Insights

Apple’s latest announcements at WWDC

Last week, Apple’s WWDC event announced many new exciting features. Click through to see a roundup of what caught our eye.

Picture source:

https://developer.apple.com/wwdc21/?cid=oas-us-domains-wwdc.com

iOS 15

To kick things off, Apple started with all of the shiny new features they are putting into their next big operating system update – iOS 15. iOS 15 is due to roll out to the public as a beta next month, before the main launch around September time. Here’s what you can expect…

FaceTime is getting one of its biggest updates so far with lots of brand-new features being introduced;

  • SharePlay: Gives you the ability to share experiences right inside FaceTime. Together with others you’ll be able to watch videos, listen to music and push shared videos to your Apple TV, all whilst actively on FaceTime together.
  • FaceTime Links: Shareable links have been created to make it even easier for your friends to join a FaceTime call, even if they’re on an Android device or Windows PC.
  • Voice Isolation: This is a new machine learning feature that drowns out background noise when you’re in a loud and busy environment, prioritising your voice so that the audio comes through much clearer.
  • Portrait Mode: Will now be available to use in your FaceTime calls! 

Focus – A new mode to optimise productivity

One of the best iOS updates for productivity, Focus, is on its way with iOS 15. You will now be able to customise your iPhone into different modes, such as ‘work’ or ‘gym’ mode and only apps related to that mode will be able to send push notifications. Each profile you set is entirely configurable, down to whose messages come through, what apps and notifications you see, as well as the option of having a completely different home screen layout for each mode. No more social media notifications disrupting your flow, or games taunting you to click on their icon when you’re really busy. Your contacts will also see an indicator letting them know that you have enabled Focus and don’t want to be disturbed. If their message can’t wait, they can choose to still notify you – meaning the most critical notifications can come through if necessary and you don’t need to worry about missing something important.

Another additional feature is ‘notifications batching’. You’ll be able to tell iOS 15 to batch together notifications you find less important and have them delivered at a specific time. Notifications that aren’t urgent will be grouped together in a new summary tile, removing the clutter from your feed. These new notification batches get their own space in which you can browse at your leisure, whilst your regular notifications will be front and center. iOS 15 even intelligently mutes message threads temporarily if it finds that you’re not engaging with them, so you don’t get pinged for every single reply.

Live Text – Copy and paste text from photos

Arguably one of the handiest features Apple gave us a sneak peek of is Live Text. Live Text uses Optical Camera Recognition (OCR) technology to quickly recognise words, numbers, and handwriting in the Camera app or Photos in your gallery – allowing you to select, copy, paste, and even act upon phone numbers and addresses. 

The example shown in the demo was someone’s scribbling on a whiteboard transformed into text and seamlessly pasted directly into an email. Gone are the days of manually transcribing important text from your Camera roll! 

Apple Maps – Clearer map details with more information

Apple Maps has been steadily improving over the years and it seems like it’s about to take the biggest leap yet. Maps in iOS 15 will include new three-dimensional details for city centres, marinas, buildings and hundreds of custom-designed landmarks, as well as a beautiful new night view with a moon-lit glow. 

There’s also lots of new details to help improve navigation coming to Apple Maps such as road markings, bicycle and bus lanes and pedestrian crossings, allowing people to better understand how to move through a city. 

This update will also really support users with reduced mobility who will be able to plan their route before setting off, with knowledge of where they can safely cross the road and expect vehicles to stop. 

For drivers, the updates to Apple Maps will be key as you’ll be able to see complex road layouts in 3D, whilst in motion, so those all-important turns won’t be missed. Notably, it’ll also combat the confusion that comes with seeing a bridge or subway up ahead and not being able to tell which road you’re supposed to be on.

Transit riders will be able to find nearby stations with ease and follow their journey on the map, receiving notifications when they are approaching their stop. When it’s time to get off, you’ll be able to hold up your iPhone to scan the buildings in the area and Maps will offer further directions in Augmented Reality (AR), allowing ease in continuing your journey on foot.

iPadOS 15

Apple announced that all of the features mentioned for iOS 15 will also be making their way to iPadOS 15, plus adding even more iPad exclusive announcements.  

 

App Library and Widgets – A better looking homescreen

The widgets introduced to iPadOS last year were fairly restricting as they could only be pinned to the side of your first page in the Today view. However, this year you’ll be able to add a widget wherever you like, alongside any of your app icons on any page. To make use of the extra real estate you get on an iPad, Apple announced the introduction of a new widget size (basically the size of an entire iPhone), allowing you to see rich information in detail at a glance.

The App Library is something we have grown to love in iOS, so it was great to hear that it’s also coming to iPadOS. This allows you to clear your homepage of clutter and hide pages you don’t want to see, with a new icon in the dock to bring up the App Library wherever you are.

Multitasking and Swift Playgrounds – Manage your apps better

Apple is also introducing improvements to multitasking, with new controls and gestures that make it easier to manage your apps. As well as this you’ll be able to build apps with Swift Playgrounds, meaning you can create apps for iPad and iPhone, directly from the iPad.

Notes – More efficient and collaborative

Notes in iPadOS allow you to quickly create a new note by swiping up on the screen with an Apple Pencil. Doing so will pop up a note overlay on top of whatever app you already had open, so you can quickly jot something down without breaking your flow. You also now have the ability to tag people in group notes for their attention and see the revision history.   

