Apple made a whole bunch of announcements this week at WWDC, their annual developer conference, in which far-flung app developers converge in San Francisco to learn, network, and geek out. I’ve been a few times. It’s fun.
Apple Opens Software to Developers
Here’s how software is written in 2016: you don’t program a computer at its lowest levels. That would be like building a house out of atoms. Instead, Apple publishes a “toolkit” of larger parts (in the house analogy, like wooden beams, doorknobs, etc), called frameworks, that developers learn and use to build their apps. On iPads and iPhones, it’s not even possible to build anything without using Apple’s frameworks.
So what developers can and can’t do, particularly on iPhone and iPad, is entirely dependent on what Apple provides. And this year’s WWDC was especially developer-friendly, with Apple “opening up” (providing frameworks for) parts of their platform that were previously inaccessible to developers, like Siri, or the phone call part of the iPhone. That means you could soon see new apps that can do new things, or the same things more seamlessly, than before.
Apple announced new versions of nearly all of their operating systems, all coming this fall, all for free:
OS X Now Called MacOS
OS X has been rechristened “macOS,” which I consider to be a welcome development. Its new version, 10.12 is called “Sierra.” For the first time in several years, many older Macs won’t be eligible for the upgrade, notably those released before 2010. Sierra doesn’t appear to have any mindblowing new features, but its headline attractions are:
- Siri, which was never before available on the Mac; you’ll be able to say things like “show me pictures I downloaded today” and maybe s/he’ll actually do it.
- Being able to copy and paste across devices
- The ability to sync any files on your desktop or in your documents folder across other devices and computers (even Windows computers), and also access them at iCloud.com. This is particularly nice because Dropbox doesn’t normally work with those folders.
- Sierra will also store less frequently used stuff in iCloud if you’re running out of room on your Mac’s drive.
- Picture in Picture, so you can watch a video in a small window while you’re doing other stuff.
iOS 10 for the iPhone and iPad has lots of changes for developers, such as:
- Being able to use Siri in their apps, so you can soon do things like call an Uber or post to WeChat with your voice
- VoIP apps (like Skype, Line2, Google Voice) can behave like first-class citizens and incoming calls to them will appear just as regular phone calls do
- Internet of Things gadgets like “smart” lightbulbs and thermostats and door locks and who knows what else can now be controlled within a single Home app, rather than a panoply of individual apps
- Voicemail transcriptions (hooray)
- Better predictive typing (maybe hooray)
- Messages now allows for huge emojis, drawing, animations, and other stuff
- You’ll be able (finally) to hide the included Apple apps that you don’t use (Compass, anyone?)
- Maps and the Music app have been redesigned for alleged simplicity, which I’ll believe when I see
- The Music app also now provides lyrics for each song (why did no one think of that until now?)
- The lock screen on iOS 10 has been redesigned to be more of an overview
- Apple News has many more sources
- Maps will remember where you parked your car
Other tweaks and refinements abound. You’ll need at least an iPhone 5, iPad Mini 2, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Pro, iPod Touch 6th generation.
Based on what I’ve heard, I’m hoping the new version of watchOS will get the Watch closer to what it should have been in the first place, with significantly simplified use, and much faster operation for frequently used apps. Still, it will be up to developers to really figure out the killer app for the Apple Watch, as it doesn’t have one yet.
Best two new things coming to the Apple TV are:
- You can use your iPhone as your remote control (that little Apple TV remote is so easy to lose in the couch cushions!)
- Single sign-on for all your TV channels
Learn to Program on the iPad
One announcement that I’m excited about (but I’m sure no one else is) is Swift Playgrounds, a new iPad app that makes it easy, even for kids, to learn Apple’s new programming language, Swift.
That’s about it! We’ll give you a full rundown once these ship. As always, we advise against installing operating system upgrades for a while until after they’re released, so the bugs can shake out first. If you have any questions about Apple’s new operating systems, or anything else, ask us!