WWDC 2017: iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and other Software News

Today was Apple’s annual WWDC conference. As expected they had some major… and minor news for their big 4 platforms: macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Let’s take a look at what was announced.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Yes, I’m going go get this out front: yes, Apple made a weed joke about macOS High Sierra being full baked. Its not only mildly funny, its also accurate. Like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion before it, High Sierra’s major changes are under the hood where the end user doesn’t seem them. There are big changes to the file system, graphics, and more.

APFS

High Sierra marks the end of the line for the Hierarchical File System (HFS). It was introduced back in 1985 with the Mac System 2.1. It has been upgraded in the form of HFS+ and has held up surprisingly compared to its contemporary FAT. That said, it wasn’t designed for modern flash based storage. It first saw the light of data with iOS 10 and now is the standard file system for the Mac. I won’t go into the nuts and bolts as file systems aren’t sexy to the end user, but it will be a beneficial change that will hopefully underpin Apple for the next 22 years.

H.265 HEVC

Video files are huge. Not just in terms of popularity, but in terms of file size. H.265 uses compression technology that shrinks down file size by up to 40%. For the end user, that means that streaming 4K uses less bandwidth and less of your data cap for both mobile and broadband connection. It also means that downloaded movies will use up significantly less storage space. Essentially HVEC brings 4K to the masses. Expect to hear more in the next few months.

Metal 2 and VR

Apple’s history with graphics technology has been less than stellar. OpenGL was routinely years behind and poorly implemented. As a result, the Mac suffered on gaming and other graphics intensive programs. Metal was a major step in the right direction. The developers who ported their apps to it say major performance gains over OpenGL. However, too few took advantage. Apple is going all in with Metal 2 and making improvements and optimizations that will improve speed and hopefully make Metal the graphics system for developers going forward.

Metal 2 coincides with the addition of system-level hardware support for two types devices users have been asking for. First, High Sierra will officially support external graphics solutions via Thunderbolt 3. There are no shortage of manufacturers out there making PCIe to Thunderbolt boxes out there and they allow any Mac with Thunderbolt 3 access to even Nvidia and AMD’s most high graphics cards. Also announced was support for VR. Valve SteamVR and HTC Vive are specifically mentioned and VR development tools are coming as well. Apple is also adding a patch to FCPX for VR video output.

Apple is also launching a developer Kit for external graphics which includes a PCI-E chassis and Radeon RX 580 8GB card as well as a USB-C hub for $599. Considering the price of both external enclosures and the RX580 cards, That’s actually a pretty competitive price for what you get.

Everything Else

The system apps are getting some minor changes as well. The biggest and probably most welcome is with the Photos apps which allows editing apps like Pixelmator or Photoshop to launch within Photos and work with your library, There are also minor updates to Safari, Mail, iCloud Drive, and more.

Availability:

Look, we aren’t even going to talk pricing here because you know damn well its a free upgrade. The final version will ship this fall with the public beta launching later in June.

Source: [Apple}(https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/06/macos-high-sierra-delivers-advanced-technologies-for-storage-video-and-graphics/)

iOS 11

iOS is now Apple’s most popular and flagship product. Its also the one with the most growth opportunity as mobile’s not as mature a market as computers. Apple has continued to drop a wealth of new features with iOS 11.

The iPad

There has been talk that the last few years have been iPhone-centric when it comes to the iPad and there is some truth to that. For 2017, the iPac is back in force. The Dock and app switcher have been redesigned to make them more powerful and a lot more like macOS and there’s a new files app that combines iCloud Drive as well as DropBox and other cloud platforms into a system level storage apparatus. Files that were once locked down by iOS are now wide open while still being safe. The Apple Pencil app is now full baked into the OS and Notes are usable from the lock screen. This makes the iPad the paper notebook replacement it was meant to be.

Control Center and Lock Screen

iOS 10 introduced a new 3-pane lock screen giving you Home and Music access without ever having to get into your phone. iOS 11 brings this back to a single pane, but keeps the expanded functionality. It uses 3D Touch to allow users to expand what each pane grouping can do beyond basic controls.. 3D Touch is limited to the 6S and 7-series devices so, for owners of the 6, 5S, and SE, there may be a degraded capability depending on how they handle it. On iPads, they use the expanded screen real estate to get the full functionality.

Notifications and the lock screen are now one and the same and you get the same exact functionality here, complete with widget and camera access no matter if you device is locked or not.

Camera

The biggest changes in Camera with iOS 11 are in file formats. Video now uses the HEVC that was talked about on the Mac. There is a still picture counterpart called the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF). The question with HEIF and HVEC is compatibility with other platforms and services as well as older devices. Live photos get an upgrade allowing for. Loop and Bounce effects to create GIF-like images. You’re also able to now choose any frame within the live photo as the still picture . Lastly, there is a new form of automatic movies called Memories created from similar content on your phone.

