5 Reasons Why You Should Care About iOS 15

Surprisingly, last week is the first in a while that Apple Beta Program participants didn’t see a new build of iOS 15. Public Beta 8 was released two weeks ago, with the anticipation that the golden master would be released to testers a week after.

That didn’t happen. Instead, all signs point to the golden master being released this week in conjunction with the Apple iPhone event happening tomorrow, September 14. It might even skip “golden master” altogether and go straight to public release later this week.

So soon, everyone will get their hands on iOS 15. Some of the tentpole features, like the updated Maps app, redesigned Safari, and “all new” Notifications are either underwhelming or controversial. Plus one of its biggest features, Shareplay, which lets you share your media during FaceTime calls, is sidelined till iOS 15.1. So why should you care about the latest OS from Apple?

Here are five things that you’ll actually use that make iOS 15 worth getting excited about.

1. iCloud+ Makes Browsing More Secure

OK, boring stuff out of the way first. Everyone says they want to be more secure but no one actually cares. They share their email. They reuse passwords. They connect to any WiFi hotspot, even if its name is “H4CK3R-4-LYFE.”

Apple’s iOS has had strong password suggestions for a while now, but iOS 15 goes even further to keep you from your own worst habits. iCloud+ has a Private Relay feature that acts like a virtual private network (VPN). Basically, it hides the location of where you’re connecting  to the internet and who you are, even from Apple. You can’t use it like a regular VPN to spoof a location (say, if you’re trying to convince Netflix you’re in a different global region). But if you’re advanced enough to be doing that, you probably don’t need Private Relay to begin with. This feature is for those who want to be safer online but don’t want to mess with the nuts and bolts.

Hide My Email is the iCloud+ feature that you’ll actually notice and use. Rather than provide your real email to every random form and newsletter on the internet, this will let you mask your email with a fake address that’s then routed to your iCloud email address.

2. It’s Easier To Find Things Shared With You

“Oh, I’ve seen that trailer. My buddy shared it with me. One sec.”

Scroll, scroll, scroll

“Hmm. Maybe not him? Maybe my brother?”

Scroll, scroll, scroll

“Not him either. Huh. Um. I know I’ve got it. Hold on…”

Sound like a familiar scenario? With so many links, photos, and videos being shared with us on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose track of just what we’ve received and from whom. That’s why the persistent Shared With Me category in iOS 15 is an absolute gift. Now, there’s a whole list of shared links available when opening a new tab in Safari. Looking for pictures?

The Photos app has a shared category as well. Same with the TV and Music apps. Granted, the last two probably won’t see as much use but it’s still nice to have a convenient list of things that you want to check out in the app where you’ll most likely use it.

Speaking of sharing, if you frequently share multiple photos in Messages, they’re now organized in an aesthetically-pleasing stack. It’s a minor, but welcome, change.

3. Photos Are Way Better

The Photos app gets some major quality of life improvements in iOS 15. The auto-generated memories are better and seem to surface more of the images you care about. They can also use real music from your Music app! Now if you want to use Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” for that memory about your dog, you can, rather than being stuck with generic upbeat instrumental music.

Photos are smarter as well, letting you dive deep into images and identify things like animals, plants, locations, and people. Plus you can finally copy text from images! No more flipping back and forth between an image and Safari to enter the name of that weird restaurant that you took a picture of. Select the text in the image, then copy, paste, and search. It’s especially useful for those acquaintances that love to send you screenshots of web pages rather than the actual web page address.

4. Anyone Can Join FaceTime Calls

FaceTime is a lot of fun but until now it’s been an Apple-only affair. With iOS 15 you can create a share link that lets anyone join your FaceTime call from their browser, no matter what device they’re on. Of course, if you’re joining that FaceTime call from an iOS device, there are all kinds of new enhancements to calls – better audio, video, and, eventually, real-time screen sharing. It’s like Zoom, but more focused on the social. If you prefer to do your FaceTime calls via Memoji, you’ll appreciate the new clothing options (among other new customizations).

5. Focus Lets You Instantly Transform Your Phone

Do Not Disturb and Sleep Mode were wonderful innovations that helped us wrest time back from our phones. The new Focus mode is like that, but with even more utility. Now, instead of just silencing notifications, you can create an entire home screen just for that mode.

