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Another year, another Worldwide Developers Conference, and another slew of brand new Apple products. This year’s WWDC was big for Siri, iPhone owners, and anyone considering the purchase of a new Mac anytime soon.
WWDC 2017 was anything but boring, with brand new flagship products and long-overdue updates being announced and demonstrated by Tim Cook, live on stage in San Jose, California.
Overwhelmed by it all? You don’t need to be. Here are all of the important announcements from Apple’s 2017 keynote.
The last time Apple produced a speaker, it didn’t go so well. Cupertino is giving it another crack with HomePod, an Amazon Echo-like assistant that includes seven beam-forming tweeters and a custom-made woofer.
According to Apple, the speaker scans the space around it to optimize audio. It does this using the same A8 chip Apple used to power iPhones and iPads a few years ago. The addition of AirPlay 2 heralds a new era for Apple’s wireless casting technology, allowing users to manage multiple speakers in different rooms.
But what’s a connected home speaker without a digital assistant? Siri makes a predictable appearance, allowing you to control music playback with your voice, and ask the usual questions about the weather, your sports team, and personal schedule.
Apple seems to be betting big on users buying multiple speakers for around the house, but the HomePod isn’t yet ready to go on sale. HomePod will cost $349 on home turf and goes on sale in December in the U.S., UK, and Australia. Other territories will have to wait until 2018 to get their hands on the HomePod.
This year’s iOS announcement was rather a big one. iOS 11 is set to bring hundreds of tweaks and changes, though much of the work takes place under the hood. Expect even more features to be revealed in September at Apple’s iPhone event when we finally see the new hardware.
Some of the more obvious changes include a quick-access app drawer for iMessage apps, and Apple Pay integration right in the Messages app. Money received via Apple Pay is added to your wallet. You can then spend this freely anywhere Apple Pay is accepted, deposit it into your bank account, or send it on to other contacts.
One of the most exciting changes concerns Control Center, Apple’s quick settings adjustment menu which is accessed by swiping upwards from the bottom of your screen. The new Control Center is completely customizable, with all of your oft-used functions on a single screen.
Siri has a new natural-sounding voice, context-aware responses that use criteria like location and calendar appointments, and real-time sentence translation. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are further updates to Maps, iPad-specific enhancements, and more. Check back with us for the full list changes to iOS 11 and macOS before its Q3 launch.
MacOS 10.13 High Sierra
High Sierra is the name of Apple’s next desktop operating system, continuing the California-centric naming convention. There aren’t many outward-facing changes to macOS 10.13 that are immediately noticeable outside of an overhauled Safari. Apple’s browser is getting tighter privacy controls, ditching autoplaying videos, and further enhancements to performance and power efficiency.
Photos is also seeing some much-needed improvements with a reworked sidebar, better organization tools, expanded editing tools like curves and color isolation, an expanded Memories feature, and better face detection. Many of Siri’s changes, like improved elocution, are also included in the macOS implementation too.
We’ll also see the usual iterative changes to longstanding features, like a smarter Spotlight search, better iCloud Drive sharing, improvements to the Notes app, and bug fixes. We’ll take a look at the full list of High Sierra changes soon, before it launches sometime in Q3 2017.
Apple has been gradually improving its wearable over the last few years. WatchOS 4 moves things forward with a few new features, starting with the fancy-looking Siri watch face.
The new face displays information that’s personal to you. By monitoring how you use your devices, Apple is using machine-learning to predict what you’ll want to see when you look at your watch. This may include traffic information, the weather, sports results, your schedule, and anything else Apple can harvest to make your life a little easier.
There are also a few other new faces including a kaleidoscope effect controllable via the digital crown, and new Toy Story watch faces including Buzz, Woody, and Jessie. There are also more personal Activity notifications, improvements to the Workout app, and a better-looking Music implementation. As ever the update will be free, arriving sometime in Q3 alongside iOS 11 and macOS 10.13.
A New iMac Pro & Other Updates
Apple’s long overdue hardware refresh has finally started rolling out, with the arrival of a brand new iMac Pro. The machine features a brooding space grey finish with matching keyboard and mouse, and features the most powerful hardware ever seen in an Apple computer.
Power-users can grab the new machine in 8, 10, or 18 core Intel Xeon varieties, with speeds of up to 4.5GHz achievable using Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. A Radeon Pro Vega graphics card with up to 16GB of VRAM, and a maximum RAM capacity of 128GB goes some way toward justifying the $4,999 starting price.
For the rest of us, Apple has also updated its regular iMac line with Intel’s new Kaby Lake CPU architecture, brand new graphics chips across the range, and a 43 percent brighter display. The MacBook and MacBook Pro ranges will also see Kaby Lake processors and faster SSDs.
Introducing the 10.5 inch iPad Pro
Instead of updating the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, Apple has shoe-horned a larger display into roughly the same space and created an all-new 10.5 inch iPad Pro. Both this and the larger 12.9″ model now include 120Hz refresh rates, and both models have received a speed boost in the form of Apple’s 64-bit A10X Fusion chip.
Battery life is still rated for 10 hours, with quoted 30% and 40% improvements over the previous model to processor and graphics speeds respectively. Apple is heavily pushing the iPad Pro as an alternative to cheap Windows laptops, with tablet-specific improvements to its mobile OS included in iOS 11.
And Everything Else
Expect more details to emerge about the upcoming iOS and macOS updates as the beta programs go live, and we finally get our hands on Apple’s hard work. Remember — this is just the announcement stage, and despite a few hardware announcements WWDC is traditionally all about software, developers, and the ecosystem as a whole; rather than individual devices.
We’ll have to wait until late September to know more about Apple’s planned release schedules, though you can usually rely on iOS launching first alongside a brand new iPhone at the end of September, with macOS launching roughly a month later.
Hardware like the HomePod and new iMac Pro won’t be with us until December, and even then expect demand to push order fulfilment deep into 2018.
Which of Apple’s announcements at this year’s WWDC keynote excite you the most? Will you be buying a HomePod?