Apple WWDC Keynote Impressions
Like many things, software development happens in cycles. Apple as a company is like this as well. Each year Apple releases new hardware and new major versions of their hardware and software. To give software developers working in the Apple ecosystem a chance to adopt new hardware and software versions, Apple organizes a yearly conference called the World Wide Developer Conference. Amongst Apple focussed software developers often coined Apple’s New Year.
During the WWDC Apple announces its plans for the next major software releases. The new features of watchOS, iPadOS, macOS, and iOS are showcased and during the week many sessions are organized providing much-needed technical details to software developers allowing them to learn and get started with the planned releases. The Apple WWDC Keynote is an event streamed across the world on Monday morning pacific time to kick off the week of exciting new announcements for Apple-focused software developers.
Usually, the announced platform version will become available as generally available beta releases within a month after the keynote and the public release will be sometime around September.
Apple today announced:
- watchOS 9
- macOS Venture (which number?)
- The first Apple M2 hardware
Apple started the round of announcements with watchOS. Later this year when you have watchOS 9 on your Apple Watch you get to enjoy:
- 4 new watch faces:
- lunar Watch face
- Playtime, fun animated numbers
- metropolitan (watch typography that changes on crown)
- Rich complications in more watch faces
- A refreshed Siri UI
- A notifications redesign
- If you are into running, 3 new metrics using machine learning-based algorithms that measure your vertical oscillation, stride length and ground contact time together with many improvements allowing you to better setup, monitor, and improve your workouts.
- Better health monitoring for your sleep, heart, and medications.
All in all, it looks like Apple is really doubling down on the quality of life improvements with watchOS. There are a few cosmetic changes and improvements. But things like better fitness tracking for runners, and new features in the areas of sleep, heart monitoring, and especially medication.
An interesting detail is that WidgetKit now is a shared API across iOS and watchOS allowing you to share the implementation of iOS unlock screen widgets with your watchOS apps.
Much of the newly announced macOS release Ventura is about making existing things better. Improvements to Window management, Spotlight, Mail, Safari, and gaming were mentioned.
It seems Apple is really sending the signal it is improving macOS in many ways while adding a few new features.
An interesting announcement that was made was about PassKeys. A way to login to Apps and Websites using your TouchID which is unique for your account and synced across your devices. This is a feature based on the FIDO Alliance Apple has agreed on with Google and Microsoft. This seems to be somewhat of a big push Apple is planning to make to improve overall internet security for all its platform users.
Apple has made it easier to organize and work with many open windows with a new feature called Stage Manager. It is something activated from Control Center. It puts your windows on the side and puts the active app prominently in the center of your screen. If an app has multiple open windows these are staggered on-screen allowing easy access to each of them by clicking on them. Stage Manager also allows much easier access to any files on your desktop.
Spotlight and Mail also get a great number of smaller improvements. Spotlight allows for quick peeking at a result by tapping the spacebar. Spotlight can also find text in images and search through this text, run shortcuts, and quick actions more easily. And Spotlight has learned a lot more content about artists and movies. Support in Apple Mail to undo a message and schedule a message for future delivery are great features that have been available on other platforms and apps for some time now. So Apple is catching up on some features within Apple Mail.
A compelling feature showcased by Apple is Continuity Camera. By using the hardware features of already existing iPhones your iPhone becomes a very compelling high-quality webcam with center stage support and a unique desk view feature allowing much easier demonstration of desk-related tasks in videos and live streams. Apple indicates Continuity Camera should work in any app.
MacBook Air and MacBook Pro available with Apple’s new M2 CPUs
Apple has also announced new Mac hardware that will be available about a month after the keynote. Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch will receive the latest upgrades to Apple’s CPU lineup.
Apple was clearly telling the story of how power efficient their latest Apple Silicon CPUs are. Also, the M2 CPUs contain 25% more transistors compared to its M1 predecessor, 50% more memory bandwidth, and can run with up to 24 GB of unified memory (up from 16GB). It is also 18% faster compared to the M1 CPU while using less power.
Apple has chosen to upgrade its two best-selling macOS supporting hardware solutions. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 inch. Both receive significantly better performance by using the M2 Apple Silicon, the MacBook Air is also significantly improved in its design while the MacBook Pro 13 inch seems to be more of an incremental CPU upgrade. But the increase in configurable memory capacity should be a welcome improvement as well.
The sentiment around the new features of iPadOS was that Apple announced it to be building on top of the best that iOS has to offer with additional powerful capabilities from macOS. This means that it aims to provide more productivity-related functionality on top of the regular mobile operating system that iOS is.
