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iPhone updates will include better video calls, paid privacy controls and virtual drivers licenses

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Apple is adding a number of features that are perfect for a pandemic, such as watching streaming TV together or blurring your messy FaceTime background. Unfortunately, they come more than a year late, as most of the U.S. is reopening and switching back to in-person socialization.

Apple previewed what's next for iPhones, iPads and Macs on Monday at WWDC. The annual event, short for Worldwide Developers Conference, is like a public to-do list for Apple's products over the next few months. The operating systems will be available to everyone this fall, and in July as a public beta for people who like to test out new features before their friends.

The next iPhone update, iOS 15, will include more Zoom-like features for video-call app FaceTime, include screen-sharing and the ability to call non-Apple users. There are new privacy controls, including a paid option that is similar to a VPN. Apple Wallet is going to add support for state IDs, which could be great in bars and airports, unless your battery dies. In the photos app, there's the ability to select text in pictures. And a handful of new health options let your devices look for patterns and send you reminders about your health, as well as give family members and doctors more ways to see other people's health information.

For the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic, WWDC is being streamed over the Internet rather than held in a conference hall full of guests. Without the live element, the event can feel like one long glossy video ad, chock full of whiz-bang demos and technical details packed onto presentation screens in tiny type.

The event is especially fraught this year. Apple typically uses WWDC to bolster its relationship with app developers, some of whom don't like Apple's tight control over the App Store. Last month, a judge finished hearing arguments in a lawsuit from "Fortnite" maker Epic Games about Apple's commissions.

The most interesting new features focus on privacy, identification, FaceTime and the iPad.

Apple's latest privacy moves include iCloud Plus, a paid service for encrypting information going to and from your devices. The iPhone's built-in Mail app will also combat efforts to track you through email, and a new section in Settings called App Privacy Report will tell you how often apps use location, photos, camera and microphone. It will also show you all the third-party domains apps are contacting, a missing element of the app privacy "nutrition labels" Apple introduced last year.

In a bid to make the iPhone's Wallet app more useful, Apple, the Transportation Security Administration and some states are working to let your state ID or driver's license be stored in your phone. The app will also add virtual keys for office buildings, smart locks and some partner hotels.

FaceTime's biggest Zoom-like change will allow users to schedule calls and share links to them. Even better, those links will also work via the Web for people on Android and Windows devices.

And iPads are getting more multitasking and note-taking features, including home screen widget upgrades, new keyboard shortcuts and a new notes option called Quick Notes.

There was no new MacBook Pro announced, but one update to MacOS, called Monterrey in its next version, allows greater interaction between devices. If you're using a Mac right next to an iPad, you can just keep mousing right over the edge of the screen and start controlling the iPad. Called Universal Control, it also works between multiple Macs - and more than two devices at once. It also lets you drag and drop documents between the devices.

Published : June 08, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Geoffrey A. Fowler, Heather Kelly