WWDC is Apple’s annual developer conference, where the spotlight is on new technologies, developers and software instead of their crazy popular products. This year’s conference keynote was notable for a number of reasons, namely, Apple branching out into home automation, the introduction of a new programming language, new operating systems, steps towards a unified device ecosystem and much more. Unlike a lot of developer conferences, however, there were a lot of consumer oriented announcements as well. Here’s a recap of the whole conference keynote, WWDC 2014 at a glance!
Apple WWDC 2014 – The Important Stuff
Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite
First up is the updated Mac OS X. Successor to the Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Yosemite is basically what iOS 7 was to the ecosystem, a complete change in look and feel. Carrying over the same flat design and typography from the mobile OS, Yosemite will be available this fall for free. As mentioned earlier, this year’s conference was a lot about bringing iOS and Mac OS together, so a lot of new features were developed with this goal in mind.
A New Look – Apple has borrowed a lot of design cues from iOS 7, and Yosemite finally looks like it’s part of the new ecosystem. The new flat design and translucent menus, adaptable toolbars and typography changes make it look much better than before.
Notification Center – The new notification center brings together both app/system notifications and calendar/itinerary information at a glance, and incorporates widgets to let you do much more without opening any apps. You’ll also be able to change what you want to see in the notification center via a tabbed interface. These minor changes make it easier to use and get things done without interrupting what you’re doing.
Spotlight – A new universal search feature à la Windows 8.1, Spotlight now opens up a search windows in the middle of your screen that lets you search through local files, Bing, Wikipedia, the App Store, Music, Books and much more. It basically gets all online and local results in one window pane, and even tries to predict what you’re searching for as you type. Spotlight also works on the revamped Safari and lets you see movie show times, restaurant reviews and more. Neat!
AirDrop and iCloud Drive – AirDrop is now supported on iOS as well, so you can now transfer back and forth from iOS devices to your Mac seamlessly.
iCloud has always been Apple users cloud storage service of choice, and iCloud Drive is an update that integrates it within the desktop UI for more efficient data transfer. It’s similar to what Microsoft has done with OneDrive integration with Windows 8.1.
Desktop Calling – A welcome new feature for Apple users is Desktop calling, which will let you receive and make calls if your phone and Yosemite running Mac are connected. It will offer program integration as well, and let you call numbers you see on the internet, for example.
Handoff – Perhaps the most interesting feature is the curiously named Handoff. It’s also the feature that brings iOS and Mac much closer, and basically lets you work seamlessly on your mobile or desktop Apple devices. Let’s say you’re working on an email on your phone and realize that it will be much easier to complete on your Mac. With Handoff, you can simply stop working on it and move to the much more powerful desktop computer, where an icon is created to let you continue working quickly, as well as serve as a reminder to complete the task. This works both ways, and intelligently detects important things you’re working on.
It’s no secret that Apple’s mobile OS is one of the biggest in the world, running on tablets, music players and of course, smartphones. Last year’s iOS 7 was a significant revamp of the operating system, and this year is more of an evolution. However, it’s the new additions under the hood that will truly make the difference. Apart from the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, iOS 8 brings with it a lot of new cosmetic changes and usability features that’s sure to please. iOS 8 will be available this fall for the iPhone 4S and above, the iPod Touch 5th generation and the iPad 2 and above.
Interactive Notification Center – The reworked notification center now lets you interact with notifications without actually opening the app. The best part? It’s not limited to simple stuff like text messaging, it also includes third party app support, so you can actually Like or Comment on a Facebook post as soon as it appears in notifications! Also, just like Mac OS X Yosemite, widgets are being introduced to iOS, and will integrate with the regular notification center.
Spotlight and Favorite Contacts – Similar to Spotlight on Mac OS X Yosemite, Spotlight on iOS 8 will also offer localized and internet search in one window, coupled with suggestions and additional context based information.
The favorite contacts feature is a new way to contact your friends and family easily. Tapping the home button twice brings up a list of favorite contacts that resemble Facebook chatheads.
