Apple is readying a major revamp of its mobile software that will include an upgrade to how users handle notifications, a redesigned iPad Home Screen, an updated Lock Screen, and additional privacy protections for its flagship devices, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The in-development changes are planned to be included in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, forthcoming major software updates for the iPhone and iPad. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant will announce the software updates, codenamed Sky, at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference beginning June 7, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.
Apple rolls out major software updates for all of its key devices annually as a way to keep people glued to its ecosystem, sell more devices and encourage developers to create new apps. Apple typically releases the upgrades around September, near the launch of new iPhone models. Given that WWDC is several weeks away, the company could still choose to alter features or delay them to a later update. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
The company is planning a new feature that will allow users to set different notification preferences, such as if the phone makes a sound or not, depending on their current status. The enhancement will come in the form of a new menu that lets users select if they are driving, working, sleeping or custom categories of their choosing. The menu will be shown on the updated Lock Screen and in Control Center, the iPhone and iPad’s menu for quickly accessing settings.
There will also be an option to set automatic replies to messages depending on their status. That will be an improvement over the current auto-reply feature, which is only currently available while driving. Apple has added some unique notifications features such as Do Not Disturb and Sleep Mode, but this will mark the first time the company offers a system-wide feature for changing notifications depending on a user’s status.
The company is also working on upgrades to iMessage with the eventual goal of acting as more of a social network and better competing with Facebook’s WhatsApp. Those changes are still early in development and could come later, the people said.
The iPad line, which gained new iPad Pro models earlier this week, will also see software changes. The company is planning the most significant update to the device’s Home Screen since first launching the product in 2010. Following a similar feature for the iPhone introduced last year, Apple plans to let users place widgets – miniature apps that can display the weather, upcoming appointments, stock tickers and other data – anywhere on the Home Screen. Users will also be able to replace the entire app grid with only widgets.
More privacy protections are coming, too. One new feature in the works is a new menu that will show users which apps are silently collecting data about them. While Apple has increased the privacy of its devices in recent years, thousands of apps have been identified that use special trackers that can collect and share data such as phone numbers and location. The new feature is designed to cut down on that.
Apple is also planning a more minor update to macOS after its redesign last year, and updates to Apple Watch and Apple TV software.
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