SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling new device features touching on virtual reality, online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.
New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple’s annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality experiences.
But Apple is late to the game on VR. Samsung and Google already have VR systems centered on their smartphones. Facebook, HTC and Sony have high-end VR systems, too.
Virtual reality has been described as the next big thing for decades. But so far, interest has been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than everyday users.
Apple’s entry into the market could change this. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, or the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal.
NEW FOR IPHONE & IPAD
New features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud. iPhones will only keep the most recent messages on the device to save storage.
For photos, Apple is turning to a “high efficiency” format to replace the widely used JPEG standard. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it’s not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG.
Apple is also bringing the ability to pay back a friend or other individual through its payment service, Apple Pay. Before, transactions had been limited to products and services from businesses and institutions.
The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September when Apple typically releases new iPhones.
UPGRADES FOR MAC
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers. Called High Sierra, it recognizes more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organize photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.
Safari, Apple’s web browser, seeks to make users’ online experience smoother and less annoying. It will allow users to automatically block auto-play videos by detecting videos that shouldn’t be playing when you open a webpage to read an article, for example.
The browser’s new “intelligent tracking prevention,” meanwhile, will use machine learning to identify and block digital-ad trackers in order to keep advertisers from following and profiling users. It will not block the ads themselves, though.
Apple is also updating the operating software for its Apple Watch, including new watch faces, more personalized alerts that use machine learning to tailor information to you based on your routines and tastes.
It also enhanced its workout app to, for instance, support high intensity interval training. It will also be possible to exchange data between gym equipment and the watch.
In a nod to Amazon streaming fans, Apple is also bringing Amazon Prime to its Apple TV app.