‘Write code. Blow minds’
In San Jose, California, the tech world gathered tonight for Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). This year's theme is ‘Write Code. Blow minds’, and as usual, Apple started the 4-days conference with their annual keynote in which they shared updates on what they’re working on.
One of the first things Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned was tvOS, their operating platform for televisions. It now supports PlayStation and Xbox controllers, for instance, and switching between multiple users became easier. The integration with Apple Music got an upgrade too: when you're playing music from your Apple TV, it will show you the lyrics.
Not only tvOS got revamped, but WatchOS version 6.0 also has some nice new features. The most important thing worth mentioning is that we’re now able to create apps which can run independently on the watch without a companion iPhone app, thanks to a new developer framework. The new watch faces are actually similar to previous ones that have been introduced in the past.
With WatchOS 6, Apple is bringing the App Store to Apple Watch. Before, the Apple Watch functioned as an extension of your iPhone. Now, it's growing into its own standalone device! It’s more and more becoming a health tool too, as expected, thanks to new features such as cycle tracking and activity trends, It's meant to be a visualization of your menstrual cycle on your wrist. Apple even introduced something called ‘hearing health’, as the Watch will now tell you if the local noise is too loud. The future is now, we guess. Thanks to a new audio streaming API you can also live stream snippets of things like sports within your Apple Watch.
Maybe the most anticipated part of the evening was the launch of the iOS 13. If the adage is ‘harder, better, faster, stronger’, Apple is really focussing on the ‘faster’. Unlocking your smartphone with FaceID will be 30 percent faster, app downloads will be 50 percent smaller and updates of your apps will be 60 percent smaller.
As expected, dark mode is officially coming to iOS! The notifications are now glassed out, which makes them a little more translucent. News has a fully black background, just like the Calendar. With this integration, dark mode - once created for people with low vision - seem to finally have become the tech trend.
Of course, Apple wanted to talk about privacy - their main USP in the battle against competitors such as Google. In iOS 13 users can choose to share their location just once with a specific application, instead of doing this constantly. Not only the competitors of Google will be watching the live stream, we think the teams at Facebook will be interested at what’s announced. Thanks to a ‘Sign in with Apple’ button, Cook & Co will try to create a safe and secure sign-in tool. If you use your Apple ID for authentication, you can choose to hide your actual email address and have a random one generated for each login.
One of the highlights of the last two Google I/O’s was their Google Assistant. It’s rival, Apple’s Siri, doesn’t seem to improve much. It now supports live radio, speaks more natural thanks to ‘Neural text to speech’ and it can read your incoming messages when you’re wearing AirPods, but we’re not blown away with these features.
It's official: iPadOS is coming to a, eh, device near you. It’s nice to see that the iPad finally gets the software it deserves, but doubt that it will boost the sales of the device. The operating software allows you to do a split view from within a single app, you can have a Slideover like on your MacBook and there’s a mode which allows you to put two Word documents side by side. The office nerd within us is cheering!
There were some hardware updates too, thanks to the new Mac Pro. This power machine has an Intel Xeon processor with up to 28 cores and up to 1.5 terabytes of system memory. It's a brand-new Xeon with 300 watts of power and a massive heatsink for cooling so it can run unconstrained. You’ll find more information on the Apple site, but we can’t wait to test this device soon!
In MacOS Catalina (named after the Catalina Island off the coast of southern California), we’re saying goodbye to iTunes. The application will split into Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. RIP, childhood memories. Other new features allow your iPad to be used as a second display and your Apple Pencil as an input device for the Mac. Two things worth mentioning here are Project Catalyst, which lets developers develop apps for the Mac based on existing iPad apps, and RealityKit, Apple's new framework for AR. The latter allows photorealistic rendering and ARKit integration. Apple is developing new tools to make it easier to make AR experiences in Xcode and on iOS.
These new AR developments make the technology very immersive - you can for instance use motion capture to have your avatars in Minecraft Earth mirror real human movement. It's a huge year for AR. It's also an enormous year for Swift, because Apple decided to create a new framework built from the ground: SwiftUI. Xcode has live previews of the app you’re developing, updating instantly as soon as you change the code as a sort of a Playground. You can even add some snippets that are coded with this new framework as tested on the fly.
We think it’s fair to conclude that once again Apple didn’t really blow us away, although the ARKit 3 and Apple’s focus on privacy are taking serious leaps forward. We can’t wait to try some of the software announced today!