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Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference keynote is over for another year. As expected, the event delivered a hearty helping of software announcements, but nothing in the way of hardware.
That’s always been the case with WWDC. Though some have written off this year’s event as a bit underwhelming, there were some really important announcements which closely mirror current trends in the tech world.
Here’s what Apple has been working on for the last 12 months.
Here Comes iOS 12
iOS 12 was rumored to feature a major overhaul of the home screen, but it looks like this won’t happen. Apple ditched any major redesigns in favor of a focus on stability and performance. Apple is often criticized after major releases for not squishing enough bugs, and iOS 12 seems to be an answer of sorts.
The new version sees an emphasis on speed and performance, with older models targeted in particular. This is no doubt a response to the battery saga which forced Apple to issue cheap battery replacements, demonstrating the company still cares about its customers who don’t buy the latest and greatest.
AR Kit 2.0 was also announced, doubling down on the development of last year’s show. Augmented reality apps that use the API can now interact for multiplayer fun, and Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create a new format for sharing AR content.
Another big development is the shunning of advertisers and social media giants with anti-tracking features now standard for all iOS 12 users. Safari will block social buttons that track you across the web, a response to growing concerns about the use of personal data for commercial gain. This will surely go down well with privacy-minded customers.
One feature that’ll win over parents is Screen Time. This gives you an accurate breakdown of how much time you spend on your iOS device, and exactly what you do with that time. It should be a winner with parents looking to limit and curate their children’s screen time. For the rest of us, grouped notifications reduce lock screen clutter.
There’s more too. A smarter Siri can now accept custom commands, and a customizable Animoji called Memoji will work with the True Depth camera. You can also partake in 32-person group FaceTime conversations.
Is Your iOS Device Compatible?
iOS 12 will be compatible with any device that can currently run iOS 11. That’s the iPhone 5S, iPad Air (and iPad mini 2), and sixth generation iPod Touch or newer. It’ll be out in the fall after Apple’s annual iPhone event, and we’ll likely see some more exciting features announced alongside the hardware.
macOS 10.14 Mojave
Continuing the tradition of releases named after real-world locations, 10.14 carries the title of Mojave. This is named after the desert that spans the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It’s the first entry into the current naming convention that isn’t solely based on Californian geography
The most obvious addition to Mojave is the introduction of a proper dark mode, at long last. This is likely due to the arrival of the svelte iMac Pro last year, but it’s a feature Mac veterans have been after for years. Thankfully, it already looks great across the UI and in apps like Finder, Keynote, and Xcode.
It’s been rumored for a while, and Apple has finally teased iOS app porting on macOS. The WWDC presentation featured ports of apps like News and Home, with the feature releasing to developers sometime in 2019. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s another step toward marrying the two platforms.
More flecks of iOS are visible in Mojave’s improved Finder, with Gallery view displaying a filmstrip and metadata reminiscent of Adobe Lightroom. Quick Look has been turbocharged with shortcuts for actions like rotating images, marking up PDFs, and trimming audio and video in-line.
It looks like Apple has finally overhauled its antiquated screenshot tool Grab. The revamped version packs in new screen recording tools, a timer, the ability to hide your cursor, and custom locations for saving your images. There’s also a new Continuity camera, which leverages the bond between your iPhone and Mac to let you take photos directly from your iPhone and insert them into Mac documents via the Edit menu.
Desktop organization also sees an overhaul with Stacks, which automatically “stacks” files based on criteria of your choosing. Group by data, kind, or specific metadata. Scrub with two fingers to browse the stack, or click to expand them all. It should help keep all those enhanced screenshots organized, at least.
An interesting yet rather pointless feature is dynamic wallpaper, which changes based on the time of day. Apple provided a thematically-appropriate shot of a sand dune in the desert, but it’s not yet clear how many of these will be bundled with 10.14 or if you can create your own.
And then there’s the rest: iOS 12’s enhanced privacy and group FaceTime calling, new apps like Home and Voice Memos, favicons in Safari tabs (at last), more Siri commands, and better localization.
Is Your Mac Compatible?
macOS 10.14 is compatible with Mac models introduced in mid-2012 or later, as Apple puts it:
macOS Mojave will be available this fall as a free software update for Macs introduced in mid-2012 or later, plus 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models with recommended Metal-capable graphics cards. Some features may not be available in all regions or languages.
With the Apple Watch Series 3 only a few months old, Apple was keen to demonstrate a commitment to developing the platform. Unfortunately, this is the least interesting watchOS update yet. It’s also the first watchOS update that won’t be compatible with the original Apple Watch.
The most prominent feature is a new competitive way of sharing activities with your friends. You can now challenge others to week-long competitions, where you battle it out to fill up your Activity rings. There are also new workout modes for yoga and hiking, the latter of which detects elevation in real time for a more accurate idea of calorie burn.
Runners who use the Apple Watch for training can now set a target pace, with feedback reminding you to speed up or slow down. Rolling miles constantly compares your current split time with your previous, and cadence measuring provides your steps per minute too.
Apple’s lukewarm Podcasts app comes to Apple Watch, allowing you to listen to your favorite shows without an iPhone nearby. Siri is smarter too, with more relevant suggestions throughout the day. You no longer need to say “Hey Siri” either; just raise your watch and speak your query.
Notifications are now more aware of your surroundings, so you’ll see suggestions like boarding passes appearing at airports. iOS 12’s notification grouping also rears its head in watchOS 5, alongside enhanced Do Not Disturb options.
Finally, a fun feature called Walkie Talkie provides one-way chat with other Apple Watch users directly on your wrist. Tap and hold to talk, then release and listen for a response. It’s not a game changer, but it’s probably the most enjoyable watchOS 5 feature.
Is Your Watch Compatible?
watchOS 5 will work with the Apple Watch Series 1, 2, and 3. Original Apple Watch owners (even those who spent big on fancy models) will be stuck on watchOS 4 indefinitely.
Don’t Forget tvOS 12
tvOS 12, the latest version of the Apple TV’s operating system, will be out around the same time as iOS 12. In case you’re wondering: no, there haven’t been 12 separate tvOS releases. But since it’s based on iOS and shares the same code base, Apple went for version parity.
The big addition here is Dolby Atmos sound, which critics have raved about. Assuming there’s a Dolby Atmos mix for your iTunes movies, they’ll all be upgraded for free (you’ll need an Atmos-compatible receiver though). Your iTunes catalog will also get a free upgrade to HDR, with Apple boasting that iTunes has the largest streaming database of 4K HDR content.
Apple is also adding new aerial screensavers featuring footage shot by NASA astronauts. You’ll also be able to control these screensavers, swiping between them and seeing location information.
The Apple TV hopes to replace your other set top boxes, with a new TV app for Charter Communications subscribers (in the US). This means you can watch live channels and on-demand content through your Apple TV, with full Siri support.
A new “Zero Sign-in” feature simplifies this further by automatically signing you in to eligible cable services based on your broadband connection.
There’s also new iOS integration, with a new dedicated Apple TV remote added to Control Center. You can already control your Apple TV with your iPhone, but it just got even easier. Finally, a new AutoFill feature for signing in to Apple TV apps using an iPhone should make life easier.
The update is coming to Apple TV 4th Generation and Apple TV 4K set top boxes, sometime in the fall.
That’s All Apple Has for Now
WWDC has always been about software, so it’s no surprise not to see any hardware announcements. That said, Apple is due to refresh a number of its lines. The iMac was updated 12 months ago, the MacBook Air is rumored for a complete overhaul come fall, and the long awaited Mac Pro is still due sometime in 2019. We’ll see what new devices Apple has soon enough.
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