■ Apple is adding tools to help get your information addiction under control.
■ The company revealed new software for the Apple Watch.
■ A new feature in Apple’s web browser will make it harder for sites to track you.
■ The company previewed iOS 12, the new version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, including improved speed, bug fixes and other improvements.
■ Apple revealed Siri and photo updates that catches up to competitors.
Features to help manage time spent on devices.
The most notable new feature in iOS 12 is called Screen Time, a tool to help iPhone customers manage the time they spend on their devices.
The feature shows you a dashboard of apps you regularly use and the amount of time you tend to spend with them. You can also add limits to how much you use certain apps: For example, you can give yourself an hour a day to spend inside Instagram, Facebook’s photo-sharing app. Parents will also be able to use Screen Time to place limits on how their children use their iPhones.
Apple’s software chief, Craig Federighi, said Apple felt it was time to address smartphones’ oversize impact on everyday life. “For some of us, it’s become such a habit we might not even recognize how distracted we’ve become,” he said.
The announcement was a bizarre one: A company using one of its biggest events of the year to showcase new tools that help customers use its products less.
But the move is most likely shrewd. Apple depends on customers buying its devices, not spending lots of time on them. Apple is pitching the tools as evidence that it is putting its customers’ interests first — and that if people are worried they are addicted to their smartphone, the iPhone is the device that will help them.
The new tools are also a shot across the bow to Silicon Valley’s other big tech companies, like Google, Twitter and particularly Facebook, that depend on users spending more time with their services.
Apple’s move is also not happening in a vacuum. Silicon Valley has faced early signs of a reckoning over tech addiction, including an open letter to Apple from investment firm Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The letter urged Apple to research the health effects of its products, particularly on children.
Will this be enough to help people curb their addiction? Presumably, if you set a limit for yourself you will be able to easily remove the restriction and continue using an app like Instagram when you run out of time.
If anything, the feature will certainly make people more mindful (and perhaps ashamed) of how often they use certain apps and encourage them to put their phones down.
— Brian X. Chen and Jack Nicas
Apple says it is different about your privacy, too.
Apple took another swing at its rivals Google and Facebook with tools that sharply diminish their ability to track users as they surf across the web.
Apple said that by default its Safari browser would disable tracking software that advertising companies like Facebook and Google embed in websites to track users’ activity across the internet. The software is often embedded in tools to share, comment or “like” content on third-party sites.
To share an article directly to Facebook from a news site, for instance, users of Safari will need to manually allow the software to track them. Apple said it would also make it more difficult for companies that track users using a different technology, known as fingerprinting.
As the world wakes up to the sheer amount of user data tech companies have collected over the years, Apple is doubling down on its bid to be the privacy-focused tech firm. Unlike Google and Facebook, which rely on user data to sell ads, Apple’s main business is selling devices to consumers, so its focus on privacy has become a central selling point.
Apple said it would also restrict third-party developers’ access to more data on Mac computers, a nod to the scandal over how a Facebook developer enabled the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to improperly harvest the data of millions of Facebook users.
— Jack Nicas
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SOURCE: NY Times, Jack Nicas, Brian X. Chen and Farhad Manjoo