Today’s Apple keynote marked the 25th anniversary of the first Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC14. Although no new hardware was announced, major updates to both OS X and iOS– OS X Yosemite and iOS 8– mean huge improvements are coming to Apple user experience. The conference is developer focused, but anything that’s good for developers is good for end users. Apple also released new tools to help developers make fantastic new apps for the rest of us.
OS X Yosemite Design Updates
Over the past year, the Mac user base grew by 12%, even while the PC industry declined by 5% as a whole. Apple answers the market’s love of Mac with Mac OS X “Yosemite,” named for the beauty and power of the National Park. Apple is improving the desktop experience with a more refined design involving some elements iOS7 users are already familiar with, like translucency and simpler, more symbolic icons.
Can Safari get us to stop using Chrome?
Like Yosemite, Safari has a leaner look. To declutter, the Favorites bar has been made optional and Favorites now pop up when you click into search. Tabs have been reorganized and Tab view provides a “birds-eye” view of all open tabs, organized according to site.
Safari’s functional improvements include private browsing similar to Chrome’s “Incognito Mode,” holistic searching that includes results from multiple search engines, and improved sharing options. Finally, because so many of us think the internet is best used for binge watching TV shows on Netflix, Yosemite will support HTML5 video, which allows for 1080P video streaming without plugins. This can provide up to two hours of additional battery life while you catch up on House of Cards.
More mail, and even better Mail
A past pain point, the updated mail application will provide more reliable syncing and speedier switching between inboxes. The new MailDrop feature allows users to send huge attachments–up to 5GB. The coolest new Mail feature is markup, which allows for all important in-email doodling.
Get whatever you want, whenever you want it with Spotlight
Yosemite helps you do less searching and more finding. Spotlight now pops up in the middle of the screen and can search apps, content, files, maps, and more with inline previews. Notification Center has been updated with “Today” view, providing users with an at-a-glance overview of their day including calendar notifications, weather, and content from third party widgets.
Continuity is a marriage of desktop and mobile
Application integration across devices
A major focus of Apple’s new operating system is a new level of integration between mobile and desktop systems. AirDrop will work between iOS and Mac. iCloud Drive will allow you to find and sync content across all your devices, and even supports Windows. With Handoff, folks using both a Yosemite and an iOS device will seamlessly transition work between the two devices in close proximity–if you begin writing an email on an iPhone and go to your Mac, the Yosemite machine will pick up where you left off on the phone and allow you to finish typing on the desktop email application.
In addition to integrating work between systems, Yosemite allows computers to take on some of the functionality of the iPhone– a Yosemite machine can receive and make calls and texts when connected to an iPhone, even if that phone is several rooms away.
Apple is pairing the Photos app with iCloud so photos are available on all devices. The update to iOS brings new “Smart Editing” for light, color, and auto straightening and cropping. A similar, “grounds up photo solution” will be available for Yosemite in 2015. All changes go live to iCloud photo library so improved photos are available across devices as soon as you’re finished editing. To store all these photos, Apple is offering expanded iCloud storage: 5GB for free, 20GB for $0.99/month, and 200GB for $3.99/month.
iOS 8 multitasking and communication
The keynote touted that iOS 8 is the largest update since the launch of the App Store. Like Yosemite, iOS 8 has a improved notification center. Multitaskers will be able to reply to notifications without leaving an app in use– replies are even enabled on the lock screen. Messaging, iOS’ most frequently used app, is being updated with features like at-a-glance attachment viewing, thread-level “do not disturb,” and in-line audio and video messages. Like desktop, mobile Mail is also improving with gesture flagging, tagging, and deleting. You can also access the rest of your email history while composing a message.
At long last, keyboard options!
Apple’s keyboard was innovative when initially developed, but with a slightly clumsy interface and a sometimes hilariously incorrect autocorrect, it’s gotten a bit behind the competition. iOS 8 will bring QuickType, which supports predictive suggestions and learns how you like to communicate to make those suggestions. More important, users will finally be able to install third party keyboards, like Swype.
We share everything in our home with our family, and Apple wants us to be able to share in our virtual space as well. You can automatically share photos, events, reminders, and even purchases (if all accounts are linked with one credit card) with family members using iOS.
Similar to Google Now’s “OK, Google,” you’ll be able to say “Hey, Siri” for touchless voice control. With the update come Shazam-powered song recognition, faster, streaming voice recognition, and 22 dictation languages.
A more connected home and healthy life
Apple is releasing interface tools for connecting your health and home. HealthKit and the accompanying application “Health,” combine the many metrics from various sensors and health and fitness applications in one place to provide you, and potentially your doctor, with usable, real-time health data. Similarly, HomeKit connects many home automation devices and allows total control of your home via iOS.
Improved developer tools = improved user experience
There are 1.2 apps currently available in the App Store, and this WWDC provides application developers with more tools to create and distribute high quality applications. With the update to iOS adn the App Store, folks looking for good apps will be able to find them more easily as Apple is adding better browsing, application previews, curated recommendations, and bundling to the App Store. Developers even have the option to allow users to Beta test apps with TestFlight.
To some extent, Apple is opening up its “walled garden,” and allowing apps to extend services to other apps. This means you will be able to translate content with Bing while browsing with Safari, use third party photo filters in the Photos app, and do your mobile living in a more fully integrated ecosystem. Third party apps will even have access to the convenience of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, meaning you will finally be able to log into your bank account using only your finger.
Good news for Games
Game developers and gamers will be excited by Metal, a feature which dramatically reduces graphical overhead. Metal will allow game creators to make beautiful, console-worthy 3D games for iOS. Additionally, casual games will see improvements with an updated SpriteKit and get beautified with SceneKit– tools that allow easy development of more simple games.
Swift: The language of Apple
Apple has always championed efficiency, security, and usability. To take it one step further, Apple is now providing developers a new programming language (based on a slimmed down version Objective-C, if you’re curious) that they claim is safe from many common programming errors. In addition to the language itself comes Playgrounds, a testing environment where developers can display the content of their code alongside the code itself. A faster, easy-to-use programming language means that app development will be a simpler task. Ultimately, this will lead to more content and an even more robust app ecosystem.
At last, Apple is bringing many of its most beloved features together in ways users have been asking for for years. Better integration between systems and applications, plus the promise of great new software made with convenient, efficient developer tools may mean that Apple is positioned to reclaim much of the market lost to more open platforms.
Tim Cook made a point to thank all the developers who create content for Apple devices. iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will be available to the public in the fall. Meanwhile, the beta version is available for developers to work on that great content until autumn. Thanks, developers, for making September even more exciting!