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WWDC 2018: Thoughts on the Keynote

While the haters may think the WWDC 2018 Keynote was weak (like they do every year) I came away super stoked for all the tweaks and improvements that are coming to Apple's platforms this fall.

I wanted to write a quick article highlighting all of the announcements that really leapt out at me.

"Today is all about software"

I was honestly completely shocked they didn't announce any hardware. There is no doubt some updates are coming this year and I would be even more shocked if they somehow slipped them into the iPhone event in September. It looks like we're going to see another October event to announce Mac hardware like we did back in October 2016.

iOS 12 is coming to all devices that can run iOS 11

Apple doesn't get enough credit for doing this. The iPhone 5S was released in September 2013 and it will still get iOS 12. Not only that but iOS 12 will run even better than iOS 11. A comparable Android device would be the Nexus 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S4 and they can only be updated to Android 6.0.1 and Android 5.0.1 respectively. Those are versions of Android released 3+ years ago!

Augmented Reality

It is amazing to see how Apple went from a company not publicly involved in augmented reality to be the largest platform for it. The ability for multiple iOS devices to be part of the same AR space cannot be underestimated. Previously augmented reality would ensure you were separating yourself from social interactions but now it can be used to enhance them.

I am very bullish on augmented reality being one of those technologies that is quite novel at the moment but could end up defining how we interact with technology in the near future.

Photos

After my harrowing RAID failure where I almost lost all of my photos I migrated everything to iCloud and the Photos app. I am a huge fan of being able to search my photos by person, date, location and the automatically generated "memories" are delightful. So to hear that all of that is getting put on steroids in iOS 12 just makes me incredibly happy. Multiple search criteria and improved object recognition for things like cats and dogs will make finding photos so much easier.

I know a lot of complainers would say "Google and Facebook have had these things for a while now" and my response to that would be you don't know what else Google and Facebook are doing with your photos. They say that they aren't doing anything malicious with them but there are no guarantees. With Apple Photos, all of the analysis is happening on your devices. Apple has absolutely no idea what your photos contain because your privacy is Apple's utmost concern. They make money when you buy the new iPhone or iPad. Google or Facebook makes money when they can figure out what ads you will click on. Who would you trust?

Oh also the sharing suggestions features could be a godsend. We all have some family members who really struggle with technology and the possibility that I could send them a bunch of pictures from a getogether and iOS automatically suggests they share photos back is mind blasting!

Siri Shortcuts

Siri Shortcuts is one of those new technologies that sounds incredibly powerful but I can think of almost no uses for it off the top of my head. I am really looking forward to seeing how the apps I use on a daily basis build in support for Siri Shortcuts.

What I am most interested in is how Apple plans to surface all of these shortcuts to us and how they work together. They are adding a Shortcuts app (their version of the Workflow app which they bought in March 2017) to help manage these shortcuts but it feels like a similar problem iMessage apps or Today widgets have. It is not obvious which apps have this type of functionality and as a result they go unused. I have high hopes that Apple isn't going to make that mistake this time around.

Reports & App Limits

Only Apple could create software that gives you a detailed breakdown of how you use your phone with the purpose of understanding how you could use it less. Seriously can you imagine Facebook detailing what parts of Facebook you use the most so you can cut back?

The reports functionality looks to detail your last week of usage which can then be drilled down into for each day. You can then see how long you used each app, how many times you picked up your phone, how long you used it each time and, my favourite piece, how many notifications you got and from what apps.

The absolutely batshit insane thing is that you can then use this information to set hard limits on how long you can use an app in a day. They literally showcased setting a 30 minute limit on the Instagram app. Parents also have the ability to see this information for all of their children's accounts and can set app limits accordingly.

Something like this is a prime example of how Apple is driven by user experience and Android is driven by engineering challenges.

Animoji & Memoji

Four new Animoji and the addition of tongue detection would probably have been enough for most people but Apple wanted to take things one step further. They unveiled Memoji (essentially their take on Bitmoji) which looks really interesting. The amount of customization is truly impressive. By this point most people were probably placated but Apple had to take another shot at Snapchat and unveiled their version of Snapchat Filters. Directly inside the Messages app you can use Animoji, your Memoji and various stickers to adorn your selfies. Bravo Apple. 👏🏻

watchOS 5

I got the two things that I asked for: improved tracking and the Podcasts app. The Walkie-Talkie functionality looks cute but I can't imagine using it myself. I am also really looking forward to how the Siri Shortcuts integrate with the Siri watch face. I have been using that watch face exclusively since it shipped with watchOS 4 and it has done a great job at surfacing useful information to me. The problem has always been third-party apps couldn't contribute but that looks to be changing.

tvOS

If I had a Dolby Atmos sound bar I would probably be over the moon right now with support coming to the Apple TV. The addition of new "Aerials" wallpapers is cool and all but it is pretty sad to see that take up time during a Keynote. The only other thing worth mentioning is their "Zero Sign-On" functionality where if your broadband connection is tied to a cable subscription you'll automatically be signed into all of the compatible apps. As someone who cut the cord over 6 years ago this does absolutely nothing for me.

I'm kinda disappointed to not get anything shocking out of tvOS but I use my Apple TV a dozen plus hours a week so it already is working amazingly for me.

Dark Mode in macOS

🤷🏻‍♂️ Xcode in Dark Mode does look pretty nifty but it is not melting my brain in the same way it appears to be melting most of the Internet's.

Improve screenshots & screen recording

I couldn't be happier to see them bring similar screenshot and screen recording functionality from iOS to macOS. As a developer who works with UI/UX a ton I am constantly taking screenshots and the ability to record animations is going to make my life a whole lot easier.

Privacy

Again, this is one of those things that I think Apple doesn't get enough credit for. After Facebook's Cambridge Analytica debacle and Google's constant talk about using artificial intelligence to understand everything about you it is refreshing to see a company that is so focused on privacy. Apple just wants you to buy their hardware and keep your data to yourself. They'll build all sorts of features around the data you store in iCloud but it is fully encrypted and up to all of your connected devices to do the work.

Apple doubled down on privacy this WWDC with several enhancements in macOS Mojave. The OS will ask for permission if an app attempts to access your location, contacts, photos, calendar, reminders, camera or microphone. But now it will also lock down your Mail database, Message history, Safari data, Time Machine backups, iTunes device backups and system cookies so only a select few applications have access.

Apple is also updating Safari to make it even harder for advertisers to track you across the web. They are going to start killing share buttons and other "sharing tools" that track you as well as making it more difficult for web pages to be able to fingerprint your computer by hiding system information so your Mac looks like everyone else's.

I've said this several times already but this really is one of those things that only Apple can do and I applaud them for not backing down.

Mac App Store Redesign

The Mac App Store redesign is one of those things Apple should be thanked for but still raked over the coals for taking so long. It is essentially a redesign that matches that which took place in iOS 11 which is nothing to sneeze at. Useful information is finally being surfaced and hopefully proper editorializing will lead to health growth for a lot of apps.

"Are you merging iOS and macOS? NO!"

We finally got the answer to UXKit and it is simply that we will be able to port iOS apps to macOS. This really was the most obvious solution to the immediate problem. Maybe 5-6 years from now we'll have some titanic shift but it was foolish to think that something drastic was going to happen.

I am holding out for some UIKit rewrite that completely does away with initWithCoder:.

Conclusion

I was very content with this WWDC. Sure there weren't any monumental announcements but the vast majority of the refinements and tweaks that they announced really resonated with me. I honestly don't think I will be able to wait until the fall and I'll probably crack around beta 3 and install iOS 12 on my daily driver. #YOLO

#WWDC

🎮