Apple held its first ever fully digital World Wide Developer Conference on 22 June announcing a range of new features and changes coming to devices this year. WWDC took on a very different format this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. The keynote is usually a live event attended by 5,000 visitors at Apple’s San Jose Convention Center, however, it was delivered in a fully digital format to watch at home.
Apple’s decision to move the presentation online certainly did not disappoint and was welcomed after Facebook and Google cancelled their developer events earlier in May. The keynote was a fast-paced presentation by the usual key speakers, featuring practical demonstrations and some spectacular drone shots which took viewers all around the Apple Park. Here is a breakdown of the major new software updates Apple fans can get excited for this year.
The most customisable iOS experience yet
Apple kicked off its keynote with iOS 14, the biggest home screen update yet, transforming even the most iconic elements of the iPhone experience. It seems like Apple has finally listened to its fans who have been looking forward to a fresh iPhone look for years. Users can now drag widgets directly next to apps on the homescreen instead of having to swipe over to the dedicated widget screen. These widgets are resizable, can be grouped together, and provide information such as weather, appointments and notes at a glance.
To further break up the endless rows of Apps, iOS 14 introduces an App Library which provides a page with folders for all apps on the device. Along with the ability to hide certain home screen pages, this finally gives users the ability to significantly declutter their home screens. The App Library automatically organises apps into different categories like ‘Social’ and ‘Entertainment’ so users can find them easily.
iOS 14 is less intrusive by minimising call notifications so that they no longer take up the whole screen. The Siri interface is also completely redesigned and will now respond to users using a drop down box similar to notifications. In line with this new compact design language, iOS 14 comes with picture-in-picture support which allows users to continue watching a video while using another app.
The Apple Maps app was a major focus in this year’s WWDC. It now features greener ways to explore cities, with dedicated cycling directions which take into account elevation, how busy a street is and whether there are stairs along the route. The app also shows electric vehicle routing as well as charging stops along the way. Other improvements in iOS 14 include a new Translate app and more privacy settings for individual apps. For example, iPhones running iOS 14 will alert users every time an app is accessing the camera with a green light in the status bar and an orange light when an app accesses the microphone.
iOS 14 will come to all iPhones since the iPhone 6S and is expected to be released later this autumn.
Working more efficiently with iPadOS 14
Alongside the new design changes shown in iOS14, the newest version of iPadOS embraces the iPad’s note taking capabilities. New Apple Pencil features such as Scribble for iPad deliver a whole new way to take handwritten notes on the device. The iPad will now convert these notes directly into typed text, making actions like replying to messages or searching the internet fast and easy. Shape recognition also enhances shapes drawn by users and snaps them right in place when adding illustrations in the Notes app.
Search on iPad has been rebuilt in this latest iPadOS version. Becoming smarter and more similar to the Mac’s Spotlight Search, it has become the one place to quickly find anything. From apps and contacts to files and web searches, Search presents results in an overlay so users do not have to leave the app they are in. Redesigned sidebars across Apple’s stock apps like Photos, Notes and Calendar are also introduced to streamline navigation while keeping content front and centre.
The final version of iPadOS 14 is expected to be released later this autumn.
macOS Big Sure: “biggest design update in more than a decade”
A new modern and clean look along with huge updates to Safari, Messages and Maps make this version of macOS the “biggest design update in more than a decade”, says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software engineering. Indeed, macOS Big Sure continues Apple’s focus on the visuals with a brand new control centre which seems to be inspired by previous versions of iOS. The control centre now has toggles and sliders which can be used to control Wi-Fi, brightness, sound, music and more. Notifications are more interactive than before and redesigned widgets now also come in different sizes. Additionally, icons in the dock have been redesigned and controls automatically appear when needed.
Safari received its biggest update on macOS to date with a big focus on privacy and speed. Users can now customise their start page and easily translate entire webpages in real time. The updated browser blocks ad-trackers on the internet and provides detailed privacy reports. Safari places more emphasis on controlling which websites browser extensions can work with and what data they can access. Redesigned rounded tabs provide easier navigation and complete the overall fresh look for Apple’s own browser.
The final version of macOS Big Sur is expected to come to Macs later this autumn.
Automatic handwashing detection and sleep tracking in watchOS 7
Last but not least, Apple’s smartwatches will also receive new personalisation, health and fitness features. The new version of watchOS builds on the new features announced before. It will give users updated cycling routes and Siri now offers translation. Personalisation is taken to a new level with shareable and discoverable watch face configurations, giving users more control over how their watch looks.
In line with current advice to wash your hands more often, the Apple Watch will soon use its motion sensors, microphone and on-device machine learning to help its user wash properly. When it detects handwashing, the watch will initiate a 20-second countdown timer and if the user finishes washing early, it will prompt them to keep washing. The watch can also remind users to wash their hands when they return home.
Sleep tracking will also come to Apple Watches, giving users an overview of how much sleep they are getting. Much like other sleep tracking apps on other smartwatches, the Apple Watch detects when the wearer is asleep and shows weekly trends through an app. It will also sync with other Apple devices in Wind Down mode to set up a specific scene with other smart home devices to help users get to sleep. When it comes to waking up, the Apple Watch has the option of a silent haptic alarm which will avoid disturbance to others.
watchOS 7 will be fully released this autumn for Apple Watch Series 3 to Series 5 paired with iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14.