Technology

Biggest takeaways from Apple’s WWDC 2018 keynote

Apple's annual WWDC has become the main gateway to new product announcements on the software level. Though there may be subtle announcements to hardware updates, it's all about the software.

Yes, you’ve probably glued yourself to a laptop/tablet/smartphone to watch the keynote live with the one and only Tim Cook delivering that reality-distorting aura. There wasn’t the usual long summary of where Apple stands, but there were some interesting highlights before diving deep into the new products

  • 20 million Apple developers worldwide
  • Developers from 77 countries at WWDC 2018
  • App Store turns 10 in July. You can’t forget that iPhoneOS 2 (initially known with that moniker before being renamed as iOS with the debut of the iPad in 2014)
  • 500M weekly visitors to the App Store, $100bn

As much as there was reveal of new features for watchOS 5, I’d say the main stars were the usual suspects – iOS and macOS.

Straight to iOS12 reveal

Focus on Performance

Everyone knows that iOS11 was plagued with issues after the official release (just a quick search will show everything from special characters crashing your phone to power throttling issues), but looks like they’re doubling down on performance and optimizations rather than just debuting new bells and whistles. Last time something like this happened was for the Mac with 10.6 Snow Leopard, so it’s good to see iOS get the same treatment.

Since 81% of iOS devices worldwide are now running a stable version of iOS11 after they fixed all the issues with minor and major updates, iOS12 will run on the same iOS devices that currently run iOS11.

The keynote referenced the iPhone 6 Plus to showcase the improvements that were highlighted:

  • 40% faster app launches
  • 70% faster opening the Camera app

If this is what’s been attained with the iPhone 6 powered by a 64-bit A6 chip, it’ll scale up even better with more recent devices.

AR, AR everywhere

If Apple is doubling down on Augmented Reality (AR), then surely the competitors will follow. That’s why they’ve worked with Pixar Animation Studios to create a new standard AR file format. Optimized for sharing, 3D graphics and animation, the new .USDZ format is also portable that can be shared across a multitude of devices. It’s not stopping there, as some prominent apps are also looking to support the new standard – Adobe is incorporating it into Creative Cloud, so imagine using Photoshop and Illustrator to create an AR object/experience on a desktop/laptop then transfer it to iOS devices.

LEGO ARKit2

Along with new APIs and the new ARKit2, there’s also support for multiplayer AR experiences so that people can join in together for shared experiences. Let’s not forget that you’ll also be able to save your current AR state rather than start from fresh (think of it as ‘save game’ then you just ‘load game’ to resume from where you left off).

A better way to organize photos

Machine learning paired with Computer Vision improves the Photos app. If anyone uses Microsoft’s Onedrive, you’ll see how they automatically tag some photos with objects they recognize, making it easier to find the photo you want. That same experience has been created and integrated into the Photos app by Apple.

Device usage health

We know that we’re always connected when you have your smartphone by your side, and most of us are guilty of checking it multiple times a day. It may look like your phone is stalking you with every tap and swipe, but you’d be surprised to learn just how much time you’re spending on your iOS device.

If you ever wanted to know just how time you spend on your iOS device? Look no further
If you ever wanted to know just how time you spend on your iOS device? Look no further

Just how much will we learn about device usage habits?

  • Which apps sent the most notifications and how many do you receive
  • How often have you picked up your iPhone or iPad
  • Time spent with different apps and websites, usage across different app categories
  • Inferred insights on user activity on iOS devices
  • Daily and Weekly Activity Reports

For parents who have kids using iOS devices, they’ll be able to monitor a child’s Activity Report right from their own iOS devices using Family Sharing in iCloud, and set schedule times to limit device usage. A good way to control those who are glued to their smartphones/tablets.

Group Facetime

Let this sink in – 32 people on a Facetime group call. Of course, let’s not forget that Facetime is blocked across most of the Middle East (Qatar was the one place where Facetime worked without any issues until it was blocked months after the illegal blockade). It’ll be good to see how LTE and WiFi networks can handle the Facetime strain where it’s supported, but there are bound to be under-the-hood optimizations for it before the release.

Group Facetime with up to 32 participants on iOS12
Group Facetime with up to 32 participants on iOS12

macOS 10.14 Mojave

A lot of apps and websites have started adding a Dark Mode, and it’s now natively available across the entire macOS. Apple even took a page from their revamped iOS App Store from iOS11 and tailored it with the new revamped Mac App Store, inspired by the new look launched on iOS11. With the new look, it’ll also get new additions from some noteworthy developers – Adobe will be bringing Lightroom CC and Microsoft will be bringing Office 365 to the Mac App Store.

Revamped Mac App Store on macOS Mojave
Revamped Mac App Store on macOS Mojave

You’ve probably heard the rumour mill of Apple merging iOS and macOS with the news of them testing ARM processors as an Intel replacement. Even with a public ‘NO’ to refute this, they did give a sneak peek into something to make it easier to port apps from one platform to another. Both iOS and macOS share common foundations but engineered differently to the respective platform; Apple is working to make it easier for developers to bring iOS apps to the macOS. They’ve even demonstrated it with some of the new apps debuting on macOS Mojave (News, Voice Memos, Stocks, and HomeKit), proving that it’s possible to bring successful apps to scale up to macOS with better computing power to do more things that they never imagined.

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It’s clear that the iOS has been the breakaway success for Apple and they want to make it even easier for those apps to scale up to the Mac. From a touch-focused platform that’s been designed with limited visual real-estate, translating an app to devices using a keyboard and mouse sounds like an easy challenge but not easy vice-versa. This can even open up new ways for the same app available on both iOS and macOS to complement each other (looking at iMovie and Microsoft Office apps).

This is looking to officially launch in 2019, which gives Apple enough time to smoothen it out before opening it up to third-party developers to incorporate into their own apps.

Regarding compatability for installing and running it, you’ll need a Mac that was released from 2012 onwards.

If it’s any indication and going by previous release periods, new versions of iOS and macOS will be out starting from September. As always, they’re free updates that will pop-up for you to download and install.

Images credit: Apple Newsroom

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