Technophile

Apple’s WWDC: Sophisticated new features for all products and the company’s own silicone

Mala Bhargava | Updated on June 23, 2020 Published on June 23, 2020

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California   -  Handout via Reuters

Apple’s annual WWDC keynote definitely had a different feel to it this year. It’s when the applause is missing and no longer feeding back into the presentation which had no choice but to go virtual, that you realise how important it is to have a live audience. It’s still the same Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park and still the same gold standard presentation style that had every other company imitating it, but that palpable sense of excitement and murmur of anticipation was obviously missing.

Given that circumstance, Apple’s execs did a brilliant job of the pre-recorded event. And while there was no new devices launched, there was plenty on the software front to keep everyone busy for a long time, specially the developers for whom this event is held, after all.

iOS14

CEO Tim Cook started off, not with a collection of Apple stats this time, but with a comment on racism and appreciation for front-line workers in the pandemic. Then it was on to iOS 14, one of the two most anticipated announcements from the event, the other being Apple’s transition to its own chips, leaving Intel to find something else to do.

Any Android user looking at the new features announced for iOS 14 would have a good laugh at the focus on widgets, which were once a dirty Android word in the Apple kingdom. But if someone knows how to take a concept already in existence and do a better job of it, it’s Apple.

App Library

They’ve taken the app drawer and made it an ‘App Library’ with icons automatically grouped and organised, no longer taking up screen-after-screen on your iPhone. Widgets will now be moveable and resizable anywhere and will stack up smartly to change throughout the day customised with the user’s usage pattern. Widgets will also be more data-rich and functional.

App Clips, a bit like the Instant Apps idea which never really took off, is a new iOS 14 feature which will let you point the phone at an object and get an immediate relevant app, or rather, a partial app to work with right then on the spot. After you’re done with it, it will not take up space on your phone unless you download it fully.

A picture-in-picture capability, already there on Android, will now work on an iPhone too, letting you do more than one thing at a time. Even the Siri screen has been redesigned, no longer showing so much blank space but filling the view with information on whatever a user asked about. Oh, and Siri can now send voice messages and take better dictation. I must remember to cancel my subscription to the famous Dictation app for Apple devices.

A new Translate app will make interpreters somewhat redundant, at least for 11 languages. And the Messages app will get a number of new features such as new hairdos and headgear for ‘Memoji’ and inline messaging within groups. Apple Maps is getting more sophisticated — in some cities — and very excitingly, car keys will go digital and be able to unlock from an iPhone. You can even share your car key with someone with a message. But this is not with all cars, of course, as it depends on partnering with the car company.

iOS 14 features will be echoed on the iPadOS 14 as well, though customised for the tablet. All of this will come to users next month and it all sounds good, making for a more sophisticated and mature operating system for phones and tablets.

Wearables

Apple’s wearables also get some love. AirPods will now switch automatically to whatever device you’re using within the Apple ecosystem. That’s a first for earphones. The Apple Watch finally gets ‘Dance’ as an additional workout and I feel they just heard me. The tracking of calorie burn and other parameters will take into account the type of movement, whether it’s slow and stretchy or fast-paced. The Watch will finally sleep-track, which will please many people who’ve taken to worrying over sleep patterns in recent years. Only issue is that the Watch will have to be charged each morning.

Bye Intel

The second big news from the WWDC event was, as expected, that Apple will no longer be using Intel’s processors for future Macs but will make its own silicone. With this, Apple will have complete control over performance, costs, integration and production timelines. There will still be some Intel processors, but thanks for all the fish.

Published on June 23, 2020
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