Want to have a Fitness mode that surfaces weather, workout, and health widgets, plus your fitness and music apps? Create it and when you activate the Fitness focus mode, your phone will transform. You can also set it to let people know that you’re working out (or driving or whatever). And while there are several different types recommended, you can also make your own. It’s an easy way to embrace task-based layouts.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are even more features coming to your phones when iOS 15 is released to the public later this week. Be sure to tune in to the Apple keynote tomorrow to check out the iOS 15 release announcement (and all the new iPhones!).

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’ve been writing about technology, gadgets, and pop culture back before Apple had even thought of the iPhone. I’ve seen the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… In addition to Forbes.com, I am a contributor at TheRoarbots.com. As a technical writer, I specialize in deciphering the undecipherable, untangling the kraken-like documentation tangles that software companies find themselves in, and teaching users how to successfully navigate their products on the other side. I also enjoy playing in superheroic worlds of my own creation (you can find out more about my fiction endeavors at AnthonyKarcz.com). You can find me on Twitter (@sunstreaker84), Facebook, and Google . If there’s something you want to see me tackle, drop me an email at: anthonyATanthonykarczDOTcom.

Source: 5 Reasons Why You Should Care About iOS 15

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The IRS Bottleneck Most Taxpayers Have Never Heard Of

The one-day deadline for taxpayers to approve authorization requests only applies to authorizations for multiple representatives. All representatives must be approved on the same day or later approvals will overwrite prior approvals. Currently there is no deadline for taxpayers to approve authorization requests.

Bottlenecks are nothing new to the Internal Revenue Service. IRS issues with mail processing, return processing, and issuing refunds have been well publicized. Nevertheless, one of the most common IRS bottlenecks is one that many taxpayers, including many members of Congress, are unaware of.

IRS notices about return adjustments, balances due, delays in refund processing, and a host of other issues continued to be sent automatically during the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to be issued after what most tax practitioners agree was the worst income tax filing season ever (even worse than filing season 2020).

Taxpayers who choose to pay a professional to assist with an IRS notice must provide proper authorization, typically using either Form 2848, Power of Attorney, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization. The representative then files the signed 2848 or 8821 with the Centralized Authorization File (CAF) unit either by mailing it, faxing it, or (more recently) via online submission. Once CAF approval has been granted, the tax practitioner can then represent the taxpayer, but getting CAF approval has become an increasingly fraught process.

The Internal Revenue Manual (or IRM) specifies that “receipts” [of authorization requests] are processed within five business days. Nevertheless, over the last few years processing times of three to six weeks or even longer have become increasingly common. This January tax practitioners were given the ability to submit authorizations online. Online submission was greeted with enthusiasm because it also allowed for the use of electronic (as opposed to “wet”) signatures.

Online submission definitely made the process of getting a client’s signature and submitting the authorization form to the CAF unit much simpler, but because online submissions are processed in order along with mailed or faxed in submissions, uploading authorization forms has not been an expedient option for taxpayers needing immediate assistance.

Typically practitioners representing taxpayers with short deadlines call the Practitioner Priority Line (PPL) and fax the form to the answering representative. Because all faxed forms require a “wet” signature the electronic signature and online submission process has proved less than helpful except for non-urgent matters.

The IRS CAF units in Memphis and Ogden were completely shut down in March 2020 in response to the pandemic (as was a third unit that serves taxpayers located outside of the U.S.). Consequently, authorization processing (which was already slow) was brought to a standstill—and then it went into reverse. Although all three CAF units re-opened in July 2020, and although the IRS has added additional staff to help clear the backlog, the CAF units are still taking several weeks to process mailed or faxed submissions.

While there have been anecdotal reports of uploaded forms being processed in two weeks (as opposed to the six or more it sometimes takes for a mailed or faxed-in authorization), the IRS continues to state that the CAF units process all mailed, faxed, and uploaded forms on a first-in, first out basis.

John Sheeley, Enrolled Agent and owner of Tax Practice Pro, Inc. (which provides continuing education to tax practitioners), has recommended that the IRS stop issuing automatic notices and re-direct any available staff to the CAF units to assist with processing backlogged authorization requests (and then move those staff on to processing notice responses that have also been languishing, sometimes since mid-2020).

Additional improvements to the traditional CAF authorization process that have been recommended by many practitioners include notifying the practitioner via their e-Services account when an authorization form has been accepted for processing (similar to the acknowledgement received for electronically filed tax returns and that includes the date of acknowledgment and the taxpayer’s identification number) and again when the authorization has been processed.