ARKit

Just as VR is being integrated into the Mac, ARKit brings system level Augmented reality onto iOS allowing full access to hardware. This allows developers to make a far better AR experience than iOS currently enjoys.

##Siri
Siri was the original system level personal assistant and it keeps a major update for Apple’s platforms this time around. The voices have been overhauled for a more natural and less robotic tone. Like Cortana and Alex, the new Siri employs machine learning to tailor responses based on usage. Unlike the competition, Apple has no design to monetize this and keeps your results secure on device. SiriKit expands the tasks that Siri can perform. The Machine Learning that powers the new Siri is also available to developers in the form of CoreML.

Home and Music.

Home Automation and Music may seem like strange bedfellows, but in iOS 11 they are very much intertwined. Airplay2 integrates into HomeKit and the Home app giving you multi-room audio with Siri support. HomeKit also adds additional device types and functions to the mix and makes it easier for developers to integrate existing devices and get them certified.

Apple Music has new social media functions allowing people to share music. There’s also a new API called MusicKit allow the full power of Apple music in third party applications. There would no longer need any reader to go outside of your workout app or game to access your full AppleMusic catalog. This basically replaces an older and more limited iTunes integration.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay expands person to person in iOS 11. If you want to know how this works, use Vemo or Square Cash because its pretty much the same thing. In fact, the name of the place you receive is called your “Apple Pay Cash Account”, You can use funds added to this account for payment or you can send it back to your bank account. There’s even a Messages widget that automatically determines if you need to pay someone and suggests itself. There is also Siri support.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

This might not be the most popular feature in iOS 11, but I would argue its the most necessary. DND while Driving detects while your in a car through several methods and shuts down your notifications while you drive. The screen even goes black and gives you the option to send an auto message to tell your contacts that you’ll text them back. If you are a passenger, there is a button to say I’m not driving, but please take a hint and don’t use this while driving you’ll be putting somebody else’s life at risk.

App Store and Others

The App Store gets a major makeover based on the design of Apple Music. Apps and Games are now separate panes and its easier to get to in-app purchases for Apps your already have. The App Store for Messages as also had a redesign.

Rounding things out are indoor maps for major shopping centers, airports, and lane guidance. Apple News is now personalized using machine learning. There has also been updates to the keyboard

Availability

As with macOS High Sierra, iOS 11 will be free and ship this fall. There is also a public beta coming at the end of the month.

Source: Apple

watchOS 4

watchOS 4 continues to refine and enhance the Core functions of the Apple Watch. This year’s improvements make it an ever increasingly useful accessory to your iPhone.

Fitness and Health

The biggest improvements in watchOS 4 have to do with health and fitness. Chiefly is communication with outside devices. Introduced with the new OS is GymKit which uses the NFC to pair and provide two-way communication with exercise equipment computers. The equipment gets your Apple Watches’s sensors and the Watch gets the data from the equipment allowing for a single dataset. Apple already has support from several major exercise equipment companies. There is also enhanced compatibility with connected health devices, like continuous glucose meters.

The Workout and Activity apps have received upgrades to better switch between workouts on a single session. The Activity App also has personalized goal messages very reminiscent of the fitness app Human.

Watch Faces and Siri

The biggest news about watch faces is what watchOS still does not have: any ability to add third-party faces. For a device that is supposed to be highly personalized, the lack of a FaceKit seems out of place. If you want something different, you’re stuck with Nike or Hermes editions.

For the faces that we actually have to choose from, there are three new types. The most interesting one is the proactive Siri Face that uses the same machine learning as on iOS 11 to constantly update you with relevant data. You automatically get reminds, calendar events, location/ time specific items like boarding passes, traffic info, or HomeKit scenes. If that’s not your scenes, there are Toy Story themed character faces in the form of Woody, Buzz, and Jessie. There’s also a colorful kaleidoscope face. All faces get new access to complications for Now Playing and Apple News

Availability

watchOS 4 comes will come out later in 2011. Unlike iOS and macOS, there will not be a public beta.

Source: Apple

tvOS

There is a reason tvOS is last. It was basically a giant IOU. Apple announced two things: That Amazon was thankfully and finally releasing their Prime Video platform on tv and that sometime later, presumably in the fall, they would be talking about tvOS. That would presumably come with new hardware. Until then, it’s business as usual.

WWDC 2015: Everything Announced

Apple’s WWDC 2015 keynote has came in went.  It was very evolutionary in word, but that’s not a bad thing after some major changes in both OS X and iOS.  In many ways, it was very similar to Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion where they took what they had and made it better.  WWDC also marked the introduction of WatchOS as a native development platform.  This year’s WWDC was a pure developer’s conference devoid of any hardware announcements.  Apple ended the day debuting Apple Music, the subscription service born out of the Beats Acquisition.

