Apple has had an immensely busy 2015/16, pumping out lots of new hardware, including two iPad Pro models, a new Apple TV, two new iPhones and, of course, more recently, the iPhone SE. Later on in 2016 the company will release the iPhone 7, although unlike previous years Apple is expected to announce three iPhones: the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 7 Pro. The latter of which will benefit from an advanced dual-lens camera and cross-over with Apple’s growing line of hybrid accessories — keyboard and Apple Pencil — previously reserved for use with its iPad Pro line.
Apple’s annual WWDC expo is now underway. The company has already announced a raft of new updates for iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac. This article will give you a basic overview of what’s new and the most important aspects of all the new software. Over the next couple of days we will begin taking a closer look at each update individually.
As technology expos go, WWDC is just about as big as they get. The developer conference has grown exponentially over the years, as Apple’s profile and domination of the tech space has shifted up in gears, and this year’s event will likely be one to remember with new product lines, new software and big updates to all of Apple’s major platforms.
As predicted, this is already shaping up to be one HELL of an expo. Apple has come out guns blazing with big updates to all its major platforms. Apple Pay, Apple Music, iOS 10, Apple Maps, Apple News, WatchOS and OS X, now called macOS, have all been announced and we’re now in the process of testing and digesting everything.
Below is a primer on each of Apple’s big announcements. We’ll be using this article as a central hub for all things WWDC 2016 and will update it as new stuff is announced.
Read on for a quick and dirty breakdown of what’s been announced so far:
Apple has now taken the wraps of iOS 10. The new platform features a host of new features that are designed to make using and abusing your iPhone and iPad all the more easier.
Two fundamental components of iOS have been redesigned: the lock screen and the home screen. The idea here, FINALLY, is to give users better and faster access to information with minimal fuss through the use of widgets, which are essentially live tiles, and are access using 3D Touch.
There’s a lot to get stuck into and we’ll be going into more detail in a separate piece of iOS 10 tomorrow. But for now, these are the biggest and best new features announced inside iOS 10 in no particular order:
- Raise To Wake — as the name suggests, this feature unlocks the iPhone’s display when you pick it up. The screen will automatically switch on and from here you will be able to see lock screen notifications and widgets with live information.
- Universal Clipboard — this one is AWESOME. Basically, if you copy a piece of text or an image or a link on your iPhone to the Universal Clipboard it’ll be available on ALL your Apple devices.
- Automatic App Download — pretty simple this one; when you download an application on your iPhone, it will automatically install on your iPad and Apple TV machine. Could get annoying, especially if you have limited space on your iPhone or iPad, but you will no doubt be able to turn this off in settings.
- Photos App — Apple is using AI, which is local to your iPhone, to make your Photos app a more interesting and engaging place to view past memories. In the new Photos app, photos of significance, say, a trip to France with friends, will be linked together in a cluster.
- Photos can than automatically stitch photos together to create photo reels of your memories, sort like what HTC has been doing for YEARS with its Zoe application. This new feature is called Memories and if you’re anything like me is likely something you will NEVER use — but, hey, at least you got the option to, right?
- Apple Maps — The controversial navigation app has been resigned and is now more accurate, useful and proactive. The new UX is cleaner and now includes support for traffic updates. When used in conjunction with Carplay, Maps will send turn by turn navigation right to your car’s instrument panel. Apple is also opening up Maps to developers as well, so expect lots of new functionality in the coming weeks and months.
- Phone app — new features here include the ability to take voicemail transcriptions, so you can see what messages have been left without listening to them. The new Phone app also has a spam filter, so no more pesky sales calls about whether or not you were in an accident or may or may not be able to make a PPI claim.
- Apple Music & News — Apple has redesigned both applications from the ground up, no doubt after both were heavily criticised shortly after launch last year. Eddie Cue said Apple Music has been redesigned to make “music King” which, I think, is marketing spiel for a nicer, easier to use design.
A major announcement at WWDC 2016 was the news that the OS X brand for Apple’s Mac software was being replaced with “macOS”, it is, of course, still the same software family, but with a new name presumably picked to make it clearer to consumers what exactly it’s all about. The rest of the naming convention follows on from Apple’s switch from ‘big cat’ codenames (Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard) to major natural landmarks – last year was Yosemite, this year it’s Sierra; macOS Sierra.
Apple has given the visuals of macOS Sierra a bit of an overhaul, as with the revamp of iOS a few years ago the design is now even softer. In terms of functionality the lock-screen also mirrors mobile OSes by allowing some user interactivity with notifications, and you can also set up widgets on your homescreen. There are also new revamped versions of key applications, including Maps, Music, News, and HomeKit. Photos has also been tweaked to be more in-line with Google’s equivalent, now offering you curated collections of your images dubbed “Memories” – facial recognition has been improved, and the app allows you to view photos by geo-location on a world map, and search via scenery and object recogniton.
