That’s all from us here, but Olivia Solon in San Francisco has condensed it all into one nice piece.
- Leading iOS 12 are performance updates, as Apple dials back from its punishing feature push to build a leaner operating system that runs on every phone that can run iOS 11.
- iOS 12 gets some “Time Well Spent” features, letting users more easily control notifications and screen time.
- Siri acquires “shortcuts”, simple actions which can be launched verbally or with a button press, and chained together to produce mini programs for power users.
- Safari’s tracking prevention features have been upgraded: they’ll now lock Facebook out of tracking users through its comment boxes and like buttons, and prevent anyone from “fingerprinting” devices by looking at their configuration details.
- From 2019, the Mac will be able to run iOS apps – four of which are launching this autumn, as Apple ports over News, Stocks, Home and Voice Memos.
Tim Cook wraps things up
And that’s it! Tim Cook comes back on stage to run through the previous updates, and give the standard rubric: updates will be available this autumn, and the developer betas will be available today.
The show ends with a montage of video interviews with loved ones of app developers, including the backstory of Yelp, who are currently fighting Google in nearly every venue going over the latter’s monopoly power. Is that a pointed decision by Apple? Could be.
Are macOS and iOS merging?
“The fact that the Mac and iOS share so much technology has led people every year to ask us the question: are you merging macOS and iOS” Federighi asks, before offering a one-word answer: “No”.
But, he notes, Mac users not only run Mac apps, but also web apps, and games – built on cross-platform tech. Why not also let them run iOS apps?
In developer terms, this means that UIKit, the tools used to build iOS apps, will shortly be getting a Mac version. As I guessed below, News, Home, Stocks and Voice Memos are the test versions of that.
Developers will get those tools in 2019, Federighi says. (There’s a notable lack of applause from a typically very cheery audience to this particular news. I’m not sure developers really wanted this feature.)
The changes that came to the iOS app store are making their way to the Mac App store next, which is getting editorial content, autoplaying videos, and recommendations.
More importantly, Apple has won round some big App Store holdouts, including Microsoft, Adobe, Panic and BBEdit.
It will be interesting to see whether these companies are coming purely because of the promise of fancier graphic design, or if Apple has also changed its business model to solve some of their issues. An inability to offer paid updates, the 30% cut Apple takes, and the limitations of the Mac App Store security features have all driven away developers historically.
Apple is turning off Facebook’s ability to track users
A big one: Apple is turning off Facebook’s ability to track users across the web through like buttons and comment feeds. Federighi doesn’t cite the social network by name, but reassures users that iOS’s intelligent tracking protection will now cover that content as well. If this is enabled by default, it could have a wide-ranging effect on the company’s ability to track its users.
And the tracking protection is also making it harder for data companies “to uniquely identify your device and track you”, limiting the information about things like fonts and system configuration that third parties can find.
Apple’s rolling out iOS-style permissioning to Mac apps, Federighi says. Apps will have to individually gain permission to access things like the camera.
Next up, Apple News, Stocks, Home and Voice Memos are launching on the Mac. There isn’t really much to say, here: it’s Apple News, Stocks, Home and Voice Memos, but on the Mac. This does suggest, though, that rumours of a crossover between iOS and macOS may be true – these apps do look very similar to the iPad versions. We’ll see.
OK, so, dark mode wasn’t really the flagship feature. Next up is “desktop stacks”, which attempts to save people who keep all their files on the desktop from themselves: the hundreds of files you store there will now be simply and easily grouped by type.
The Finder itself also gets a slight rehaul. A gallery view replaces the old coverflow, letting you cycle through (and lightly edit) files in the document manager itself.
(As Federighi demonstrates a new screenshot tool, there’s also a glimpse of the new Safari which features real icons again, something users – well, me – have been calling for for a while.)
Continuity, Apple’s name for the mac/iOS crossover features, gets a focus: Mac apps can now call directly to the camera on the phone, letting users take a picture automatically from apps such as Keynote.
Finally, the Mac. First off, the name. With Apple having followed a California location naming theme since it ran out of cats, the company’s gone from the mountains to the desert: macOS 10.14 is called Mojave.
The flagship consumer feature, Federighi demonstrates, is a dark mode. It makes your Mac dark. It looks good! It even changes the default desktop background from a daytime shot of the desert to a night-time one.
Watch down, AppleTV next – looks like macOS is being saved for last, which suggest that something macOS-related might be dropped as a trademark “One More Thing”. Not much to report, though; most of the work on Apple TV still seems to be behind-the-scenes, as Apple hammers out content deals:
- The Apple TV is getting Dolby Atmos support – first promised in September 2017.
- Some pay-TV providers, in France, Switzerland and the US, are launching on Apple TV, letting users finally fulfil the one-box dream for their live TV.
- Some of those providers now support “zero sign-on” authentication, which is nice.
- Nice screensavers using footage filmed from the ISS.
New watch features
On to connectivity – a function of the Apple Watch that the company has downplayed in recent years, in favour of focusing more on the health and fitness tracking.