Apple TV or the Lack Thereof

Given the shape of the invitation, I hoped for AppleTV as a development platform along with a new version of the streaming device.  It was not to be as the AppleTV got nary a mention.  Whether the device was bumped last minute as Brian X. Chen’s source said or they just didn’t put any extra effort into the device, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we’re stuck with what we have for the time being.  That’ll only change when and if Apple announces something.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Sorry for the bad pun, but Apple is once again climbing the mountain with OS X 10.11 El Capitan.  Its named after a monolith peak in Yosemite park.  El Capitan takes what they were doing with OS X Yosemite and brings some new features.  Some of these are borrowed from iOS while others gain inspiration from competing platforms.  El Captain has a lot of under the hood tweaks to make the OS faster.

El Capitan features a redesigned version of Mission Control that makes it easy to add apps to their own desktop by simply dragging them to the top right of the screen.  A subset of this is Split View allowing you to easily drag two apps unto the screen and let them share screen real estate.  If this seems familiar, Windows has done something since Windows 7.  However, Windows 10 added something very close to mission control, so its all fair.  In the not very flashy, but useful category, the curse will supersize when you wake up your Mac to make it easier to find.  Safari adds a really cool feature called pinned tabs and allow you easily find and mute tabbed audio.  Mail adds swipe support from iOS plus natural language support not just in Spotlight, but systemwide.  Photos now works with extensions similar to the ones on iOS.  Lastly, Notes has been given a major update to make it a little closer to One Note or Evernote.  Mostly tweaks, but useful tweaks.

Like I said, most of El Capitan is under the hood with speed gains of 1.4 to 4x depending on the process.  Nowhere is that more evident with Metal coming over from iOS to take the spot currently held by OpenGL and OpenCL.  Apple’s implementations of these have been less than ideal, so Metal is very welcome.  Metal takes out most of the overhead in found in OpenGL and OpenCL and gives a  lot more access to the GPU itself.  Hence, the name taking it down to bare metal.  It also allows the GPU to work better with the system’s CPU  This should give some hefty improvements in Mac graphics performance in both gaming and professional applications like AutoCAD or Maya.  If you’re not excited, you should be.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan will ship this fall, but a public beta will be program will launch in July.

iOS 9

iOS 9 is Siri’s big coming out party.  With proactive search and for the first time an API for third parties, Siri can do a whole lot more.  Proactive search gives it access to your past and likely search results.  if this sounds familiar, it’s a lot like what Google Now and Cortana do.  Siri will learn your preferences and give you suggestions and if you ask it to save something for later it’ll remember.  Proactive will automatically launch certain tasks like bringing up music if you plug in headphones.  It seems to be what we all hoped Siri would be a couple years back.

iOS 9 is great for mobile users with a new lower mode to keep you holding if you start to run low.  It also has tweaks to improve battery life in general.  Apple says up to an hour.  Homekit has been enhanced with support for security systems, additional sensor types, and motorized blinds.  HelathKit has some new measurements like support for reproductive health sensors and UV exposure.  There’s also general speed improvements similar to OS X.  Gaming gets three new APIs GamePlayKit, Model I/O, and ReplayKit for exporting your video to Twitch like services.  For developers, the Swift 2 programming language has been made open source

Most of the apps have modest feature gains, but Notes gets everything that its OS X cousin gained plus drawing support.  News Stand may or may not be replaced with an app called news.  Its a lot like Pulse.  It takes print articles like you’d see in a reading app and adds in video and audio support.  I have my reservations, but I’ll give it a shot.  For Android switchers, there’s a Move to iOS app to transfer your data from your Android device.  It also helps to find iOS versions of all your Android apps.

The biggest changes in iOS 9 come for the iPad which gains additional capability compared to iPhones.  The new split screen multitasking is very similar to what you’ll see in some Android and Windows Tablets.  As part of that, there’s picture in picture for video.  You no longer have to stop watching your movie or stop your Facetime call to check sometime on your iPad.  There’s also a slightly redesigned keyboard.  It hasn’t changed much visually, but there’s a two-finger drag that adds as a cursor.  There’s also improvements for physical keyboard support.

Like El-Captian, iOS 9 will ship in the fall with a public beta in July.

Apple Pay and Wallet

Since its debut last fall, Apple Pay has brought mobile NFC payments to a level not seen before in the US with 2500 different banks and nearly 1 million retail locations with many more coming this year.  Apple Pay has been compatible with Visa, MasterCard, and American express, but is also adding the fourth major U.S. credit card issuer Discover in the fall.  They’re not standing pat.  With iOS 9, Apple Pay adds proprietary store credit and debit cards to the mix.  If you have a JC Penney or Kohls card, you’ll be able to use it in the fall.  I have my fingers crossed for Target’s Red Card.  Apple Pay is also going to integrate with store loyalty programs in stores like Walgreens, Dunkin Donuts, and even Delta Airlines.  These are run through the app current known as Passbook which is being rechristened as Wallet.

