WWDC 2017: iOS 11, New Macs and HomePod

Well, WWDC 2017 has come and gone and in the moments following the software, hardware and service announcements, everyone is asking the question: Did Apple deliver? I suppose that’s subjective, to a point. There was a time when every other scripted paragraph made developer and fan alike swoon but that time has come and gone. While Apple maintains a lead in almost every category they’re in, and a not-unsubstantial halo effect, the mystique they were known for is no longer around. I suppose that speaks to the quality of the competition and to the wealth of information in the form of leaks that’s readily available, sometimes months in advance. It used to be that Apple would surprise us all the time, and now, we hope to be surprised somewhere amidst the checklist of things we already know when Tim Cook takes the stage. In that way, it’s very similar to movies these days. Trailers, bloggers and fans tell us 40% of what a movie will be about, long before we see it, according to the Bureau of Made Up Statistics. Anyway that was just my little take on things before we get into the meat. Let’s dig in.

The first thing I noticed when the keynote got underway was that Apple was not about the accolade masturbation. At least not as much as usual. Tim Cook said we’re skipping all of that because there was much to talk about. I hope that’s true, but one other explanation is that growth has slowed in so many of the areas they like to fawn over that there just wasn’t enough to merit a segment to that. We’ll see. Apple broke down the keynote into 6 segments of import to cover everything from tvOS to the brand new HomePod.

tvOS

There wasn’t much to see here. Apple told us that there was more information to come later on in the year and given the rumors about building their own catalog of original content as well as having their own subscription TV service, it’s not surprising. Look out for more info regarding Apple TV and TV services toward the fall. They did mention that there were over 50 partners with programming available through the TV app on the Apple TV and by the end of the year we would be seeing Amazon join the fray with Amazon Prime Video.

Apple Watch and watchOS

With Apple’s ecosystem and what remains of their halo effect, there’s substantial brand loyalty. One of the benefits of that is that people will buy your stuff even if they don’t need or want it, really. Then there are those who actually believe in the product and how it could benefit that. Combine them and we have Apple Watch as the number one selling smartwatch “by far”. It’s also number one in customer satisfaction, according to Apple. So what’s new? Not the watch. At least not yet. watchOS 4 IS new, though. With it comes new watch faces including characters from Toy Story with far more animated activity than what we see in the Mickey and Minnie mouse faces. There’s smarter activity coaching, as well as monthly challenges that allow you to compete with yourself in the past. The workout app has a new UI and a couple new modes including Pool Swim and one for High Intensity Interval Training. Music has better integration into the workout app now, so it allows you to change songs from within the app as well as set playlists for different workouts. Bluetooth was also beefed up to allow integration with smaller devices such as glucose level monitoring devices. There’s a new dock that has a “cards” appearance similar to what you find when you’re switch tabs in Safari on iOS. The two biggest take aways? You’ll be able to connect to workout equipment at the gym now. Once that connection is established, the devices share information such as heart rate tracking, incline and speed. The other thing is a new Siri watch face. This basically works like Google Now does. It tries to update the watch face with information in context. Do you normally drive to work at 7 am? Well it’ll show directions at that time. It’ll learn how, when and where you use your device and use that information to offer suggestions to you. The name of the game for the future of Apple, is Siri.

Macs and macOS

 

Safari

The new OS is called High Sierra. There were a couple weed jokes in there, which I’m grateful for. Apparently, Safari is now the world’s fastest desktop browser with High Sierra. It uses Modern JavaScript so it’s 80% faster than Chrome. Autoplay Blocking is coming to Safari so you never have to worry about a video autoplaying when you go to a website. Intelligent Tracking Prevention uses machine learning to identify trackers and block them. 

 

Mail

Mail search will now use spotlight to beef things ups and you can now compose in split view when in full screen mode.

 

Photos

Photos now includes a persistent sidebar, as well as a new dropdown for filtering content. There arenew editing tools, for more advanced editing capabilities. Photos will also sync faces across devices.

There are a lot of technical things going on behind the scenes that the average reader doesn’t really care about, like the names of graphics engines and compression quality, but suffice it to say it will be substantially faster than it is now. It will allow your files to take up less space and graphics will be sweeter.

Available to customers this fall.

iMacs and Macbook Pros

From 9to5Mac.com: “The new hardware includes improved Retina displays, Kaby Lake processors, and upgraded memory and storage options.

The new machines include both USB-A and USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back I/O. Updates are available for the 21.5-inch non-Retina machine as well as the 4K iMac and 5K iMac.

Apple has specifically described the new 27-inch iMac as designed for VR development thanks in part to new GPU upgrades. Included in the presentation is a demonstration of virtual reality gameplay driven by a new iMac paired with a VR headset. The new iMac lineup now starts at $1299 for the 4K model (and $1099 for the updated 21.5-inch model).” That VR demo was nothing to gloss over. It was fantastic. Keep a look out for information regarding that in the coming weeks and months because Apple is looking to make a big splash in that arena. There was something else too. A sneak peek, and shipping at the end of the year, is an iMac Pro. Same design as the 27” iMac, but in space grey. Most powerful mac ever. New fan system so it runs quietly. 8-Core Xeon Processor and up to 18-Cores available. Radeon Vega graphics with up to 11 Teraflops of single precision compute power. Can deliver up to 22 Teraflops of half precision. Configurable up to 128GB ECC memory and up to 4T of 4GB/s SSD, and built in 10GB ethernet. Can drive up to 44 million pixels. Real time 3D rendering and real time 4K audio and video. Comparably specced system without the retina screen and as an all in one would cost $7K. Base spec iMac pro will be $5K. Faster, speedier MacBooks pro as well. All shipping today (except the iMac Pro). As usual, they check all the boxes on the environmental checklist.

iOS

86% of iOS users are on iOS 10, which of course is information used to ridicule the Android base. Troll on, Apple. 