Universal Control – Combine devices

One feature that seems like magic is Universal Control! If you bring a compatible macOS device near to your iPad (running iPadOS 15), you can move the mouse over to the iPad to control it, as well as use the keyboard on your Mac, on your iPad. To further this, you can drag and drop files from one device to the other. So, if you’re working on a document on your Mac, you can drag an image from your iPad from one screen to the next and drop it into the document, making working across multiple devices a seamless process. 

“The updates from this year's WWDC are none to gloss over, I’m really excited to get the developer betas loaded onto my devices to try out all the cool new features for myself. Each year we seem to find Apple figuring out truly unique ways of making the experience of using their devices as effortless as possible and this year was no exception. I often think, how can they ever top this? But they went ahead and did just that… again.”

Haroon Chishty, Graduate Software Engineer

watchOS 8 

More and more people (100 million+ globally to be exact) are discovering how useful the Apple Watch is for day to day life and there were a number of exciting updates announced at WWDC. 

The new watchOS 8 will monitor your respiratory rate and take note of how you breathe differently throughout the day and at night to help you sleep better. The Breathe app becomes the Mindfulness app with a new Reflect session type and Apple Watch wearers can unlock their car from a distance and start the engine from the driver’s seat!

Alongside these new features, watchOS 8 has also upgraded its watchface with a new Portrait mode to allow your favourite Portrait images and clock to fit seamlessly together. 

Health App

With the rapid rise of daily exercise since the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple has addressed the need for more data and the want to share exercise steps and goals.

With the new Health app, your iPhone will be able to analyse your step timing and the steadiness of your walking. This data will be added to your ‘Trends’ summary in your Health app to highlight patterns in your heart rate and step count. 

The summary of your health data will now also be able to be shared via the ‘Health Sharing’ option. This will allow you to securely share your health data with friends and family, whether it be for competitive reasons or to keep them up to date on your health.

App Store

This year’s WWDC announced a number of exciting new features, designed to help developers boost the visibility of their apps and give them more tools to drive downloads.   

The new App Store updates include;

In App Events: For apps that include gaming competitions, movie premieres, and live-streamed experiences like the SailGP app, this update will give a whole new way to showcase your events and expand your app’s reach. Users will be able to discover events in personalised recommendations and editorial curations on the Today, Games and Apps tabs.

Custom Product Pages: You’ll be able to create up to 35 versions of your product page with different promotional text, screenshots and app preview videos to better showcase particular features or content within your app to specific users.

A/B Split Testing: Optimise your product pages by trying out different assets and comparing their performance to see what users like most with new A/B Split Testing on the App Store. 

“This is a game changing announcement for all mobile marketers as we’ve been waiting a long time for Apple to advance their ASO tools. A/B testing on Google Play has been around for a long time so it’s brilliant that Apple has acknowledged the value in this functionality. I’m also really excited to see how custom product pages will work and the different ways we’ll be able to support our clients in driving higher conversion rates from better personalisation.”

Emma Allison, Head Of Product Marketing

Developer Stuff

Apple tends to use their keynote as a platform to introduce new products and features but one of the main sections that really excites Apadmi is the juicy development stuff!

Apple has introduced Xcode Cloud, a CI/CD service integrated into Xcode allowing developers to automatically test changes to their builds as well as automatically deploy to Apple’s distribution platform TestFlight. Xcode Cloud is currently in beta access and we have seen in the past with the likes of Swift Package Manager and Swift itself it can take some time for these tools to mature and it is yet to be seen how Xcode Cloud stacks up against current solutions such as Bitrise and GitLab for example but it is yet another welcome addition to iOS development ecosystem.

Apple’s declarative UI framework SwiftUI continues to mature with numerous additions including more styling and customisation options for the List API, a staple in almost every app as well as the new AsyncImage API allowing developers to download and present remote images where previously many would have turned to a third-party tool.  

Swift Playgrounds 4 was touted for release later this year. Swift Playgrounds, originally released in 2016, is the iPad’s lightweight Xcode cousin and has predominantly been used as an educational tool and simple development environment. However, with the announcement of Swift Playgrounds 4 developers can now expect a more robust experience with the option to develop applications and submit to the App Store for the first time, with the option to migrate these projects to Xcode later down the line. With the iPad’s performance upgrade provided by the M1 chip, developers are hoping this is only the tip of the iceberg of the development experience on the iPad moving forward.

To round up, here’s an open letter from our CTO, Gary Butcher:

“WWDC is always a slick and polished, if somewhat cringe, affair. Not too long ago the keynote gave you 90% of what you needed to know but with iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and home…Kit barely scratches the surface. What hasn’t changed is the focus on seamless ‘continuity’ across the ecosystem. We’ve still got some more sessions to get through but it’s already been an interesting week in the developer community. Xcode 13 has some nice additions, the continual refinement of swift is of particular interest (goodbye combine, hello async/await?) and I’m looking forward to evaluating Xcode Cloud for how it fits our established CI/CD pipeline.  Our teams are reviewing what’s next for iOS 15 and making sure our clients are ready for the release in the autumn. Just as ARKit helped bring augmented reality forward, I expect the same from some newly announced APIs. For example, SharePlay for spectator-less events or syncing companion apps to a replayed event using ShazamKit.  The keynote itself again went big on privacy, user data, and on-device processing along with nods to what the battle for your automated life may end up looking like. A new IoT standard and 3rd party device support for Siri will potentially help Apple recover some ground lost to Amazon and Google. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t really feel like an Apple event without a standing ovation for every other sentence. Here’s hoping next year we can all clap along to 3x improvement in Siri jokes.”

Gary Butcher, Apadmi CTO

Eager for more?

If you're thinking about developing a new Apple app or you want to know more about the latest Apple technologies, get in touch with our team today.
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