It barely seems like a year has gone by since the last time Apple rolled out its big WWDC extravaganza, but it is. This year’s event – like the 26 that preceded it – promised to excite and infuriate in equal measure, as thousands of attendees descended on the Worldwide Developers Conference 2016.
While occasionally infuriating, we found the announcements pretty exciting for the most part! Here are some of our highlights.
Another year, another operating system refresh for Apple’s mobile devices. The tenth incarnation of the iOS platform is looking pretty good indeed, and a raft of applications have received major revamps ahead of its imminent launch.
Apple Music, for example, now boasts a far more intuitive user interface and the iTunes features which have been missing from recent versions have returned. Meanwhile, Apple News now has a subscription function to bring together all of the user’s media subscriptions in one handy app.
Apple Maps is also more interactive, enabling more effective searches for facilities near you. It will also synchronise with Calendar to keep you abreast of the places you need to be. HomeKit is far more functional as well and now supports remote operation of a range of different appliances in the home.
But arguably the most exciting announcement that Apple has made regarding iOS 10 is not about the revamped apps it provides to users but about the opportunities it is delivering to developers. Previously, iOS applications were closed off to external developers, which undoubtedly had negative implications for the masses of people actually using them. With the launch of the new operating system, developers now have unprecedented access to the platform. A whole new generation of exciting applications and functions could be just around the corner.
The Cupertino tech giants aren’t fond of lagging behind their competition, yet recently they have been doing just that, in one area at least. Chat applications from rivals like Facebook and Google have repeatedly denied Apple a place at the top table in this particular field, something that may be changing in the near future.
Messages is one of the applications that will be opened up to developers as Apple works hard to make up ground on some of its competitors. A whole host of new features will be rolled out within the app, greatly boosting its functionality. These include voice message transcription, improved animation, different fonts and ‘invisible ink’ message options.
Of course, this is just the beginning for Messages. Now that the application has been opened up to developers, the sky is the limit in terms of the functionality and convenience it can offer to users. Next on the agenda will be a function which allows users to send money or make payments using the app as Apple attempts to reposition itself at the top of the chat app tree.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the biggest news from WWDC 2016 with regard to Macs was the rebranding of OS X to the snappier macOS. However, we would disagree. For us, more exciting was the announcement that the new operating system for Macs would finally support full Siri integration, enabling voice search, activation and dialling services on the device.
This represents the final frontier for Siri and Apple products. Until now, Apple Mac had been lagging behind iPad and iPhone, both of which have been compatible with Siri for years; now things have changed.
The extension of Siri to Mac devices is unsurprising given what Windows has been doing recently with their own voice activation and intuitive search functions. Cortana was launched with Windows 10, and has proved itself a handy companion to standard desktop and laptop usage and it seems the pros at Apple are in no mood to get left behind on this front; news which will be warmly received by users.
However, this is not to say that the new macOS Sierra platform is not an impressive feat itself. The system will unify Apple devices even further by enabling iCloud integration between a range of different Apple products. Need to work collaboratively across devices? Features like Universal Clipboard should have you covered. Need quick and secure access to your Mac? Integration with Apple Watch’s Auto Unlock can provide that.
Other updates included optimised video playback, allowing the user to browse other things on their device while still watching the playback, and increased Apple Pay integration. The macOS platform will support collaborative Apple Pay use across a number of different devices and applications, including the TouchID function on your iPhone or your Apple Watch, making using the money-management app far more convenient without compromising on its security.
Upon upgrading your existing operating system for macOS, your stored files will automatically be backed up within iCloud, with any duplicates or unnecessary caches and logs erased. Apple have already sent major signals about their intent to unify the experience for Apple customers. They'll achieve this by ensuring secure file backups, easy collaboration, and seamless integration. This new OS for Mac devices is a big step towards realising this.
Apple TV is nothing new; the little set-top box has been around since 2007 and has undergone four makeovers in those nine years. The 4th gen model was released back in October 2015, and represented something of a leap forward in terms of functionality. In order to achieve this leap, Apple created a whole new operating system for the device – tvOS – and this is where one or two problems began to arise.
In truth, tvOS is far from perfect, which is why the news that Apple been focusing their efforts on developing it is most welcome. This is the kind of attention that is usually lavished on a new iPhone device, so for that we are grateful.
Upon the release of tvOS last year, Tim Cook made it clear that the future of television is all about apps. With that in mind, we are pleased to learn that the new tvOS will feature Single Sign-On, which does exactly what it says on the tin and makes it far less frustrating to actually use apps on tvOS. There is also a handy Apple TV remote app for the iPhone, and increased customisation capabilities for Apple TV itself, allowing for a much more pleasant user interface.
However it wasn’t all good news from Apple regarding their TV platforms and products. No mention was made of the rumoured Amazon’s tvOS app, which would give subscribers access to the platform’s services. Nor was there any discussion about Apple launching its own online TV services in the future – the way that some of its competitors like Sony and Sling have. I guess we will be waiting a little longer for news on this one.
It was operating system revamps galore at WWDC 2016, so it is only fair that watchOS got in on the action too. The Apple Watch operating system has been criticised for its lack of functionality, but it appears that Tim Cook and the team are serious about turning it into a fully-fledged OS.
Served up first is an interesting looking texting feature on the Apple Watch, known as Scribble. As you may have guessed, Scribble interprets lines traced upon the Apple Watch’s touch screen and converts them into text characters. While this isn’t a particularly groundbreaking function – after all, devices have been able to do this since the 1990s – it is a useful addition to the Apple Watch nonetheless.
Add to this an improved shortcuts feature and accelerated loading times for applications, and you have an operating system which is gradually developing and evolving before our eyes. The watchOS may not yet be where we want it to be, but Apple are making sure that is getting there.
What announcement got you the most excited at this year’s conference? Anything you think we missed? Don’t forget to let us know