Apple Pay is expanding outside the US for the first time to the UK in July.  Apple Pay will be offered by 8 of the leading British banks and in 250,000 retail locations.  For those in London town, their public transit system will allow you to pay with your iPhone.

For anyone who wants to use Apple Pay and doesn’t have a quite have the need for a full Point of Sale system, Apple announced that it was working with Square on a new wireless Square Reader that supports not only NFC payments including Apple Pay, but also traditional magnetic stripe cards and EMV chip cards.  The new reader is $49.99, but its price is refundable by transactions within the first month.  Apple (and Android) Pay will literally be almost everywhere this fall.

Car Play

CarPlay has two big, but somewhat understated improvements.  First, it gains bluetooth connectivity.  That means you can keep your phone in your pocket or wherever else you want it.  It also means you might not have to channel a lightning cable from where you dock your iPhone to your head.  For aftermarket heads, this could make installation a lot cheaper.  It also adds support for more screen sizes than it previously had.

CarPlay also has much greater integration with your car itself.  Your physical knobs can be used to control functions in CarPlay.  There’s options also options for car manufacturers to build their own apps to control car functions.  You may never have to leave CarPlay in the not too distant future.

Maps

This version of Maps might be the big update we’ve waited for.  First it finally adds support for mass transit support, albeit in a very limited number of cities.  In the North America, there are map directions for NYC, San Francisco, DC, Baltimore, Toronto, and Mexico City.  In Europe, there’s only London and Berlin.  In China, the transit is… a lot better than everywhere else.  I’m hoping there’s an easy way for mass transit agencies to add their routes (like in Google maps) so this expands rapidly.  Support in 4 cities really isn’t support.

One feature that will effect everyone is nearby.  It allows you to quickly find food, attractions, shops, and even grocery stores.  Entries for these retailers will let you know not only the information, but whether they support Apple Pay.

These features will not only show up on iOS, but on the Mac and Apple Watch as well.  There was no mentioned of a rumored iCloud version of Maps during the keynote.

WatchOS 2.0

The Apple Watch was just released and still isn’t quite available in stores due the large about of pre-orders, but there was no time like the present to talk about its future.  Watch OS 2 will bring native development to the watch which should speed things up considerably.  Developers will have access to just about everything in the Apple Watch including watch face complications, the taptic feedback engine, digital crown, the mic, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and so on.  The original version of WatchKit allowed devs to quickly create apps, the version with WatchOS 2 allows them to make something more substantial.

The changes just aren’t for developers.  There’s time-lapse watch faces of New York, Shanghai, and London that change the picture with the time.  Third-party fitness apps will now count towards your goals and Siri commands can now trigger the start of workouts.  Siri can trigger glances and write voice replys to emails.  There was some discussion about how easy the Apple Watch would be to steal and that is put to rest with an AppleID tied activation lock.  You can have multiple friends lists now and there’s color controls for the emoji.  There’s even an alarm lock mode for when its docked on your nightstand.  It also integrates the changes in Maps and Apple Pay.
WatchOS 2 will ship this fall.

Apple Music

Two years back, Apple took on Pandora with iTunes Radio.  The results have been mixed at best.  Not just because the service has a few issues, but because another service came along more consistent with what consumers wanted, Spotify.  Spotify is now a cross-platform force that many users are using to stream music because its all you can eat nature.

Apple Music may have been the real reason that Apple bought Beats, not the headphones.  Jimmy Iovine was the president of Interscope records in his past life and brings valuable knowledge and connections in the recording industry.  Beats also brought musicians into the fold with Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor.

Beats music consists of three parts.  First the subscription music service.  You can access not only songs in your account, anywhere, but the entire iTunes library of over 30 million songs.  Its not just the US, Apple Music is launching in over 100 countries.  Its basically Apple’s version of Spotify except for the free ad-supported version, but it has the ace in the hole of expertly curated playlists.

The second part is radio.  Apple has an actual radio station now.  Beats 1 has hired known DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga to stream from LA, NYC, and London the “best” music out there 24/7.  It’ll also offer other content just like a true radio station.  In addition to Beats 1, there will be new radio stations, also expertly curated, based on genre.  This will effectively replace iTunes Radio

The last is Connect.  Its kind of a blog/ social media apparatus for artists.  It offers exclusive access and content, though I don’t see it offering much that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram don’t already give you.  Time will tell if its a useful tool for artists or Ping 2.0.

Apple Music will launch June 30th and cost $9.99 a month for an individual subscription or $14.99 for a family.  Like iTunes Radio before it, Apple Music will live inside the Music app for iOS and the iTunes Apps for Mac and Windows.  It’ll come to AppleTV and Android in the fall.

Source: Apple
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