Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Another year, another WWDC from Apple. This time though, it’s fully online for the first time. Let’s take a look at the 10 biggest announcements from the 22 June opening keynote.
1. iOS 14
With iOS 14 comes a lot of new features. Set to be released Fall 2020, Apple will now allow users to view all their installed apps in a single list called the App Library at the rightmost end of the home screen, instead of having to remember which app is on which page.
Home pages can also be hidden now, to make it easier to scroll to the App Library. Categories are intelligently curated, with apps automatically into folders like Suggestions, Recently Added, Social and more.
Home screen widgets will also be supported in the Today View, with different sizes to choose from to select how much information you can view at a glance. The widgets can also be dragged out of Today View and added into home pages. The widgets will be collated in the Widget Gallery for easy access, and there’s a Smart Stack widget that will allow you to scroll through widgets.
iMessages will receive new features with one being an ‘@’ mention function similar to how Slack and other messaging software allows for direct mentions in group chats. There are also inline replies that function similarly to threads, with replies hidden until the thread is opened up. Conversations can also be pinned to the top so messages won’t be missed.
Picture-in-picture will also be introduced so that users can minimise apps like Netflix and continue watching while working on other apps. You can even swipe the small popup to the side for more visibility on other apps while the audio continues playing.
Siri is also getting a major update, with the visual interface now changed. Instead of a fullscreen visual, Siri is now a glowing ball at the bottom of the screen to avoid blocking content on the screen. For example, you could be looking at a recipe on the web and asking Siri to add items to a shopping list.
There’s also a new app called Translate, which is claimed to work completely offline to keep conversations private. The app will work on English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian at launch.
The new Apple Maps rolled out across America earlier this year and will be launched in new countries later in the year, including the U.K., Ireland and Canada. Maps will now support cycling directions which prioritises bike lanes and lets the user know if it’ll be a tough or easy ride, with stairs or steep hills. The cycling directions will be available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Shanghai and Beijing, with many more cities coming soon.
Maps will be able to show EV charge points and even factor in current charge levels in cars to route users to compatible charge stations. There will also be congestion zones displayed on maps, along with alternate routing options.
Apple is looking to get you to leave your car keys behind, by implementing an NFC car key feature in iPhones supporting iOS 13 and iOS 14. The first car to support it will be the 2021 BMW 5 Series, and car keys can even be shared between people using iMessage.
The App Store has also been improved, with an App Clip feature that will allow users to temporarily use parts of apps. Don’t have the specific app to pay for your parking, for example? Get the App Clip and quickly launch a small popup that will have one specific function from an app without having to download the entire app. An App Clip is created using part of an app and the Native SDK and takes up less than 10MB to launch quickly, by scanning an App Clip code and NFC.
2. watchOS 7
Rich complications are now coming to Apple Watches and watch faces can now be customised with these complications. Curated faces will be available to be downloaded on websites, shared by friends and more.
Maps in watchOS will also support cycling directions now, with time, distance and whether there are bike lanes. Turn by turn directions will also be available and paths can be optimised for cyclists.
Dance workout options have also been added for exercise tracking, including styles like hip hop, Latin and more. Data is combined from the accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate tracking and put into the Fitness App for easy tracking.
Sleep tracking will be available for an all-in-one solution for Apple Watch owners. Wind Down is a new feature to aid more restful sleep, with reminders to start getting ready for bed. Gentle sounds or a silent haptic vibration will be available options for alarms. Sleep schedules and data will be available on iPhones as well.
With more emphasis placed on handwashing, Apple Watch now can sense when the wearer is washing hands through motion and sound detection. There’ll be a countdown along with sound, and a reminder to keep washing if the person stops before the timer is done.
There’s a new option to only share approximate location with apps, and users will more clearly be able to tell if apps are using the camera or microphone, tracking your location and more. New App Store policy will require apps to ask for permission to track you across apps and websites, while “data labels” will show what data may be collected and linked to the user’s account.
