Let's start off with this simple notion: iOS 10 at its most basic level is a platform for mobile devices. It allows developers to build things - apps -- on top of it that do certain and specific things. One app takes photos. Another takes and makes calls. Another lets your browse the web. Apple builds the iOS foundation, frameworks and apps; third-party developers build apps and services on top of the platform. Users pick and choose what they want to do with each one.
But with the advent of iOS 10, which is in public beta now and expected to arrive in finished form next month (along with new iPhones and an updated Apple Watch), that old notion of "platform" is getting increasingly blurred. Because Apple has, in a sense, gone meta with its mobile operating system, allowing what were once simple, discreet but limited apps to perform functions and do things that are only tangentially related -- at best -- to what they were originally designed to do.
In essence, apps themselves are becoming mini-platforms, built atop iOS 10 in ways that extend their abilities in myriad useful ways.
It started in Photos a few generations ago: Apple opened the app to third-party filters and other functions, enhancing it beyond its original capabilities. That's what's happening throughout iOS 10; users who upgrade will find they can do much more than before in their favorite apps without ever having to leave the app.
It's a subtle shift, but it's going to make iOS 10 a much more meaningful upgrade than users expect.
Here's a look at some of the important changes coming.
In iOS 10, Messages is one of the apps that becomes a platform unto itself. Yes, there are the usual user interface tweaks and a new functionality to make it more user-friendly and expressive. The improvements are both subtle and blatant. For instance, if you're bilingual and constantly swapping keyboards, iOS 10 supports automatic language switching on the fly -- no keyboard swap required. The feature includes spelling corrections and word suggestions contextually based on the language being used.
iOS users are accustomed to squinting to see emojis. But now you'll see much larger versions -- three times larger, in fact. Shared attachments display as rich links with in-line previews of websites and videos. And you'll now be able to add quick reactions -- like a thumbs up, laugh, or an expression of bewilderment -- to specific messages with Tap Back. Videos and photos sent through Messages can also be modified using the Mark Up option, a feature that first appeared in Notes and Mail in iOS 9.
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