Wednesday Morning News

Now that the latest versions of iOS and macOS are out, Apple is wasting no time in releasing new betas across its software platforms. We’ll start with the iOS 10.3 beta, which brings a few new features to Siri for doing things in apps, a 3D Touch-able weather icon within Maps to show forecasts, HomeKit support for programmable light switches, and a new “Find My AirPods” feature.

A Find My AirPods feature seems pretty strange, and John Gruber wonders about the likelihood of losing your AirPods for good. In his examples he says that he’s had a few close calls where one AirPod would have potentially been lost forever, then follows up to say that he’s had far more cases where he’s misplaced his AirPods, and I think that’s where the feature will be used the most.

Desktop-class Macs may have been the first introduced to Apple’s new file system, APFS, but iOS devices will be the first to widely adopt it. Starting with today’s iOS 10.3 beta, iOS devices will be converted across to APFS, with the end going being to convert all devices across, starting with some less-complex cases such as iPhones and iPads before moving onto the Mac.

Also new in iOS 10.3 is a standardised method for developers to prompt for App Store reviews, as well as a way for developers to respond to reviews on the App Store. Google’s Play Store has had the latter for a while now, and iOS developers have been asking for the feature for just as long. I see it as another support overhead for developers, but maybe it’ll be useful.

The Loop has more details on how the new App Reviews API will work. At the very least, the introduction of the feature shows Apple has been listening to customers and developers, and with guidelines on how often apps can prompt for reviews, here’s hoping the feature won’t be abused by less scrupulous developers.

Not to be left out of the new betas, the first beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.4 has also been released to developers. The big feature here is Night Shift, which is making the jump to the Mac even though the app it was originally based off went the other way. It’ll be hard to see how F.lux will be able to compete with Apple, now that it’s been Sherlocked on both iOS and the Mac.

Details on the rumoured, now-confirmed watchOS “Theater Mode” have surfaced. Thanks to the latest watchOS 3.2 beta, we now know that Theater Mode will allow users to quickly mute sounds on the Apple Watch, avoid waking the screen on wrist raise. You’ll still be able to get notifications and haptics to alert you of notifications, but you’ll have to explicitly tap the screen to wake it while in Theater Mode.

Apple has been sued again for not having some kind of lock-out mechanism to prevent texting while driving. This time, the lawsuit from South California wants to block sales of iPhones in California until Apple releases an update that blocks usage of Apple’s Messages app when it detects that it is in a moving vehicle. It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out — while I’d love to see Apple deploy US-only restrictions for people who can’t keep their hands off their iPhones while driving, the far more likely scenario is that Apple gets the case dropped.

Apple has been granted a patent for a modular watch bracelet that could be used to conceal health sensors, cameras, batteries, and other small electronics. Each link in a link bracelet could perform a separate function, which seems unfair for those of us with smaller wrists.

There’s a better version of Siri on the way, according to AppleInsider. But what kind of improvements could be on the horizon for Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant? Maybe the ability to understand limited contexts within the same interaction, for starters.

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