WWDC: 12 small but important improvements you may have missed

Some of the smaller (mostly iOS) improvements Apple told us about on or around WWDC 2021 will be quite useful in the workplace.

Apple, developers, WWDC, Mac, iPhone, iOS

I’ve already focused on some of the bigger announcements made at WWDC this year; here's a look at  some of the smaller (mostly iOS) improvements Apple told us about last week.

Easier iCloud iPhone updates

If you don't have a great deal of iCloud storage, but want to backup all your data while upgrading to a new iPhone, Apple has made things a little easier. In the future, when you purchase a new device, you’ll be given as much storage as you require to create a temporary backup while moving to the new phone. (The space will be available for up to three weeks.)

This should really help anyone stuck with Apple’s paltry 5GB of iCloud space, and will likely help many enterprises pros in the upgrade process.

You won’t be forced to upgrade

When iOS 15 ships this fall, Apple will give users a choice in the Settings app. You'll be able to choose between updating to the latest version of the new OS on release or continue to use iOS 14 and all subsequent updates to that OS until you are ready to upgrade.

This is nice to have in terms of consumer choice, but necessary to enterprises — particularly those who must run any software update through rigorous compliance testing before it is installed. Believe it or not, some enterprises need to stay a step or two behind, though most make an exception for security updates.

Built-in authentication

I don’t think it got a mention during the WWDC keynote at all, but Apple is adding the capacity to create verification codes in Passwords in the Settings app. Made available on sites and services that offer support for this form of verification, this task has been handled by third-party apps until now.

Apple hopes that, by making this a system feature, the use of such codes will be made a lot easier, particularly as they will autofill when you sign into a site. This should be quite useful to enterprises attempting to convince employees to use this kind of protection. Passkeys in iCloud Keychain will also let you replace passwords with Face ID, Touch ID, or a security key.

Find My (switched off) thing

One welcome improvement in Find My (other than the growing AirTags ecosystem) is that the network will now help you find devices that are switched off or out of power. I’m not certain yet how this works and imagine the system will simply show you the last known location of your device before it goes offline.

One more thing: The Hello screen of a device still locked to your Apple ID will show that your device is locked, can be found and is still owned by you. That should make selling stolen Apple devices a little harder.

Migration songs

If you are dumping Android to embrace iPhone, or if you are an enterprise migrating entire teams to Apple’s platform, then this improvement will matter to you. Apple already provides Android users with a Move to iOS app to help them transfer data between the platforms, but improves this with iOS 15: Now you’ll be able to transfer photo albums, files, folders and Accessibility settings when you migrate.

This should make it much easier to migrate and should help ensure document integrity when making the switch.

Make text bigger

You’ve been able to change text size on your display using a Control Center tool since iOS 14, but these changes are applied system wide and don’t always look great. In iOS 15, Apple has streamlined the process so you can apply this change to a specific app.

So if you find you’re squinting when using an app, you can set the iPhone to make the text larger only in that app. This appears as a small slide bar at the bottom of the Text Size controller. Many may also welcome the gentle return of the text magnification loupe which makes it easier to see where the cursor sits when you press your finger against the screen. You can also customize bold text, contrast. and colors Settings on a per-app basis.

A trick Apple didn't miss

Despite now enabling Apple users to speak with people on other platforms (inside a browser), FaceTime is unlikely to ever regain the space it lost to others in video collaboration as a result of not being a cross-platform tool. That decision was and will always be a mistake.

That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t have other good ideas, of course – and that’s certainly what the Mute warning that appears on your screen when you try to talk while muted during a FaceTime session seems to be. If only every video collaboration service had something similar.

How many times have you joined a chorus of everyone in your Zoom or Teams meeting to shout the now immortal words, “You’re muted!” This is one others should adopt.

TestFlight comes to Mac

We (still) didn’t get Xcode for iPad, and it’s looking increasingly as if Apple’s overall plan is to continue to improve Swift UI until that becomes the development environment of choice. But news of TestFlight coming to Macs should be of interest to any enterprise developer attempting to put any company-only apps out for iPhone, iPad, and the Mac.

Use coupons with Apple Pay

This could be useful. Starting in iOS 15 you’ll be able to enter coupon codes in the Apple Pay. While I think customers will welcome this, it also means B2C enterprises focused on Apple’s ecosystem may want to consider whether there’s an opportunity for loyalty and marketing in this support.

Surprising compatibility

Apple continues to impress when it comes to backwards compatibility. iOS 15 is no exception, as the company has exceeded expectations and will make the system compatible with every iPhone that runs iOS 14, including the iPhone SE and iPhone 6S. What I find remarkable about this is that it means Apple has massively extended the support window; I can still recall when Apple support for the iPhone SE with iOS 13 was significant. True, not every feature will work on every device, but it does mean iOS 15 will work on systems up to six years old. No one else can offer this.

A Mail widget (that could improve)

A new Mail widget is introduced in iOS 15. This provides a glance at your latest incoming email from one of your mailboxes on the Home screen. My take? While I welcome this as a way to stay on top of what’s happening using your iPhone, I think this would be more useful as a widget that acted as a gateway to your VIP emails, which would ensure the messages you see are those most important to you.

Fingers of fun

You can now drag and drop a file between apps using the App Switcher and you’ll be able to copy images, documents, and files between apps.

To do so, just long press on the item and use a second finger to open another app and let go of the item you’re bringing so it drops into the new app. You can also long press on content; it will appear to stick to your finger and as you drag it around you’ll see cues to show what you can do.

I’ve a feeling this will be useful to people who have been saving items to Files to open and edit in different apps, as many do.

All of these improvements are coming later this fall.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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