4. Apple TV+ / tvOS 14
Picture-in-picture is now supported across Apple TV’s ecosystem, including content streamed across AirPlay. Xbox Elite 2 and Xbox Adaptive controllers will be supported with tvOS. If you’re a fan of Isaac Asimov’s stories, you’ll be stoked to know that Foundation has been adapted for an Apple TV+ Original, launching in 2021.
5. macOS Big Sur
The new macOS Big Sur is claimed to have the biggest changes since macOS 10, with visual complexities reduced and consistency in the ecosystem.
Each app uses a key colour and toolbars are also present in apps like Mail. All the apps on the system have been refreshed, from Calendar to Music. The menu bar is also translucent and takes on the colour of the background. The classic Mac sounds have been remastered and refined.
Control Center has come to the macOS, with brightness, Wi-Fi, Do Not Disturb, and more. These options can even be dragged into the menu bar for quick access. Widgets will also be supported on macOS Big Sur in the notification bar, with different sizes available as well.
Messages on macOS will also get the same updates from iOS 14, with pinned conversations and more. Maps has also been redesigned, with the same features announced for iOS14 also coming to macOS.
Safari has been revamped with a new design and even faster page loading, coming in at 50% faster than Google Chrome. Background images for the home page can be customised with personal images, and Safari now comes with built-in translation features. Users can choose which sites extensions can work on, and even limit their access to just a single day. Full privacy reports can even be generated, with trackers from each website visited.
6. Apple Silicon
“Today is going to be a truly historic day for the Mac,” said Tim Cook, and it really is. Having used Intel chips for the last 15 years, the Mac will now be transitioning to Apple Silicon, their own custom made chips. With a family of Mac SoCs being developed, there’ll be a common architecture across all of Apple’s product lines, meaning developers will have an easier time developing apps.
Since there’s a common architecture, iPhone and iPad apps will also work on the new Macs natively, unmodified. The apps will be available Day One from the App Store on the new Macs.
When apps were built for Big Sur, they were all natively built for Apple Silicon. Microsoft’s applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint and Adobe’s creative applications like Lightroom CC are all working perfectly on Apple Silicon.
7. iPadOS 14
Widgets from the Mac and iPhone are also coming to iPadOS for easy information consumption. Improvements have also been made to Photos, with a new sidebar for navigation and organisation. The sidebar has also been added to many other apps in iPadOS like Notes and Files.
Toolbars have also been streamlined with dropdown menus in apps like Calendar, Music and more. The smaller Siri design is also present in iPadOS, while calls have stopped taking up the entire screen as well.
You can now perform Universal Search, meaning all files, apps and even contacts can be found via the search bar. Web searches and URL links can also be typed in here, immediately opening up the browser.
8. Apple Pencil
Shapes drawn with the Apple Pencil can now be cleaned up for a more professional look, and handwriting can be converted into text directly, with colour options and placement changes available.
Don’t want to type on your iPad? You can even use the Scribble feature to write into text fields and it will automatically be converted into text. This is even supported with other languages like Chinese. Copying and pasting handwritten text into other apps will also convert that part into text, which is insanely convenient for people who love writing notes down.
AirPods now seamlessly swap between devices on iCloud. Finished listening to music on your phone and want to pick up a conference call on your laptop? It’ll automatically switch over. Spatial audio is also now available on the AirPods Pro, even if only one earbud is worn. The accelerometers and gyroscopes are used to track head movements alongside the screen to ensure the sound will always follow the user.
Apple has partnered with Amazon, Google and other companies to form a “home” alliance standard, open-sourcing HomeKit to be part of the standard. Controlled in the Home app, automation options can be suggested once smart accessories like lights are added.
There’s also a new feature called Adaptive Lighting that allows lights to change colours as the day progresses. Face recognition based on faces tagged in the Photos app is now available with HomePod to announce visitors at doors, and if there’s a camera, a live stream can even be watched on Apple TV.
There’s been a bunch of updates, and we’re definitely excited for Apple’s upcoming hardware announcements as well.