What You Need To Know About Changes Coming From Apple

If you opt for the upgrade, changes are coming to your iPhone experience this fall. And if you want to shell out some cash right away, the latest line of MacBook Air computers boast a lot more power and battery life, and they are available to ship today.

Apple chiefs announced their latest products and improvements Monday as part of the keynote at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

We kept an eye on the two-hour presentation so you didn’t have to. The highlights:

iOS 7 Changes Include Improvements To Siri

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls the new iOS 7 the “biggest change” to the Apple’s mobile operating system since the introduction of the iPhone six years ago. The new operating system offers 10 new features, including multi-tasking for all apps and background updates, and it strips away the old look in favor of flatter design. The Verge reports:

“The new design is evident in everything from sharper, flatter icons, slimmer fonts, a new slide-to-unlock function, and a new control panel that slides up from bottom for frequently accessed settings. The stock apps have all been redesigned — including a major revamp of the weather app with new animations that is scarily reminiscent of the Yahoo’s great-looking Weather app.”

As part of the upgrade, Siri is also getting a makeover. Users will get to personalize Siri down to the voice preference, meaning you can now choose a man’s voice instead of a computerized female sound. And Siri can now speak French and German, with more languages to come.

New Versions Of MacBook Pro, Air

While the new iOS 7 won’t be available until the fall, a new line of MacBook Airs are available today. They use Intel’s low-powered Haswell processor and boast battery life that lasts “all day,” according to Apple — that’s an estimated nine hours on a single charge. The 11-inch and 13-inch models start at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

The latest MacBook desktop also got a striking new look. It’s now shaped like a cylinder and is no bigger than a water bottle. “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” said Apple’s Marketing Vice President Phil Schiller, referring to critics who say Apple’s been in a serious funk.

The company’s reputation hasn’t been helped by its relationship with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn, whose factory workers committed a string of suicides and have been the target of reports of questionable workplace safety. Perhaps in response to the negative PR, Apple emphasized that the MacBook Pro, which goes on sale later this year, will be assembled in the U.S.

No More Cat Names: Mavericks Is The New Mac OSX Software

Following a long line of cat-named operating systems, the latest is called Mavericks, named after a California surfing location. Apple Senior Vice President Craig Federighi said that rather than continue naming its systems after cats, it wanted to create branding that would last for the next decade. Among the Mavericks improvements are: improved battery life and faster performance, support for multiple displays and finder tabs — like browser tabs but inside of the Mac file folder windows. Wired has an excellent rundown of all the upgrades in Mavericks, including “App Nap,” which will preserve processing resources, and under-the-hood changes to the Safari browser.

iTunes Radio Unveiled

As expected, Apple debuted iTunes Radio, its streaming music service that will compete with Pandora. Much like Pandora, users will be able to create radio “stations” based on songs they’re listening to and share them with friends. ITunes radio will be built in to all Apple software, including the new iOS, OS X and Apple TV. So Apple will have a user base but an uphill climb in the competition for market share. Pandora currently holds about 70 percent of internet radio market share. Tune into Tuesday’s Morning Edition for NPR’s Laura Sydell’s report on how Pandora got to its reigning position.

Whether these “biggest” changes will change the trajectory for Apple is unclear. Its stock has plunged since this time last year, and the growth in sales of its smartphones is slowing. As the Los Angeles Times reported, analysts say that with the growth in iPhone sales slowing “it’s more essential that Apple strengthen its software and services to retain customers and find other ways to drive more revenue.”

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