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Business

Apple unveils messaging app, improvements to Siri

The company previewed new features for its iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac software as the weeklong Apple Worldwide Developers Conference opened in San Francisco Monday

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of software engineering, speaks about the new iOS at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Monday, June 13, 2016, photo: AP/Tony Avelar
1 year ago

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple unveiled improvements to maps, messaging and its Siri voice assistant. It’s also bringing an “SOS” feature to its watch to automatically call for help in an emergency.

The company previewed new features for its iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac software as the weeklong Apple Worldwide Developers Conference opened in San Francisco on Monday.

Here is a look at some of Apple’s announcements:

BETTER MESSAGING

Apple is trying to make its messaging app smarter, more versatile and more engaging as part of an upcoming update to its iPhone and iPad software.

Users will be able to change the size of the bubbles surrounding the text to help convey the feelings underlying the words. For instance, an expression of love might be displayed in a large bubble while a message of condolence might be shown in a very small bubble.

The updated app will also automatically suggest emojis to place alongside texts using machine learning.

SIRI ON COMPUTERS, OTHER UPGRADES

The digital assistant, first introduced on iPhones in 2011, will now be available on Mac computers.

That follows a trend in which Microsoft and Google have built similar voice services to their operating systems for computers. Microsoft added its digital assistant, Cortana, to the Windows 10 operating system released last year.

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering, speaks about iOS10 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, Monday, June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering, speaks about iOS10 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, Monday, June 13, 2016. Photo: AP/Tony Avelar

Apple is also letting Siri work with applications made by other companies. The change will open up new ways for Siri to help iPhone owners get things done more quickly.

Apple wants to make Siri smarter by using what it calls differential privacy. Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy explains it as Apple using non-personal information in aggregate to teach Siri new tricks, then having all the personalization take place on the individual device. It’s in contrast to Google’s approach of doing everything over the internet.

REDESIGNED MAPS

Apple has opened its once-maligned Maps app to developers. The company says that will enable you to find a restaurant, book a reservation, request a car from Uber or Lyft and pay for it using Apple Pay, all without leaving the Maps app.

MUSIC TO YOUR EARS

Apple is unveiling a redesign of its music service, Apple Music, aimed at simplicity and making it easier to find music stored on the device as opposed to streamed from the Internet. It also has lyrics now, as well as personalized, daily curated playlists and a “discovery mix” to help users find new music.

The service now has 15 million paying subscribers, 2 million more than in April.

WEB PAYMENTS

Apple’s payment system, Apple Pay, is coming to the web.

The service already lets people pay in stores without opening a separate app, by holding their phone or watch near a reader.

Apple says users can now use their phone’s fingerprint sensor to pay and check out when they are shopping online using a web browser. Google brought a similar feature to Android Pay last month.

WATCH THIS

Apple will bring fitness tracking to wheelchair users in an upcoming Apple Watch update. Among other things, it will prompt users to wheel themselves about — an equivalent to standing breaks. The efforts may boost the image of Apple’s smartwatch over stand-alone fitness trackers, though the target market isn’t huge.

The next version of Apple’s software for watches will also include an “SOS” feature that will automatically call for help in emergencies.

THE MAC

Apple’s new Mac system will be called macOS Sierra. Besides getting Siri, it will let users move more seamlessly between different kinds of Apple devices. It will help people move more files to the Internet to free up space. And Apple Watch owners will be able to log into their Macs without a password.

LEARN TO CODE

A new, free app for the iPad aims to make learning to code “fun and easy for anyone,” Apple says. The app, Swift Playgrounds, will use on-screen characters and animations to teach basics as well as more complex lessons.

The company developed a set of lessons that teach computer programming through core coding concepts. It plans to regularly release new challenges so students can continue to improve their coding skills.

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