Apple Maps now includes hotel reviews from TripAdvisor and » Mac Rumors

Eric Slivka:

Since the release of Apple’s in-house Maps app as part of iOS 6 back in 2012, Yelp has been the company’s sole partner for integrating customer reviews of businesses and other points of interest. In recent days, however, Apple’s Maps app has begun including reviews from TripAdvisor and on select hotel listings.

Very slow but steady improvement. Apple Maps is getting better and better at finding whatever you want.

PC shipments beat expectations despite weak currencies and product transitions » IDC

Worldwide PC shipments totalled 68.5m units in the first quarter of 2015 (1Q15), a year-on-year decline of -6.7%, and slightly ahead of previous projections, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

Following a strong second half of 2014, which benefitted from the tailwind of the Windows XP refresh and pockets of price-driven consumer activity, the Q1 market faced multiple headwinds – including inventory build-up of Windows Bing based notebooks, commercial slow down following the XP refresh and constrained demand in many regions due to currency fluctuations and unfavorable economic indicators. As a result, growth and volume declined with Q1 shipments below 69m units, the lowest recorded volume since Q1 2009.

Those have to have been some low expectations. And here’s the threat:

“Although shipments did exceed an already cautious forecast, the market unfortunately remains heavily dependent on pricing being a major driver, with entry SKU volume masking a still tenuous demand for higher priced systems that is needed to sustain a more diverse PC ecosystem. Pricing pressure is bringing many premium SKUs into formerly mid-level pricing tiers” said Jay Chou, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide PC Trackers. “As more vendors find it increasingly difficult to compete, we can expect additional consolidation in the PC market.”

Who’ll withdraw next? Samsung? Toshiba? Actually, Acer is seeing terrible profits – about $3 per unit sold at an ASP of $363, based on operating profit and revenue numbers.

Understanding tech penetration in Latin America » TechCrunch

Fascinating article by Omar Téllez, a director of Moovit:

With more than 85 million Facebook users and around 15 million Twitter accounts growing at 25 percent per year, it’s no wonder the Wall Street Journal called Brazil “The Social Media Capital of the Universe.”

Brazilians spend on social media networks more time per month than anyone else in the world.

Latin American startups have a canny ability to take a proven business model, and execute like crazy to improve on it.

After winning “Best International Startup” in the 2012 Crunchies, Peixe Urbano the online to offline (O2O) daily deal company, went on to grow to more than 25 million users and 30K merchant partners, and recently sold control to China’s Baidu, the No. 2 Internet search engine in the world, for and undisclosed amount.

While it’s easy to be amazed by the growth that taxi app companies such as Easy Taxi and 99Taxis have driven in Brazil, after raising hoards of money, it’s difficult not to be impressed by Tappsi. With a focus in Colombia, Perú and Ecuador, Tappsi has easily surpassed 1.3 million bookings per month with only $600K in seed funding.

Universities Inc. in the UK

After yesterday’s link about Procter & Gamble’s disruptive capacity, David Colquhoun from University College London pointed out that it’s not all sweetness and light – far from it:

Dr Aubrey Blumsohn MBBCh, PhD, MSc, BSc(hons), FRCPath was, until 2006, a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in metabolic bone diseases at Sheffield University. He, and his boss, Richard Eastell, were doing a clinical study of a Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals (P&G) drug, Actonel (risedronate), The work was funded by Procter & Gamble.

Richard Eastell is Professor of Bone Metabolism, and was Research Dean.

Procter & Gamble refused, from 2002 onwards, to release the randomisation codes for the trial to the authors whose names appear on the paper. After trying to see the data for years, and getting little support from his employer, Blumsohn subsequently got hold of it in 2005, and then discovered flaws in the analysis provided by P&G’s statistician. P&G wrote papers on which the names of university academics as authors. Blumsohn did the only thing that any honest scientist could do: he went public with his complaint.

Bad things ensued.

Goldman Sachs says Android is making Google very little money » Business Insider

Nicholas Carlson:

according to a new report from a group of Goldman Sachs analysts, Android users aren’t clicking on very many Google ads.

Earlier this week, Goldman’s analysts estimated that Google did $11.8bn in mobile search revenue in 2014.

Goldman estimated that 75% of that revenue, $8.9bn, came from web searches made using iPhones and iPads.

That means that, at most, Google generated $3bn from searches made on Android devices in 2014.

$3bn is a paltry amount compared to Google’s overall business, which generated $66bn in the last twelve months. For further context, consider that Facebook generated more than $2.65bn in mobile ad revenues during the fourth quarter of 2014 alone.

It makes you wonder: Will Android ever become a big business?

On the basis of a billion Android users, that $3 per user per year. That’s likely to go down as the user base grows because most developed countries are pretty saturated; those coming onstream are in emerging countries with lower per-capita income. All additive for Google, though. Not a great business, but a profitable one. (Also, how about the actual BI headline: “Android is supposed to save Google, but it’s actually a terrible business”?)