It was one of those years where it felt like Apple worked its way down my wishlist, crossing things off one after the other.
- Better third-party Siri integration. Finally.
- CarPlay with Google Maps and Waze. Finally.
- Grouped Notifications. Finally.
- App limits for kids. Finally.
- Group FaceTime. Finally.
- Activity Challenges. Finally
- WebKit views on Watch. Finally.
- Podcast app and background audio for Watch. Finally.
- Dolby Atmos for Apple TV. Finally.
- Dark mode for Mac. Finally.
- Screen recording integrated with screenshots. Finally.
- News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home for Mac. Finally.
- Mac App Store redesign. Finally.
It was the biggest finally fest since... I don't know... iOS 4? But beyond the finally, there was a lot that I though was just fantastic.
It started with iOS and performance. For years, Apple has been accused of either overloading older devices to force people to update or witholding features to force people to update. Or both at the same time.
They had a whole performance team charged with using older devices to try to make sure everything new ran as well as possible on everything old. But time always gets crunched.
So, this year, Apple worried less about balancing features and more about improving speed. Especially when older devices are under load — which they increasingly are. And Apple make it a standard procedure — Apple made it a focus.
Now, even when those older processors are straining, Apple does everything possible to make everything launch as fast as possible, including pushing bottlenecks of all kinds out of the way.
Apple will even instantly ramp up processor speeds — while carefully avoiding spikes — to make interfaces and interactions feel as instant as possible, even on much older devices.
Apple still wants you to buy new devices. They just want you to be so happy with older devices you're guaranteed to keep buying those new devices from Apple.
This should help with that.
2. ARKit 2
While ARKit is only a year old, it's already getting it's second major update. 1.5 brought vertical and irregular surfaces.
2.0 brings a lot of cool stuff, 3D object recognition, better face detection including winking and tracking, scene reflection, which is like environmental mapping, the and the USDZ file format developed in collaborations it's Pixar.
But biggest news is shared experiences.
This can be team-based learning or training, but it's easiest to imagine gaming. I got to try both the slingshot game — iJustine kicked my ass — and the LEGO experience, and both were terrific.
But the important thing is that Apple is being absolutely relentless on AR. They're dictating not just the pace but the terms. And that makes sense — Apple wants to get as far as it possibly can on existing hardware, seed developers and users both, so that the technology is mature, the content is full, and we're all ready for the next big thing.
3. Siri shortcuts
Apple already had a system of domains and intents that apps could use to tie into Siri, but they were too few and were taking so long. So Apple took a shortcut. Siri shortcuts.
With them, and app can let you setup up Siri based commands. A simple example could be "order my usual pizza", or even "order my usual from Dominos" and "order my usual from Pizza Hut" if you want multiple options (and Siri is smart enough not to allow collisions if you try to set up the same shortcut for multiple apps). A more complex one could be "I'm on my way", which checks your eta, places your coffee order, and texts the people in your morning meeting that you'll be there soon.
It's not just for voice commands either. Siri suggestions have been a thing for a few years now and with shortcuts, suggestions can pop up on your lock screen or in the Siri watch face.
Setting them can be as easy as confirming an app's default suggestion or downloading from a library or gallery. But you can also customize them to do a wide arrange of more sequential tasks.
It's almost like Automator for Siri. Or, more precisely, Workflow for Siri.
And it looks a lot like the more deeply personal, useful Siri a lot of us have been waiting for. It certainly doesn't leapfrog Alexa or OK Google, but it does start to close the gap, and now that people are starting to feel about privacy the way they felt about security back in the early days of Windows, that going to be increasingly important to an increasingly large group of people.
4. Personal responsibility
Apple isn't pandering to the more sensationalist "screens are evil" narratives that have been floating around. But Apple is making it much, much easier to take personal responsibility for the ways we use our devices and how much we use them.
For example, during bedtime hours it'll suppress notifications on the Lock screen so you don't glance at the time, see a message, and become tempted to jump right in. BECAUSE SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG.
You can also fine-tune notifications right from a notification, so you can tell it to skip the lock screen a stack up in Notification Center instead. Or tell it to stop bugging you, right from there, so you don't have to dive into Settings and risk getting distracted and forgetting to mute it on your way.
Notifications are grouped together now and Siri can help suggest actions so you can triage them faster.
There's also a report on how you spend your time on your iPhone or iPad, and the ways in which you spend it, including how much time you spend in-apps and when, and the notifications you get from apps.
