Apple kicked off its 2017 World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC17) with a two and a half hour keynote presentation on June 5th. During a fast moving presentation, Apple covered a lot of ground. They showed off the upcoming iterations to their core operating systems (tvOS, WatchOS, MacOS and iOS ), debuted new Mac (both laptop and desktops) and iPad hardware, and introduced a new product: the HomePod. I cover the six big announcements below.
Apple kicked off the WWDC17 presentation by announcing that Amazon is bringing its Prime Video service to Apple TV later this year. This is exciting as it was the biggest streaming service missing from the Apple TV.
The second announcement Apple made was that it is updating its AppleWatch software to WatchOS 4. The first major enhancement is new watch faces. Their three new faces introduced: a Siri face, a kaleidoscope face, and the ability to have several Toy Story characters appear on your watch. The most interesting of these new watch faces is the Siri watch face. It uses machine learning to add items to the watch based on the time of day and your location. For instance, in the morning it might show how long it will take for you to get to work and your first appointment.
The next update centered around the activity tracking and workout capabilities of the AppleWatch. The notifications for the activity are getting smarter and becoming more motivating. The achievement notifications will also scale towards the type of goal with better notifications for bigger milestones. The workout app is receiving an overhaul as well, making it easier to start and stop workouts. You will also be able to chain workouts together simply by swiping and tapping the plus sign to add a new workout. Additionally, Apple is opening up a two-way data transfer between the AppleWatch and select workout equipment via NFC later this fall.
The music app has also been enhanced and made easier to use as well as updating the app dock. With all of these enhancements, it should help Apple to continue to have the best smart watch on the market. WatchOS 4 will be available this fall.
MacOS High Sierra
The third announcement from Apple was the debut of their newest OS for the Mac: MacOS High Sierra. This seems to be mostly an under-the-hood update and will lay the foundation for future iterations of MacOS. It aims to make Macs more reliable, capable, and responsive.
Apple’s file system is being revamped to better take advantage of the 64-bit operating system and become more modern. The new file system promises to be more secure and responsive as well. Another enhancement is a new way to compress photos and videos (HEVC) and promises up to 40% better compression.
Apple is not letting their apps get stale either. They showed an updated version of Photos that includes enhancements to editing tools, better navigation and more features for Live Photos. Safari is getting an upgrade as well with intelligent ad tracking prevention and the ability to prevent videos from auto-playing. Personally, I am very happy to hear about these two features as it will be nice to not see things you look for on Amazon appear on other sites. Plus, I despise auto-playing videos, so this change is very welcome.
Apple is also enhancing some of the features of its iCloud service in High Sierra. Your messages will not sync across devices using iCloud and the service will be able to remove older messages from your devices more quickly. Apple has introduced family plans for its iCloud service as well. Families can choose between 200 GB and 2 TB plans that will be shared among family members.
MacOS High Sierra is available now for developers and will be available to everyone in the fall as a free upgrade. There will also be a public beta for the OS later this summer.
Apple introduced updates to several of its computers during the WWDC17 presentation. For its iMac and MacBook lines, Apple has updated the internals to the current i5 and i7 processors. The 21.5″ iMac, 21.5″ 4K iMac, and 27″ 5K iMac all received upgrades and are available to order now. The 27″ iMac is now also VR capable, which is a first for Apple computers.
Apples laptops also received an update with new versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro with Touch Bar being announced. The MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar also received a slight update and price drop. Along with the price drop comes reduced SSD storage, however (down to 128 GB).
The final computer Apple introduced was the iMac Pro, which is geared towards professionals and really packs a punch. This new 27″ iMac comes with:
- A 5K display,
- 8, 10, or 18 cores,
- 32 GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory (configurable to 64 GB or 128 GB),
- A 1 TB SSD (configurable to 2 TB or 4TB), and
- Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory (configurable to a 64 graphics processor with 16 GB of memory).
This machine is definitely impressive and should help appease the pro crowd who have not been pleased with the Mac Pro. The iMac Pro will release later this year.
Apple’s newest iteration of iOS (iOS11) is packed with new features and makes iPads even more useful. This update seems to be focused on iPad productivity with the addition of Files and the ability to drag and drop between apps. The multitasking screen for the iPad has also been redesigned to allow users to be more productive than ever on the tablet. You can have multiple work spaces with different sets of apps open at once.
iPhones are not being left behind, though, with updates to Apple Maps and the new Do Not Disturb while driving feature. Apple Maps is gaining maps for some indoor locations including malls in several cities as well as major airports. The update to Apple Maps also includes which lane you should be in when using driving directions. This is a great addition and may allow me to finally transition away from Google Maps which has had this feature for a few years.
The Do Not Disturb while driving feature is interesting and should help drivers focus better on the road. The feature will disable notifications from apps as well as Messages. When someone tries to send you a message, it will actually send an auto-reply back letting the person know that you are driving and will respond later. If it is an urgent message, selected contacts will be able to get through this feature though.
Apple is redesigning the iOS App Store to focus more on new apps that appear each day. App developers and editors can also create content for apps such as tutorials or guides. Games are receiving a special tab within in the App Store to help gamers find new games and learn tips from developers for games they are currently playing. Along with this update, it was announced that Monument Valley 2 was released to today and will take advantage of the new iOS 11 features when it launches this fall. Monument Valley 2 is the sequel to the award-winning Monument Valley.
One feature that will excite gamers is the inclusion of ARKit. This new framework in iOS 11 will allow developers to easily make augmented reality games like Pokemon Go or Ingress. During the WWDC17 keynote, they showed a demo of how this framework works and some of the things developers might be able to do with it. It is a great step forward and I am excited to see what developers will do with this new technology.
iOS 11 is available now for developers and, like MacOS, will release this fall with a public beta available later this summer.
New 10.5″ iPad Pro
The new 10.5″ iPad Pro was shown off during the keynote and has some impressive power. Even with a new screen size, the actual device will be the same size as the current 9.7″ iPad Pros. The new iPads have been designed to fully take advantage of the new features in iOS 11. The update also increases the power of the iPad and Apple claimed it will actually outperform some computers with i7 processors.
One of the innovations in the new iPads is that Apple was able to increase the refresh rate to 120 Ghz. This will allow very smooth scrolling and bring the latency of the Apple Pencil down to 20-milliseconds. This is a great leap for iPad Pros and may start convincing some users that a laptop or desktop is no longer needed.
The 10.5″ iPad Pro starts at $649 for a 32 GB WiFi only model and the 12.9″ iPad Pro starts at $799 for a 64 GB WiFi only model. Both are now available for pre-order and will ship on 6/9.
The final announcement at WWDC17 was the HomePod. This is Apple’s foray into the new smart speaker market. The HomePod will be powered by Siri and has been engineered with music in mind. It will work very well with Apple Music as well as be able to be your personal assistant. The speaker is less than 7″ tall and Apple claims it will sound great in almost any room. The HomePod will adjust its sound to the size of the room it’s in. The speaker has an A8 chip which is the same chip found in recent iPhones. This should give it significant power and help Siri process commands quickly.
One of the things Apple has been working towards for the last few years is customer privacy. The HomePod only securely sends data to Apple after it has recognized the words, “Hey, Siri.” This should help customers be more comfortable with having one of these speakers around the house. While most other smart speaker options are built to connect to additional speakers, the Homepod should rival their feature sets by being an all-in-one unit.
The HomePod will release later this year and cost $349.