Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off today with one of its big product-unveiling keynotes. Here are the most important announcements Apple made, in roughly chronological order.
The big picture
As Apple’s iPhone App Store approaches its 10th birthday next month, and Apple’s Services business — including the App Store — represents one of its fastest-growing businesses, app developers remain one of the company’s most important constituencies. There are 20 million developers around the world, and only a few thousand are in attendance today. Apple CEO Tim Cook says cumulative developer earnings will pass $100 billion next week.
Apple uses WWDC each year to unveil the year’s major update to iOS, which powers iPhones and iPads. This year, Apple is “doubling down on performance,” said SVP Craig Federighi, focusing on improvements that make devices faster — especially Apple’s oldest devices.
AR and ARKit
Augmented reality, or AR, is “transformational technology,” Federighi said. This is a potentially important technology for Apple’s future, so it’s telling that it’s the first new feature Apple is touting. Apple announced a new AR file format, USDZ, that big creative-software companies like Adobe are supporting, and a new AR-driven app called Measure.
Apple also announced a new version of its ARKit software developers tool with improved face tracking, 3-D object section and “shared experiences” — so people around you can share the same AR experience on their iOS devices.
Apple continues to open Siri, its voice/AI assistant, to developer apps, adding new features in the process. A new developer tool called “Shortcuts” will let app developers add more personalized cues to Siri — and users can create their own Siri workflows via a new Shortcuts app. For example, you can create a “Heading home” Shortcut that pulls up your GPS directions, sets your home thermostat, alerts someone you’re headed home via iMessage and even sets your iPhone to the NPR app.
Shortcuts looks potentially very powerful if enough developers support it.
Apple is improving Photo search and sharing. There’s a new Stocks app. Voice memos is launching for iPad. iBooks has been redesigned and is now called Apple Books. CarKit will support third-party apps for navigation.
Quality of life
Along the lines of the “time well spent” movement: Do Not Disturb has some new features to reduce notifications when you don’t want them, Apple is making the process of receiving and dealing with Notifications less noisy, and a new feature called Screen Time helps you understand, control and limit how much time you spend on your device. Parents can also monitor their kids’ usage and set “allowances” by app category or individual apps.
Animoji now has “tongue detection.” But this is cool: You can create your own “Memoji” — Animoji that look like “you … or the real you.” (Sort of Apple’s version of the Nintendo Mii avatars.) And the Messages app now has a collection of Snapchat-like camera filters.
Apple’s video-calling app now supports group FaceTime with up to 32 simultaneous participants — including an integration to Messaging that makes it easy to launch group calls. You can now also use Animoji or photo filters within FaceTime calls. FaceTime Audio calls now work on Apple Watch.
Apple Watch and watchOS 5
Apple continues to move watchOS toward fitness and communication features:
- In watchOS 5, you can challenge friends to fitness competitions. Apple Watch now tracks yoga sessions, has better support for hiking and supports paces for runners. Forgot to start your workout? The watch should now detect and suggest starting and stopping workouts.
- A new “Walkie Talkie” mode lets you send and receive push-to-talk audio messages via Apple Watch.
- The Siri watch face now supports Shortcuts and content from third-party apps.
- You don’t have to say “Hey, Siri” anymore — just raise your watch toward your face and it’ll start listening for cues.
- Apple Watch apps are also getting more sophisticated, including the ability to play background audio.
- Notifications are now more interactive — you can even do things like manage restaurant reservations or pay for something via Apple Pay.
Apple Watch will now support some web content — recall that it didn’t launch with Safari — via a tiny-screen browser. The Apple Podcasts app is coming to Apple Watch — finally. And Apple is launching the ability to use your iPhone and Apple Watch as a student ID for access and payments, starting as a trial at a few schools, including Duke.
Apple TV and tvOS
Not a ton here — nothing on gaming, for example.
Apple is adding Dolby Atmos audio support for smart surround sound.
It’s also starting to work with more TV providers to use Apple TV as a primary viewing device for live, on-demand and cloud DVR, including — later this year — Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable and Charter) in the U.S.
A new “Zero Sign-on” feature will unlock supported apps included with your TV service if you’re on the provider’s broadband network — no more fumbling with that awkward sign-in process. Charter Spectrum will be the first to support this feature.
Crucially, you’ll also now be able to see the location information for Apple’s amazing screen-saver drone videos. Apple will also start including space footage in those reels, thanks to a collaboration with the international space station.
Mac and macOS Mojave
Some new Mac features: A new “dark mode” — which drew huge cheers from the WWDC audience — is launching in Mojave. This should be particularly useful for photo or video editors and software developers. “Desktop stacks” are a new way to organize documents on the desktop. “Gallery view” is a new way to preview documents in a folder, including a big preview, metadata and “quick actions” like rotating photos. And a cool new Continuity feature will let you use the photo you just took on your iPhone on your Mac.
Apple is redesigning the Mac App Store to make it look and work more like the new (good) iOS store. Microsoft and Adobe are among the companies that will be participating. Apple News, Stocks, Home and Voice Memos are also launching on the Mac — including syncing your voice memos across devices.
A new feature in Safari is shutting down third-party tracking by default — you’ll have to opt in for services like Facebook to track you on third-party sites.
Is Apple merging macOS and iOS?
“No,” Federighi says. “Of course not.” But Apple is launching a multi-year project that would allow iOS apps to run on Macs. This year, it’s testing it in-house with some of the new previously iOS-only apps it’s launching for Mac. But next year, developers will get access to some of these tools, too.
Watch the full keynote below.