For the first time since its inception, Apple elected to host an entirely online Worldwide Developers Conference – kicking off a series of webinars and courses with the mainstay event which began on the 22nd of June at 7pm, South African Standard Time.
Living up to expectations, Apple toured a number of new improvements to its software lineup – spanning from iOS found on the iPhone, the AirPods, iPadOS, macOS, and more.
iOS 14 marks an important occasion, where the largest user experience change since iOS 7 will soon hit eligible devices. This time, it’s not the tone nor design of iOS’ classic interface that will change, but instead how Apple’s famous Home screen will work.
Going forward, iOS 14 users will have much to look forward to. Widgets will arrive from iPadOS, and enable users to get quick glances at vital information at-a-glance, and App Library – Apple’s version of Android’s app drawer – will categorise and collate apps into folders, where the most frequently used apps will enjoy pride of place.
Additionally, iOS 14 will benefit from a picture-in-picture mode to enable users to watch video (or listen exclusively to an audio stream) while multitasking, and will further receive a new app called Translate, which will power real-time translation between language pairs.
iOS 14 will include a new – and far more subtle – design for Siri which will no longer take over the entire screen. Siri will further support a roster of new languages, and can now send audio messages to contacts. Speaking of Messages, users will now be able to pin chats, leverage Group settings to access frequently messaged contacts.
Lastly, ‘App Clips’ – Apple’s version of Android’s Instant Apps – can surface information from relevant apps without the need to download an entire app itself. Apple clarified that users could bring up an App Clip using NFC, or through a link in Messages.
AirPods will be receiving new software features, ranging from automatic switching between iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices, and the high-end AirPods Pro will receive a new ‘spatial audio’ will deliver an immersive sound experience.
It wasn’t long ago that Apple forked iPadOS from iOS to issue two distinct (yet complementary) operating systems. This year, iPadOS 14 will deliver user interface tweaks that will feature new drag and drop functions and toolbars reminiscent of macOS’ tools in Photos and Music.
iPadOS 14 will further benefit from iOS 14’s revised Siri interface, and calls will now display in a smaller pane instead of occupying an iPad’s full display.
iPadOS will now accommodate universal search, and, lastly, will benefit from new handwriting support.
watchOS 7 arrives with aplomb as users can now are custom watch faces and access a curated selection of faces on the App Store. The platform will now feature updates to Maps, a ‘Dance’ option for the Workout app, and now the ‘Activity’ iOS app will be renamed Fitness.
In a COVID-19 specific update, watchOS 7 is also capable of monitoring whether a wearer is washing their hands, and can encourage them to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds.
macOS Big Sur was perhaps main event among other proceedings, where Apple unveiled a system-wide redesign that looks highly reminiscent of iOS and iPadOS. Apps now feature the same rounded corners and icons as their mobile counterparts with a refined notification center and control center which can be accessed from the menu bar.
Catalyst – the SDK which enables developers to cross-port their apps between iOS, iPadOS, and macOS – has several new enhancements to empower developers to publish cross-device apps.
Safari, Apple’s browser, touts a large update as well – a built-in Privacy Report indicates how a website is recording a visitor’s information, and can monitor a user’s credentials and issue an alert should their log in details be compromised. Further, users are able to leverage instant page translation, customise their start page, and refine what permissions their browser extensions have.
Though WWDC didn’t deliver on hardware releases, Apple did (finally) confirm going forward that its Mac lineup will soon benefit from its own silicon system-on-chips, in what will be a final shift away from leveraging Intel’s silicon. Apple confirmed that it is designing a family of SoCs for the Mac that will arrive with an architecture in-line with Apple’s other products, such as the iPhone.
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