Apple is launching Text Message via Satellite in iOS 18

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Apple kicked off its annual developer conference yesterday, unveiling iOS 18 and iPadOS 18’s new features, which will be available on Apple devices later this year. The primary focus was on Apple’s latest AI developments, which they’ve branded as “Apple Intelligence.” This includes numerous user interface updates and enhancements to the default Apple apps on your device, which use AI to help you improve productivity and make more sense of the never-ending barrage of data coming into your device.

Like past major OS updates, Apple will release a public beta of iOS and iPadOS 18 this summer and likely release the final version for everyone later this year alongside the iPhone 16. Here’s a quick look at what’s new and a few features pilots might be able to take advantage of in flight.

Messages via Satellite

While the new AI features generated the most buzz yesterday, the most exciting news is that Apple is expanding its satellite connectivity functionality beyond the original emergency SOS features. Starting in the fall, users with an iPhone 14 or newer running iOS 18 can send and receive iMessage or SMS texts via satellite when a cellular connection or Wi-Fi isn’t available.

This is great news for pilots since it greatly simplifies and reduces the costs of staying connected in the air. Apple has said it eventually plans to charge for satellite services, but they haven’t released pricing information yet.

Apple Intelligence

Apple is bringing native AI productivity features to iPhone and iPad in iOS and iPadOS 18. These features will accomplish standard AI tasks, like improving writing in Mail, Messages, and Notes and image generation.

The feature that stands to gain the most from this is the voice assistant Siri, which has lagged in usefulness compared to the competition. Apple claims its new AI capabilities will address that and make Siri a standout. In addition to voice control, a new text prompt allows users to type requests to Siri, eliminating the need to speak out loud. According to Apple:

Siri draws on Apple Intelligence for all-new superpowers. With an all-new design, richer language understanding, and the ability to type to Siri whenever it’s convenient for you, communicating with Siri is more natural than ever. Equipped with awareness of your personal context, the ability to take action in and across apps, and product knowledge about your devices’ features and settings, Siri will be able to assist you like never before.

We’ll all find out later this year if Siri really is new and improved or if this is more Apple marketing hype.

Smart Script

The Notes app includes a new on-device machine learning feature called Smart Script. When using an Apple Pencil, the system will automatically refine your writing to be smoother, straighter, and more legible. This will be a welcome addition to pilots and make life easier for pilots using an iPad to copy an IFR clearance, especially when hearing the words, “Full route clearance available, advise when ready to copy.”

Calculator for iPad

Apple is finally going to include a default calculator app with iPadOS 18. One feature pilots will appreciate is the history shown on the left side of the screen to review a log of previous calculations.

Eye Tracking

Apple’s new Vision Pro headset relies heavily on eye tracking to interact with apps in a virtual environment. We’ve been impressed with how this works and were excited to hear they’re bringing a similar concept to iPad and iPhone. Eye Tracking uses the front-facing camera to track your eye position and works across iPadOS and iOS apps.

You’ll be able to interact with all the controls of an app and stare at an element for a second or two to activate a button or switch and access additional functions such as physical buttons, swipes, and other gestures solely with your eyes. Like with Vision Pro, and element will show a highlight or box around it to confirm what you’re looking at.

This has the potential to be a really nice feature for pilots to switch charts or functions in an aviation app while both hands are tied up on flight and engine controls.

Check out Apple’s full iPadOS 18 preview article for a complete list of new features coming later this year.

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