Apple’s annual developer conference kicked off today with a two-hour long keynote, where the company shared the latest updates for its four software platforms. There were so many new things announced at breakneck speed, it’s easy to get lost in all that hype.
After all, this is the same company whose staff cheer you as you walk in to the halls, giving you high fives along the way.
Now that we’ve properly digested the announcements from today, let’s take a closer look at some of the more important ones – including those which Apple did not specifically state.
1. This was the least interesting WWDC in years.
If you watched it live, we’re sure at some point you’d have gone, “hmm, I’ve seen this feature before on (insert rival platform here).” There were several instances when this was quite apparent, but Apple gleaned through them with the company’s signature ability to make a show.
From Siri’s new features, to the new features on Photos, and even the new abilities on Apple Maps, there were few genuinely interesting new things which should be worthy of the attention of the 5,000 developers in attendance, and tens of thousands more watching online.
2. Sure, there’s a new macOS, but where’s the new MacBook?
This was the second year running that WWDC did not showcase any new hardware. It’s a developer conference, sure, but is it right that Apple developers may soon have to buy a Windows machine to replace their aging laptops?
Many had expected Apple to announce a new MacBook Pro at this year’s WWDC; after all, it is overdue an upgrade. As Gizmodo curtly points out, the current 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display has a processor that’s now over three years old. The MacBook Air – a popular choice among tech journalists globally – has been a forgotten child since Apple released the 12-inch, single-port MacBook last year.
3. Your Apple Watch is (finally) about to get more powerful.
It is safe to say that the Apple Watch’s software has proven to be its biggest limitation from becoming a proper wearable. Users often complain about the slow loading times, and the fact that generally, the Apple Watch simply did not do as much as what an Android Wear device does (though some would say that Android Wear does too much).
But with the third major software release for the Watch, things are finally looking up. Instant Launch promises to finally fix the slow loading times, while some UI tweaks mean you can access your watch apps a lot easier than before.
Apple is also positioning the Apple Watch as a health accessory, and is enabling one of the most important features for the casually fit: social elements. On WatchOS 3, you can share your fitness activities to your friends (who also wear Apple Watch), and then taunt them if their scores are lower than yours.
This is akin to what Fitbit has successfully cultivated among its users, and I must agree that having fitness challenges that has a social element to them make a lot of sense. It brings out a competitive edge, for the simple reason that most of us don’t want to look bad in front of our friends.
4. Stock iOS apps can now be installed!
You have no idea how big a relief this is until you’ve used a 16GB iPhone. For years Apple did not allow users to remove its pre-installed apps, which meant that they were stuck with apps they would never use.
For some reason, Apple thought it was better to allow you to temporarily delete an app (while still retaining the app’s user data) when downloading and installing a new software update. This was one of iOS 9’s new features introduced last year, which means that it took a whole year for Apple to finally give in.
Most Apple apps can now be uninstalled, and they can be re-installed from the App Store at a later date. There are some apps, such as Messages, which cannot be uninstalled, however.
5. Siri is now finally able to catch up.
Finally, Siri has been unleashed. It was the first of its kind: a digital assistant which possessed great knowledge and capable of answering you in a way just like humans do; it has even grown famous for its sharp wit despite being an artificial intelligence.
But since its introduction, Siri has been constrained by limitations set by Apple, chief among them being the inability to integrate with third-party apps like all the other digital assistants were able to do. It resulted in Siri lagging far behind as Google Now, Cortana and even Amazon’s Alexa being able to do wildly impressive things.
That should end with today’s announcement, as developers find creative ways to use Siri in their apps and services.
6. Actually, Apple is now finally catching up.
It was a prevailing theme in today’s keynote, and it was hard to ignore for even the hardiest of Apple fans. Most of the features announced today have already been around on other platforms – Motorola had a similar “raise to wake” feature for years.
It’s crazy to say this, but where Apple used to be able to take ideas from other platforms and make them better, this time around it appears that Apple seems content to offer more of the same. That, perhaps is the most disappointing aspect from the whole keynote.
7. Swift Playground is the most important announcement made today.
But it was not all that bad. Right at the death Apple managed to announce something it can surely be proud of. The announcement of Swift Playground, a free app on iOS that lets kids learn how to code in Apple’s Swift programming language, is a masterstroke.
Coding is the new Mandarin. It’s a skill that’s bound to be useful later in life, and it’s not just so you can build the next billion-dollar app, either. Coding lets you learn to be more analytical, identify patterns and solve challenges with logic, and in general, be able to pay greater attention to detail.
So what better way to encourage the future generation to code in your exclusive coding language by playing games? It’s a super long-term strategy, but it’s definitely one that can pay off handsomely.
Games that teach you how to code aren’t new, but there’s a reason why nobody has really heard of them before: Apple has the scale and user base to connect an iPad with Swift Playground to a child.