Some of these new features we may all be using unknowingly. A key to the return to profitable operation when Jobs returned to Apple was stopping work on projects which did not contribute to profits. I think that principle is at work here, at least in some cases. The example of which I am thinking is Memories, but this may apply to other “new features” as well.
One function in Photos is automatic identification of people, nominally by their faces. Photos face identification technology has long been not especially capable, but it keeps improving. Recently Apple has announced Photos has gained the ability to identify other features in photos, such as beach scenes, trees, dogs, etc. Apple also has widely touted its application of AI to many aspects of various applications. Applied to face recognition, one aspect of AI is aggregation of photos with similarities into groups. Memories is a simple graphical interface which allows users to observe these groups. That is kind of interesting, but I think this independent feature is not the only, nor even main, purpose of these groups. I think Apple Photos face recognition AI uses correlations between groups to establish, verify and/or extend confidence in identification of faces. This allows “face recognition” to identify individuals whose face is not shown.
Other work which does require a face for recognition can be applied to Photos, but also to Face ID as an unlocking mechanism. Thus work toward identification of a face, has two products with marketable potential: Face ID for unlocking, plus identification of individuals in the user’s photo library.
Similarly, development of AI for enhanced recognition of persons (not just their faces) will greatly increase the appeal of Photos, while simultaneously developing and refining AI methods which can have many applications. Developing Artificial Neural Network (ANN) AI methods requires extensive training on vast and varied data sets, with some human oversight. Photos libraries provide this. Plus, as identification of individuals becomes more reliable, Apple’s need to demonstrate the success of its AI methods will already be widely observed. This can be coup for marketing to the individual user who observed the success on his machine. Plus Apple’s past has shown the effectiveness of word of mouth from pleased users in expanding sales.
I agree with most poll respondents that most new features seem gimmicky, and of no use to me. But I have long spent much time working with Photos, and recently read about improvements to face identification technology. When I started thinking about it, the thoughts above congealed and Memories, which I had thought were cute but of little value, suddenly appeared to make a lot more sense.
Do any of the other seemingly trivial new features have more subtle value? I do not know, but as an Apple stockholder I hope the principle of focussing on research and development of maximum salable potential is still in operation. Also, in years of watching Apple, I have noticed that much speculation on many things goes on online, but for a year or more before a product is released the gossip seems to dry up.
My overall point, responding to the survey question, is we may all be using iOS 15 and macOS 12 features unknowingly, or at least without being aware of their potential purpose in the greater scheme of things.