Software

With iOS 12, Siri finally becomes the AI-powered business assistant we needed

At WWDC 2018, Apple also announced updates to ARKit, watchOS, and macOS.

With iOS 12, Siri will be able to automate your work routine, becoming an AI-powered business assistant that can help professionals achieve more efficiency and productivity.

iOS 12 was released in developer preview on Monday, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, announced in the keynote address at Apple's 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose. The update will be available on devices going back to the iPhone 5s, the same as iOS 11—the largest range ever been supported by an Apple release, Federighi said.

With a new iOS 12 feature called Shortcuts, any app can add quick actions to Siri for fast, more streamlined access. For example, if you add a shortcut to the Tile app to find your keys, you can assign your own phrase, like "I lost my keys," to the shortcut, so when you say the phrase to Siri, it will automatically activate Tile. This essentially makes for fewer steps for using apps.

SEE: Job description: iOS developer (Tech Pro Research)

Shortcuts can also help Siri act as a business assistant throughout your day. For example, if you order coffee at the same place every morning, Siri will learn this and suggest if you want your usual order on your device's lock screen, and you can tap to order it from there. Siri can also access your calendar, and if you are late to a meeting, the assistant will suggest texting the meeting organizer to let them know. You can add shortcuts from travel apps as well, to get notifications on when you should leave, and any changes that occur.

Shortcuts can trigger smart home events and preferences as well, Apple executives announced. For example, you can say "Heading home" to Siri, and have the assistant provide your ETA, send a text to your babysitter, set your thermometer to the desired temperature, and begin playing your favorite radio station in the car.

You can run Shortcuts from your phone or iPad, as well as from the Homepod and Apple Watch.

OS updates

"Today is all about software," Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the start of the WWDC keynote, with updates across all four Apple platforms: iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

Today, 81% of active iOS devices—numbering more than 1 billion—are running the latest iOS release, Federighi said (this number is only 6% for Android, he added).

"For iOS 12, we're doubling down on performance," Federighi said. The update will make devices faster and more responsive, with a particular focus on improving performance for the oldest devices supported, he added.

Testing iOS 12 on the iPhone 6 Plus saw the phone launch apps 40% faster, call up the keyboard display 50% faster, and slide up to take a photo up to 70% faster, Federighi said.

And when putting iOS 12 under a stress test, it still saw 2x faster app launch, he added.

iOS 12 will be available in public beta later in June, and will be generally available in the fall.

SEE: Interview questions: iOS developer (Tech Pro Research)

WatchOS 5, also announced at WWDC, will include improved health and fitness tracking. The Siri watch face will also get some enhancements, including displaying your commute time home or to work, Kevin Lynch, vice president of technology at Apple, said in the keynote.

Siri Shortcuts will be available in WatchOS, right on the watch face, Lynch said. Users will also be able to access third-party apps on the Siri watch face for the first time, and can access the assistant simply by raising their wrist—no need to say "Hey Siri," Lynch said. Notifications will also be more interactive, allowing users to rate a driver or check into their flight right from the notification on their watch.

WWDC viewers were offered a preview of tvOS 12, which includes Dolby Atmos audio and features that make the the Apple TV easier to access.

AR and apps

Apple is upping its augmented reality (AR) game, with a new file format for AR called USDZ announced at WWDC 2018. USDZ is a compact single file format optimized for sharing while maintaining great graphics or animation, allowing users to place 3D objects in the real world. Adobe's Creative Cloud services will support the new file format.

The company also announced ARKit 2 for developing more immersive AR experiences. Most notably, ARKit 2 will include support for shared experiences, which means that multiple users will be able to see a common virtual environment from their own perspective, Federighi said.

A few new apps aim to improve your work/life balance as well as control your screen time. For example, Do Not Disturb will stop your phone from displaying notifications during a given timeframe, such as at night. The ability to group notifications will help organize and deal with notifications that come up. And a Screen Time app will offer a weekly activity summary detailing how you use your device, and which apps take up the most of your time.

Federighi also announced updates to Photos with iOS 12, including improved search to make it easier to find images you need for social media or marketing.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • At WWDC 2018, Apple announced updates to iOS 12 that will make Siri a better business assistant via app Shortcuts.
  • Apple also announced ARKit 2 for developing more immersive AR experiences, including shared experiences.

Also see

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Image: James Martin/CNET

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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