This is the biggest day of the year for anyone wanting to know how their Apple products are about to get better. Apple is on the cusp of announcing new software updates for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV and more. Whatever is unveiled in the next hour or two will be on Apple devices from the Fall. Could we see new hardware being announced? There have been rumors of an updated MacBook Pro, but reports have been contradictory. Apple has announced hardware at WWDC before, including the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4, for instance, but for the most part this is a keynote aimed as much at the developers as the rest of us. As such, it’s all about the software. Keep an eye out for some of the smaller-but-still-key announcements. Such as which iPhones, iPads and so on won’t work with this Fall’s updates. Of course, they’ll keep working with their current software, but almost every year, one or two devices will reach the stage where they’re not supported in the next update. Anyway, sit down, make yourself comfortable.
That’s a wrap
So, no new hardware, then. But the 1 hour 45 minutes or so of new software were certainly jam-packed and filled with information. If you’re reeling after all that, I don’t blame you.
What’s interesting is how much every product is going to work more closely with other Apple products, and how Apple has new designs, new features and upgrades at every level.
Much developer-talk now
Apple is talking about Swift, synchronous coding, and a bunch of stuff that’s going over my head. To be fair, that’s a big part of what WWDC is all about, and in a live show it would be getting great reactions from the developers in the audience.
This year, it’s just the silence that the virtual presentation provides.
Safari to get a big upgrade
Craig Federighi says it’s the fastest browser in the world and very power-efficient, not to mention great for privacy.
Using the browser will be more intuitive, Apple says, with more elegant tabs and something new called tab groups which puts related tabs into sidebar groups.
Now it’s getting spooky
Universal Control is the next stage after Continuity. Put your iPad near your MacBook Pro and iMac, and you can control all three with one mouse and trackpad. You need to see this in action, it looks amazingly cool.
We’re on to the Mac
And one of the big questions is always what the new version will be named. This year, it’s Monterey.
How about the smart home?
HomeKit is the key to this and it is being upgraded to integrate products more. Say “Play Mosquito Coast” to your HomePod mini and it’ll control the Apple TV box to oblige.
Oh, and lossless music is coming to HomePod speakers later this year and HomePod mini speakers can be set up as a stereo pair for Apple TV playback.
Now it’s time for Apple Watch
Breathe is a very cool Apple Watch app that works as a mini-meditation and this gets a new look in watchOS 8, complete with something called Reflect, offering little moments to help you think about things differently.
Apple Fitness+ is key to Apple Watch and this is improving, too.
There’s a new Portraits Watch face which uses portrait mode photos you’ve taken to show pictures in a different way. Touch the Digital Crown and you can zoom in on your subject, but not the background.
There’s also a new Photos app on the Watch that makes it easy to share photos between users from your wrist.
Apple Health app improvements from Mobility to Trends
The iPhone already captures mobility data as you move, and now it’ll cover walking steadiness, tracking speed and step evenness, for instance.
Suddenly, you’ll have data from everyday walking to show your doctor, not just from when you’re in a medical environment when you’ll be feeling self-conscious.
Then there’s Trends which will monitor your stats over time to see if things are getting better or worse, for instance.
Just as importantly, you’ll be able to share data from the Health app privately with your doctor.
This is very clever. You can identify who should be able to access your iCloud information once you’re, you know, no longer here. This is a neat way of reassuring your loved ones that all your digital stuff won’t disappear when you do.
Privacy is always a very big deal for Apple and the company is focused to the point of obsession on not letting an app track you without your permission.
Mail will introduce a system which can stop anyone from knowing you’ve opened the email. Mail Privacy Protection means nobody can see your IP address, location or that email-open information.
There’ll also be a lot more information showing what data of yours individual apps will share.
Auto Translate—how cool is this?
Translate is coming to iPad and can use Live Text to translate text in a photo, but a new feature will be Auto Translate which will automatically tell which language you’re talking in, and your interlocutor and will do the translation automatically, no button-press required.
Notes is my favorite app
I’ve always loved Notes. All my best information is there, easy to find. Now, it’s getting a big update so that you can start a note just by swiping Apple Pencil from the corner of the iPad.
