iOS 10 beta: first impressions


Messages see the most dramatic changes on the iOS 10 features list, and they're more fun than they are productive. Apple is stepping into Facebook Messenger's territory, big time.

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The field where you enter a text has been shortened to include three buttons for photos, sketches and apps. Yes, Apple is opening up some of its pre-installed apps to outside developers.

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This means I can send friends music clips, a variety of stickers and moving GIFs, all thanks to a separate iMessages store. At the moment, it's all free, though sparse. Expect to see a lot more on launch day.

You don't always need stickers to convey messages without words. Emojis are here and they're easier than ever to add to texts thanks to their inclusion in the predictive word suggestion box.

Better yet, writing out an iMessage and touching the languages button (the one with the little globe icon near the spacebar) highlights words that can be tapped and turned into emojis.

Your friends are going to hate you if you only speak emoji with few real words in between, but I did find a real-life use for this feature over the 4th of July.

There's still no way to search for emojis (like I can on a Mac), so, I was unable to quickly find the firework emoji. Instead I typed out the words.

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"I hope you can join us for fireworks," I said. I was able to turn last word into the emoji I wanted without ever panning the hundreds of other options. That person didn't show up (probably because I used the emoji), but it was a quick way of getting the job done.

Bubble and screen effects go beyond simple emojis by changing the way texts are delivered. Holding down the send button lets me pick among ten different options.

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Sending "Congrats" can deliver the message with bubble effects: slam, loud, gentle or invisible ink. iOS 10 can also couple words with five full-screen effects like balloons rising up and confetti raining down.

There aren't a lot of people using iOS 10 at the moment, but the back-and-froth bubble effects with myself have made me feel happy (balloons), festive (confetti), trippy (lasers), in awe (fireworks) and hopeful (shooting star).

Apple apps

Almost every Apple app has changed in iOS 10, and there's a new one you haven't seen before: Home. It's the ultimate way to configure your smart home gadgets.

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Home is being developed by Apple to pull all of my smart lightbulbs, door locks, doorbell cameras and security cameras and distill their basic functions into one single app.

So far, only my Philips Hue lights work with the iOS 10 beta software, but I actually prefer Apple's Home app to the Philips app for what it can do.

It has customizable names, scenes and background for each room. Furthermore, it's incredible easy to use Home, with big buttons and movable tiles designated for each room.

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What's most exciting about the Apple Home app is that it'll spur more smart home gadget sales (Apple diving into any new category has that halo effect). More sales means more money invested in new gadgets and more innovation behind them. Thus, additional app updates - and the circle is complete.

Maps isn't new, but iOS 10 marks the first time in which it's usable by the masses. That's because it no longer springs you back to your current location when you try to look ahead at a route. Huge change.

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It features bigger buttons and fonts than before, making navigation of this navigation app simple. Also straightforward is the ability to hail, follow and Apple Pay for rides from Uber and Lyft, all within Maps. Ride hailing services need to update and populate this tab, but the placeholder is ready and waiting.

Phones sees two very important changes. First, voicemail transcripts make checking your phone voice messages a cinch. It's in beta, but my clear-spoken tests have proven it to be accurate.

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Second, contact information pages have been changed with new icons: messages, call, FaceTime and mail. Or, they could be messages, WhatsApp, FaceTime and mail. It's a lot more customizable.

I have a few contacts who I don't have the phone number of (I probably sent them emojis, too), but have their Apple ID email - so it intelligently resorts to FaceTime calls for the calling icon. Apple promises that iOS 10 will learn my preferences over time.

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Apple News and Apple Music have also changed with minor design and organizational tweaks. Clock is presented in a dark mode, which is hopefully a sign of a system-wide dark mode to come.

New to the Clock app is a fifth tab along the bottom: Bedtime. I can set the desired bedtime, and based on the amount of hours I want to sleep, it'll set my wake up alarm. It'll then remind me to sleep, which I have most certainly ignored every 15 minutes until I turned this feature off.

Remove default apps

You can now remove most default apps, or at least hide them. They don't take up much space to begin with, so it's more about decluttering the homescreen than it is about recovering megabytes. Goodbye "Unused" and "Why do you exist?" folder.

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Long pressing on a tile (not 3D Touch hard pressing, like you'll do twice, accidentally, every time) brings up those jiggling apps with an X in the left corner.

You can delete 16 apps: Mail, Notes, Contacts, iCloud Drive, Music, Reminders, Calendar, iTunes Store, Videos, Stocks, iBooks, Tips, FaceTime, Weather, Home and Maps (though you should give the last one a chance).

You can't delete: Health, Feedback, Wallet, Photos, Camera, Clock, Settings, Messages, Phone and of course the all-important App Store. Any of the apps you can delete are recoverable in the App Store.

What's not here yet

There's a lot to the iOS 10 public beta, but plenty of features are being saved until a later public beta update, or the final build that we expect to see in September.

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Most of what's to come is up to third-party developers. We're waiting on them more than we are on Apple. Siri plays a huge role in iOS 10 and we're waiting for non-Apple apps to take advantage of the intelligent assistant.

The same can be said about Messages and rich lockscreen notifications. Some of the stickers and 3D Touch enhancements are here, but I fully expect more to filter their way in over the next two months.

We'll be updating our iOS 10 content as that happens, so stand by to learn more about how your iPhone and iPad are going to change, whether or not you're upgrading to that rumored iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Matt Swider