Apple continued to focus on privacy features as it unveiled the latest version of its mobile device software, iOS 15, which will also offer a number of fresh features designed to enhance productivity.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021 event, the vendor revealed updates to its Siri voice assistant, offering an offline mode to enable user queries to be processed locally rather than in the cloud.
Other privacy-oriented updates include Private Relay to iCloud, a feature which will send traffic through two separate servers to mask the origin and make it harder to trace. The company calls this iCloud+, which will cost the same as the current service and add the ability to generate a compatible email address on the go when signing up to services requiring such credentials.
This email address will connect to a users’ real account and can be deleted at any time.
Other planned updates include Live Text, a function employing AI to integrate information from different applications to simplify calling and web searches, while improvements for QuickNote aim to simplify integration with other services: the feature was demonstrated by dragging hyperlinks into a note to speed access to related information.
Enhancements to FaceTime are planned to make it function more like professional video conferencing services, with greater integration for Android and Windows device users. Calls will be encrypted end-to-end, while a feature dubbed SharePlay will enable users to listen to media together during a call.
Apple also targeted improvements to the overall FaceTime experience, enabling the service to prioritise the caller’s voice and reduce background noise, along with blurring backgrounds to highlight the user’s face.
The vendor also plans moves to increase integration of its devices with automotive, hospitality and government services.
BMW and other vehicle manufacturers are expected to begin selling models which can be unlocked with an iPhone later this year, while Hyatt Hotels plans to use the smartphones as digital room keys.
Users in some US states will be able to scan their drivers’ licences into their iPhone to be used as a valid government-issued ID.
The latest iOS will also bring enhancements to Apple Maps, with 3D images, more detailed directions and AR. The Apple Maps updates are planned for the company’s CarPlay service later this year.
Apple also revealed its latest AirPods earbuds will help people with mild auditory impairment by reducing background noise so that the voice of a speaker is more clear.
A developer preview of iOS 15 is already available, with a public beta planned to commence in July ahead of a full rollout later in the year for iPhone 6 models and upward.