The leading feature here is a walkie-talkie mode, letting users talk back and forth using the watch like, well, a walkie-talkie. It looks quite fun, and potentially – for a device which is still very weird to use as a real phone – actually more useful than the calling feature.
Beyond that, a grab-bag of new features:
- Apple’s improved the Siri watch face, a promising feature which launched last year but failed to live up to its lofty aims of offering only the necessary information on your watch. Siri shortcuts will now show up there, and so will information from third-party apps.
- If you lift your watch to speak into it, you no longer need to say Hey Siri to start Siri.
- Apple Watch apps can now push interactive notifications, letting you do things like rate a carshare driver, or alter a restaurant booking.
- The Apple Watch can now display web views – not to browse the net, but so that you can at least scan links texted to you.
- The Apple Podcast app is launching on the Apple Watch.
Notably, the Apple Watch still hasn’t received a few updates that developers and users have been begging for, including the ability to stream audio from third-party apps like Spotify or Overcast. Scratch that – Lynch arrives back after a brief demo to confirm that third-party apps will now be able to play background audio, which should be a big driver of Apple Watch use amongst the Spotify set.
Overcast developer Marco Arment is happy:
That’s it for iOS. The second hour begins with the Apple Watch, as Tim Cook hands over to Kevin Lynch, who starts by talking about the health and fitness features:
- You can now start seven-day competitions against friends on the activity app.
- The workout feature now supports Yoga and Hiking, as well as improved features for outdoor running.
- Automatic workout detection detects when you start a workout even if you forget to actively start it – and also if you forget to actively end it – for a few select types of workout.
Facetime, a much-loved feature that’s received little attention in recent years, is getting an update: group calls.
A group can be as large as 32 people, which seems unwieldy, but certainly potentially useful. Tiles grow and shrink automatically depending on who’s talking.
And, oh God, Animoji has made it into Facetime as well. This is nightmarish.
Animoji is getting a new “tongue detection” ability, as though the creepiest feature from iOS 11 needed to get creepier. You can also personalise your own “memoji”. Animoji unsettle me on a visceral level. I think I’m in the minority here, though.
You can also add iMessage stickers on to the camera app, and turn your head into an Animoji superimposed on to reality. I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it.
Time Well Spent
Federighi back, and he’s turned to the “Time Well Spent” movement. “We might not recognise just how distracted we’ve become,” he says, in a not-so-subtle dig at social networks like Facebook and Twitter. So, three updates to help that.
Firstly, Do Not Disturb During Bedtime will now deliberately not show you notifications if you open your phone at night, allowing you to check the time and get back to sleep without worrying. Do Not Disturb will also allow you to activate it on a timer, or leave it on until you leave an area.
Secondly, the company is overhauling notifications, lifting one of Android’s best features, grouped notifications, letting those 47 WhatsApp updates get bundled together into one entry.
And the new OS also lets you change your notification settings directly from the lock screen, from disabling noises to turning off notifications altogether. Siri will also suggest that you may want to disable some notifications if you don’t click on them for a while.
Finally, a new Screen Time app offers you monitoring and insight on how much time you’re spending on your phone, and where you’re spending it – even down to how often you’re picking up your phone, and which apps are sending you the most notifications. You can also set app limits, voluntarily curtailing your time on the most habit-forming apps (a feature demonstrated through Instagram).
That app will also be usable as a parental control toolbox, since parents can control their kids’ screen time in just the same way that adults can control their own.
Federighi hands over to Susan Prescott for lightning updates to a few of Apple’s smaller apps, News, Stocks, Voice Memos, iBooks and CarPlay.
News is getting some new views, and being incorporated into the Stocks app. The Stocks app is coming to the iPad.
The Voice Memo app is also coming to the iPad, with a total visual redesign “and iCloud support so your recordings stay in sync across all your devices”.
And iBooks is being renamed to Apple Books, with another visual redesign, bringing it in line with the App Store.
Finally, CarPlay now supports 3rd-party navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze.
Siri’s turn in the spotlight. Apps will now be able to make “Shortcuts” for the voice assistant: add a shortcut to Siri, and you can record your own trigger phrase, which will then be able to activate at a word from you.
Siri’s personal assistant functionality is also getting a boost: apps that you use regularly will be able to push suggested actions to your lock screen. Order the same coffee every day? Eventually that shortcut will just appear on your homescreen.
And if you’re a power user, you’ll be able to use a new Shortcuts app – which looks an awful lot like a reskinned version of Workflow, an app that Apple bought last year – to make your own multi-step version of the feature.
(Again, you’d be safe in betting that a lot of this is done on-device, and barely any data is exposed to Apple in the process)
Photos (the app) next. Apple’s boosted the app’s machine-learning powered search feature, which will now offer search suggestions like “hiking” and “watersports”, and categorise events by place and time. The “memories” feature has been spun off into its own tab, For You, which will offer suggestions for new edits and people you might want to share images with. (If you do share the images of an event, then the recipient will receive a matching prompt, suggesting they share their own pictures back to you.)
These features are all similar to ones offered by Google and Facebook – but, as Federighi notes, Apple does it all on-device: the company doesn’t see any of your content when you use them.
