Apple WWDC20 Roundup: iOS 14 resembles Android, Macs transition to Apple silicon & watchOS gets sleep tracking
Here's our comprehensive guide to Apple's WWDC Keynote presentation. Read to know all about the future of Mac computers, iOS looking more like Android and what updates are iPads and Apple Watches getting.
Apple's annual worldwide developer's conference this year was unique before it even began. It's the first time Apple streamed a major event exclusively online with no developers or journalists flocking to the glorious Apple park in Cupertino, California. However, the weight of the announcements made at the WWDC20 Keynote made it very special in terms of telling consumers and developers where Apple is headed.
In essentially what was a pre-recorded presentation, Apple maintained its reputation for hosting the sleekest tech events, but cut down its dependence on live audience and replaced it with wild, over-the-top but cool transitions, using a drone.
Dousing the rumour-fire, Apple did not announce any new hardware, including the hotly anticipated AirPods Studio. But confirming another major rumour, Apple finally announced its move from Intel processors to its own custom-made silicon for Mac computers. While introducing it, Apple CEO Tim Cook said this is move from Intel to Apple chips is the biggest shift in Mac history since it moved from PowerPC to Intel x86 chips in June 2005.
Apart from tectonic shifts in the Mac side of things, other key players in Apple's revered (or hated, depending on idelogy) Ecosystem, like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Home and even AirPods -- all recieved minor to major updates in the software department.
Let's have a look at all the highlights from Apple WWDC20:
"A truly historic day for the Mac. Mac has had three major transitions in its history: the move to PowerPC, the transition to Mac OSX and the move to Intel. And now it's time for a huge leap forward for the Mac.Today we're announcing that the Mac is transitioning to our own Apple silicon."
-Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
The biggest party of WWDC was held in an Apple lab at an "undisclosed location" where Johny Srouji, the SVP of Hardware technologies, highlighted what made it possible for Apple to finally transition from Intel chips to silicon of its own design, based on the ARM architecture. This move means that in future Apple will have complete control over its hardware and software, cutting its dependence on Intel's erratic schedule and average performance of its chips.
But of course there pros and cons of this huge shift. In the event, Apple said that it estimates a two-year transition period for the complete shift Intel silicon to its in-house custom silicon and that it has some Intel-based Macs in its pipeline. It also announced that it will ship its first ARM Mac before the end of the year, so Apple isn’t moving exclusively to ARM-based Macs just yet.
The plus side is that, Apple can now bring its extremely powerful and power-efficient chips to Mac, potentially replicating its success in iPad Pros, which can run circles around a lot of Intel-Windows PCs. Apple is set to bring industry leading performance and performance-by-watt with its custom silicon. Apple’s chips will combine custom CPU, GPU, SSD controller and many other components. The Apple silicon will also include the Neural Engine for machine learning applications.
The biggest addition this move to ARM-powered chips brings is the ability for iOS and iPadOS apps to run natively on macOS in the future. “Most apps will just work,” says Apple, meaning you’ll be able to run native macOS apps alongside native iOS apps side by side for the first time.
Apple is promising new levels of performance and far less power consumption with its move to in-house processors. Apple is designing its own range of SoC for Macs, with features unique to Mac. The common ARM-based architecture across Apple’s products should now make it easier for developers to write and optimize apps across every major Apple device.
On the other hand, it means that the developers now face a choice between optimising their apps for Intel-based Macs or create new apps for the ARM-based Macs - which can lead to some fragmentation in near future. To smoothen out this process of transition, Apple also announced one of its biggest software updates to Mac OS - Big Sur.
With Big Sur, Apple finally put an end to macOS X or 10 and embraced the futuristic macOS 11. The biggest change is the new look. Big Sur brings the biggest redesign since the introduction of macOS 10, according to Apple. The new operating system borrows a number of elements from Apple’s iOS, including a customizable Control Center, where you can toggle brightness, Do Not Disturb, and other settings of your choice; and a new notification center, which keeps all of your notifications and widgets (also redesigned, and available in the App Store) in one column, sorts alerts by most recent, and groups related notifications together. Both interfaces are translucent, like their iOS counterparts.
The menu bar is now taller and more translucent, the interface’s font color changes based on the color of your desktop background, and pull-down menus are larger with more space between lines. You can pin the items you use the most to the top of the menu bar. Windows are also more translucent, with more rounded edges. Safari, Apple's native browser too, got a major facelift and added security features in what Apple called, "the biggest update to Safari since its launch."
Apple's move to custom chips and the introduction of macOS Big Sur are its two pivots to give Mac a much-needed refresh in terms of both software and hardware. While Apple said major companies like Microsoft and Adobe are working on making apps for Apple silicon-based Macs and promised most major apps will be there at launch, it also means that a lot of developers have to work extra hard by transitioning existing apps to Apple’s own silicon.
The ARM move also means those having existing Intel-based Macs can't be sure about how long they're going to recieve software updates, already promting calls to boycott the new custom silicon-based Macs.
However, Apple introduced a slew of softwares and developer tools to make this transition smooth which include Xcode, Universal 2 binary code that works on both and Rosetta 2 for emulating apps that have not been updated for Apple silicon.
No revolutionary hardware changes were announced for Apple's most popular product, but iOS 14 is set to bring a lot of fundamental changes to the way we interact with our iPhones. It seems like Apple has been listening to the community closely and has implemented some of the major demands users have been making for years.
With iOS 14, you can finally have default Email and Web Browser of your choice. Though not elaborated upon by executives, the much-demanded feature popped up on the screen higlighting the changes made on iOS 14.
