Apple’s WWDC 2016 Event Wrap Up, We Knew Nothing Edition
For the first time in a long time, we knew nothing — or at least, very little — about what Apple were going to announce on stage at WWDC. Of course, we knew we’d be seeing updates to all of Apple’s major software platforms, but the new features and improvements were complete unknowns. Those expecting hardware announcements were left disappointed, but otherwise, there was plenty for Apple to cover.
Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the 27th Worldwide Developer Conference, welcoming the attendees from 74 countries as part of over 13 million registered developers. Of the 5000-plus attendees, 72% of those are first-time attendees, and what’s more, 120 are under 18. The App Store now has over 2 million apps, with 150 billion downloads, and Apple has paid over $50 billion directly to developers.
Kevin Lynch took the stage to tell us about watchOS 3. Apple started by optimising Apple Watch apps for launch times and speed, and then re-thinking how the Apple Watch is supposed to work. Remember when Elon Musk said Apple Watch functionality wasn’t compelling yet, but it would be in a few more iterations? WatchOS 3 is that version. There’s a new dock for your Apple Watch that blurs the line between an app switcher and a glance, and from the demos it looks as if the native apps have been reworked for the kind of quick interactions that you do on a watch.
There’s a few new watch faces in the mix, including a Minnie mouse option, a typography-focused Numerals one, as well as an Activity-based one that puts your activity rings front and centre. Existing watch faces also get more options for complications, and you can now switch between faces by swiping from edge to edge.
With health and fitness being such a big focus of the Apple Watch, Activity Sharing now lets you compare your activity scores with friends and family. Apple’s Breathe app is kind of like stand notifications, with a great icon and designed to help you form another healthy habit. And Apple’s perhaps the only company that’s optimised a software platform for wheelchair users, with great thought going into how wheelchair users move around.
The developer preview of watchOS 3 is out today, while everyone else gets the free upgrade in “Fall”, which probably means somewhere from September onwards.
Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue told us about the 6000 apps on the tvOS platform since it launched, and then said we would be able to control each one of them using a Siri Remote app on the iPhone that has all the functionality of the physical Siri Remote.
Speaking of Siri, Siri gets a pretty decent revamp on the Apple TV. Siri can already search iTunes Store content, but now YouTube and the content within apps, too, jumping you directly to what’s on TV or playing within an app. Single-sign on seems a particularly US-centric problem to have for their various providers and channels, but the dark mode made almost every Apple TV wish list that I read.
Like watchOS before it, there will be a developer preview of tvOS today with the full update available in the fall.
My favourite Apple presenter and Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi kicked off the macOS segment by talking about some kind of naming controversy, where Apple renamed OS X to macOS to be more in line with their other software platforms. MacOS Sierra focuses on continuity between devices, iCloud integration, and the fundamentals of the Mac experience.
Continuity features, such as auto unlock and copy and paste between devices, show that Apple recognises the Mac is no longer the sole device. ICloud Drive now shows all the files on your Desktop regardless of which Mac you’re using (as well as on your iOS device), and some new smarts around file age result in space saved.
There’s tabs in every Mac app imaginable, and just like the rumours predicted, Siri on the Mac, complete with some pretty cool file integrations. Apple Pay on the web prompts you on your iOS device, and there’s even picture-in-picture for videos on the web.
A developer preview of macOS Sierra is available today, with a public beta starting up in July and the full update in the fall.
With iOS 10 being the biggest release of iOS ever, I get the feeling that the ten items that Apple touch on in the keynote are just the beginning. Briefly:
- User experience, comprised of a massive lock screen and home screen overhaul. Everything has a more in-depth 3D Touch integration now, including notifications.
- Siri API for developers to integrate Siri into their own apps. No more tapping on apps, and soon you’ll be able to get Siri to request an Uber for you.
- Quicktype keyboard improvements, including more intelligent suggestions and multilingual typing.
- Photos brings back some features from the Mac (that went away with Photos, but are now back again). Places and Faces see the light of day once again, and there’s a new Moments section that collects photos from a particular place, time, or person.
- Maps improvements include better search, suggestions, and a navigation interface that lets you detour to petrol stations or save time along a different route. Maps integrations for developers means not leaving the app to perform simple tasks.
- Music’s strange new typography shouldn’t be the thing we’re talking about, but I feel that Apple shouldn’t be telling people how to enjoy their music, either. It’s a pretty personal thing, but the new interface for Apple Music and the Music app looks great, although I’m less sure where the Apple Music/Music line is being drawn these days.
- News is hardly going to save print media, but breaking news notifications and subscriptions are new features nonetheless.
- HomeKit’s biggest drawcard is now Home, a new iOS app that can control all your HomeKit-compatible appliances from the one app. You can control HomeKit accessories separately, otherwise there’s scenes you can set that do a whole bunch of things at once.
- Phone features a new voicemail transcription beta, and a service that lets you know if that caller is a potential telemarketer. There’s all kinds of VoIP integrations, meaning your third-party apps now can present a very similar calling view.
- Messages, and this one’s a doozy. Rich links. Bigger emoji. Emoji predictions. Emoji substitutions. And so on, and so forth. But wait, there’s more! Bubble effects in messages, different full-screen effects for added emphasis, “tapbacks”, scribbles, and even Digital Touch, right from within the conversation. Messages apps now let third-parties tap into the conversation, too.
There was a bunch of other stuff in iOS 10, but we’ll save that for the coming days as people play with betas. As per the other announcements, iOS 10 will be available as a developer preview today, as a public beta in July, and the full update in the fall.
Apple wrapped things up by showing off Swift Playgrounds, a completely free, educational iPad app focused on equipping and inspiring a new generation of developers. Guided tutorials show how code changes produce changes within the running app, and there’s also more advanced stuff for people who already have a grasp on the basics. It’s very cool, and the accompanying video about developer origin stories reminded every developer about why they were there.