Here are my thoughts on the WWDC 2017 Keynote.
Really? The only thing Apple can say about tvOS is that an Amazon Prime Video app is coming out in the fall? Tim Cook said more information was coming later this year so I guess all we can do is hold our breath for the September event and see what happens then. Perhaps a 4K Apple TV is in the pipeline?
Getting a little bit more screen time than tvOS, watchOS seemed to be focused more on incremental improvements than drastic changes. I am most looking forward to the changes to the Activity and Workout apps because my Apple Watch is basically a health monitor. Customized coaching notifications and monthly challenges from Activity could be motivating but on the other hand they could also be quite shallow and annoying. The updated card UI for workouts looks nice and I am especially stoked about being able to start another workout without stopping the current one.
Apple made yet another tweak to the dock UI seemingly to make accessing apps even easier but I think Apple is starting to come to accept that third-party apps for the watch are going to be very rare. 99% of the things they highlight in the keynote and on the new watchOS preview page are things that were built directly by Apple. They did expose a bunch of new APIs but I think they are mostly going to be leveraged by existing watchOS apps rather than pull in new developers.
The Siri watch face was the only major new feature in my opinion and it has a ton of potential. If Apple gets this right and can correctly learn what is important to the user and display topical information it could easily become my default watch face. However, I suspect it is going to go the route of most other "smart homepages" that display very shallow information that is not at all topical. My only hope is that because I am so invested in the Apple ecosystem they are able to know more about me and present information that I truly want.
Like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion before it, macOS 10.13 High Sierra seems to be a release focused on refining the previous macOS release.
Blocking autoplaying videos in Safari as well as intelligent tracking blocking to prevent companies like Facebook and Google from following you all over the web. Mail search speed is greatly improved and now takes up less space on your hard drive. High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC, also known as H.265) is built in to support the growing ubiquity of 4K video. The Apple File System (AFPS) is becoming the default file system in High Sierra and after the seamless migration of hundreds of billions of iOS devices to APFS earlier this year I am actually quite excited for this. All in all it looks like a solid next release of macOS.
Metal 2 is something I was not expecting and not because I didn't think Apple cared about graphical performance. I know they do. It was because of how much of a focus they put on virtual reality. They literally demoed the HTC Vive on stage and then talked about how High Sierra will allow you to connect an external graphics card to your Mac to boost its graphical capabilities. This is a technology that is still very nascent and barely supported on Windows. The Razor Core is one of the few viable examples of this I know of and the number of Windows computers that have Thunderbolt 3 ports is still quite small. Almost every new Mac sold from late 2016 onwards will support this technology. That is insane. Think of how many Macs there will be that could, in theory, support VR by mid 2018. Think about all of those developers who have only used Macs and have wanted to try game/VR development but didn't want to use Windows. In one macOS release Apple may have blown the doors wide open.
I was expecting this WWDC to be about how Apple hasn't forgotten all of those professionals who use their hardware for photo and video editing, recording music, etc. Creative people who need a graphical powerhouse. I never thought Apple would expand into the gaming space let alone do it so aggressively. They mentioned SteamVR, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity all have beta builds ready for developers to start playing with immediately. I am really interested in seeing how this changes the adoption of games for macOS in the coming year.
Now if you don't want a portable Mac Apple has you covered. The iMac's were updated with the latest Kaby Lake architecture and, if that wasn't enough for you, Apple announced the iMac Pro for those who need a 18 core Xeon CPU, 16GB AMD Vega GPU, 128GB of DDR4 RAM, 4TB SSD machine with a 27" Retina 5K display. Basically a 🖕🏻 to everyone complaining about the Mac not being powerful enough.
If I don't try to curtail myself here I could easily write several thousand words on this section alone so I'm gonna try to be as terse as possible and focus on things that affect me the most.
New app drawer for iMessage apps to improve discoverability because using iMessage apps right now is a major pain in the ass. Peoples' love for sticker packs can only overcome so much friction.
iMessage finally syncs to iCloud! I currently get iMessages on four different devices so this is going to be awesome. It will also be great for people like my sister who have huge iMessage histories and this information can now be stored in the cloud to free up space on device.
Apple sherlocks Venmo and implements person-to-person Apple Pay. Drug dealers around the world rejoice!
General Siri improvements but the biggest one is the supposed machine learning Siri will do to allow her to have more context for your requests. Hopefully this means we can talk to Siri more like a human being than a 5 year old child who is not paying attention. Also Apple added new translation functionality that would have been super useful when I was in Japan last year. I lived inside the Google Translate app. You can also type directly into Siri now so I no longer have to look a mental patient if I am out in public and want to ask Siri a question.
Apple continues the sherlocking by implementing Bounce and Loops into the Camera app to further bite into Instagram and Snapchat.
Another update to control center as Apple has done every year since iOS 7. I am really stoked about this one though because it has all of the things that I figured out I wanted after using the latest iteration of control center. I love the shortcuts to various settings and system controls but too often I found myself wanting to make a slightly different tweak like change Wi-Fi networks versus turn Wi-Fi off or change to a different Bluetooth device. Apple seems to have experienced these pains as as well and has taken full advantage of 3D Touch to allow you to drill down into every option in control center. By doing this they were able to move everything onto a single page (no more swiping to get to music controls) and add even more options like quick access to Notes, Wallet or Alarm as well as a new screen recording option. Maybe in a future iOS release we'll here about how you can make extensions that appear inside Control Center?
Apple also merged the lock screen and the notification screen so no longer will you pick up your phone, see some notifications only to have Touch ID kick in and unlock your phone before you can read and have to go hunting for them. Now whatever was on your lock screen will appear when you swipe down from the top. Simple and elegant.
