No lines, no rush for the best seats and no waiting for the event to begin. WWDC was on YouTube this time, streaming CEO Tim Cook and gang directly into living rooms of thousands of developers and millions of fans all over the world.
Even as Apple executives came on screen for cinematic cameos, improving one feature after the other on all the software, the biggest announcement was held for the last — the Appe silicon that will power future Mac devices. This is big, given that Mac devices will no longer rely on Intel processors. But this was coming, as Apple makes chips for almost all its products from the iPhone and iPad to the Apple Watch.
Apple claims its processors will give more performance at lower power, the problem all chipmakers have been trying to solve for long. So, there will be a family of SoCs for the Macs, which will fuse better with Apple’s own software that will take these devices to a different level of synergy. While you will see some Macs now come with Apple’s own chipsets, there will be some Intel Macs too, Cook said. There is also the small little detail that all iOS apps will not potentially run on Macs too.
The first online-only WWDC started with almost an acknowledgement that the world of apps had become a bit too much for users to handle. So Apple is packing in the ability to remove apps screens you always flip through and never stop at. But there is also App Library to make discovery of those many apps easier so that you look beyond that handful of favourite apps. Apple is also making it easier to get more apps on your phones with App Clips, that loads the software on your phone in a jiffy via a QR code scan, an NFC tap or through a message.
Apple has brought in some big changes to the iconic tile layout of the iOS home screen by offering the ability to bring in widgets of different sizes and much more data on to any screen. That should change the way you interact with the apps on the home screen. And this is a fundamental change that has been rolled out after a long time. Along with this is the picture-in-picture capability that brings in a layered approach that lets you multitask even as you watch a video.
On the iPad, be ready for Designed for iPad apps. While a lot of the design changes from iOS will flow over to the larger screen too, there is sidebars coming to a lot of native apps like Photos and Notes. The iPad is becoming even more like a Mac, at least the design is. There is even a full-screen player for the music app.
One big push for the Apple Pencil is the Scribble feature that converts handwritten notes into text. This could make the Apple Pencil more of a note-taking accessory than something that adds value when you are being artfully inclined. The handwriting detection becomes almost native across iPad OS.
WatchOS, meanwhile, gives more customisation options with multiple complications from the same app. You can even share watch faces, make it easier for others to enjoy a customisation you think is perfect. Dance comes to workout, including Bollywood.
But the much-awaited feature that made it to the Apple Watch is sleep tracking. The Wind Down feature lets you slip into sleep more easily, and once you are asleep the watch will be able to give data on how well you slept.
And in keeping with the pandemic paranoia, the watch will track when you are washing your hands and tell you if you are closing the tap too early.
Adding to privacy controls, users will now be able to show just approximate location instead of precise location when they need it. Apps will also have to showcase what data they collect even before being downloaded, right there on the product pages.
The next version of macOS will be macOS Big Sur — named after highlands in central California — which is ushering in major design changes across all aspects of the software. A lot what is seen in iOS and iPadOS will come to the macOS too, with widgets and layers. The dock has become more transparent, and there is toolbar that makes access to features easier. There is also an iPhone-like control centre… clearly the macOS is learning from the millions of users on the touch-first operating systems of Apple.
For Safari users, the additions of extensions plug one gap that the popular browser had in comparison with the competition. But in Apple’s own way, the extensions can be used only with those sites users specify. Also, the password manager will alert you when your login has been compromised.
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