It’s no secret that Apple tends to copy Android features years after Google introduced them. After all, the great iPhone maker tends to play it safe by not shocking its users. Thus, it usually introduces new changes gradually, often taking a great deal of time before new technology is deployed. Despite this, there have been some instances where Apple beat Google in offering innovative additions. There were three specific meetings that the company advertised most: At WWDC, the company’s big annual developer conference.
1 Lifting topics
The ability to remove a photo’s background with one touch still amazes me to this day. First previewed at WWDC22 as part of iOS 16 and macOS Ventura, this feature allows users to upload topics without the need for an internet connection or prior cataloging. This means that you can take a picture and immediately quarantine the subject(s), without having to rely on third party services that charge or store a suspiciously large amount of your data.
It is also easy to use. Simply touch the theme, copy it, and then paste it where you want it. Edges are detected automatically, and usually do the job accurately. And since the feature is processed by your Apple device offline, no personal data is shared with Apple or third-party servers. I often find myself using this feature to create fun collages with pictures of my friends, but it’s also a useful tool for YouTubers working on video thumbnails.
The Shortcuts app is one of the most powerful iPhone tools introduced with iOS 12, and it was revealed during WWDC18. The concept behind it can be compared to very Basic coding, where you can create if then data, automating actions, and connecting items together. The app also supports input from external sources, allowing you to import media, collect data from web pages, convert various elements, use your iPhone’s sensors and chips, and much more.
What’s really great about the Shortcuts app is that it caters to both beginners and experts. You can create very basic strings of commands or make longer strings that work almost like a native iOS app. Shortcuts also includes dozens of built-in actions and also supports third-party actions. Not to mention that you can also import and export shortcuts with other users, allowing you to take advantage of other people’s creations. There is also a dedicated Subreddit where users from all over the world share their shortcuts and discuss them with other members. Shortcuts is available on macOS, too, and can sync your creations between all your compatible Apple devices using iCloud.
However, the shortcuts don’t stop there. iOS also shows commands that tend to run in certain places at specific times, requiring you to launch the dedicated app less frequently. It even links with HomeKit Automations, allowing you to execute commands based on your smart home devices. The possibilities are truly endless, and Shortcuts remains one of the notable additions for power users that many didn’t expect Apple to bring to iOS.
3 privacy features
iOS 14 brought with it a lot of welcome privacy features. For one, the privacy nutrition labels announced during WWDC20 added another layer of transparency. It forces developers to disclose the types of data their apps collect and display on the App Store. This gives users an idea of a particular developer’s privacy-related practices, which can influence a person’s decision before installing and using an app.
Another relevant iOS 14 feature is the privacy dots that appear on the iPhone screen when an app or service accesses your microphone or camera. After it first came out, users started discovering how many third-party apps stealthily access these sensitive sensors. Moreover, users can go to the Settings app to view a full report on the device’s sensors and websites that a particular app accesses. This makes it difficult for bad actors to repeatedly spy on users, as Apple continues to expose the access history of these apps.
Finally, iOS users can now also prevent apps from being tracked via other apps and websites. This makes it difficult for ad providers to build a profile on you and target you with more relevant ads. While the method doesn’t completely smear your online footprint, it still makes it difficult for these services to build a digital identity based on your interests and usage habits.
Will WWDC23 contribute to the list?
As our list reveals, sometimes Apple leads the way in the software department, and Google continues to copy iOS features. Despite this, we’re keeping our hopes and expectations low for WWDC23, as Apple is reportedly focusing its efforts on the rumored mixed reality headset. Thus, the next iOS update may not contain many amazing additions this time. We just hope WWDC23 includes more of these innovative introductions as part of iOS 17.