Starting with iOS 10, Apple will be giving iPhone and iPad owners more control over the software that's installed on iOS devices. For the first time ever, you'll be able to delete the company's built-in apps (Maps, Calculator, Music, Videos, etc.) and download them again later. All of the major iOS apps are now visible within the App Store, and they've each got fleshed out descriptions and screenshots.
Yet strangely, nothing about this was mentioned on stage during the WWDC keynote. Neither Tim Cook nor software boss Craig Federighi discussed any "unbundling" of apps from iOS 10. It didn't even appear on the cool, nerdy list of new features during the keynote:
But it's certainly happening. Here's Compass:
And users who've downloaded today's developer beta are confirming the change. Certain apps like Messages, Photos, and Camera cannot be deleted, presumably because they're tied too deeply to the system to be uninstalled.
Apple has also published a help page on removing built-in apps, warning of some small issues you might run into once you do. User data gets removed along with the apps. (Don't worry: your contacts remain in the Phone app.) If you remove weather, for example, the weather will no longer appear in Notification Center or on your Apple Watch. If you remove Music, you'll lose it inside CarPlay. Here's the full list of stuff that can currently be removed, direct from Apple. The News app will be removable in a later version of the iOS 10 beta.
Sorry, you're stuck with Game Center from the looks of it.
Tim Cook said last September that Apple was "looking at" cutting down on the amount of software that ships on iOS, or at least giving users more flexibility in hiding some of it from the home screen. If you're like me, you've got a bunch of apps sitting in a rarely-opened junk folder somewhere. "This is a more complex issue than it first appears," Cook said in last year's interview with BuzzFeed News. "There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren’t like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren’t like that, we’ll figure out a way."
Could new default apps be the next step?
Unbundling everything from Music to the Tips app from iOS itself is also necessary if Apple wants to bring new features to its software in any speedy fashion. Google has already done it with Google Play Services, and Microsoft too delivers per-app updates to the pre-installed software that comes with Windows 10. You could argue that even mid-year updates like the recent iOS 9.3 don't come frequently enough. Fixing perceived problems with Apple Music or bugs in other apps gets much easier when they're all right in the App Store.
And just maybe, this could open the door to selecting new default apps for email, maps, music, and so on. You can't yet kick Mail aside for Gmail or ditch Maps in favor of Google Maps, and Safari is one of those apps that is non-removable. But remember than iOS 10 was only just announced today, and perhaps Apple will have some surprises come September.