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By Stephen Nellis
SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters)

Apple Inc on Monday unveiled software upgrades that would let older iPhones run faster, help parents limit their children’s screen time and make its Siri voice assistant work more like a rival feature from Amazon.com

Taken together, the moves announced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose amounted to focusing on keeping its base of 1.3 billion users satisfied with their devices and catching up with some competitors. Apple shares closed up 0.8 percent at $191.83 after the news, and rose to $192.40 in extended trading.

 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple faced a backlash late last year when it emerged that the company slowed down some older iPhones with flagging batteries. The latest version of Apple’s operating system for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 12, will make older devices, such as the iPhone 6, work better.

Software chief Craig Federighi said iOS 12 could carry out simple tasks, such as opening apps, up to twice as fast as its predecessor, iOS 11. The new system will work on a range of products that date back to 2013.

 

Apple Worldwide Developer conference is held in San Jose
A visitor uses his iPhone X to take photos of the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

The company also will allow broader use of in-app voice controls, which it had limited to a handful of apps, such as PayPal and Uber. Amazon, by contrast, was much more open to controlling apps with its Alexa assistant.

Apple also rolled out group video chat sessions with up to 32 users, putting it in direct competition with companies such as Cisco Systems Inc and Microsoft Corp’s Skype.

 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference WWDC in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

In response to criticism that Apple contributed to computer overuse by children, iPhone and iPad users will now be able to limit the time children spend in apps, as well as which apps they can use.

“Some apps demand more of our attention than we might realize,” Federighi said.

The parent control system sits atop a broader system that adults, too, can use to monitor and limit their screen time.

 

Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi talks about integrating augmented reality and 3D objects into news stories at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference WWDC in San Jose,
Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi talks about integrating augmented reality and 3D objects into news stories at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, said the flexibility of Apple’s system set it apart from others designed only for parental monitoring, offering the ability for teens and adults to impose their own limits.

“It’s a clear admission from Apple: ‘Our installed base is so big, and no two users are the same, so we’re not going to tell you what works for you,'” she said.

 

Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi shows off a new feature of the upcoming MacOS Mojave at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose
Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi shows off a new feature of the upcoming MacOS Mojave at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

New features help protect users’ anonymity online. The company said its Safari web browser for both Macs and iPhones will keep users from being tracked without their permission by websites that use “like” or “share” buttons from social media companies.

Apple unveiled new steps to make it hard for advertisers to distinguish among users, building on its effort, begun last year, to prevent such tracking.

 

 

Apple also rolled out new tools for augmented reality, saying users would be able to share worlds in games, for instance. LEGO, the maker of interlocking toy blocks, showed off an app in which two players using iPads could put out a virtual fire blazing on a physical house made of LEGOs.

Federighi said Apple had been working on a “multi-year” effort to make it easier to move iPhone and iPad apps onto Mac computers, a significant change because Apple’s iOS is often a top destination for developers, who frequently choose Android phones as the second platform.

Federighi said the tools will come out next year.

 

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Jose; Additional reporting by Sonam Rai and Pushkala Aripaka in Bangalore; Editing by Peter Henderson, Richard Chang and Bill Berkrot)

 

Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi displays a sampling of new Memoji avatars at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference WWDC in San Jose
Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi displays a sampling of new Memoji avatars at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi introduces new Animoji at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference WWDC in San Jose
Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi introduces new Animoji at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

Apple Worldwide Developer conference is held in San Jose
A visitor uses his iPhone X to take photos of the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

 

 

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