Apple may have finally succumbed to common sense: A reader at 9to5Mac spotted some new settings in the upcoming iOS 8.3 software that suggest iPhone users should get ready for easier app downloads and more convenient voice features.
Judging by the iOS 8.3 beta, people will be able to nix the password requirement for free downloads. The update also points to a new Siri feature that can launch speakerphone calls without touching the phone at all.
These feature updates might seem incremental, but they hint at Apple’s larger play: They are stepping stones to a future in which enjoying new Apple features and talking to our Apple devices—on our wrists, at home and on the road—will become second nature.
Passwords weren’t always necessary for freebies, but the iPhone maker inexplicably built in the requirement. Now it appears users will be able to toggle it on or off in iOS 8.3. The beta version, released last week, shows the setting under the new “Password Settings” configuration page (in the iTunes & App Store settings). Note that the change covers free apps, media or other iTunes offerings only; there is no way to turn off passwords for paid downloads.
9to5Mac notes that the setting hasn’t been activated in the beta software, but it will likely be available in the final release.
The new password option joins other changes spotted in iOS 8.3, including:
- Ethnically diverse emoji characters
- Two-factor authentication for Google services
- Apple Pay for China
- Expanded Siri support for seven new languages
- Improved keyboard
- Wireless CarPlay features
The latter may offer a clue as to why Apple gave Siri control over the speaker.
What The Updates Are Saying
AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety took aim at voice features—Siri, in particular—last fall, so Apple’s efforts to appease critics with a simpler hands-free calling for drivers makes sense, especially as part of Apple’s overall push to make its technology vehicle-friendly.
Initially, users could only trigger the Siri voice feature by holding down the home button. Apple eventually gave users the ability to activate it by saying “Hey Siri” (when the device is plugged into power). Users can now place calls this way, but they’d still have to use headphones or hold the phone up to their ear.
By allowing speech activation for the speakerphone, there’s no need to physically handle the device at all, just to place a call. Ideally, that should reduce driver distraction.
The company seems to be firing on all cylinders now. Its previous iOS 8.2 software, released a couple of weeks ago, brought Apple Watch support into the fold, as well as improvements to HealthKit and other bug fixes. Apple also filed a patent for an iPhone dock that could feasibly turn into a smart home hub for its latent HomeKit initiative, and is expected to release a brand-new Apple TV with the App Store and Siri, plus a new streaming live TV service.
The common thread in most cases are apps and, increasingly, voice features. Given that, Apple’s focus on these areas should come as no shock. They all play into the windfall of Apple technologies about to head our way. That much seems to be loud and clear.
Lead image created by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite