iOS 10 brings long-awaited improvements to Apple’s mobile devices

The iOS 10 operating system was released on Sept. 13 for iPhones and iPads. (Photo by iphonedigital via Flickr)

iPhone and iPad owners have a great deal to look forward to in iOS 10, the most recent update to Apple’s mobile operating system, which was released yesterday.

iOS 10 overhauls a number of features such as the Siri digital assistant, the Messages application and lock screen notifications, while also making the software more customizable. Third-party developers will now be able to integrate their own apps into Siri and Messages. In addition to improving functionality, Apple refreshed many of its default apps like the Control Center, Maps and Apple Music with redesigns and reorganized features to make them more user-friendly.

Some of these changes have been long overdue. iOS has historically lagged behind Android in terms of features and customization due to Apple’s steadfast desire to control its meticulously-crafted brand. iPhones have seen few major new features in recent years, while Apple has tried to drum up excitement about newer projects like the Apple Watch and, now, AirPods.

The recent decline in Apple’s share of the smartphone and tablet market over the summer from 28.42 percent in April to 23.10 percent in May likely resulted from Apple’s lack of eye-catching innovation and high price point. iOS 10 needs to impress if the company hopes to keep up.

From the moment one picks up a device –iPhone 6S or newer– it is noticeable that the iconic “slide to unlock” message is gone. Many of us use our smartphones in short bursts, so Apple has made the lock screen less of a hindrance with “Raise to Wake.” This is a quality-of-life feature that Apple has borrowed from Android devices, which makes it easier for users to take quick glances at their phones to check notifications. Users simply need to pick up their phones to get the information straight from the lock screen and without extra button pressing.

With the new update, lock screen notifications are now not only easier to check, but have been made much more useful with 3D Touch notifications. 3D Touch — which allows users to preview content by exerting different degrees of pressure on the screen — was present in earlier versions of the software, but with iOS 10, the feature gives users deeper access to various apps through lock screen widgets. Using 3D Touch on a message notification, for example, gives one the chance to view the entire conversation pane and type responses without unlocking the phone.

Avid texters should try out the new Messages app, which has integrated many popular features from Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp to create a worthy competitor. It is now possible to add background animations and bubble effects to users’ messages or write messages in “invisible ink.” Messages now suggests words that can be replaced with emojis and also has its own App Store, where one can download add-ons from other developers, such as tools to search for and import GIFs.

Evidently, Apple now sees the value in getting third-party apps involved as they’ve done the same thing with Siri, allowing third-party apps to become integrated into the digital assistant.  Siri can be asked to carry out tasks such as “Call a Lyft to Logan International Airport” or “Send Chet Morton five dollars on Venmo.” Don’t expect Siri to order food off of GrubHub or book Zipcars anytime soon, however. Apple has limited Siri to only work with a few different types of apps for the time being.

As a sign of the changing times, Apple is finally letting users delete the pre-installed apps such as iCloud Drive and FaceTime. Apple doesn’t recommend this practice, as doing so only frees up minimal storage space and renders a number of features obsolete, but at least it now leaves the final decision to the consumer. Even so, deleting the apps will only “hide” them; they will not be entirely erased from the system and will be merely invisible until they are re-downloaded from the App Store.

These kinds of half-measures are indicative of a need to find a balance between the Steve Jobs-era of rigid brand control and the realization that Android is slowly but surely crowding iOS out of the mobile device market. Many hopes are riding on iOS 10 and the major iPhone revamp rumored for release in 2017 to resuscitate Apple’s sagging financial results.

Some users attempting to download iOS 10 on Tuesday encountered a software bug that rendered their devices unusable. Apple has since deployed a fix, stating that the issue is resolved and that affected users should connect their devices to iTunes or contact customer support.