WWDC2020 – What did Apple tell us?

Let’s start with heartbreak. It’s official, as rumoured a few days ago by Jon Prosser, there were no new hardware announcements. That means the stuff we talked about two weeks ago is either yet to come or not coming at all. That doesn’t mean that WWDC 2020 was a let-down. In fact it was exciting and surprising in a very Apple-way.

The keynote was unlike anything we have been used to before and for someone who exclusively watches these things at home, much much better. Normally Tim Cook would walk out on stage to rapturous applause from assorted developers, journalists and Apple fans. This time the Steve Jobs Theatre was empty and the camera was dynamic as it flew across the Apple campus and through the building. This Keynote had a level of polish never before seen in a tech reveal. The current pandemic may have removed the live-appeal of old keynotes but Apple have fully embraced that in a way that they seem to do better than anyone.

More importantly, what did they reveal?

iOS 14

New home screen design with Widgets, App Library and the ability to hide pages of apps. The widgets can be dropped right onto the home screen and come in a variety of layout and sizes bringing in-app functionality without having to open an app.

The App Library is where all the apps on your phone live. iOS 14 will collect related apps together automatically and give suggestions based on what you use most often or recent downloads. The search bar allows you to find apps quickly and will list all apps on your phone alphabetically.

You can also hide pages of apps from our home screen. If like me you have a nicely arranged set of apps on the first few pages but there are several that you rarely look at and are a jumbled mess then you can just choose to hide them away and use the clean App Library instead.

Incoming calls and FaceTime no longer blank out the entire screen but instead drop down like a notification. Especially important for those who work a lot from their phone and are constantly frustrated when a call comes in that you don’t wish to acknowledge but it fills the whole screen stopping you from working.

If you take a FaceTime video call or are watching a show/movie then you can use picture in picture. Allowing you to continue the conversation or watch your shows without stopping your work or missing anything from the heated WhatsApp group you’re in.

Discover and use new apps with App Clips. An App Clip is a small part of an app experience designed to be discovered the moment it is needed. App Clips are associated with a particular product or business, and load within seconds to complete a specific task, such as renting a scooter, purchasing a coffee, or filling a parking meter. They can be easily discovered and accessed by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code, or through NFC tags and QR codes, or shared in Messages or from Safari, all with the security and privacy expected from apps.

New Messages features; Users can pin conversations to the top of their messages list, easily keep up with lively group threads through mentions and inline replies, and further customize conversations by setting a group photo using an image or emoji. New Memoji options in Messages are even more inclusive and diverse with additional hairstyles, headwear, face coverings, and more.

Maps has seriously closed the gap and in some ways overtaken Google Maps. Map now makes it easier than ever to navigate and explore with new cycling directions, electric vehicle routing, and curated Guides. Cycling directions take into account elevation, how busy a street is, and whether there are stairs along the route. Electric vehicle routing adds charging stops along a planned route based on current vehicle charge and charger types. Guides provide a curated list of interesting places to visit in a city, created by a selection of trusted resources.

We’re unsure if all these features will make it to the UK straight away but expect to see all of them working in most areas in the not too distant future.

Apple has beefed up their privacy too. All apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking. Later this year, App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices, displayed in a simple, easy-to-understand format. Apple say it is a lot like the nutrition information displayed on food. All you need to know to stay safe in an easy to consume way.

In addition, users can upgrade existing accounts to Sign in with Apple, choose to share their approximate location with app developers rather than their precise location when granting an app location access, and get even more transparency into an app’s use of the microphone and camera.

Want more? Apple has also introduced the much-rumoured CarKey option allowing you to open your car with your iPhone or pass key access to other people so they can access the car for specific journeys. Only one car has this feature though, the newest BMW 5-Series. More will follow though.

There’s also an updated Home app to give you better control of your smart gadgets and Apple have developed their own native translation app that can allow people to have a dynamic conversation without speaking a word of the other person’s language.

macOS Big SUR

The latest version of the legendary Mac operating system will be called Big Sur and this isn’t another incremental update. This time Apple have drastically changed the UI and attempted to unify all their products by making macOS look more like iOS/iPadOS in certain areas.

Everything has a softer, cleaner look. There are drop down control centres that look a lot like iPadOS housed in a customisable menu bar. Menus are cleaner and clearer. Icons are all-new and many native apps share common design and functionality.

Safari is faster, more secure, more power efficient and easier to personalise. Translation is not built in and extensions are far easier to find and install. All whilst protecting your privacy. Safari will even tell you what a website is doing to to track your activity.

The Messages app has seen many of the updates seen in iOS such as pinned conversations, Memoji customisation, new group messaging features. Further tying macOS into the iOS world. Frankly for the better it would seem. Maps also sees a big update with all the features of the latest iOS 14.

The biggest update is the introduction of Apple Silicone to replace Intel chips in Macs. This is a big deal though so we’ve created a separate article here so you can read all about it.

iPadOS 14

Most of the updates to iPadOS we’ve already covered in the iOS update so I’m going to focus on just one. The newest Apple Pencil support which frankly blew me away.

The latest iPadOS brings something called Scribble to the iPad. Using an Apple Pencil, users can write in any text field and it will automatically be converted to typed text. You can do things like reply to an iMessage or search in Safari without having to put the pencil down or type a letter. It’s fast and easy.

When taking notes, Smart Selection uses on-device machine learning to distinguish handwriting from drawings, so handwritten text can easily be selected, cut, and pasted into another document as typed text.

Shape recognition allows users to draw shapes that are made geometrically perfect and snap right into place when adding useful diagrams and illustrations in Notes.

Data detectors now work with handwritten text to recognize phone numbers, dates, and addresses, and offer users the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.

This is going to make the iPad a productivity powerhouse and might be the final nail in the coffin for notepads. At least in my house!

watchOS 7

watchOS 7 is another incremental update for the Apple smart watch. You’ll be able to share watch faces with friends (and download third party ones). Developers now have the ability to offer more than one complication per app on a single watch face.

The Apple Watch will now allow sleep tracing features. This will allow users to set goals for the sleep cycles and monitor how well they are doing. The Apple Watch along with the iPhone will make efforts to help you meet those goals rather than just reminding you to go to bed and to wake up. It’s a more holistic approach that look like it might work well.

The Apple Watch can automatically detect when you are washing our hands and prompt you if you do don’t do it for long enough. It will also congratulate you if you’ve washed your hands for enough time. Not sure if this is a good feature or not.

watchOS 7 brings four exciting new workout types supported by powerful heart rate and custom-built motion algorithms: Core Training, Dance, Functional Strength Training, and Cooldown.

To correctly capture calorie exertion for Dance, Apple Watch uses advanced sensor fusion, combining data from the heart rate sensor and inputs from the accelerometer and gyroscope, that accounts for the unique challenges of measuring different body-to-arm motions typical with dance. This workout type was validated and tested with four of the most popular dance styles for exercise: Bollywood, cardio dance, hip-hop, and Latin.

The new versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS will be available to install and use for free this Fall (Autumn/Winter to us Brits).

There’s a whole host of other new functions and features but these are the most exciting. You can head over to Apple’s website for more details and examples of how this new tech will work. Don’t forget to check out our feature on Apple moving to it’s own silicone chips and let us know in the comments what your favourite new bit of Apple software is.