Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Apple announces new features and big profits
Apple has announced its new iOS 14.5 update for iPhone and iPad, with most headlines focusing on the new App Tracking Transparency function. This means users will have to opt in if they want their online activity tracked by companies — an update that has caused a huge rift between Apple and Facebook.
Other features include being able to unlock your iPhone wearing a mask (but only if you’re also wearing an Apple Watch), new emojis (including different skin tones for the ‘couple kissing’ emoji) and diverse voice options for Siri. Apple also reported a doubling in profits in the past year, mainly thanks to a surge in iPhone sales in China.
2. UK to retool NHS app as vaccine passport
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced that the UK government is retooling an NHS app as a vaccine passport for international travel. The app will provide proof that people have been vaccinated or received a negative test for the Covid-19 virus when international travel is due to resume on 17 May.
The system will be based on an NHS app used to book an appointment with a doctor rather than the Covid-19 app. However, critics have warned that the passports could put peoples’ civil liberties and privacy at risk, as the massive stores of personal data could potentially be used (or misused) beyond the scope of the pandemic.
3. Sporting world joins social media boycott
The world of sport is boycotting social media for four days this weekend as a protest against racism and discrimination online. The boycott was announced by the leading English football organisations and anti-discrimination charity Kick it Out last weekend after many footballers spoke out about the abuse they had received online.
And now sporting bodies from rugby union, cricket, tennis and cycling have announced they are joining the boycottt of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sponsors, broadcasters and newspapers are also taking part as pressure mounts on social media companies to take decisive action to tackle abuse on their platforms.
4. ‘Self-driving’ cars on UK roads by end of year
‘Self-driving’ vehicles could be on UK roads by the end of 2021, according to the government. However, before you start picturing driverless cars zipping around town, ‘self-driving’ here means automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS), which simply controls the position and speed of a car in a single lane and is limited to 37mph.
Drivers won’t have to keep their hands on the wheel but they will have to be able to take over within 10 seconds when requested by the system, otherwise the vehicle will automatically slow down and stop. Insurers have urged caution over defining ALKS as ‘self-driving’, as there is a danger it could make motorists overconfident.
5. Microsoft deletes Calibri as its font of choice
Everyone has a favourite font, and plenty of articles have been written about what your font of choice says about you (insert Comic Sans joke here). And changing that font is a serious task — just ask Microsoft, which has decided to replace its default font, Calibri, which itself usurped Times New Roman back in 2007.
Microsoft has commissioned five original custom fonts, one of which will eventually become the new default. “A default font is often the first impression we make,” said its design team. “And just as people and the world around us age and grow, so too should our modes of expression.” Why not give them all a go?