These two additional notifications would allow tax practitioners to quickly determine if their authorization request got to the CAF unit and if it was approved. Currently practitioners must log into their e-services accounts and manually check to see if an authorization form has been processed (again, with no way of knowing if it was even received).

Tax practitioners would also like notification if the authorization request form is rejected and why so that any errors can be corrected. Currently forms submitted by mail, fax, or upload go into a black hole that requires practitioners to continue to check to see if the form has been accepted.

It is never clear whether a long delay is an actual delay in processing, if the form was lost, or if it was rejected. This is inefficient both for practitioners and the IRS. Practitioners who can’t wait for the authorizations to be accepted are often forced to call an already overburdened PPL only to be told the form was rejected and will have to be corrected and resubmitted.

On July 18, 2021 the IRS opened a practitioner portal that is supposed to make filing and obtaining authorizations easier. The new submission and approval system promises to greatly improve efficiency for practitioners whose clients have or can get an IRS online account. Tax practitioners can log into a special Tax Pro account to submit authorization requests for their clients who can then approve the request.

In general, the requests record in real-time to the CAF database. The practitioner is alerted to many issues (e.g., a CAF number mismatch) before the authorization is submitted. Once the request has been approved by the client, authorization approval should be displayed in the practitioner’s Tax Pro account within two business days. Marc Dombrowski, Enrolled Agent Owner of Tax Help Associates, a Buffalo, New York, firm that specializes in resolving tax issues had his first two submissions record in real time and the third in approximately 30 hours. That’s a huge improvement over the several weeks which had become the norm since at least 2020.

Of course, there is some fine print. Authorizations requested using the new portal are limited in scope (most notably they can only be used for individual accounts, not businesses and they can only authorize access back to tax year 2000). Additionally, while the practitioner is notified that an online request has not been approved, the unapproved request is not identified in any way (for example using the taxpayer’s name or TIN). While this may be a necessary security precaution it does pose problems for tax resolution specialists who often submit multiple authorization requests each day.

Processing the older authorization backlog may be even more important with the new portal now online. The IRS has always stressed to practitioners not to submit multiple copies of the same authorizations as it will delay CAF processing. Tax practitioners tend to be a methodical bunch and most will typically check to determine if a client authorization has been granted before attempting to upload an authorization using the new portal.

It would be extremely helpful (and would help to avoid duplicate submissions) if the information provided to practitioners reflects up-to-date CAF information. Dombrowski states that when it comes to the CAF process, “It’s simplicity is its perfection.” New submissions will reliably always overwrite older submissions. That means that the limited scope authorization requests submitted online using the new Tax Pro accounts will replace any full-scope authorizations (2848 or 8821) the IRS currently has on file, so practitioners should be mindful when using the portal for requests on existing clients.

Of course new submissions overwriting older submissions also means that full-scope authorizations submitted by mail, fax, or upload will overwrite limited scope authorizations if the full-scope authorizations are processed after an authorization submitted using the portal. Morris Armstrong, an Enrolled Agent who owns an independent tax practice in Cheshire, Connecticut, says “it is likely safer to request the 8821 [which allows a practitioner to obtain information but not to negotiate] and preserve the 2848, barring urgency to negotiate.”

Finally, client approval of an online authorization request must also be provided the same day as the request is made by the practitioner and, depending on the client, that is not always possible. Truthfully, many practitioners can resolve their clients’ issues if the client has an IRS online account and is willing to request the necessary transcripts and provide them to their practitioner.

Nevertheless, while a transcript review may resolve some problems, often further intervention by the tax practitioner is required. Still, anything that speeds up CAF approval and provides simpler options for obtaining taxpayer transcripts has the potential to greatly reduce IRS phone traffic. And anything that reduces IRS phone traffic will be enthusiastically welcomed by taxpayers, tax practitioners, and the IRS.

I own Tax Therapy, LLC, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am an Enrolled Agent and non-attorney practitioner admitted to the bar of the U.S. Tax Court. I work as a tax general practitioner preparing returns for individuals and (really) small businesses as well as representing individuals before the IRS and, occasionally, the U.S. Tax Court. My passion is translating “taxspeak” into English for taxpayers and tax practitioners. I write to dispel myths with facts and to explain “the fine print” behind seemingly simple tax concepts. I cover individual tax issues and IRS developments with a focus on items of interest to taxpayers and retail tax practitioners. Follow me on Twitter @taxtherapist505

Source: The IRS Bottleneck Most Taxpayers Have Never Heard Of

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Data Or Processes: Where To Begin With Intelligent Automation

Over the past year, many clients I’ve spoken with have been looking for ways to make processes smarter, more adaptable and more resilient. According to our recent research, many companies see the combination of AI and automation — or intelligent automation — as key to achieving these goals.