As with the previous build, the big changes aboard this update actually revolve around bringing iOS and macOS closer together in terms of overlap via the Continuity feature. A prime example being the Auto-Unlock for mac OS Sierra will now work with a paired Apple Watch brought into the vicinity. Additionally, there’s now a Universal Clipboard so that items copied either on iOS devices or on macOS computers will preserve the same copied text/images/data between them; in other words you can copy something on your iPhone and paste it into a document on the Mac and vice versa. Handy.
Apple has improved iCloud with support for moving folders and files between multiple Mac computers, and between Macs and iOS devices, while Optimized Storage is a feature designed to allow your device to go through your storage and file away anything old, dusty and long untouched into iCloud so that local space is free. The automated features can also extend to emptying the trash bin and clearing web browser history. Apple’s Craig Federighi boasted that in one instance these features had cleared as much as 130GB of space from a local storage drive.
Apple Pay is also being integrated into the desktop environment but will require an iOS device with Touch ID or Apple Watch for verification.
Siri For Mac
Lastly, as per the rumours, Apple confirmed that Siri is finally being implemented in macOS too. No surprises that many of Siri’s capabilities on desktop closely mirror what iOS users are already familiar with; search, creating tasks and organising personal calendars, amongst other things, but naturally this will work with Continuity too so you’ll be able to do things like call a contact with a voice command from the desktop.
The exciting news for Siri is that the personal assistant is, again as per rumour, being opened up to third-party app developers, something which many hope will vastly expand the repertoire of knowledge, features, and capabilities in its virtual hands. At a basic level this will also allow third party apps to implement Siri voice commands – Apple demonstrated using Siri to send remote payments, begin tracking in fitness apps, or summon a cab via applications like Uber. There are a few theories floating around along the lines that Siri hasn’t taken off as well as it could have because Apple has kept it locked down, meaning opening it up must be a bid to improve the service and make it more popular with users.
Apple Watch Update: WatchOS 3
The latest and greatest build of WatchOS is now official and it goes by the name of WatchOS 3. Apple announced its new wearable platform at WWDC 2016, confirming big improvements app loading times with “Instant Launch” — things load 7x faster now, apparently.
In addition to this, Apple has completely revamped the UX in order to make operating it far simpler. Users can now access Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the display and the side-button has been remapped and now gives you access to recent/running apps rather than contacts — a useful switch in our book.
A couple of the core applications — Reminders and Find Friends — have been redesigned from the ground up and Apple has added in four new watch faces, including a new Minnie Mouse one. Third party applications are now longer treated like second class citizens in WatchOS 3 and can now run inside the dock area, as well as in the background.
Call The COPS!
In a pinch? Got an Apple Watch? Well, now you can use it to call the cops. Simply hold down the side button and it will dial 911 and alert the emergency services using either the mobile date or Wi-Fi connection. This aspect of WatchOS 3 works depending on region, so if you’re in the UK the service will contact 999, for instance. Just be sure you don’t press it by accident.
A New Fitness Application
A lot of people use the Apple Watch to track and monitor their fitness and activity. For this reason, Apple has decided to launch a new fitness application for Apple Watch that has more social features and also better support for wheelchair users. Another new app called Breathe is designed to take care of all your meditation needs.
Third-party developers now get access to Apple Pay, background processing for fitness apps, native control for the crown, APIs for speaker control and video, so expect to see plenty of new content coming to Apple Watch in the very near future.
WatchOS 3 is available to download in beta today. Apple says the final build will ship during fall.
Apple Pay Now Available On The Web
Apple has announced that Apple Pay will now be available to use and pay for goods online via your Safari browser. Users will be able to authenticate their online purchases using TouchID, meaning the days of endless entering your credit card details into your browser are over.
This is perhaps the only disappointing thing about this year’s WWDC 2016. Apple did not announce any new hardware, nor did it give us an update on any of its currently top secret hardware programmes like Project Titan and its alleged Siri Smart Speaker.
There were plenty of rumours prior to June 13 about Apple announcing a Smart Speaker powered by Siri. This of course didn’t happen, but the fact that Apple has now opened Siri up to developers indicates that the company may well release something similar in the coming months.
After all, developers will need time with Siri and there’d be no point in simply releasing a Smart Speaker, for instance, and then waiting for developers to catch up. That wouldn’t be fair on consumers and this is likely why Apple did not announce the Smart Speaker. The other option is that the rumours were just complete bunk. Either way, Siri is the star here and we’re very much looking forward to seeing her improve over the coming weeks and months.