There were three main areas they focused on improving this year, and those are:
- Desktop-class apps
- Stage Manager (M1-only)
We’ll go over each of them in more depth but there were also some smaller announcements and improvements. One of them was that there will finally be a weather app shipping with the new version of iPadOS. This comes together with an API for developers called WeatherKit, which we did not really get a lot of information about.
There were also some improvements to Gaming that comes with Metal 3 and leverages the power of Apple Silicon even more. Those included better Game Center integrations and a background download API for large assets that are really common in games. These features were said to be coming later this year (and will also be available for iOS and macOS).
One of the pillars of the new OS will be collaboration features. This comes in different forms. One thing will be a vastly improved option to invite other people to work on the same documents, e.g. in Pages. There will be a new share option to invite e.g. every member of an iMessage group chat to collaborate on the current document. This enables real-time collaborative work from different devices and people.
This will also allow people to start collaborating on FaceTime. The example they showed was that one user can invite others to join a shared tab group in Safari and everyone will see who is in which tab and get notified when someone opens new tabs as well. All these changes are also coming to iOS and macOS as well.
The last thing they showed was a sneak peek of an upcoming collaboration app called Free Form. It allows groups of users to work together on a board in a mural style and see what others are doing with live cursors. It gives the option to focus on things together and sketch and write notes everywhere. The app will also come to iOS and macOS but no release date has been specified yet.
The efforts of bringing productivity features to the iPad continued with what were called desktop-class apps. There is an API that was introduced for developers to support this in third-party apps as well but the showcase had been in their stock apps for now.
This included some more powerful additions to finding-and-replacing content inline making it a more seamlessly integrated experience for the user. It also included a specific document menu and customizing the toolbar. This allows users to add, delete, or rearrange items in the toolbar similar to the way they can rearrange app icons on the home screen.
It will be exciting to see how developers come up with use-cases in their own apps but the ability to customize apps and resize them more freely will hopefully allow for more power-user features in apps across the entire platform.
Stage Manager (M1-only)
The before-mentioned Stage Manager functionality that will be available on macOS will also come to iPadOS. However, it will be limited to devices with an M1 processor. This means both the latest iPad Air and iPad Pro but not the latest entry-level iPad.
This comes with features like overlapping windows (e.g. layering Pages and iMessage on top of each other) and dynamically resizing windows for a more flexible way to use different apps at the same time. That also means a re-imagined way to multitask on devices that support the feature.
Also, it will bring huge improvements to external display support which will result in a close-to-macOS level experience. You can launch apps from the dock, similar to macOS. There can be a maximum of 8 apps running on-screen simultaneously and users can drag and drop content from one app to another, even if they’re on different screens.
Every year, news about the iOS operating system is very interesting to users as it still is the biggest Apple platform with most users. This year's updates will not include gigantic new features and updates but focus on three pillars:
- Communication features
There have been updates to many apps and frameworks. First, let’s go through a few minor ones and then see those that were given more attention and features by Apple themselves.
Minor app improvements
The iMessage app now allows for some quality-of-life things like editing messages, undoing sends, and marking threads as unread. The new Shared-with-you-API gives developers access to that feature and customization of it inside of their apps. SharePlay provides a better UX for discovering apps while in a FaceTime call and kicking off sessions directly through iMessage.
The Wallet app’s goal of replacing physical wallets has taken more steps towards that with wallet IDs in certain US states and offering privacy-sensitive verification services. It can e.g. now verify ages for people without disclosing the actual age to outsiders. It also allows to share keys in e.g. iMessage and they are working on standards to even share that outside of the Apple ecosystem.
Apple Pay got new features that enable tap-to-pay on an iPhone without the need for an external terminal. There is also support for a new type of payment called Apple Pay later. It allows all Apple Pay users to split a bill into four equal payments with no additional interests or fees. This offers Wallet integration to keep track of. There will also be a new way to track orders inside of the Wallet app that merchants can support by sharing their shipping info.
The new design of the Maps app will come to more countries and there will be a new multi-stop routing feature. There is a better transit experience and the option to use transit cards inside of the Wallet app with smart features (such as reminders when users are running low on balance). The new MapKit API allows developers to use features such as City Experience and Look Around inside of their apps and is coming later this year.
A complete redesign of the Home app was also introduced. It allows seeing everything in your home on one screen neatly organized with categories. There will be a widget for the lock screen for it and all these changes will also come to iPadOS and macOS. Apple is also working with many other companies on the new smart home standard called matter for which - according to them - HomeKit provides the foundation.
The lineup of things offered for family sharing allows for sharing purchases and apps with 5 members of a family and parental control allows parents to manage their kid's accounts. New features here are easier age-appropriate setups for kids, requesting screen time in iMessage, and a checklist for helping discover features and capabilities of the service.
