A Quick Look at iOS 10 Beta 1

Posted on June 16, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 0 Comments

A Quick Look at iOS 10 Beta 1

On Monday, Apple announced iOS 10 and released the first beta version of its next mobile OS. I’m not brave enough to install iOS 10 Beta 1 on my daily-use iPhone, but I did install it on my iPad mini 3. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.

Note: When it comes to smart phones, especially, I’m in a curious place at the moment: While I recommend Android to Windows guys looking to move past Microsoft’s mobile disasters, I still prefer the iPhone. I do see a switch to Android coming this year, given Microsoft’s Android integration with Windows 10. But for now, at least, I’m still using the iPhone primarily.

The biggest iOS release ever? Apple is no stranger to hyperbole, but I’m not sure yet if this upgrade qualifies as the biggest iOS release ever. (I’d probably argue for iOS 7, as that version introduced the Metro-like UI that transformed iOS from its terrible skeuomorphic beginnings.) That said, there are—as always—some interesting new features. And this is indeed a big upgrade.

Lock screen widgets

Lock screen widgets

Lock screen. The first and most obvious thing I noticed was the radically redesigned lock screen, which now features a stack of tile-like widgets (which you reach by swiping to the right) and simpler access to the camera (which you reach by swiping to the left). Here, Apple is dramatically expanding what you can do without first signing in—yes, it’s all fully configurable—but I don’t see some of the better news features—raise to wake, the Touch 3D stuff—on my iPad mini 3. (Those widgets appear on Touch 3D-based phones when you press and hold on certain app icons. I haven’t tested that, because iPad mini 3 lacks Touch 3D.)

Notification Center. I prefer the Android and Windows 10 Mobile notification centers to Apple’s, but in this release there is at least a pretty remodeling that visually resembles those lock screen-based widgets.

Control Center

Control Center

Control Center. Available by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, Control Panel has received a fairly radical redesign, and there’s a second (basically non-discoverable) display to the right designed specifically for media playback controls.

iOS lets you delete some built-in Apple apps

iOS lets you delete some built-in Apple apps

Remove some stock iOS apps. I was curious to see which built-in iOS apps Apple would let me remove in this release, as this was a big rumored new feature. As it turns out, it’s about 50/50: In the CrApple folder I keep to store unwanted Apple apps, I can remove apps like Facetime, Mail, Calendar, Maps, Notes, and others, but not apps like Photos, Camera, News, Podcasts, and others. Why? Apple, that’s why.

Photos. Because I’m not an idiot, I use Google Photos to backup and management my phone-based photos and not Apple’s terribly-limited Photos app and underlying service. But as promised on Monday, Apple is trying, and the new version features a Google Photos-like Memories feature, automatic aggregation of photos of people (also like Google Photos) and Live Photos editing. Apple also bumped up the free iCloud photo backup storage allotment. But … whatever. I’m not using this stuff, ever.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps

Maps. When Apple Maps first launched, it was a sad joke, and like most other people I just went back to Google Maps and stopped paying attention. But to be fair to Apple, they’ve kept plugging away, and Apple Maps is—I know, I know—actually pretty decent now. Apple added a Local Scout-like feature called Nearby in iOS 9, and in iOS 10, it picks up an attractive new look and feel, and features you’ll recognize from Google and Microsoft maps apps, like location info with third party (Yelp, etc.) services integration. I won’t stop using Google Maps—duh—but, seriously. You have to give Apple a little credit here. They have no business even doing this app.

Apple Music

Apple Music

Music. When the Apple Music subscription service launched last year, it overloaded the already terrible Music app (basically the music part of iTunes) with needless complexity. But in iOS 10, the Music app is completely redesigned and is both simpler and better looking than before. I gave up on Apple Music months ago, but again, kudos to Apple for fixing this thing. It was previously a disaster. (That said, many Music app features do of course require an Apple Music subscription; there’s no ad-supported free version.)

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds. Go figure, but this is actually the iOS 10 feature I’ve spent the most time with: It’s a perhaps overly-childish app aimed at teaching Swift programming to children and beginning programmers. And … it’s wonderful. Microsoft needs to figure out something like this on Windows (C# or Visual Basic, I guess) pronto. Otherwise, a whole generation of kids are going to grow up learning Apple’s environment.

As you can see, there are a number of new iOS 10 features that I can’t use because I’m only testing on iPad mini 3 at the moment: The new Messages features make more sense on a phone, for example, and I won’t see any new Phone features on this device. And some features—like Siri or Apple’s pointless News app—are simply uninteresting to me. But I’ll look at iOS 10 again, and on my iPhone, when future beta releases arrive.

For now, iOS 10 is shaping up as a pretty big release, even given my surface skimming. And for Microsoft fans moving to the greener pastures of other mobile platforms, this isn’t a terrible place to end up.

You know, maybe I will install this on my iPhone. What could go wrong?

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