Apple’s twenty-ninth WWDC opening keynote has been and gone. It came with the usual fanfare from the over 5,000 developers in attendance, and, of course, the watchful eyes of the world’s tech media who were there to try and pick apart every single announcement made by Tim Cook’s trusted team.
Does the future look bright for Apple? Did Apple’s announcements and introductions match, or even surpass Google’s unveilings during the relatively recent 2018 I/O Conference? Let’s take a look at what Apple brought to San Jose and find out.
The Next-Generation of iOS: iOS 12
We already had an inkling that iOS 12 was going to be about stability and performance improvements rather than wholesale changes and the introduction of a whopping new never-ending list of features. Apple confirmed that on the WWDC stage. With iOS 12 support all the way back as far as iPhone 5s, Apple is looking to deliver performance and speed, even on older hardware which many would have expected to be cast into the ether by now.
As far as those improvements go, Apple appears to have focused on areas that the average user will interact with on a daily basis. Keyboards on all hardware should now launch 50% faster than in iOS 11. The native camera should load and be ready for action up to 70% faster. And applications - which are the key things that device owners interact with on a continuous basis - should be executed and load up to 40% faster over the previous version of iOS. It’s likely that those numbers won’t fire over into real-world usage for all users on all supported devices, but it’s a pretty impressive achievement nonetheless considering iOS 12 supports the same devices as iOS 11.
iOS 12 also brings a focus to other areas of the platform. The native Photos application has had some love and attention paid to it with the introduction of a new smarter search functionality as well as a brand new ‘For You’ tab which makes intelligent suggestions based on photographs which have been saved. These suggestions could take form of creating a looped image out of a collection of images, which is likely made possible by Apple’s acquisition of the Workflow app and team.
The company’s intelligent digital assistant, Siri, has also been given additional intelligence in the form of a new feature called ‘Shortcuts’. This new feature will allow third-party developers to build workflows into their apps which utilise Siri via SiriKit to provide bespoke voice services to app users. Apple used the Bluetooth-based Tile tracker as an example of Shortcuts, showing how a simple voice command could start the process of locating an item tagged with a Tile tracker. The possibilities for this are almost endless as developers look to bring this feature into their apps. Siri will now also have the ability to make suggestions directly within the lock screen and can provide local recommendations or even inform colleagues when you’re running late for a meeting.
In iOS 11 and iPhone X, there was Animoji. In iOS 12, believe it or not, there is Memoji, which is a personalised emoji experience that allows you to create a character that is meant to resemble you and then shared over Messages. This is basically Bitmoji built directly into iOS 12. In slightly smaller iOS 12 news, the native Stocks and News apps are now being combined into a single experience, and Apple is bringing a version of the Stocks app to the larger screen with a native iPad offering. FaceTime is also getting the update that we’ve been expecting for quite some time thanks to support for group calling with up to 32 people, as well as a redesigned UI to assist with this greater number of individuals in a call at any given time.
Support for original Apple Watch Ends: watchOS 5
watchOS 5 is here, and with it sees the end of an era for the original Apple Watch, which is still attributed with bringing about a revolution in the wearable market. As you might expect, for the devices that watchOS 5 does support, fitness and tracking is a big part of the new experience.
Challenges can be issued to groups of friends, yoga exercises are now able to be tracked based on the heart rate picked up by Apple Watch running watchOS 5, hiking exercises make use of the user’s heart rate and current altitude, and running workouts got a lot smarter and more capable. If you are a runner who likes nothing more than to pound the tarmac, then Apple Watch with watchOS 5 will help pace those runs more intelligently.
Apple has also answered calls by bringing support for the Podcasts app to Apple Watch with watchOS 5, as well as bringing amazing walkie-talkie style functionality over WiFi and Cellular. The future is officially here!
macOS 10.14 Mojave
macOS is no longer about mountains. Apple has shifted focus to the desert, and we can’t say that Mac owners will be disappointed. First and foremost, we already knew this was coming, but we have a gorgeous new Dark Mode in macOS Mojave which immediately transforms the visuals of the platform. All of Apple’s first-party apps will be updated to support this new mode.
Apple is also looking to give Mojave the power needed to tidy up and arrange a Mac’s desktop with something it is calling Desktop Stacks. This will take icons that it deems to be related and put them into organised piles which can be expanded with a simple click. Gestures and scrolling will also work on this pile of icons. This idea of automation and workflows also makes it into macOS 10.14, such as adding a watermark to a PDF with a simple click as well as the introduction of more enhanced control over screenshots. Stocks will also be coming to macOS, so great news for financial fans on Mac and iPad.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Apple is also bringing additional security and privacy settings to Safari. Social media sites, such as Facebook, will no longer be able to simply drop cookies onto a machine anymore. Fingerprinting will also be much more difficult, meaning that less than honourable advertising firms will need to try much harder to track a machine from site-to-site. Notably, this will also be present in iOS 12 as well as macOS 10.14.
Apple TV gets louder: tvOS 12
The headline news from Apple's latest tvOS version would be support for Dolby Atmos sound when it rolls out in Autumn. Delivering a more immersive audio experience than previously supported sound formats, it looks set to be a popular addition.
It would appear Apple is keen to begin making Apple TV experiences more immersive as, in addition to the above, the company also announced tvOS 12 would also allow for integration with HomeKit-based home control systems.
Elsewhere, upgrades focused on removing friction from Apple TV experiences. Zero Sign-In will eliminate the need for app authentication on your home network, Apple TV Remote has been added to the Control Center on iPhone and iPad, and those with Apple TV 4K and 4th Generation boxes will be able to enjoy the option to 'autofill' passwords via iPhones and iPads.