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WWDC 2021: Apple unveils latest updates for iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and more: Digital Photography Review

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Today, at its 2021 WWDC virtual event, Apple released the details of its new operating systems, including iOS 15. Here are some of the most significant features for photographers and videographers.

iOS 15

Apple started its event out showcasing new and improved features for iOS 15, its next-generation mobile operating system. While Apple’s improvements are far more comprehensive than what we’ll cover here, here are the photo-related updates.

The first new detail Apple showed off is what it’s referring to as ‘Live Text.’ In essence, this new feature will use on-device machine learning to scan photographs and use optical character recognition (OCR) to pull phone numbers, names and other text from images, which can then be highlighted and selected like any other text. The feature supports seven different languages at launch.

In addition to text, on-device machine learning will also be able to recognize other objects in images and provide additional information within the Photos app and elsewhere. A few examples include the ability for iOS 15 to display more information about the breed of a dog or a type of flower in an image.

Photo sharing in iMessage has also been improved, with a new look and animation when viewing a collection of images sent to you. In addition to swiping through the ‘stack’ of photos, you can also view them in a grid array with a tap, as illustrated below:

Photos Memories

Apple has also improved its ‘Memories’ feature in Photos app. Now, music from your Apple Music library can be played alongside your photos and videos. Also, a new ‘Memory Mixes’ feature will let you change the ‘feel’ of the montage to better fit the visuals. Apple says the feature will match music, speed and even image editing to match the ‘Mix’ you choose.

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting for iOS to show the EXIF metadata of images in your library, you’re in luck; iOS will now show select metadata information of photos directly in the Photos app. This also works in iPadOS 15.

iPadOS 15

There weren’t many photo-specific updates for iPadOS 15, but there have been a number of improvements that could help your overall workflow.

The new Widget layout on iPadOS 15. This screencap also includes the larger Photos app widget to highlight featured images. Click to enlarge.

The first improvement Apple showed off is an updated Widget experience on iPad. Now, just like on iOS, you can place widgets directly on your homescreen, rearranging them alongside your apps. With the larger displays, Apple has also added a new, larger Widget size, exclusive to iPads.

A look at the App Library. Click to enlarge.

Apple has also added the App Library to iPadOS 15, meaning you can hide your lesser-used apps behind an index of sorts. The App Library icon can also live permanently in the dock, making it easy to access all of your apps without having to switch through multiple homescreens.

Multitasking on the iPad has also been improved, with a new menu at the top that makes it easier to invoke Split Screen and decide what side you want the current app to be on. Until now, you had to drag and drop the window, tab or icon of the app you were using to one side or the other.

MacOS Monterey

MacOS Monterey has been announced as the company’s next computer operating system. In addition to the cross-platform photo sharing features found in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey also brings a few tricks of its own.

Universal Control can be used with input devices from any of the Mac or iPad devices that have been synced together.

First up is a new feature Apple calls Universal Control. Universal Control takes Apple’s Sidecar technology to the next level and allows you to use the same keyboard and mouse/trackpad across multiple macOS/iPadOS devices. In addition to being able to input and copy text across devices by simply moving your input device to the edge of the display, you can also drag and drop files. The setup works with more than two devices, too, with the ability to connect, say, an iMac, MacBook Pro and iPad so you can seamlessly move across all the devices, wirelessly.

Also new is AirPlay to Mac. Now, you can airplay video, music and even screen share from your AirPlay-compatible mobile device to a Mac of your choosing, similar to what’s been possible with Apple TV devices since AirPlay launched.

The macOS Shortcuts editor looks similar to the iOS/iPadOS version.

Apple also announced it’s bringing its Shortcuts app to macOS. Shortcuts, which itself is an iteration of the former Workflow app that Apple acquired, will eventually replace Apple’s Automator app, giving users the ability to create and download Shortcuts as is currently possible on iOS and iPadOS. If you have a collection of Automator actions/scripts, those can even be imported into Shortcuts to ensure future compatibility.

Apple has also redesigned Safari to simplify the user interface and make it easier to group collections of tabs together into what it calls ‘Tab Groups.’



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