Operating Systems

Apple Gives Fans a Taste of New OSes

Apple on Thursday released to consumers a preview of the latest versions of its mobile and desktop operating systems — iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan — which contain a number of new features, including a revamped two-factor authentication scheme.

The latest release of iOS also contains two new smart folders. One automatically collects any photos captured with the front-facing camera in an iOS device — which typically is used for selfies — and the other aggregates any images used for screen shots.

Other new features in beta three of iOS 9:

  • a setting to enhance the quality of streaming over cellular networks;
  • display of Siri search results with a down swipe;
  • display of more apps per folder on an iPad; and
  • the debut of a News app. When the app is launched, you can select a number of content sources. News from those sources will be displayed on a News Screen.

“Apple is not only expanding functionality in iOS, but also adding significant capabilities,” said Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner.

“While these preview features are’t final,” he told TechNewsWorld, “it’s good to see that Apple continues to advance their platform to give users more robust access to content, such as with improved streaming quality, and security through two-factor authentication.”

Apple Polishes Security

Two-factor authentication typically requires the user to acquire a code either by text message, phone call or email when trying to log into an account from a new device.

Apple’s new authentication method will be an improvement over it’s existing two-factor verification method, which is less than elegant. With the new system, an Apple ID won’t be sufficient to log on to an Apple service from a new device or browser. Users also will need to authenticate their identity with a password and six-digit verification code.

iOS 9 preview

For those who have an Apple device that’s already been verified and is running the latest versions of Apple’s operating systems, the code automatically will be displayed on that screen. If an Apple device isn’t close by, the user can receive the code through a text message or phone call.

After a device has been authenticated, the user won’t need an authentication code again unless the device data is wiped, passwords are changed, or the device is removed from the user’s approved device list.

A browser can be treated like a device; once a browser is authorized to access an account, the user won’t need to obtain a code for subsequent log-ins.

Unlike Apple’s existing authentication system, the new one is built into iOS 9 and El Capitan. That allowed Apple to streamline the process and perhaps entice more people to use the security measure.

The new system also gets rid of the 14-character code deployed by the existing scheme, which was difficult to remember for most users, but did come in handy if a password was forgotten and access to an account needed to be regained.

Surprises to Come?

New features for the iPad show that while many tablet makers have embraced the idea of slates as primarily content consumption devices, Apple continues to press the idea that its tablets are content-creation machines.

Features such as multitasking and split-screen view on an iPad Air 2 are all “developments that relate to the use of the iPad as a full-featured computing device,” noted Charles Golvin, chief analyst at Abelian Research.

“As is often the case with Apple, many of the features they introduce as ‘new’ are, in actuality, closing or overcoming gaps between Apple’s and competitors’s current products,” he added.

“In these releases, I would point to the natural language search in Spotlight, the proactivity that Google Now introduced, and the long-missing transit option in Maps that Nokia Here premiered several years ago,” Golvin told TechNewsWorld.

“Still missing from Maps,” he said, “is the cycling option that Google has offered for some time.”

Whenever Apple releases a new beta of its operating systems, the code often is scrutinized for clues to features in future hardware products.

“That can delude people into thinking what’s in the release is all that Apple has,” said IHS Senior Director Ian Fogg.

“If the new hardware needs new software support, we won’t learn about that until a new iPhone model is unveiled,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“You have to be very careful when you look at these beaters,” he added, “because they don’t tell you everything that may be coming. I suspect that there will be software changes that we won’t see for the first time until the next iPhone is out there.”

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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