Apple’s annual four-day Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off today and while no new flashy hardware was revealed during the opening keynote, the tech giant focused on improving the quality of its software with several smaller announcements. The iPad was nowhere to be found, but reinforced upgrades for the iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV are sure to keep techies and Apple diehards happy. Check out our summary of every new feature, big and small, below.
The most exciting reveals were for the iPhone, which includes a new operating system for both new and old iPhones. iOS 12 will be available for all devices that ran its predecessor, iOS 11, and will speed up the performance of older models, according to Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, as he demonstrated how the tech worked on an iPhone 6s.
The new OS will come with new machine learning-enabled Photo features on iPhones, such as an automatic index that groups pictures of events like concerts or sports games together, which makes finding a photo as easy as typing “concert” into the search bar. And if you take a picture at a dinner with friends, a user’s iPhone will suggest you share the photo with those friends based on who appeared in the picture. Photos can be shared at full resolution from the iCloud photo library. Interestingly, if you share photos with a friend, your friends’ phone will search their library for photos they took at the event and share them back with you so you both end up with a full set. This photo feature is built on iMessage and uses end-to-end encryption so users don’t need to worry about security.
Do Not Disturb mode gets a boost with a new sleeping feature that lets users manually or automatically turn off notifications and be left alone until they wake up in the morning, and a new set of notification-management tools called Instant Tuning allows users to turn off or mute notifications right from the lock screen. iOS 12 also groups notifications so that if a user gets a number of texts in a row, they will appear together in a bundle, not one after another.
Speaking of groups, FaceTime will finally support group calls, allowing up to 32 people in one call. Users can even start a call right from a group chat that people can quickly enter or leave.
With iOS, Apple is getting serious about how frequently people use their phones, launching two new apps to help manage over-usage. Screen Time and App Limits are attention management features that help users track app usage and even shut down apps when time is up. These parental control features give users reports about how much they’re using apps, how often they’re getting notifications, and how often they pick up their phone. Users can force their own phones to limit their usage by setting pop-up notifications saying they’ve reached their limit, although there is still an “ignore” option for all the fiends out there.
And despite falling behind other voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistants, Siri has gotten a small update for iOS. The Shortcuts app lets users create minor routines for Siri so she can execute things across various apps. For example, users can set up being able to send a specific text to a specific person, or say “Hey Siri, travel plans” to open a particular section of an app.
She can respond to shortcuts like “Siri, when is game time?”, the data for which Siri gets from a third-party app a user uses for game schedules. Siri can also suggest things on your lock screen based on a user’s habits, like ordering coffee in the mornings.
Lastly, Apple has also doubled down on augmented reality (AR), including a new file format that’s being supported by Adobe called USDZ. It’s trying to make it easier for people to create AR tools, so the new ARKit tools will work with Adobe Creative Cloud, where users can make augmented reality apps the same way they might edit a photo in Photoshop.
Apple’s also created its own Measures app, which uses the iPhone camera to gauge dimensions when pointed at any object. While there are apps that do this already, having it built into iPhones already gives the app a leg up. Additionally, Apple is introducing multiplayer gaming with AR, so several people could be looking at the same augmented reality object from different angles.
Also noteworthy, Apple says that it’s working on a way for iOS apps to be ported to the Mac. It’s first phase of this is seen this year with News, Home, Stocks, and Voice Memos being ported. Next year, Apple will open up this capability to its developers.
And with that, we’re moving on to the Mac-related announcements at WWDC18. While many speculated that iOS and macOS might merge, Federighi made it clear that this is not the case. As already mentioned, the News, Home, Stocks, and Voice Memo applications are coming to Mac computers starting later this year. Even the App Store, which was redesigned last year for the iPhone in celebration of Apple’s 10-year anniversary, is now coming to Macs as well. So while technically iOS and macOS aren’t merging, the divide is surely shrinking.
And when it comes to the App Store, Microsoft Office 365 will be available on it now as well.
The biggest Mac reveal, however, is the new operating system called macOS Mojave. New features include a Dark Mode (similar to the iPhone’s “night mode”) that turns all white backgrounds black; Dynamic desktop that will adjust the brightness of a user’s monitor based on the time of day; Stacks, which automatically organizes a user’s desktop by file type such as images or PDFs; as well as better screenshotting that now includes video capture. Plus, Finder now has a gallery view that allows for a better look at images, documents, and videos.
And we can’t forget about Safari, which has also received a few updates that are functional on both macOS and iOS 12. A new feature will allow users to limit cookie and ad tracking, and it can also warn people when companies like Facebook are trying to do so. As a whole, Mojave won’t share as much data, only use system fonts, and basically make it harder for anyone to track users.
Apple Watch updates
Just as both Macs and iPhones got new operating systems, so too has the Apple Watch. The new watchOS 5 comes with web browsing and a Walkie Talkie feature that is exactly as it sounds. Users can press their watch to talk, and their friends (if they’ve allowed it) will feel a tap and hear a noise, then their voice will come through.
And with WebKit being ported to watchOS, so users can now view web content on their wrist. There is also native podcast and background audio support.
With the new watchOS, Siri has deeper voice controls as well. There are also new features for runners, including more metrics, pace information, and automatic detection when users start a workout. There are new workouts, too, for yoga, hiking, and more.
Apple TV announcements
Apple didn’t forget about its TV device, which gets a Stocks app and new wallpapers. More importantly, users are now able to log into their Apple TV with their cable account, and automatically be logged in to all their various TV apps. Right now, only Charter Spectrum is supported but more cable providers will apparently support this “Zero Sign On” feature soon.
Apple has also revealed Memoji, which combines its previous Animoji feature with Bitmojis. The tech essentially maps a user’s face and creates a cartoon version of them, which can mimic facial expressions (including tongue movement) and even be used for FaceTime calls. Animojis got new characters, including a ghost and a koala, and new filters.
For vehicles, Apple’s operating system for touchscreen software in cars, CarPlay, will now allow users to add third-party navigation apps like Google News and Waze.
Analysis at a glance
There were no exciting or splashy hardware launches, but Apple’s focus on improving how its products and services work seems to be the right move for now. Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter. Its devices are getting more connected while also becoming more open for third-party developers, which is good news for innovation. Apple also recognizes that the relationship between us and our smartphones may be evolving into something unhealthy, so the launch of management tools should also be embraced.
With notes from ITWC editor Brian Jackson.