Also with iOS 14, Apple completely ditched full-screen takeover by apps like Phone, Siri or Skype. This means that an unwelcome incoming call can longer stop you from doing whatever you were doing on your phone. Incoming phone calls and FaceTime calls will now appear with a less obtrusive new pop-up, instead of taking over the entire screen.
Siri also has a new view: instead of taking over your whole screen when you activate the digital assistant, there’s just a small overlay at the bottom of the display of the animated Siri icon. There are also new features: Siri can now send audio messages in addition to just dictated messages.
But the most notable change in iOS 14 would be how we organise our apps and stack the widgets. Taking design cue from WatchOS, now Widgets come in a variety of sizes and they can be added to the main Home screen right alongside your apps. To add them, there’s a new “widget gallery” where users can easily add and customize widgets. There’s also a new “Smart Stack” widget that automatically shows relevant apps based on the time of day.
Apple also announced a new “App Library” view that automatically organizes apps into groups and lists. Thanks to that new App Library view, users can now hide app pages (by going into "jiggle mode") on their “main” home screen. It looks pretty similar to Android’s app drawer, but with some additional smart grouping features — like automatically pulling out all your Apple Arcade games into one batch.
Apple finally brought picture-in-picture video to iOS after its massive popularity on iPadOS. Which means that your favourite series on Netflix or Prime Video can play in a box while you may take notes or type out a message. Hurray to customer demands!
Apple is also launching a new “App Clip” feature, which are speedy, card-based snippets of apps that let you access small parts of apps when you need them without requiring users to install a full app. Meaning you can quickly download an App Clip which is less than 10 MB and get your job done without having to download an app or going through signing in. App Clips support Sign In With Apple to avoid having to make new accounts, can be accessed again through the new App Library, and work with Apple Pay.
Apple also announced a new Translate app that will be built into iOS, which — much like Google Translate — will allow users to easily translate between languages. Users will be able to enter text in or dictate messages and have them translated into 11 languages. English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese,Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian will all be supported at launch.
In a sneaky way, Apple has also introduced a new Back Tap feature in Accessibility settings and with this you can an perform quick system/custom actions by double- or triple-tapping the back of your iPhone.It is even supposed to work with a case on.
iOS 14 has a new Back Tap feature in Accessibility and it's wild. You can perform quick actions by double- or triple-tapping the *back of your iPhone*. Literally quick taps on the back; works with a case on.— Federico Viticci (@viticci) June 23, 2020
These include system actions as well as custom shortcuts. pic.twitter.com/87uJU9qAtu
There are tonnes of other features that are going drop with iOS 14. Find them all out here.
The iPadOS is going to get almost all the updates iOS is getting, like Widgets. Though it is not clear yet if you can bring those out of the today view and into the home screen, like you can on iPhone.
Blurring the lines between an iPad and a traditional PC further, Apple is bringing a new sidebar inside apps which will make it much easier to navigate apps without touching the screen. The new version of the OS also brings search on iPad, and it looks almost exactly like Spotlight on macOS. It can help you find contacts, search on the web, or serve as a Launchpad-like function to launch apps.
But the OG of the iPadOS changes is this feature called Scribble, which takes full advantage of the Apple Pencil. Scribble allows you to write in any text field with the Apple Pencil, then it will be automatically converted to text. The feature can automatically detect the context of the information you write, like a phone number or address, then direct you to the correct app when it’s tapped.
It can also intelligently fix the shapes of your figures in case you're doodling and couldn't draw that perfect polygon.
Sleep Tracking IS FINALLY ON THE APPLE WATCH.
Sleep tracking is perhaps one of the most requested features since the Apple Watch was first introduced back in 2015. Apple says the native sleep tracking feature will let you set a bedtime and wake-up alarm, using the existing Apple Watch vibration alarm. In the presentation, Apple said that it will keep track of your sleep and bodily activities using its censors and then use machine learning to analyse that data. The companion app on iPhone doesn’t require an Apple Watch to use, but your metrics will likely be a little more in-depth with one.
With watchOS 7, you can now create custom and more complex watch faces and also share them with your contacts through a feature called Face Swapping. Gone are the days when you're stuck with limited watch faces and now you can even download watch faces from websites.
Apple is also introducing a new workout app which track a range of dance movements by using Apple Watch's gyroscope and accelerometer, along with heart rate data.
But the most "important" feature of watchOS 7 is perhaps is automatic handwash detection feature. In today's world hand-washing has become extremely important to stop the spread of an illness like COVID-19, so Apple Watch using its motion sensors, microphone, and on-device machine learning, can automatically detect handwashing motions and sounds. It then initiates a 20-second countdown timer, and if the user finishes early, they will be prompted to keep washing. Apple Watch can also conveniently remind the user to wash their hands when they return home.
One of the biggest expectations from WWDC20 was the announcement of AirPods Studio - a full-fledged headphone delivering industry-leading sound quality while retaining the ease and magic of AirPods. Sadly, Apple didn't announce any new AirPods, but did introduce a new feature for the AirPods Pro.
Apple is utilizing the accelerometer in the AirPods Pro to provide spatial audio that tracks your head (and your device’s) location. Spatial audio should provide a more immersive sound experience by making you feel like you’re inside of the audio mix.
AirPods second generation and AirPods Pro both get a software update to let them connect automatically to whichever paired device starts playing audio. You’ll no longer need to manually select which source you want to connect to.
Get a full recap of the WWDC Keynote here: