Review: iOS 10 adds practical features and flashy messaging

The iPhone 7 was just released this past weekend, but if you’re not  interested in a hardware upgrade, Apple still has something for you too. Just ahead of the release of their new phones, Apple released iOS 10, the latest in their mobile operating system, used on tablets and smartphones.

The update is available for users with an iPhone 5 or later, including the iPhone 5c and 5s, iPod touch generation 5 or later, and those with an iPad model later than the first generation, including all models of iPad mini and the new iPad pro. This is the first update that has not included the iPhone 4s, which was released in October of 2011.

When users first load the new operating system, the largest update for iOS Apple has released to date, they might notice a few aesthetic changes. The operating system’s font is bolder and clearer, standing out more against background photos and making it easier to distinguish apps, if their icons aren’t helpful to you. But the update is more than just visual. Apple has made a lot of changes meant to improve usability of the smartphones, some of them flashy, and some of them very practical.

Apple has updated their health app, adding new connections and new features, as well as adding videos in each section encouraging users to make balanced choices with their eating habits and move more throughout the day. Also added to the app are sections about mindfulness and sleeping habits.

The mindfulness section encourages users to “find a moment to take a few deep breaths,” in an attempt to control stress levels. The app connects to other apps that users might already have or might choose to download such as those for meditation. It tracks how many minutes you put in each day and gives you your daily average, letting you know just how ‘mindful’ you’ve been in the last week, month, and year. How helpful this turns out to be is yet to be  determined, but so far it’s been very encouraging.

Apple made a lot of changes with ios 10, including improvements to the lock screen./Apple

One of the features that seems particularly useful is the sleep tracker. Combined with the Bedtime feature in the alarm, the sleep portion of the health app intends to track how much sleep you get each night and give you an average over time. Bedtime allows you to set when you need to wake up each day and set days that you don’t want to be woken up. You then select how much sleep you want to get each night. The app recommends you set between seven and eight hours, since that’s what’s recommended for the average adult, but you can choose whatever you like. You then select how much warning you want for your ‘bedtime’ and then it tells you when you should go to sleep. The app can also be connected to other sleep tracking apps which give you more information on your sleep habits.

One of the more flashy additions to iOS 10 came in the form of the new iMessage. The app now allows you to share recently played music directly in your message window, reply in gifs and, suggests emojis to replace your words in case you’d like to speak only in pictures. The strangest feature is digital touch messages, which allow you to draw a message and send a glowing neon kiss or fireball. Hopefully something more useful will be released in combination with this feature in the future but for now it’s just fun to play with.

The features that are the most exciting are the new lock screen and dashboard. The Lock screen features a new set up making messages clearer and easier to read and interact with. You can archive email straight from the screen and quickly access it to reply. The same goes for iMessages. As for the dashboard, new widgets allow you to access more apps than you could before. Now you won’t just get weather updates and Google news. You can also set up other apps to show you basic information, such as the audible app telling you how many audiobook minutes you’ve listened to this week, or your nutrition tracker telling you how many calories you’ve got left today without even opening the app. What’s really useful is access to transit information without having to unlock your phone and open an app.

Overall, iOS 10 is a very pretty update to an already very pretty operating system. It has a few very useful surface features. Some users are complaining about quickly draining batteries and slow wifi connections. Those issues may be a case of setting up your apps the way you like them. This particular user hasn’t noticed any problems yet.

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