It’s over. While this year’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) will continue till the 17th of June in San Francisco (Moscone West), the keynote is done and dusted – and we have plenty to talk about the latest ‘new’ stuff from Apple. Many software experts and mobile app developers have dubbed WWDC 2016 as an ‘increments’ event – considering the updates that Apple have come up with, for iOS, OS X (it’s no longer called that, but more on this later), watchOS and tvOS. Here’s a recap of all the key takeaways from this year’s Apple WWDC event:
- watchOS 3 – For some time now, Apple Watch has been struggling. User interest levels have fallen off after the initial hype, and a recent report found that app developers were more interested in making software for tvOS rather than on watchOS (iOS is, of course, by far the chosen platform). The wearable should, however receive a boost with the launch of watchOS 3 – which was announced at the WWDC keynote. As was widely expected, a fairly large number of new watch faces have been released, while users are going to get an interesting safety SOS feature in the new watchOS iteration. Those who make apps for Apple Watch have also been delighted by the fact that the loading speed of applications on watchOS 3 will be much higher (up to 7 times faster). The Find My Friends and the Reminders apps will be present too.
Note: watchOS 3 will have a new texting system called ‘Scribble’.
2. Apple Pay on Safari – Tim Cook and his team are focused on taking contactless payments technology to the next level. Apple Pay is now usable on the web via the Safari browser – with secure TouchID authentication support (through Apple Watch or iPhone). The NFC-powered Apple Pay will be rolled out to three new markets – Hong Kong, Switzerland and France – by the end of this year.
3. OS X is now macOS – This had been predicted by Apple app developers and analysts worldwide, from months before the 2016 WWDC. The desktop operating system has been rebranded as macOS, with the upcoming version being named Sierra. Arrival of Universal Clipboard is one of the high points in macOS Sierra (for Continuity across more than one Mac system). Apart from mirroring a desktop on multiple systems, people can play a video file on top of their active windows. Users also have the option of unlocking their computers with their iPhones or Apple Watch – thanks to the new ‘Auto Unlock’ feature.
4. iOS 10 – If stability was the prime area of focus when iOS 9 was released, the tenth iteration of Apple’s mobile platform has several new things – from the faster, revamped lockscreen and improvements to Siri, to an all-new ‘Raise To Wake’ capability (remember how Moto X used to do this for glanceable notifications?). iPhone app developers will be, for the first time, able to use a SDK to integrate their applications with Siri. iOS 10 will come with a fair few customizable home screen widgets too. Users can delete certain pre-installed apps as well (e.g., Stocks).
Note: Game Center in iOS (which arrived in 2010) will make way for the new GameKit platform in iOS 10.
- Siri arrives on Mac – With Google Now for Android getting consistently better and Microsoft getting good traction with Cortana (on Windows 10) – it’s not surprising that Apple would also spend time and resources to improve the usability and availability of Siri. At WWDC 2016, Craig Federighi showcased how the virtual digital assistant will be workable on the macOS platform. With this, Siri will, from now on, be available on all Apple devices. This would bolster the continuity factor further.
- tvOS 10 – Nothing as game-changing as OS X 10.12/macOS Sierra or watchOS 3 here – but even so, the latest version of the tvOS platform has quite a few noteworthy new features. There is a custom Dark Mode that should add to the convenience of users, while the Remote app has been redesigned to look and function just like Siri Remote. On Apple TV 4 upgraded to tvOS 10, Siri can search for YouTube videos, movies on Netflix and iTunes and quite a few other service providers. Apple also announced a new collaboration with Sling TV from Dish at the WWDC keynote session. There will be a single cable sign-on option, and users will be able to access 1300+ video channels on TV.
Note: The total number of apps for tvOS has also breached the 6000 mark.