In the meantime, the Fotos app got a new capability called iCloud shared photo library. It allows sharing experiences (i.e. photos and videos) with up to 5 people so that everyone has the same content available. One of the cool things is that it can be enabled directly from the Camera app so that all new pictures will automatically get added, which can dynamically get enabled when people of a certain group are nearby. Also, everyone in the group can edit photos inside of the library and everyone else will see them.
One of Apple’s most important focuses is privacy. This year they introduced a feature called Safety Check. It allows to reset and review access granted to others which is aimed to e.g. help people that were able to escape abusive situations. It gives them the option to easily stop sharing their location, reset privacy permissions for all apps, and protects access to messages by signing off the Apple ID on all other devices.
One very exciting section was reserved for the next generation of CarPlay. It will bridge the gap between the OS that’s running in the car and iOS. The new version will allow the car to interact and share information with the iPhone to show all relevant information through the dashboard, like current speed, range, and many more things. This allows for customization options and feature integrations such as Widgets. The first vehicles using it are set to be announced late next year.
Dictation and Live Text
The Dictation feature is used 18 billion times each month and the entire transcription happens on the device which is a huge benefit from a privacy perspective. It gets an upgrade so that users can now fluidly move between using voice and touch as an input mechanism. This is possible by keeping the keyboard open while dictating so that users can easily switch between the two methods. This even enables users to select text and replace it by voice.
Siri will see improvements to better use punctuation even through larger pieces of text. The App Intents API gives developers the ability to use Shortcut-like features in their apps with zero setup.
One of the highlights of last year was the addition of Live Text for selecting text from images. This year, this is extended with video support. Users can stop the video at any time and select and copy text from the current frame. This is great for e.g. copying code samples and other things while watching videos. There is also an API so that developers can use that feature in their apps.
In addition to that, there will now be quick actions in Live Text. That means that when e.g. foreign language is detected users can directly translate the text or convert between currencies. In the translate app, a new camera view enables users to more quickly point at texts and gets them translated.
The most advanced addition of a feature seems to be Visual Lookup. It has the capability to not only tell e.g. which breed a dog in a photo is but to also isolate the dog from the background and share only that isolated content for example in the iMessage app. This is made possible through CoreML and the neural engine.
One of the most drastic changes for end-users of iOS will be coming to the lock screen which will see a lot of personalization options. There will be a new personalization editor that will be opened up by pressing and holding the lock screen. By swiping, users will see different styles such as color filters, backgrounds, and fonts that they can then even customize further.
Aside from that, there will now also be widgets on the lock screen. There can be multiple of them and the look and feel seems to be quite similar to complications on the Watch. There will also be a wallpaper gallery with e.g. suggested photos and a photo shuffle option that is also rather closely related to Watch faces.
Users can swipe to switch between different lock screens they are setting and some of the pre-built ones even offer nice, fluid animations when unlocking the screen. It was also revealed that - in fact - it will be WidgetKit that enables the functionality of widgets on the Lock Screen.
Together with the new features of the lock screen, there are also some improvements to Notifications. Instead of piling in from the top, they will now roll in from the bottom and can be minimized or hidden more easily. The goal here seems to have been that the new widgets and features of the Lock Screen will not be covered up as easily as they would have been with the traditional UI.
There is also a new Live Activities API that enables more dynamic updates of a notification instead of bombarding users with a ton of notifications due to many updates. The example they showed was the score of a basketball game that gets updated live without the need to send multiple notifications separately. They can even be expanded to full-screen views.
In addition, there will be new features for focus modes. They can impact which Lock Screen is currently shown depending on the current focus. Users can e.g. show meeting and Todo-list widgets for their work focus on the Lock Screen and social network widgets when it’s not active.
A new feature is called Focus Filters. This allows filtering content inside of apps depending on the focus state. It could e.g. only shows certain tabs during work that are relevant and blend out other ones. This will also be available as an API for developers.
All in all, we think Apple is planning on releasing a number of compelling updates to their operating systems. We feel the updates are not revolutionary but more evolutionary. Just looking at the API diffs that are already available, Apple seems to have touched pretty much everything in some small way. So for software developers, there is much to discover on how you can adopt all these small improvements to your development.
There are a few more significant things that were released. Especially for the use cases made possible by our Chat product, we think the new intents and focus features and the new unlock screen will have most of the impact.
We will make sure to dig into these APIs more in-depth in the coming months to get ourselves and our customers ready for when the new versions of watchOS, iPadOS, macOS, and iOS are released.
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