Then, if you mention someone in a note, they’ll get a notification. This seems slightly worrying to me. Supposing I’m writing a note about someone and I’m talking about them behind their back? I’ll have to be more discreet, I suppose.
iPad OS gets a big update
Widgets, those data-heavy interactive tiles which have been a hit on iPhone now you can place them anywhere you like, are now more versatile on iPad.
Before, the first page was the only one where widgets could be seen. Not any more. In iPadOS, there will be widgets available to be plonked anywhere. And there’ll be App Library, another hit in iOS 14.
And then there’s a significant update to multi-tasking. This wasn’t always intuitive on iPad but the new version looks very cool.
Apple Maps will overcome the worst issue with getting lost
The new Apple Maps look sensational, with heavily upgraded mapping and 3D effects. It means that when you step out of a subway, you can scan the buildings around you and it’ll tell you which way you need to head. Google has something similar but the more devices that have this, the better.
And now we’re on to AirPods which will work better with Find My so the earbuds can chirp when you’re looking for them.
Oh, and if you have some hearing issues, AirPods Pro can work to help you hear better, by using beam-forming to focus on the voice of the person talking to you. Genius.
Virtual keys and ID
Wallet will be your hotel room key, car keys, even the front door key with wide-ranging apps and partners.
Way more exciting, though, is that your ID can be saved digitally, so your drivers license and other IDs can be saved securely in your iPhone. Pretty cool.
You’ll have seen the Memories in Photos, the ones that put snippets of video, stills and background music together. Now, you can control them more, with easy going back to the bit you missed.
But now, you can add different tracks from Apple Music and the Memories content changes. It means that when you’re creating Memories, you can get creative.
There’s no mention of if the artists are compensated for this…
The notifications are all about Focus
You can set up what Apple’s calling Focus to make only work apps visible, for instance, or let the iPhone make suggestions based on where you are, like arriving at the gym, for instance.
As someone who’s been scowled at by a yoga instructor when my phone rang, I can see the benefit.
Focus seems to take on board criticisms that we’re all using our phones so much that we need to use them better rather than longer.
Apple iMessage to get major update
We knew this would be a big focus this year, and it looks like there will be ways to save messages to check them out later, photos in collage view and links saved in Apple News. If someone sends you a photo, it can save to your Photos (like happens in WhatsApp).
And the promised update to notifications means a summary of info will pitch up on your iPhone screen, though messages won’t be in the Summary, so you’ll always see these.
iOS is first up
Craig Federighi is talking about FaceTime, commenting that video calls can be hard work. To improve this, FaceTime will have Spatial Audio, spreading voices out to sound like they’re coming from different directions.
The microphone will have Voice Isolation, which will get rid of background noise. And for the video, tiles will be redesigned and have Portrait Mode so you’re in focus, not your background.
FaceTime links will make it easier for people to join calls, even from Android phones or Windows machines.
Tim Cook is onstage
Last year’s WWDC had 25 million viewers, Tim Cook is saying. He’s standing on the stage of the Steve Jobs Theater, with an audience of Memoji, it seems. There are over 200 in-depth sessions for the developers who have signed up for WWDC. Like last year’s, this is all free.
The show opener is always pretty cool…
So, this year, Apple asked developers to design the opening to the keynote. So far, the ideas are pretty cool.
Any second now…
The show starts right now…
It’s not like the in-person WWDC events
Just a couple of years back, the main hall at the San Jose Convention Center would be heaving with 6,000 attendees rushing to grab the best seat they could. This year, relax, sit back, enjoy in comfort wherever you are. But do take a comfort break before it starts. These things go on.
How To Watch The Apple Event Live
WWDC 2021 starts at 1PM EDT, 10AM PDT. Not long, then. Lots to be introduced in the hour and a bit, assuming it runs to the sort of time it usually does. This is another virtual-only event, so your seat is the best in the house. You can watch in several ways, such as these:
Or stick around here and I’ll be keeping you abreast of every development as it’s announced, with analysis and, probably, the occasional typo—it’s a fast-paced, frenetic event.