Apple WWDC 2016 Recap: watchOS, iOS, tvOS, & macOS
Henry is currently attending Apple's WWDC this week in San Francisco with our co-bloggers Pablo Bartolome, Andre Bocchini, Robert Palmbos, Robbie Plankenhorn.
This year marks Apple’s 27th WWDC conference, and there was a lot of excitement at yesterday's keynote around the new features being presented for Apple's four major platforms: watchOS, iOS, tvOS, & macOS. Apple flexed it’s muscle on all four of these, and the common theme as it would be expected, is “improving people’s lives with great products”. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights around each of these.
Apple’s mantra for watchOS 3 was Glanceable, Actionable and Responsive. They have made apps so much more responsive with new watchOS 3 instant launch and demonstrated how you can make Watch Apps more responsive with its background refresh capabilities. The dock has the capability to show live apps. The scribble feature got a lot of applause on how you can now message your contacts with just writing in your characters in the reply. What was even more powerful is when they demonstrated how it recognized Chinese characters.
watchOS 3 also comes with new apps such as SOS, for alerting your contacts in the state of an emergency or quickly dialing 911, and Breathe, an app that lets you calm your mind and relax your body with breathing exercises. These simple applications serve as a great model for watchOS developers on how to build a very rich and unique application on the platform that brings value to the user.
Furthermore Apple introduced several new SDKs to the watchOS including SceneKit, SpriteKit, CloudKit and now, you can even purchase within your application using Apple Pay. All of these great enhancements will let developers increase the functionality and rich user interface with these SDKs. SceneKit alone will let you build some really cool animations into your applications to make it more engaging for users.
Apple was pretty proud of this release of iOS 10 with announcing the 10 new features added to the OS that have created more ways for developers to make their applications even more engaging for users. What I took away the most is the level of intelligence and AI they have introduced into the OS with deep learning, facial recognition, object detection, scene detection and context awareness for executing features. Let’s go down the list so you can see for yourself.
- Lock Screen - The newly redesigned lock screen has provided the capability to build rich notifications with 3D touch and quick interactions. They showed a demo with Calendar to accept a calendar invitation easily. They also showed how it works with 3rd party apps with example of Uber with status updates on the screen.
- Siri - They have taken this to the new level on its accuracy and integration into 3rd party applications. But the biggest win here is how we can now leverage Siri within our applications. They demonstrated various ways to not only request Siri, but to also engage with features within applications.
- Quick Type - The intelligent suggestions and deep learning within larger context was quite impressive. It will look at context such as your location, contact information, and your availability and extract information from your messages to do intelligent scheduling.
- Photos - Apple announced many features with Photos, starting with the ability to add your photos to a map. Object & Scene Recognition were also announced to enable more powerful searching, using AI to analyze across the library to cluster together based on location, scenes. Along with this, they impressed the audience with advanced computer vision with facial recognition to the iPhone locally on the device with privacy protected. This allows users to bring together memories of people who are special to you.
- Maps - Apple demonstrated their newly design Maps with a powerful demo showcasing how OpenTable, Uber and Apple Pay are now integrated into the app. What's the most impressive, is that the user doesn't even have to leave the Map app, rather you can do everything inline. This is again another way to make your app more engaging from the OS.
- News - This was great, but nothing that left a great impression just the new subscription model for content and breaking news push notification feature.
- Home App - I really liked their new Home App built on top of HomeKit. It was crisp, dynamic and rich with life. On stage, they did a powerful demo to show how the app controls your home with scenes, accessible from the control center, and the inline dynamic capability. For those who don’t know what a scene might be in the IoT world, it is a way to trigger multiple connected devices to react to an event or command. Example, a scene called "good morning" would be responsible for opening up the blinds, raising the thermostat and turning on the coffee maker. During the event, Apple demoed their doorbell scene which demonstrated how to get a live feed from the lock screen with the option to let your guest in. They also briefly mentioned both the remote access and automation with Apple TV and the capability to set up geofencing to start a scene automatically.
- Phone - iOS 10 new VoIP makes the experience more rich in the lockscreen, recent and favorites. Contact card knows how you like to contact your contacts. This becomes very useful for third party applications like WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack, Skype, etc.
- Messages - Apple has made quite a few fun updates to Messages such as scanning your text to change text to emojis, stickers that you can drag and drop, and the ability to take pictures and video from within the application. The new rich user interface can now take full screen with animations, provide emotion to your bubble, and also allows users to quickly respond to a message by just pressing and holding a message to apply an emoji.
- Music - A newly designed interface was demoed for Apple Music. This gives a good model on how to design an app, but nothing major for developers.
I would think they would slow down with the tvOS, but they are keeping the momentum going with this platform and I’m really enjoying the enhancements they are making. What I really enjoyed about the presentation they made yesterday was how the device works with Siri. Siri has come a long way and the way you are able to interact with tvOS using voice is amazing. They demoed a powerful use case demonstrating how you could search YouTube using voice. I’m convinced they will make the next version of the Apple TV to include functionality similar to Amazon Echo and Google’s Smart Home.
The single sign-on where you no longer have to sign-in to multiple accounts was huge! The crowd went wild when they heard about this feature, and rightfully so, as it will remove the friction for users to adopt your applications.
They have also expanded the list of SDKs to build applications on the tvOS including ReplayKit, PhotoKit, and HomeKit. I have not had a chance to look at these more closely yet but will in the coming days. Especially HomeKit as being able to access your devices remotely away from home has been one of the added values given to AppleTV, so now that HomeKit is a part of it that means your TV can be a console for controlling the accessories in your home. This has been a prediction of mine with the Smart TV’s and it is nice to see these things become reality.
Finally, the installation process for your Apple TV has been simplified. Now you simply install an app on your iOS phone and it automatically installs the tvOS app on your Apple TV instantly.
So Apple has decided to update OS X to macOS Sierra to be consistent with the other platforms. Some of the cool new features include:
Continuity - You are now able to auto unlock your laptop with your Apple Watch with just being present in front of it. I mean, What! Long overdue and I love the feature. Also included within this update, is a Universal copy and paste feature, where you can copy something on your phone and be able to paste it on your desktop.
Apple Pay - You are now able to make payments using Apple Pay from the web, using TouchID on your phone or Apple Watch to make authentication. This means that Apple is releasing a JS Framework that makes it possible for anyone to integrate this functionality into their web presence. Unfortunately, it is Safari only so far. Hey Apple you missed a spot. However it is to be considered more important from a mobile web point of view exclusive to iOS.
Siri - This was a very powerful demo on how you can now use Siri with Mac. The level of intelligence they built into search and how you can interact with the search results are pretty jaw dropping.
I believe Apple has done a great job in enhancing the features for its platforms. The amount of intelligence it has put into each of these platforms, and the various ways it has made it capable for the developers to make it more engaging and easier to build applications, continues to raise the bar. Like other major companies, Apple has demonstrated where we are with technology and the capabilities we have at our finger tips, specifically with Artificial Intelligence (AI) for things like facial recognition, object detection, scene detection, natural language processing, deep learning, and contextual awareness. Apple is putting all this in the palm of your hand on the device, using differential privacy techniques to prevent violation of user privacy with any of the work that relies on crowdsourcing data for machine learning and predictive techniques. This is different from Google’s approach, and Apple really went out of its way to explain the algorithm and techniques used here for everyone to understand how serious it takes the user privacy.
These technologies are here and ready to be applied to the next set of applications created by us. We are breaking new ground and I for one am excited to see what we come up with next.