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With iOS 17, Apple sneakily Sherlocked {old} analog tech at WWDC 2023

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For lots of builders, watching WWDC is a trepidatious affair the place they wait to seek out out whether or not they’ve been “Sherlocked” — that’s, their apps have been outmoded by Apple constructing their options into its working programs. We noticed it this 12 months when Apple introduced Journal, which many have in comparison with the third-party app Day One. Final 12 months, it was Continuity Cam, which is quite a bit like smartphone-as-a-webcam-app Camo, and earlier than that, there was Display Time, which gobbled up traits from Moment.

We’re used to seeing Apple’s new options come from some at the moment well-liked app. Nevertheless it’s much less frequent for Apple to succeed in again and discover inspiration in {old}, once-ubiquitous tech that predates the iPhone and even the corporate itself — and this 12 months, that’s precisely what it did, beginning with answering machines.

Earlier than visible voicemail, caller ID, and textual content messaging, the world had chunky machines with cassette tapes in them. You’d file a message to the tape, and when somebody known as, they’d hear your greeting, then go away an audio message after the beep. The place it differed from voicemail within the smartphone age was interactivity: you may hear the message, piped stay, by means of the speaker, and you may nonetheless reply the cellphone should you wished.

In iOS 17’s coming Live Voicemail feature, the corporate is doing an interpretation of that. When somebody calls and also you don’t reply, you’ll see a stay transcript in your display as a voicemail is being recorded, and you’ll select to reply it earlier than the caller hangs up.

It goes to indicate answering machines have been simply a good suggestion. Solely with Apple’s tackle them, you don’t need to take heed to somebody yell, “I do know you’re residence, decide up, decide up, decide up,” till you give in or the tape runs out.

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We additionally noticed Apple take one other stab at a bedside staple: alarm clocks. They nonetheless exist, partly as a result of they’re such easy gadgets but additionally as a result of you are able to do enjoyable, typically horrible issues with them (bear in mind Clocky?). Apple’s reply to them is iOS 17’s StandBy characteristic. When a locked iPhone with iOS 17 is positioned upright in panorama mode, say on a MagSafe stand, it’ll present a brand new, customizable interface with widgets, the time, or perhaps a screen-spanning clock face.

A kind of faces seems to be very very similar to a few of the analog alarm clocks of {old}, particularly at night time when the clock face’s digits or analog clock indices and palms change to a dim purple. Apple even confirmed a small complication on one clock face that permits you to know your subsequent alarm is energetic ({old} digital alarm clocks often did this with somewhat purple gentle labeled “alarm”).

It’s a pleasant acknowledgment that info context is vital, and typically you simply want a clock and somewhat reassurance that your alarm will go off. Sadly, you’ll want at the least an iPhone 14 Professional for StandBy to be at all times on.

Lastly, Apple appears to be coming for the standard enterprise card. One of many options the corporate touted for iOS 17 is known as NameDrop, and it really works by bringing your iPhone shut to a different iPhone, which prompts you to share your contact info — your cellphone numbers and e-mail addresses — with them. It’s basically streamlining one thing you’ll be able to already do by sharing your contact card by way of AirDrop.

In fact, Apple nonetheless took what I’ll generously name cues from others all through iOS 17. You can argue that NameDrop is a Sherlock of the {old} Bump app, although that one is long gone after Google acquired it. Apple additionally turned that characteristic that permits you to lift objects out of Apple Photos right into a sticker-making instrument this 12 months — an concept that loved a brief life realized as an app known as Sticker Drop, and its new mood-logging characteristic has analogs all through the app retailer. TechCrunch has a great write-up with these and different examples.

However over the good arc of historical past, it’s by no means bizarre to see firms like Apple making an attempt to drag from the previous. The {old} adage about reinventing the wheel exists for a cause — nice concepts are destined to be repeated if there’s new context to place them in. Google Pixel phones have already carried out one thing akin to the answering machine trick for years, as an example, and even the pc keyboard was only a smart evolution of the typewriter. Who is aware of? Maybe cordless phones are next.

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