You can set limits to help ween yourself down or off, and the limits sync across iCloud so you can't cheat by switching devices.
You can even get access to the reports from your kids devices, set them allowances for screen time, whitelist activities you don't want restricted, and it all works with the family sharing system already in place.
But it's not about scapegoats, it's about information. And Apple is now giving us the information we need to act — how and when we want or need to.
Some people make fun of emoji. Others realize they're one of the most human, empathic, and natural ways we have to communicate, and people love them so much any time new ones appear, update rates soar.
So, Apple has added both new Animoji, including the tiger and T-Rex, but also new Memoji. They're just faces, not complete bodies like Mii or Animoji, but they use the same ARKit face tracking as Animoji and let you create an Animoji that's, well, you.
Apple's Memoji creation engine is pretty good, with a ton of options for all sorts of facial features and colors. You can also create multiple Memoji. So you have one that looks like you, one that looks like your favorite characters — I chose HULK, because HULK — and ones that look like anything at all.
You can also use them in FaceTime, not just iMessage, and include other effects with them, which is really great.
Like ARKit, Animoji and now Memoji are tech demos intended not only to make us smile but to help acclimitize us to the AR future that's coming.
A few weeks ago I made a video outlining my wishlist for FaceTime. Apple gave me almost everything I wanted. There are Group Calls now, with up to 32 people. And you can trigger them from iMessage groups — which is why the group limits are the same.
The interface is terrific too. Instead of just a grid and swap system, you have a series the most recently active participants kind of float around, growing and shrinking depending on when and how they talk. They're carefully accelerated and decelerated, though, so you don't have to worry about people popping all over the screen.
It also works for FaceTime audio and anyone can choose to answer with full video or just audio. It's also really good at managing everything from resolution to bit rate, so the conversation looks good even if some people have better connections that others.
Best of all, it's still end-to-end encrypted, so it keeps your conversations private and secure, for everyone involved.
Add in the effects, and the FaceTime update most of us have been waiting years for.
7. Walky Talky
The watch on your wrist is now also a Walky-talky, which hits every secret agent button I have. You have to set up Walky-talky access on an individual basis with your contacts, so you can't just insta-bug anyone at any time, but it works over Wi-Fi and cellular.
This'll be great for families around the house, on camping trips, and especially at places like Disney. Anywhere brief but instant voice is needed.
It's a modern take on push-to-talk.
Apple TV is getting Dolby ATMOS support which means, along with the DOLBY VISION support it already has, it's just about the highest quality streaming box you can get.
ITunes will be getting ATMOS support this fall as well. And, just like with 4K, you collection will be automatically updated to the new sound as soon as new versions become available.
We just need to get Disney on board. Sigh.
9. Dark Mode
MacOS Mojave is getting a system-wide dark mode. Which, along with the previous watchOS and tvOS dark UI, make iOS the only platform still missing it. Maybe next year.
The dark mode on macOS looks pure pro apps, though, and really makes content leap out. Desktops can even be dynamic so they change from day to afternoon to night over time.
And you can actually see the the desktop now because stacks automatically suck up anything you dump on their and organize them by kind, date, or type to keep everything neat and clean.
It makes the more than a decade old Mac look modern again.
10. Putting fist to Facebook
Safari for both macOS and iOS is getting Intelligent tracking prevention 2, which prevents social, especially Facebook, like buttons, comment fields, and data fingerprinting techniques from following you around, all creepy-like, across the internet.
Wow but they're going to hate this. Love it.
One more thing. IOS apps on macOS
Apple is increasingly making its own apps for iOS and macOS and, like developers, it's feeling the pain of having to maintain very different app architecture for both platforms. So, Apple is looking to add UIKit frameworks to macOS so, alongside the traditional Mac AppKit apps, web-based WebKit apps, and Metal/OpenGL-enabled graphics apps, iOS apps will be easier to bring over.
This new project, the long-rumored code name Marzipan, isn't available to developers yet. For now, Apple is dog flooding it with its own apps, including the new News, Home, Stocks, and Voice Memos apps.
Next year, developers will get their turn.
Touch ID to authorize autofill, retroactive workout credit and completion reminders, AirPods for Live Listening... I could go on and on. But these were my favorite features from WWDC 2018 but now I want to hear what yours were. And also, what was the one feature you wanted most but didn't get?
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