Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple Inc., speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Apple Focuses on Performance, AR for IPhone Operating System

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is giving the software that runs iPhones and iPads a needed overhaul.

At its annual conference for developers on Monday, executive Craig Federighi announced iOS 12 with improvements to the operating system’s performance and reliability, in addition to enhancements to augmented-reality applications and new tools to monitor how often people use their devices.

The update includes support for multi-player AR games, additional features for the Siri digital assistant, and new ways to search for photos, block notifications and conduct FaceTime video conference calls.

For years, some consumers have criticized the iOS software for bugs. Last year’s major release, iOS 11, had a bevy of problems related to phone calls, incorrect characters appearing in Apple’s iMessage service, apps crashing and appearing on the Home screen in the wrong place.

Apple said on Monday that devices will launch up to twice as fast, while adding that it’s focusing primarily on speeding up older gadgets. There are underlying changes to the camera app to also make taking pictures faster.

The Siri upgrade will integrate the voice-based technology with more outside apps. Apple is also launching a new Shortcuts app that lets users create their own Siri commands. The company said Siri gets 10 billion requests per week. Apple, however, didn’t discuss improvements to Siri’s underlying technology, which has been criticized by some users.

Apple said the new iOS 12 will include other features like:

  • A For You tab to better highlight past photos users have taken, and new way to send images to friends.
  • A revamped Stock tracking app with Apple News integration.
  • A redesigned Voice Memos application for the iPhone that’s also coming to the iPad for the first time.
  • An upgrade to iBooks with a new design and a new name: Apple Books.
  • Support for third-party navigation apps in its CarPlay system, including Google Maps.
  • New Animoji characters, like a ghost and a dinosaur.
  • A new feature that lets users create virtual emojis that look like themselves.
  • The ability to use Animojis in FaceTime and do group video calls with up to 32 people.

Apple is trying to cut the number of software bugs with this year’s upgrade. Executives decided in January to postpone more advanced features, like a new design for the Home screen and a new Photos app, to focus on quality, Bloomberg News reported earlier this year.

While the iPhone is Apple’s most important product, iOS software is the heart of the device. As phones from competitors like Samsung Electronics Co. and Google become more similar in hardware capabilities, software has increasingly become a differentiator.

The iOS operating system runs on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches, and according to Net Marketshare, had 29 percent market share versus 70 percent for Google’s Android. However, Apple users typically upgrade to new software releases more quickly than Android users, exposing them to Apple’s latest apps and services, which generate revenue for the iPhone maker as well as app developers.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.