Messages

Redesigned app drawer in iMessage. Nothing to see here really, just Apple trying to find the most efficient GUI for the tray. A big thing coming is that Messages will be coming to iCloud. All messages synchronized across devices even on new sign-in to a new device. 

Apple Pay

Apple Pay #1 contactless payment service in the world. 50% retailers in the US use it. Now they’re giving us P2P payments. It’s an app in messages where you can send and receive money. Goodbye Square Cash app? Time will tell.

Siri

Siri is the big game this year even though they don’t make it seem that way. Phrases like machine learning and dropping Siri hints all around the place let you know that this year Apple wanted to make Siri better, without acknowledging its shortcomings. Siri now has a new, more human sounding voice for both male and female audio, including in different languages. There’s also a new visual interface that allows in-line access to more information. Translation (Beta) is a pretty exciting new feature. Ask Siri how to say something in another language and she does. Siri uses on-device learning to understand context and things you may want to do or know based on how you use the device. 

Camera Software

New camera software aims to make things faster and compress better. Low light photography, HDR and optical image stabilization etc are all coming to portrait mode. Live photos can now be trimmed and edited to select a different frame for the key photo etc. Already a lot to love with your iPhone camera and this will only make things better. 

Control Center

The redesign to control center is full screen and more inline with the transparency look across iOS. Lock screen and notification center are now unified.

Maps

Maps now has lane guidance and airport layouts. 

CarPlay

Do Not Disturb while driving cuts out all notifications. If you receive a message it will auto text that fact and ask them to text “urgent” if its an urgent message. 

HomeKit

HomeKit allows you to configure speakers to do things like multi room audio using the new AirPlay 2. While you’re at home with friends, the shared up-next playlist is a good idea so friends can add to playlists as they play in the home. 

Apple Music

27 million paid apple music subscribers. Apple music will show which of your friends is listening to what music but can be configured to be public or private. 

App Store

The App Store has been completely redesigned. Lots of colors and animations and cards. Today, Games, Apps, Updates and Search are the tabs at the bottom now. In-app purchases are now showcased. 

Augmented Reality

There isn’t much I can say here. I’ll probably update the article with a video once one becomes available, but it was fantastic. It looks on to surfaces and then the magic happens. The demo showed us what developers would be able to do and it was glorious. A game was shown that is being worked on by Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings. Suffice it to say, you will be blown away.

iPad

New 10.5” iPad pro. ProMotion allows refresh rate at 120Hz as opposed to the normal 60hz that everything else runs at. Things like Apple Pencil will be more responsive. Apple claimed the pencil only had 20ms latency. The device can also dynamically adjust refresh rate, so something more intensive will use more than something less intensive. What’s the new chip? The new A10x fusion chip with 6-core CPU and 12-core GPU. It’s a 30% faster CPU and 40% faster GPU than the previous A9X chip. Serif showed a demo that visualized how fast things can be done. Very intensive photography editing was like butter. Of course, the customary 10 hour battery life is greatly appreciated. As for the camera and things of the like, not much has changed. The beefed up internals, plus iOS 11 should make things feel new, but it’s still a 12MP camera with optical image stabilization and all the same stuff from the last one. 7MP FaceTime HD camera for the front. 

The iPad on-screen dock can be filled with a lots of apps including a predictive area where iOS tries to determine what app you want to use. Slideover lets you pull an app out right from the dock and open it where you want it on the screen. The new app switcher is along the lines of the new control center but more like the desktops screen in mac OS. Drag and Drop is coming to iPad too. Drag images into mail or multiple items into different panes or screens. You can flick on the new software keyboard to access what you’d normally need to change keyboard panes for. There’s also a new app called files. It supports iCloud, dropbox one drive and many other locations. Similar to Finder on macOS. Basically, all these services will be in a fancy Finder window that you can access. Lastly there’s Markup. With the pencil, you can markup anything that supports quick view or printing. When you take a screenshot it creates a thumbnail that once pressed will go directly into markup. You can even have Searchable handwriting now. So let’s say you take a note, you can search even the things that you wrote with the pencil. Notes app now has a built in scanner for documents that can also be used with mark up.

Base memory for the models is 64GB. Price point? $649 for 10.5”. 

HomePod

What Apple hopes will be a game changer is the HomePod. They calling, as usual, that it will revolutionize music in the home. HomePod is under 7” tall and covered in a mesh fabric. It basically looks like those foam mic sponges but instead of foam it’s the regular mic head, complete with interwoven metal lines. It comes with a 7 beam-forming tweeter array, 4” woofer upward facing with dynamic modeling, and more. It’s powered by the A8 chip from the current iPhone. According to Apple, it detects the spaces in whatever room it’s in, in order to adjust the audio and make it sound best for that room. Works with an apple music subscription, from the cloud so it knows your playlists etc. It has 6 microphones to hear you when you say “hey Siri”. A waveform will light up on the top to let you know it’s listening. With Home Kit you can ask it to play lullabies in the baby’s room or your exercise playlist in your exercise room. Should work even with loud music playing. It doubles as a home assistant so you can basically do most of the queries you do with Siri on iPhone etc. Weather, traffic, sports, set reminders, texting, control home kit devices like turn off lights etc. It drops in December for $350

 

Stay tuned for more as more info comes along.