If there’s one thing I forget to do, is start a workout when I go out for a walk (I don’t run). But thankfully, watchOS will now detect when you’re starting a workout, and then prompt you to start one.
It appears as a notification on your watch, and from there you can start a workout, without navigating to the app itself. I’ve also seen this appear on my watch (I use the Siri Watch face), but I’m not sure if this is a Siri suggestion based around past behaviour, rather than detecting a workout at that point in time.
You might think that you’d lose some of the data if you waited until the notification appeared, but it also retroactively collects all the workout data, and adds it to the new workout. That’s really an extra step, and makes it such a great addition.
I walk a lot, and I hardly ever start a workout on my watch, either because I’ve forgot, or I just can’t be bothered. I’m hoping this detection is reliable enough to make me never need to start one manually again. But that could just be me being lazy.
It supports 8 types of workouts, and they’re the most common:
Pool/Open Water Swim
Oh, and if you think that isn’t good enough, it also has the same detection for when you’ve ended your workout, and it will prompt you to end it on your watch.
Very unsurprisingly, iOS 12 brings better notifications support. There’s not too many changes, but they are certainly most welcome.
The big one is grouped notifications. It’s probably the notification feature I’ve been wanting the most, and Android constantly used to make me jealous with it.
I’ve not quite worked out the requirements for them to group together, because I’ve seen iMessage conversations automatically group, but other apps group after 4 or so individual notifications.
There are three options for grouping your notifications, automatic, by app, and of course, none. The interesting one is automatic grouping, because apps can actually help the OS work out what notifications should be grouped together, by providing different identifiers. I’m not going too too much in the technical side, but you’ll notice that Messages.app will group messages from conversations together, but each of these are separate on your lock screen.
There’s going to be more to find out about grouping though, as I’m sure there are different quantifiers which will change the way the system handles them.
In regard to the actions you can take on notifications, you now get to control how any apps notifications are configured, right on the lock screen. All you need to do is swipe right-to-left, and tap Manage. Then you’ll find three different options (depending on the current settings):
Deliver Quietly/Prominently (The opposite of what is currently set)
Settings (This takes you straight to the app’s notification settings, so you can fine tune all of the settings.
These are all welcome options, and I particularly like the deliver quietly, for apps that I want information from, but don’t care that much about it. The options have always been available for these settings, but they’ve always been a hassle to get to. And the Quietly/Prominent options make it simple and clear so everybody can understand.
Do Not Disturb
Something else related to notifications, is the Do Not Disturb, which also received a few improvements.
It’s actually been split into two different levels of not disturbing you, and that’s differentiated by the Bedtime Mode option. So normally Do Not Disturb just means not to notify you, but if you turn on Bedtime Mode, it will keep your screen completely free of distractions until the time period is over, or you turn it off. Something that makes a lot of sense.
It also benefits from “Siri” (the intelligence in your device, rather than the voice), because it’s something else it can suggest for you. It can be triggered by a time, location, or event. I’ve already seen this a few times, once where it suggested I turned it on, but only until an event in my calendar was over. Pretty clever.
These are some fantastic improvements to how notifications work in iOS, but I still would like one more thing from Android. And that is to set specific notification categories. You can do this already as an app, in that it’s the way iOS can group notifications. But Android users can select to mute specific categories from apps, making it an even more personalised system. However, that’s very much want, and not a need.
In the most Apple way, the data is accompanied with pretty graphs, and there’s quite a bit of information available. You see the apps that have taken up your screen, how many notifications you receive from each app, how often you pick up the phone, and even what your longest session was.
I haven’t received one yet, of course, but Screen Time will also give you a weekly activity summary. Which would be a good time to reflect on how the week went, and then take measures to ensure you use your devices in the ideal way.
If you want to be more strict with yourself, there’s some settings you can play around with, to ensure you know when to stop looking at your phone.
Downtime is a period of time where you will not be able to open any applications that are not in your Allowed list, ideal for setting a strict bedtime. Then you have App Limits, where you set an amount of time that you’re allowed to use on a specific app, or category, and they can even be specific for each day of the week. Finally, there’s a bunch more restrictions you put on yourself, but these apply more to parents who want to stop their children from accessing certain content, or just ensure they don’t just sit on Minecraft all day (what I used to do).
I’m super happy with this feature, and I can’t wait to see my first weekly report. Although I imagine this weeks will be completely skewed, as I’m using my device more than usual to try and find any cool new things in the beta.
Kicking off my collection of writing on WWDC 2018, I’m going to talk about Siri Shortcuts, and the Shortcuts app. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be one of my favourites from the whole event.
The announcement was received by most people as being “now we know what the Workflow team have been up to”, I’m not complaining, I also posted the same thing. It is probably the best way the Workflow acquisition could have gone, because now it’s completely tied into the OS. It may have a different name, but it will always be Workflow.
The features announced was really how the OS interacted with the shortcuts, and how Siri is more intelligent because of it. Not the voice Siri, but the computational Siri that can understand you, and suggest things.
It will, of course, require developers to open up about different user actions in their apps. Which will allow Siri to analyse their usage, suggest them later on, and also maybe for users to build with in the Shortcuts app.
There were some intriguing demos for the suggested actions, which is not something I really say, because usually they are based around unrealistic or ideal situations. But because Siri is in your phone? I’m not sure how to explain that, but it knows about you, what you’re like, and also the environment around you. Which is why it can suggest you turn on Do Not Disturb when you go to the cinema.
They also showed an example of a regularly occurring event, such as buying a coffee in the morning. Maybe not everyone buys a coffee from an app on their phone every day, but I use the Starbucks app every time I go. And that could easily be at least 3 times a week. So if it learned (or just used Maps) the location of Starbucks, recognised it was associated with that action, that would be very helpful! It’s certainly something I feel would be capable, and it’s not a usual Siri feature that’s nice to think about, but never use.
It does get more advance though, and that’s with the Shortcuts (Workflow) app. I conceptualise it by being similar to Scenes in HomeKit, where you could say a phrase such as “Good morning”, and then Siri can perform a bunch of tasks to set you up for the day. Maybe it sort of encompasses the automation of HomeKit?
I’ve already been playing around on the iOS 12 beta, and while I’ve already been suggested some actions, like enabling a alarm, messaging my girlfriend, and even adding a new to-do in Things, we don’t have the Shortcuts app yet. That will come in a later update via the App Store. So I will definitely have to write more about that in the future. But from the keynote, it looks like they’ve added the Apple-style to Workflow, which will definitely make it feel easier to use for general users.
One of my questions though, is how well suited is this to a general user? I will be very keen to see if it’s a widely adopted feature, and even if the Shortcuts app with custom actions might not be, I see the Siri suggestions being a bit hit.