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Apple shows off new versions of its mobile platforms

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US devices giant Apple previewed major new versions of its iOS mobile operating system as well as the stripped-down version used on the Apple Watch at its developer conference.

As is often the case with new versions of operating systems the big reveal consisted of a lot of tweaks and relatively minor innovations rather than anything especially earth-shattering. Of course this didn’t prevent Apple’s customary use of superlatives to describe pretty much anything it does and iOS 10 is being positioned as ‘the biggest iOS release ever’.

Among the highlights, we’re told, are: a huge update to Messages that includes quirky Snapchat-like furniture, including stickers and full-screen effects. Siri will be able to work with other apps and a bunch of Apple apps, including Maps, have been redesigned.  An app called Home will be launched, which will be the front-end for its HomeKit smart home platform and developers will be given more access to core Apple apps.

“iOS 10 is our biggest release ever, with delightful new ways to express yourself in Messages, a native app for Home automation, and beautifully redesigned apps for Music, Maps, and News that are more intuitive and more powerful, making everything you love about your iPhone and iPad even better,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering. “iOS 10 adds Siri intelligence into QuickType and Photos, automates your home with the new Home app and opens up Siri, Maps, Phone and Messages to developers – while increasing security and privacy with powerful technologies like Differential Privacy.”

Apple is looking to boost its flagging Watch sales with a major update to watchOs. Version 3 promises ‘significantly improved performance’, including the ability to launch favourite apps instantly via something called Dock, which seems to be a quick access facility launched by pressing the side button. There will be a bunch of new health and fitness features, including new app called Breathe that encourages users to… breathe.

“Apple Watch is the ultimate companion for a healthy life and with watchOS 3, there’s now even more to love,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO. “Favourite apps launch instantly and are simple to access, and the breakthrough new fitness and health features like the Breathe app make it feel like a whole new watch.”

Williams’ last statement is telling; if the previous Apple Watch was so great where’s the need to make it feel like a whole new one? To be fair to Apple the whole category faces the same challenge. Currently smart watches are too expensive to be accessories and not useful enough to be stand-alone devices. Until one of those issues is overcome the need to regularly reinvent the category will remain.

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