- Redesigned Apple Music – Experts from the field of iOS app development have hailed the improvements/new features in Apple Music as well and truly ground-breaking. For starters, there is a ‘discovery mix’ – that allows listeners to customize their own playlists (this might be a sign that Apple Music will be coming on Spotify – its foremost rival – soon). Apart from the daily curated lists, the Apple Music will also have separate categories for recently added files and general downloaded music. At the event, Eddy Cue showcased a new ‘lyrics tab’ as well. It sure seems like that the Apple Music vs Spotify tussle is going to heat up further!
- Swift Playgrounds app on iPad – This one is a piece of great news for all the new iOS app developers who wish to learn to code with Swift. On iPads running on iOS 10, users will be able to access a vast range of interactive sessions and tutorials on Swift programming, through the dedicated Swift Playgrounds application. Interestingly, the primary target audience for this free iPad tool is kids and teens. Apple evidently wants programmers to get into its development ecosystem from an early stage.
- Improved Messages – With the new iMessage, Apple seems all set to get into the war of the chat tools (Facebook is the biggest player here) in the big way. With new emojis – which can be 3 times larger on transcribed messages – and the option to write with own handwriting, the Messages app has become livelier than ever before. Font sizes of messages can be adjusted, photos can be shared seamlessly via the new ‘live camera feed’, and songs/tunes (from Apple Music) can be shared as well. In addition to several animations (e.g., confetti and strobe lights), there will an option to conceal messages with…hold your breath…invisible ink!
- Siri for third-party apps – By now, you must have got an idea that Siri enhancements played a major part during the announcements at the WWDC keynote this year. The virtual assistant can now work with third-party applications like Pinterest and Uber (for image search and calling cabs respectively). WeChat messages can also be sent through the new and improved Siri. Activity apps can be monitored with the ‘finally useful’ Apple assistant as well.
- Apple Maps makeover – Easier navigation is clearly the most apparent feature of the revamped Apple Maps announced at WWDC 2016. General Apple enthusiasts as well as app development experts have only good things to say about the options to hire rides (payable through Apple Pay) and booking restaurant tables – directly from Apple Maps. High precision Maps will also be a great help on CarPlay – with alternative route suggestions and updated traffic information. It’s still not as efficient or accurate as Google Maps, but Apple is certainly getting there.
- Voicemail transcriptions and more on iPhone – Tired of those spam calls? With iOS 10, users can view caller IDs on the lockscreen itself (with the help of the embedded VoIP), and get spam call alerts even before picking up. What’s more, all voicemails can now be automatically transcribed and displayed as text messages. Communication just got a whole lot simpler, and spam threats have been minimized.
- QuickType for predictive typing – QuickType is in-built within the latest avatar of Siri – and it takes up the ease of predictive keyboard typing by a couple of notches. Third-party mobile app companies can take advantage of the improved AI (artificial intelligence) to help people find movies or eating joints through their applications. Location-sharing will be possible in Messages, while the predictive typing will help in framing message responses as well. The new intelligent typing mechanism should make the upcoming flagship iPhones just that bit more user-friendly.
- Apple News gets an overhaul – The layout of the popular Apple News tool has been tweaked around as well. As displayed at WWDC 2016, the new-look Apple News will have neatly streamlined, separate sections for ‘Trending’, ‘Sports’ and ‘Top News’. A new editor-picked ‘Featured Section’ will also be included, along with a notifications system for real-time breaking news. Readers can also sign up for subscriptions of magazines and newspapers.
Note: The current number of regular Apple News readers is in excess of 60 million.
The Photos app also has been updated with a slew of new features (the option of creating montages with Memories, for instance). On the Internet of Things (IoT) front, HomeKit has received a new Home application – providing more control to users. All the incremental versions of Apple platforms will have their beta releases soon, with the final launch coming this fall. Incidentally, it was reported that the Apple App Store has 2 million applications at present.
Interestingly, the share prices did not show much movement on the day of the WWDC keynote (it dropped by around 1.5% before the event started, and pretty much stayed there right through). Even so, there was no dearth of exciting news at the annual Apple developers conference – with the Cupertino tech giant sticking to (like it generally does every year) the software side at the WWDC. The event definitely lived up to its billing as the biggest tech conference of the year.