Last week was the annual Apple WWDC keynote address, and it was a big week for us all! We learned about upcoming releases for all four major platforms: watchOS, tvOS, macOS, and iOS. As with every WWDC keynote, there are a number of important announcements - check out our recap and opinions on the top points for each platform.
A majority of these updates are available to developers now, will be in public beta next month, with full releases this fall. As always, we don't recommend installing the developer release or public beta on your primary devices, since the bugs are still being worked out and any number of things could go wrong.
The Apple Watch is about to see some incredible updates with watchOS 3. Most of the complaints about the Watch have been slow launch times and difficulty finding recent apps on the home screen. Both of these issues will be improved in watchOS 3, with much faster app launch times, and a Dock for switching between the most commonly-used apps.
For situations where dictation can't be used (or for people like me who just feel ridiculous talking to their wrist in public), Scribble was introduced as a new way to write out text using your finger to respond to messages quickly, without having to feel silly.
Additionally, there are a number of new watch faces, which can be changed with a swipe. Control Center has been added, with some of the same functionality as its iOS counterpart.
On the health side of things, the Activity app has been improved to allow sharing of activity details with your loved ones. Apple also greatly improved the Watch for wheelchair users, with improved reading of arm movements and two dedicated wheelchair workouts—not to mention changing the "time to stand" notification to "time to roll." There's also a new Breathe app to guide deep breathing exercises with haptic feedback.
Finally, there's a new feature we hope none of us will have to use: SOS can be invoked by holding the side button on the Watch, which will call 911 (or the local equivalent). The Watch will then send a message to your emergency contacts, and display medical information from the Health app on your iPhone. Again, this is the kind of thing we all hope we'll never need, but it's great to know that it's there in an emergency.
For screenshots and additional details, check out the watchOS preview page.
This fall will bring some welcome improvements to tvOS. The most significant is Single Sign-On, a new option to sign into your cable provider once, instead of doing so in every app for each network you want to watch.
The corresponding Remote app on the iPhone will get the full features of the Siri remote, in addition to showing more information about what's currently playing on the TV. Siri is now more helpful, with things like searching YouTube or switching to live broadcasts. Games are no longer required to work with the Siri remote, which means better options for gameplay.
OS X is now called macOS, which certainly fits a lot better with the rest of Apple's product line. The next release, macOS Sierra, will include iPhone functionality that we are all familiar with, and improved interoperability between Macs and iOS devices. For example, the Mac now supports Siri, and based on the demo, it's a more powerful version than we've been using. For example, you can use Siri to search for files, then further refine the search by invoking Siri again to narrow the results.
Macs will play nicer with iOS devices with shared clipboards (copy on one, paste on the other) and Apple Pay support, which will require payment authorization from the Watch or using Touch ID on the iPhone. iCloud Drive improvements will make it easier to use your files anywhere by syncing your desktop, and optimized storage will reduce unnecessary disk usage.
This was the big one. Apple laid out ten new features and improvements in this version.
- Lock screen improvements: With the fast new Touch ID in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, a lot of people don't even see their lock screen anymore: the device unlocks before they get a chance to review notifications. A new raise-to-wake feature allows you to check notifications without pushing any buttons, kind of like the Apple Watch has always worked. Notifications have also been improved with more 3D Touch actions, Control Center has been redesigned, and the lock screen includes improved Today widgets.
- Siri has been opened up to third-party developers. This one is huge! To be honest, we didn't include it on our WWDC wishlist because it's been on every wishlist for years and we thought it might be cliche to include it, but now we'll be able to use Siri to control apps other than the ones provided by Apple. I'm really excited to see how third-party apps make use of this.
- QuickType improvements: The word predictions have become smarter and will make better suggestions based on the context, along with options to send your current location and support for multiple languages.
- Photos app improved with facial and object recognition on-device, plus “memories” videos. This one is really impressive: The Photos app can now recognize people in your photos, and even identify characteristics of the scene for searching later (e.g.: "Siri, find photos of Cynthia in the snow"). The really impressive part is that this is all done locally, without processing information about your photos in the cloud. This might be bad news for your battery, but it’s great news for your privacy!
- Maps redesign and navigation improvements. The turn-by-turn navigation view allows more zoom and pan flexibility than before, so you can check upcoming turns and traffic more easily. Plus, there are options to find stops along the route (to get gas, for example), including the expected detour time to include such stops. Map extensions will also allow third-party apps to take actions directly from the map, such as booking dinner reservations right in the Maps app once you've found a nearby restaurant.
- Apple Music has been redesigned. The initial launch of Apple Music turned a lot of people off to the service, so we'll see if these updates bring some users into the fold.
- Apple News has been redesigned, with featured stories, breaking news notifications, and subscription options for publications like National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal.
- HomeKit support has been expanded. New accessory types have been added, and all major manufacturers of home automation devices have HomeKit integration already available or on the way. "Scenes" will allow you to make a number of changes at once, such as a bedtime scene that turns out the lights, locks the front door, and adjusts the thermostat. The new Home app appears in Control Center and can be controlled by Siri, along with a corresponding app on the Watch.
- Phone improvements. Transcriptions of voicemail messages now appear inline. VoIP apps are getting better treatment, with full-screen display for incoming calls instead of the regular push notifications, and contact cards can include a preferred method for calling the person. There are also new phone extensions to help identify phone spam alongside the caller ID, and integration with Cisco Spark to use the iPhone for an office phone line.
- The Messages app is getting a cornucopia of new features. Some of these sound great to me, like additional detail for links and inline video playing, a live camera feed for sending photos in the app, and larger emoji. The rest of the new features are clearly targeted at people who use Messages differently than I ever would: a variety of effects for displaying your messages, such as big shouty message bubbles and animations behind the conversation; suggested emoji replacements for words in an already-typed message; "invisible ink" to hide a message or photo until the recipient swipes it clear; iMessage apps for stickers and such. Like the option to send one's heartbeat on the Apple Watch, I suspect that for most people, these features will be used precisely once, just to see how they work.
Beyond all of that, they also announced Swift Playgrounds for iPad. There had been a lot of speculation about the possibility of Xcode and/or Playgrounds coming to the iPad, and it seems like Apple went with the best possible route. The app is primarily geared toward teaching basic programming concepts, and includes lessons that are very similar to an updated version of Logo: you write code to move a character around a world to achieve some goal. Kids are going to love playing with this; like a lot of programmers watching the keynote, all I could think was how excited I would have been to see those playgrounds when I was 12 and just beginning to understand what I could make computers do.
For more info, see the iOS 10 preview page.
This is truly a big year for the Apple ecosystem and those of us who use and build for it. We're excited to see how all of these new features come into play in the apps we create and use every day, and this is all just from the keynote—WWDC is a full week of sessions that include all sorts of exciting nuggets for iOS developers. We’ll be learning about updates to iOS all week and beyond as we watch session videos and review updated documentation.