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What to Know About the Newest iPhone and Android Software

As the pandemic recedes across the country, a lot has changed about how we work and live. Some of us are now planning on returning to the office, while others will continue working from home. Many of us will do both. The software on our phones, our most essential tools in the pandemic, is also evolving for this new reality. The changes are courtesy of Apple and Google, which recently unveiled their latest phone software designed for this Covid-accelerated era of hybrid remote work.

This week, Apple showed iOS 15, its next operating system for iPhones. The software gives device owners new tools to draw boundaries for hybrid work, like a status message that lets others know you are busy before they message you. FaceTime, Apple’s videoconferencing software, will also get its most extensive expansion since its debut more than a decade ago. The service will finally be opened to non-Apple devices, including Android phones, and improve such video sessions look and sound better.

Last month, Google introduced Android 12, its latest operating system for mobile devices. The company focused on streamlining the design of its software to help people get their work done more efficiently, including a menu of shortcuts to get to their favorite tools more quickly.

To Carolina Milanesi, a consumer technology analyst for Creative Strategies, the changes in iOS 15 and Android 12 — primarily Apple’s tool for setting digital boundaries — reflect how our lives and work are shifting again as we try to leave the pandemic behind.

“That little prompt that says people don’t want to be disturbed is going to be really important,” she said. “Maybe you’ll prepare your message on the weekend, but you don’t hit send until Monday morning, so that way you don’t push other people to work on a weekend. It takes the pressure away.”

Apple and Google walked me through the highlights of their new mobile operating systems, including new privacy controls and enhancements to phone cameras. Both methods are set for release this fall.

Here’s what you need to know.

Stuck at home for most of the last year, many of us became glued to our phone screens, chatting on video calls and messaging loved ones amid room scrolling sessions, for some, that made it feel impossible to stay focused on a single task.

In response, Apple’s new software provides iPhone owners with tools to minimize distractions, while Google has added buttons to help people perform tasks on the phone more quickly.

Consider one new feature from Apple, called Focus. Focus can be used to set dividing lines for different parts of your day. You can break up your day into categories like personal life, work, and sleep. You then decide which people and apps can cause notifications to appear on your phone for each of those.

You can set the phone during work so that only your boss’s messages appear as notifications; other notifications will be muted. If you want to stay focused on your personal life, you could allow notifications only from family and friends. You can also set the phone to Do Not Disturb and have a status message like “On deadline” or “At the movies.” People trying to message you will see that status and might consider messaging you later.

Google’s changes are more cosmetic. It redesigned the controls in Android to include large rectangular buttons for easy access to functions such as the flashlight, internet settings, and the audio recorder.

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