Apple is readying a major new iOS initiative codenamed ‘Proactive,’ which will utilize Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps to compete against Google Now on Android, reports 9to5mac. Proactive will automatically provide relevant information based on a user’s data and usage patterns — all why respecting the user’s privacy preferences.
According to the report Proactive is aimed to be an evolution of the iOS spotlight feature. It will also work with the Maps application to provide an augmented reality interface and utilize a third-party Siri API codenamed ‘Breadcrumbs’. Apple began the project with the acquisition of the Cue app in 2013. iOS 8’s revamped Spotlight experience with Wikipedia search was reportedly the first taste of Proactive. In fact sources say Google clicks have fallen since iOS 8’s release last Fall.
Proactive and Spotlight
Apple plans to take Proactive to the next level, and could do so at WWDC next month with iOS 9. Proactive will “become a new layer within the iOS operating system,” replacing the current pulldown Spotlight menu. Rather than a pulldown menu, Proactive will be found to the left of the Home screen. According to sources, Apple’s internal usage metric found that Spotlight was not used as frequently in iOS 8 because it was somewhat hidden behind the home screen. Some internal iOS 9 builds reportedly allow Proactive access on the left side of the screen and through the pull down, so its possible both ways will be used to implement Proactive.
Within the new Proactive screen, users will have a dedicated Search Bar at the top to access the established features of Spotlight: users will still be able to search for names, launch apps, and find audio tracks. Sources indicate that Proactive will include a greater emphasis on displaying news stories as search results, and will more reliably display news results when you search for information, including news on current topics and famous people.
In addition to the search bar, there will be a new user interface that populates content based on apps, contacts, and maps. For instance, if a user has a flight listed in their calendar, a bubble will appear in Proactive letting them open their boarding pass as boarding time nears. Proactive will also integrate with commonly used apps. So if you always open the iClarified app right before you go to bed, a button to access the app would appear around your normal bed time. Finally, Proactive will display restaurant suggestions and ratings around different times of the day.
Proactive and Maps
Beyond Spotlight, Maps will also be a focal point of Proactive. Apple has reportedly developed an augmented reality interface for local listing, as well as a feature dubbed ‘Browse Around Me.’ The augmented reality interface could let users hold up their iPhone camera while in the Maps application and point it towards a particular area. The Maps application could then show different businesses in that area, as well as other relevant information such as ratings and reviews. The ‘Browse Around Me’ feature could simply show points of interested tailored to the use based on previous searches or user preferences.
Proactive and Developers
Apple is also planning to allow developers to integrate their applications into Proactive and Siri (which has been reportedly redesigned in iOS 9 to be more cololrful like the Apple Watch’s interface). While Apple has worked on a full Siri API, they will likely introduce a more scaled back version. Apple apparently has privacy concerns with Siri sending personal data to wrong third party apps if it misinterprets words or context.
Finally, the report notes that while Proactive is far into development, it may not be released with iOS 9 due to Apple’s focus on improving quality and performance. Apple VP of Product Management for iOS and OS X Kim Vorrath has reportedly been hesitant to release Proactive with such a large amount of features. Instead, Apple could prefer to launch scaled down iterations of enhancements than release an entire lump of features.
WWDC 15 could provide more information on Proactive and how much, if any Apple plans to release. They keynote is scheduled for Monday, June 8 at 10AM PT, where we expect to see new iOS 9, OS X 10.11, and possible new Apple TV hardware.