MusicKit has a lot of potential for third-party apps. I love Apple Music but I am looking forward to other developers takes on discoverability and organization of music when they have the ability to do incredibly tight integration with the Apple Music library. The pseudo-resurrection of Ping could help discoverability if enough of my friends use Apple Music so I am interesting in seeing how that plays out.
The Apple Music design seems to have permeated through to the rest of iOS and the chunky navigation bar with big bold text at the top seems to be here to stay. In addition, the card/tile UI also seems to be spreading as well. Rounded corners inset from the screen edges for everyone!
The App Store redesign is very pretty but without since I haven't physically used it I am not sure how much it actually is going to improve discoverability. I really hope Apple did solve this problem but only time will tell. The biggest thing I am stoked about with respect to the App Store are all the developer enhancements they've made. Expanded free trials, better reviews API, ratings are no longer reset when a new version is released. But the most important is phased releases. The ability to roll your app out to only a small percentage of your users, check to ensure that nothing is going wrong and slowly ramp up distribution is game changing. I know Android has had this for years so I am super stoked that Apple finally got got their head out of their ass. Unfortunately Apple did their normal thing and didn't give developers complete control. If you turn on a phased release it will happen over 7 days at fixed increments.
Machine learning was the undercurrent of almost everything Apple talked about during this Keynote. I am not going to pretend to understand the theory of machine learning but I understand it's potential application and importance so the release of a core framework to give anyone using an Apple device access to it is pretty amazing.
ARKit is something I was not expecting to be released at this WWDC. I was expecting that with whatever new hardware was going to be in the iPhone 7s/8, Apple would say they needed it for augmented reality and would showcase their AR capabilities then. But to my shock Apple says that they have hundreds of millions of iOS devices out in the wild that are already capable of AR. This is going to be one of those technologies where we cannot physically imagine all of the apps we are going to see over the next 12 months that take advantage of ARKit.
The iPad Pro had not been updated in over 270 days so I wasn't particularly surprised to see a hardware announcement at this WWDC. To me that just says that this September is going to be fucking crazy if Apple can drop six hardware announcements in a single Keynote in June.
The rumored 10.5" iPad Pro was released and it looks beautiful. It has the same footprint as my iPad Air 2 but with a larger screen, P3 color gamut, new A10X Fusion processor and support for the Apple Pencil. I am seriously considering upgrading to this beast.
What I was not expecting was for Apple to announce that the iPad Pros now have an adaptive refresh rate (which they call ProMotion) and can work at up to 120 hz. That is double what the current iOS devices are capable of which means that in theory these iPad Pros can render twice the amount of frames per second. I don't think the layman fully understands what this means. Scrolling on these devices should now feel that much more "real" because your brain is not going to be interpolating the motion as much. Until you physical try one of these devices you won't be able to appreciate what the 120 hz refresh rate actually means.
To go alongside the new iPad Pros Apple showcased a number of enhancements to iOS for the iPad that bring it more inline with the macOS UI. In addition to split screen mode you can now have an app float on top of the primary app. Apple redesigned the dock and app switcher. All of these additions are in service to the biggest addition to the iPad, drag and drop functionality. You can now drag a picture from Photos, summon up the dock or app switcher, change to the Mail app and drop the picture into a composed email. It looks fluid as all hell and I am really excited to try it out. Unfortunately drag and drop between apps is apparently an iPad only feature and on iPhone you'll only be able to drag and drop in-between different screens of a single app. So you could drag something between conversations in Messages for example but not over to Photos or Mail or Notes. Hopefully this is something Apple will add in a later iOS release. I bet they just don't have enough resources to work out all the bugs in time for the fall.
Apple announced a new Files app designed to be a one stop shop for all of the files on your iPad. It also integrates with third party services like Box or Dropbox or Google Drive. Combined with drag and drop you can now move files in-between apps and services with ease.
The Notes app also got two pretty big features as well. Handwritten text is now searchable and you can scan documents into Notes using the camera which you can then markup using Notes.
You can also quickly access the Notes app but simply touching your Apple Pencil to the lock screen. Apple is slowly but surely making the iPad look like a viable replacement for physical notebooks that people use. They have removed almost all of the friction that is associated with using a digital device as a replacement for a physical notebook.
HomePod, the Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor was announced and it was much more focused on being a speaker for music than I was expecting. I was expecting a $150 Siri Speaker but instead we got a $349 Sonos/Siri speaker combination. As someone who doesn't have an entertainment system I am very excited to see how this is going to fit into my apartment. I love the idea of just being able to say "Hey Siri, play some AC/DC" and instantly have Thunderstruck start shaking the walls.
With a four inch subwoofer and 7 tweeters that are being powered by an A8 chip (the same chip that powers the iPhone 6 for fucks sake!) which allows each tweeter to individual adjust itself to provide the best sound for your unique room.
I am also interested in seeing how a HomePod works connected to an Apple TV. Like I said I don't have an entertainment system so I am using the crappy speakers that are built into my TV. I'm interested in seeing how a HomePod (or two) could replace those speakers.
I am very happy with this WWDC. A lot of the rumors were true but Apple still had a few tricks up their sleeves. All the enhancements to watchOS, macOS and iOS are going to make Apple's already superior software even better. I may be able to hook up a 1080 Ti up to my MacBook Pro this Fall. I'm probably going to buy a 10.5" iPad Pro and use it to replace my notebooks. A HomePod will soon be blasting music through my apartment. All in all it is a great time to be an Apple user.#WWDC