Despite the promise of better operational performance with intelligent automation, a common question is where to begin: with the process itself or with the data that will power the process? The answer lies in identifying which outcome you’re trying to achieve. Getting the sequence wrong could counteract the very goal you’re pursuing.

The right starting point 

Here are two examples that distinguish when a process-led vs. data-led approach makes the most sense with intelligent automation:

How can we improve our operational efficiency?

Amid global uncertainty, supply chain disruptions and social distancing requirements, improving operational efficiency has become a priority for many businesses. The goal in this case is to improve speed and accuracy across the value chain, and achieve outcomes faster without cutting corners.

Adding data intelligence can significantly reduce errors, remove process hurdles and reveal where corrections are needed. But doing so requires a strong process automation backbone in order to shape when and how the data is applied. So in this case, a process-led approach is best.

For example, we’re working with a major insurance provider to improve customer lifecycle management. Typically, insurance customers who file a claim experience long decision times, a lack of visibility into decision making and repeated or disconnected requests for information submission.

Insurers can distinguish themselves by being fast, frictionless and responsive in how they handle claims. However, operating in a highly regulated industry and with overt risks around claims fraud, speed can never be a trade-off for accuracy and compliance.

A contributing factor to the insurer’s process challenges was the dependence on third-party systems and disparate data sources to make decisions. We helped the company implement an automated and fully integrated process for claims handling, which was then supported with AI and data modeling to segment customer profiles and personalize services.

The system has helped reduce the turnaround on claims capture by as much as 80% and shorten overall claims procedure times from 14 days to just two, all while maintaining the necessary high levels of accuracy and regulatory compliance. The insurer has also received positive customer feedback on the effectiveness and quality of services.

How can we be more agile in our product and service offerings?

Leading retailers have an impressive ability to recommend relevant products and anticipate customers’ next actions. Whether shoppers search for a needed item, browse relevant sites or interact with brands across different channels, digitally savvy retailers can connect the dots in real-time and make recommendations with a high degree of precision.

With so many factors and variables at play in dynamic online customer environments, companies need an agile approach that allows them to test the market, gather feedback and continuously improve in order to meet customer needs.

We’re working with an online fashion retailer to deliver this level of personalization. The company is well aware of the speed at which consumers’ tastes and styles change, and realized it needed to move swiftly to gain and keep customers’ attention.

Because it was vital to gain insights into consumer preferences, we took a data-led approach. We helped the retailer use existing data to gain a deeper consumer understanding. Using this insight, we then designed a process that segmented the brand’s customer base and enabled all interactions and product recommendations across channels like chatbots, email and social media to have the highest degree of relevance, timeliness and usefulness.

The combination of process improvements and data insights allowed for an integrated digital thread to run through all phases of the customer lifecycle, including product design and development, sales and after-sales. As a result, the retailer can now drive more relevant customer interactions and next-best offers, which in turn has improved customer mindshare, loyalty and revenue.

Accelerating the path to Intelligent Automation

To get the most out of intelligent automation, process and data need to work in harmony. Automated processes enable greater efficiency, while data enables better decision-making.

By coordinating these attributes — and having a clear outcome in mind — businesses can add intelligence to how and where they automate processes in a way that accelerates business outcomes while ensuring the quality of service is enhanced.

To learn more, visit the Intelligent Process Automation section of our website. View our latest webinar on Redesigning Work for the Post-Pandemic Age.

Chakradhar “Gooty” Agraharam is VP and Commercial Head of EMEA for Cognizant’s Digital Business Operations’ IPA Practice. In this role, he leads advisory, consulting, automation and analytics growth and delivery within the region, helping clients navigate and scale their automation and digital transformation journeys. He has over 25 years of consulting experience, working with clients on large systems integration, program management and transformation consulting programs across Asia, Europe and the Americas. Gooty holds an MBA from IIM, Calcutta (India’s Premier B school), and has executive management certifications from Rutgers, Henley Business School. Gooty has won reputed industry awards with MCA for his contribution to the digital industry in the UK and is a member of various industry forums. He can be reached at Gooty.Agraharam@cognizant.com

Source: Data Or Processes: Where To Begin With Intelligent Automation

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