Federighi turns to ARKit. This is Apple’s tool for building augmented reality services – which superimpose content over the real world. The ARKit updates (such as a unified AR file format, ARDZ, improved face tracking, and support for persistence) sound very useful if you’re making apps, but if you’re just using them, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. You will be able to get AR experiences from the web, though. Adobe’s CTO Abhay Parasnis comes out to tell everyone how easy ARDZ is to use.
One thing that end users will get with iOS 12 is the first Apple-made AR app: Measure, a digital tape measure. This sort of app was extremely popular as a proof-of-concept last year, when ARKit was launched, and it seems like Apple has decided that it’s also practically useful to the extent that it’s time to ship it to every user.
The ARKit section ends with Lego’s Martin Sanders showing off an AR experience for a Lego kit, that populates digital characters and virtual models into the real world. Am I being a grumpy old person when I say “does Lego really need an AR experience”? Probably, but I’m pretty sure eight-year-olds will love it.
Some nerdier detail on the performance tweaks: in part, they rely on being able to ramp up CPU performance faster under high load, so that it can be dropped back down sooner, ideally ensuring better performance without impairing battery life.
Federighi opens with a rundown of the major changes that previous iOS updates have brought, noting that Apple changed the game by offering those updates for free – which also helps get them installed widely: 81% of iOS users are on iOS 11, he says, compared to only 6% of Android users on the latest version of that OS.
So what’s the focus of this latest update? “Performance,” Federighi says. And, a big one, “because we want these changes to be available to as many customers as possible, iOS 12 will be available on all devices supported by iOS 11”. That includes the iPhone 5S and up.
On an iPhone 6S, he says, iOS 12 will launch apps up to 40% faster, and open the camera up to 70% faster.
(This looks like it will be the system update Apple critics have asked for for a long time, focused on bug fixes and performance updates rather than shiny but distracting new features.)
“Today is all about software”, Cook says, as we turn to the biggest of Apple’s platforms: iOS. Cook brings Craig Federighi onstage to introduce iOS 12.
Tim Cook arrives
And we’re off! Tim Cook arrives on stage, reeling off stats about the attendees: 6,000 people from 77 countries are in the hall. “Your creativity and hard work have made the App Store the best place to get the very best apps,” Cook says, reminding everyone that the store hits its 10th anniversary next month.
It is an enormous endeavour: half a billion visitors a week, Cook says, with the combined earnings topping $100bn over the store’s lifetime. “The app store is clearly the best place for you to be rewarded for your hard work and creativity”, he says. (Probably a coincidence, but it’s interesting that this is all happening on the day Microsoft announced it was buying developer-darling GitHub. The battle for developers’ hearts and minds never ends.)
The event opens with a (quite funny) riff on Planet Earth: a fake nature documentary on “a mass migration of a peculiar mammal from all corners of the earth to this section of California”.
“These nocturnal creatures must now greet daylight,” Stephen Fry (for it is he) intones, doing his best David Attenborough. “As the doors to the keynote open, a behavioural anomaly can be found: developers, running, at full speed!”
Maybe it’s because I’m halfway through Planet Earth II on Blu-ray now, but this is actually quite sweet. Good job, Apple!
Reading the tea leaves: Apple’s gone for a very App-y theme this year, with attendees filing in to a stage decorated with a big wall of app icons.
Can you recognise any app icons? Does this tell us anything about what we’ll be hearing over the next hour or so? Probably not, but let’s speculate wildly anyway.
Both Instagram and YouTube are there (in the full version), suggesting that Apple’s not quite prepared to stop playing nice with Facebook and Google.
The soundtrack is currently the band Panic! At The Disco, who I think are now just called Panic.
Not much is happening. But it will soon!
What to expect
WWDC is primarily a software-focused event, and Apple will use the opportunity to preview iOS 12, macOS 10.14 and updates to the software that runs in other devices including the Apple Watch and TV, and the Homepod.
We’re expecting a suite of updates to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, the poor quality of which has become an achilles heel that threatened to sink the HomePod on arrival, and has provided ample ammunition to Apple’s competitors like Google and Amazon.
We’re also expecting a set of features built around “digital wellbeing”, with Apple incorporating ideas from the tech community’s “Time Well Spent” movement, nudging you to get off your phone and into the outside world.
There’ll also be some smaller updates, possibly including a few new tricks for Apple’s augmented reality (AR) tools and a “night mode” for macOS.
A few wildcards could also show their head, including the long-rumoured announcement of some sort of merger of iOS and macOS. That could be anything from a full-blown new operating system to some small tweaks to Apple’s Swift programming language, however.
And, while WWDC is primarily about software, there’s normally some small hardware announcements as well. Possibilities this year include a speed bump to the ailing MacBook Air, a rehauled MacBook Pro with a working keyboard, or a first-look at the new Mac Pro (which we know won’t be on sale until 2019).
Today is the first day of Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC for short, or “dubdub” to friends). As ever, the event kicks off with a keynote from chief executive Tim Cook and gang, where we can expect to hear details about forthcoming software updates from the company, new tools to make being an Apple developer easier and more profitable, and maybe a couple of incremental hardware updates.