As the pandemic wanes across the country, a lot has changed in the way we work and live. Some of us are planning to return to the office now, while others will continue to work from home. Most of us will do both.
The software on our phones, which are our most important tools during the pandemic process, is also developing for this new reality. The changes are courtesy of Apple and Google, who recently unveiled their latest phone software designed for this Covid-accelerated era of hybrid remote work.
This week, Apple showed off iOS 15for the next operating system iPhones. The software offers device owners new tools to set boundaries for hybrid operation; for example, a status message that lets others know you’re busy before they send you a message. Apple’s video conferencing software FaceTime will also have its biggest expansion since its launch more than a decade ago. The service will eventually roll out to non-Apple devices, including Android phones, and has been improved to make video sessions look and sound better.
Last month, Google introduced Android 12 is the latest operating system for mobile devices. The company has focused on streamlining the design of its software to help people do their jobs more efficiently, including a shortcut menu to get to their favorite tools faster.
According to Carolina Milanesi, a consumer technology analyst at Creative Strategies, the changes in iOS 15 and Android 12—specifically, Apple’s digital boundary-setting tool—reflect the way our lives and jobs are changing again as we try to leave the pandemic behind.
“This little warning that says people don’t want to be bothered is going to be really important,” he said. “Maybe you get your message ready on the weekend, but you don’t hit send until Monday morning so you don’t force others to work over the weekend. It takes the pressure off.”
Apple and Google have guided me through the highlights of their new mobile operating system, including new privacy controls and improvements to phone cameras. Both systems will be released this fall.
Here’s what you need to know.
Apple and Google want you to be more productive.
We’ve been stuck at home for most of the past year, with many of us stuck to our phone screens, chatting on video calls and texting with loved ones. doomsday sessions. For some, this made it impossible to focus on a single task.
By contrast, Apple’s new software provides iPhone owners with tools to minimize distractions, while Google has added buttons to help people perform tasks on the phone faster.
Consider a new feature from Apple called Focus. Focus can be used to set dividing lines for different parts of the day. You can divide your day into categories such as personal life, work and sleep. For each of these, you decide which contacts and apps can cause notifications to appear on your phone.
During work, you can set the phone to show only your boss’s messages as notifications; other notifications will be muted. If you want to focus on your personal life, you can only allow notifications from your family and friends. You can also set the phone to Do Not Disturb and get a status message like “Deadline” or “At the Movies”. People trying to message you will see this and may consider sending you a message later.
Google’s changes are more cosmetic. It has redesigned the controls on Android to include large rectangular buttons for easy access to functions such as flashlight, internet settings and voice recorder.
Apple’s FaceTime is getting a Zoom-like upgrade.
Video conferencing has become a ubiquitous communication medium for office meetings, happy hours, and yoga sessions. Now Apple’s FaceTime is getting a major overhaul with more features and the ability to work with non-Apple devices. These changes make it more zoom inThe #1 video conferencing app.
With iOS 15, FaceTime will be accessible via a web browser for the first time. This means that Android and Windows users can use their browsers to video chat with iPhone users in a FaceTime session by clicking a link.
However, the most notable new features for FaceTime remain exclusive to Apple users. SharePlay allows iPhone owners in a FaceTime call to use an app together. If you stream a movie and press the SharePlay button, the other person in the call can stream the movie at the same time. If an Android user is on a FaceTime call, the SharePlay functionality will not work at all.
Apple’s camera software is catching up with Google.
For years, Apple and Google have competed head-to-head to deliver phone cameras that produce great photos. But Apple’s camera software has outstripped Google’s AI-powered software. Apple is taking steps to make its camera software smarter in iOS 15.
With a feature Apple calls Live Text, iPhone users will soon be able to do more with the camera’s ability to act as a document scanner. For example, if you have taken a photo of a restaurant receipt, you will be able to use the Live Text feature to tap the phone number in the photo to call the restaurant. Or if you point the camera at a tracking tag, you can tap the tracking number to track the package right away – no typing required.
Apple device owners will then be able to find such images with a keyword search. So if you’ve taken a photo of a handwritten recipe, you can open your photo album and search for the image by typing the name of the recipe. At this point, you can also convert scribbled notes from handwritten prescriptions to text and export them to a digital notebook.
The technology that powers this is known as optical image recognition blended with some artificial intelligence. Android’s photography app has had a similar feature called Lens for about four years now.
And Google is catching up with Apple on privacy.
Over the last few years, with tools to protect user privacy, iPhone owners have ask apps not to watch and sharing their activities with third parties, such as marketers.
Google, whose revenue is primarily based on serving digital ads, did not respond with a similar prompt for people to easily opt out of tracking. But Android 12 will give people more transparency over the data that apps collect, and new controls to restrict an app’s access to data.
A tool that Google calls the privacy dashboard shows a timeline of apps that have access to different parts of the phone throughout the day. It can show that a social media app touched your camera at 1:00 pm and a weather app used your location at 3:00 pm.
Google has also added some buttons, such as kill switches, to turn off an app’s access to the phone’s microphone and camera. This can be useful in sensitive situations, such as when you go to a doctor and want to make sure an app isn’t listening to conversation.
Apple also said this week that more privacy controls are coming for iPhones, including an app privacy report that works similarly to Google’s privacy dashboard. In addition to describing what data each app is touching, the privacy report will also show areas or web addresses that apps are communicating with. This can give you an idea of which companies an app shares data with while you use it.