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Apple WWDC: 10 best, worst & 'we'll see' features

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 15-06-2016 Jefferson Graham

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., gestures after speaking during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 13, 2016. © Bloomberg Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., gestures after speaking during the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 13, 2016.
SAN FRANCISCO: Apple spent two hours at its Worldwide Developers Conference updating us on enhancements for mobile devices, computers, the Apple TV set-top box and the Apple Watch. 

The new software enhancements will be available in the fall. Here are the top ten takeaways:

- Photos. Apple's Photo app has hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken by us and locating them is a chore. So in a nod to rival Google Photos, Apple is going to use machine learning to use facial recognition to organize faces and identify places. It will also create automatic videos from your collection, with edited highlights, and add background music. Google's Photo app also creates mini videos from your work and collages but doesn't do as good as job as Apple did in its demo of organizing them into themes. Let's hope one of these giants pulls it off. It's one of the best new features Apple displayed. 

- Messaging: The iMessage feature on iPhones and iPads in IOS10, the new version of the mobile operating software, will get a major update. Texts can be written in "invisible ink," a la Snapchat, or scribbled by hand.

But the biggest deal is Apple opening up iMessages to outside developers, who will be able to put features of their apps into text messages. At WWDC, Apple showed an example: animated funny faces from JibJab within the text, as an alternative to emojis. JibJab CEO Gregg Spiridellis says this is a huge deal that expands upon what Asian messaging apps like WeChat and Line do. "Messaging apps are the hub of all kinds of expressions," he said. Before, users would have to leave the text app, go somewhere else, make something, copy it and return to the text app to paste it. "This is much more frictionless," Spiridellis says. Consider this "in the best of" category. 

- Upgraded Siri: Apple says the personal digital assistant, available since 2011, will be smarter and more responsive. Siri will also be available on Mac computers to find files, and opened up to third-party app developers like Lyft and Uber to bring voice-activated functionality to apps. But did Siri really get smarter? This reporter wasn't convinced. 

- iPhone remote for Apple TV: The Apple TV set-top box has a great remote control, but what if you lose it? In the new versions of the Apple TV software, your iPhone will now be able to double as the Apple TV remote, which is great news. Even better is single sign-in, which replaces the one-by-one activation we've had to endure when adding new channels to the Apple TV lineup. (Note to user — another reason to make sure the iPhone is fully charged at the end of the night — nothing worse than a dead remote!)

- Apple Pay to Macs: Apple Pay, launched in 2014 as a way to pay for goods with the iPhone, is coming to the computer. And if buying on a Mac sounds a little meh, think about it for a moment. This is a nice enhancement. You go to a website, buy something, and it asks you to fill in your name, address and credit card info. You fumble for the wallet or purse and yank out the credit card, to type in the digits one by one. Or, Apple Pay is available, and you reach for the iPhone near your desk, put the thumb on Touch ID to authenticate the purchase, and you're done. We like this. 

- Apple Maps upgrade: Apple Maps has a long way to go to catch up to Google Maps, and each year, Apple makes minor enhancements to try and get there. This year, it's adding two similar features to Google Maps, calendar and local business information. Which is great — now if it could just do a better job of getting us from point A to B. Again, we're skeptical. 

- Music upgrade. Apple Music launched in June, 2015 as a Spotify-like $9.99 monthly music service, with unlimited access to the world's music collection. Critics said Apple did a good job of suggesting music to listen to, and a poor job of organization. So this year, Apple Music will get a minor upgrade with a cleaner interface. The proof will be in using it, but this was not one of the more impressive demos of the keynote. In the "meh" category. 

- MacOS. We've called it OS X for years, but now it's MacOS, in line with IOS10, WatchOS and TVOS. And this year's computer operating system is called Sierra, in keeping with the California landmark themes. All looked pretty, but beyond Siri and Apple Pay coming to the desktop, hard to remember any feature that stood out here. 

- Improved Lock Screen: The home screen of the iPhone will do a better job of opening quickly, and showing us all those texts and notifications that fly by. Looking forward to that one. 

- Watch: New software upgrades will make the Apple Watch faster to operate, with apps opening with fewer clicks. Apple spent a good 20 minutes on this Watch upgrade presentation. Again, we'll believe this one when we see it. 

What's your favorite new feature from WWDC? Let's chat about it on Twitter, where I'm @jeffersongraham. 

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