Part way through its WWDC 2019 keynote, Apple’s Craig Federighi treated the audience to a screen emblazoned with the legend ‘Nailed it!’ in huge, white letters. If you’re interested in ditching your laptop for an iPad, power-user tweaks to iOS and very powerful, very expensive computers, then you’ll be inclined to agree.
Taking place at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, the two-hour Worldwide Developer Conference keynote saw Tim Cook and fellow executives take to the stage to reveal what is coming next across all its operating systems. When iOS 13 arrives (in beta later in June, otherwise this autumn), iPhone users will get dark mode, performance boosts and upgrades to Siri, Maps and more.
Apple has broken out iPadOS into its own operating system with split-screen windows for the same app and support for thumb drives. Over in watchOS, new features include voice memos, calculator and period tracking in Health. And macOS Catalina is borrowing iOS features such as Screen Time with new TV, Podcasts and Music apps.
We did also see some new Apple hardware in the form of a cheese grater-esque $5,999 Mac Pro and a $4,999 6K Pro Display XDR – both very much aimed at pro-level photo and video editors.
The latest version of iOS will include a dark mode that switches the phone’s colour scheme for hues that are easier on the eye when you’re in a dark location. Apple is hot on the heels of Android here, which introduced a dark theme into its own upcoming OS, Android Q.
Apple has also put a lot of effort into making sure the OS runs faster on its phones. According to the firm, Face ID unlock will run 30 per cent faster and apps will launch twice as fast with iOS 13.
The keyboard has received a long-overdue update in the form of swiping to type. This has been available through third-party apps for a long, long time, but now the option to swipe instead of tap the keyboard will finally be built right into iOS 13 by default.
Although most of the apps are staying the same, Reminders – Apple’s take on the to-do app – is getting a major upgrade. Users can now tag people in reminders and the app will automatically set reminder times by analysing the content of the to-do list.
Maps, too, has had an overhaul. Apple has spent much of the last year re-mapping the US, with much higher resolution maps and images. The latest version of Maps will also allow users to create lists of favourite locations that they will be directed to with one tap. These favourites can also be shared with friends.
As always with Apple, privacy is a big selling point. The latest version of iOS gives users more control over their location-sharing options – they can now opt to share their location with an app just once. The OS will also give users the option to generate a randomised email address for logging into apps, cutting down the amount of personal details users have to give away to developers with possibly dubious security credentials.
Photos is being made smarter, and will automatically delete duplicates and use artificial intelligence to automatically build simple layouts of the photos. Users can choose between day, month or year views of their photos, which will automatically curate photos for them. Every photo will still be available via the ‘all photos’ tab.
Most recent Apple events have seen the company’s upcoming announcements leak – but the company almost got away with it for iPadOS. However, minutes before the WWDC started it the new operating system was spotted.
With iPadOS, Apple has recognised that the tablet needs a modified version of iOS 13 compared to the iPhone. On the home screen the company has moved apps closer together so more can be displayed at once. There’s also the ability to pin widgets to an iPad’s home screen.
Making use of the tablet’s larger screen, there is, at last, the ability to use a split-screen view with the same app open in two windows, and an enhanced version of Safari that allows desktop-style browsing. The company has also significantly updated the Files app, introduced a downloads manager and support for thumb drives being plugged directly into the device. This brings the iPad closer to being a PC replacement than ever before, which is surely the main drive for these improvements.
Latency has been reduced for the Apple Pencil, cut by more than half what it was before, and there are much-needed new swipe gestures for copy and pasting.
The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful desktop computer, aimed at people in video editing or audio recording who need high-end computers for work. The last Mac Pro was released in June 2013, so the line was well overdue an update.
The new 2019 Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful desktop yet. It’ll have an Intel Xeon processor with up to 28 cores, and 1.5 terabytes of system memory. The most expensive models will include the option to stack two Radeon Pro Vega II graphics cards side-by-side, and Apple says will be able to play back three streams of raw 8K footage simultaneously.
Unlike Apple’s standard desktop computers, the Mac Pro comes with a separate tower for its internals. The latest Mac Pro is housed in a sleek aluminium case with stainless steel handles and even optional wheels for easier portability. We wonder how much Apple will charge for those wheels.
The Mac Pro also comes with an all-new screen. It’s a 32-inch LCD display that can squeeze in 20 million pixels, making it a 6K retina display. This makes it Apple’s highest resolution display ever, and the firm has also gone a step beyond high dynamic range, introducing what it calls extreme dynamic range, or XDR.
Mac OS Catalina
The latest version of MacOS will be called Catalina, and the biggest change will be the complete removal of iTunes. The app, which has long been a messy mix of video, music and podcasts will be split into the three standalone apps users already have on iOS: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV.
The simplifying has some knock-on benefits. Syncing with your iPhone will now take place in Finder, and Apple Podcasts has indexed the audio content of podcast episodes, meaning that searches will look beyond titles and descriptions and look right into the audio itself.
People who have a Mac and an iPad will now be able to use that tablet as a second screen through a new feature called Sidecar. Other apps such as Duet have offered the ability to do this for some time, but this is the first time Apple has developed this for iPad. You’ll still be able to use Apple Pencil while Sidecar is being used, too.
Another neat touch is Find My – a souped-up version of Find My iPhone that lets users track their Mac even if it’s asleep. Macs send out a Bluetooth signal to surrounding devices which Find My uses to pinpoint the position of the Mac. Both Mac and iOS are also getting voice control, which lets users control their devices using voice alone.
The last few years have seen the Cupertino company increasingly position the Apple Watch as a health device. The latest updates have seen its ECG tracker roll-out around the world.
With watchOS6 there are even more health and fitness updates. The biggest – for half of the world’s population and a glaring omission to this date – is the introduction of a period tracker. Called Cycle Tracking, the feature, which will also be within the Health app for iPhones, allows women to log their fertility and get notifications for when their periods, or fertile windows, will be. Also, there’s a new noise app will alert users to when the environment around them is too loud. (Similar phone apps have existed for a while).
Aside from health, Apple is introducing the app store to the watch for the first time. Perhaps more significantly the company is also allowing developers to create apps that for the first time don’t need an iPhone nearby. Apple is also bringing its audio books app, calculator and voice memo apps to the device.
HomePod and AirPods
Apple’s HomePod will benefit from a more intelligent Siri that can tell that difference between different voices and personalise responses depending on who’s talking. Audio hand-off will automatically switch audio from an iPhone to a HomePod when the phone is brought close to the device.
There’s also a nifty new feature for AirPod users. People can share audio from their smartphone with another person’s AirPods so they can both listen to the same audio at the same time. Siri will also now have the option to automatically announce messages in your AirPods as soon as they are received and quickly take responses.
Apple announced a redesigned tvOS at a dedicated event back in March, so there are only a few tweaks around the edges rather than a complete overhaul here. The latest version of Apple TV will support multiple users on the same account, like Netflix already does, so each named user can see personalised recommendations.
Apple Music on tvOS has also had an upgrade, with the lyrics now displaying on the screen as the song plays, like Spotify already does. More excitingly, Apple Arcade – the firm’s gaming subscription service – will be compatible with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers, which should make for a more conventional gaming experience.