Keyboard Improvements and Third Party Support – iOS has always had one of the easiest to use keyboards out there, but it has been getting slightly long in the tooth. The long awaited keyboard refresh, called QuickType, brings with it smarter predictive text, context based conversation suggestions and an adaptive engine that stores data locally. But the biggest new change in this regard is the support for third party keyboards, so all Apple fans pining for Swype based input, your time will soon come. For the first time in years, Apple will be allowing developers to change something as system oriented as the primary input, so that’s definitely a good sign.
App Communication and TouchID Becoming Accessible to Developers – One of the big new changes under the hood is inter-app communication, which will allow developers to create more seamless experiences across apps, and let them say, add more photo editing tools to the native Photos app. Apple has always had a very closed ecosystem this way, so this change is quite welcome.
When first introduced, TouchID was seen as an interesting development, but didn’t seem to do much else than let you unlock your phone. With iOS 8, TouchID will now be accessible to developers, so you can expect to use your fingerprint to say, access private data (wink, wink). Fingerprint data will still be stored locally on the device, so you don’t have to worry about hackers accessing your fingerprints.
iMessage – iMessage, Apple’s own messaging service has also got a makeover, of the Frankenstein’s monster sort, we might add. Incorporating features from pretty much all similar services out there, iMessage has become a much more viable messaging service now. Other than improved group messaging and the usual text messaging, you can now share audio and video from within the app without switching out, just like WhatsApp, and even set messages to self-destruct after some time, just like Snapchat. A nice new addition is the way you reply to audio messages, you can simply put the phone to your ear and reply, no swiping or tapping required. There’s also location sharing and more participant details in group messaging. All in all, it’s a definite improvement, but there’s a lot of borrowed features.
Family Sharing and iCloud Photo Library – Similar to Windows Phone, the new Family Sharing feature lets you share your purchases, media, calendars and more with upto six total members, all tied to a single credit card. With notifications about purchases, you don’t need to worry about kids buying expensive apps either. Want to read that book your daughter bought last week and has been talking about? No problem! The new Photos hub also lets you share photos between devices, and shows any changes you’ve made across devices, great for maintaining a unified photo library.
Improved Siri and Mail – Apple’s personal assistant hasn’t been shown too much love this time around, but deserves a mention for improvements nonetheless. She can be called upon by saying “Hey, Siri”, and now lets you recognize and purchase songs with some help from Shazam. There’s also support for 22 new dictation languages and better voice recognition.
The Mail client also boasts of some new features, mainly having to do with quick access and the ability to share large files. You can mark or delete messages with quick swipes instead of opening them up.
HealthKit – HealthKit is a new service that collects and quantifies all the data from tracking apps and fitness devices, and shares it with certain partners to provide up to date health based information as well as data for health conscious users. As of now there’s only a couple of partners, but we can expect more in the future who would use this information to create health solutions for iOS users. The data collected is viewed on a brand new Health app.
Metal – For all the gamers out there, Metal is probably the lone announcement that stood out in the WWDC 2014. Metal is a new firmware layer that lets the GPU on Apple devices to communicate with games or apps much more effectively, removing middleware and bringing better multithreaded support, real time rendering and faster computing. In simpler words, Metal lets hardware and software communicate better, which translates into console quality graphics on mobile devices. There were demos shown off that really impressed and highlighted the capability of this new firmware layer, looks like mobile gaming is definitely taking a step forward!
Apple’s long rumored foray into the home automation game was finally revealed, with HomeKit. HomeKit is a new wireless protocol that will be used with as of now unnamed ‘market leaders’ to securely pair Apple devices with home systems like the light systems, garage doors or thermostat to facilitate wireless control. It’s still a work in progress and is technically just a protocol as of now, but Apple’s looking at a future where only specific devices can control a home. It’s always a matter of concern if an electronic device can pretty much control a home, so the main focus here will be security, other than ease of use, of course. It seems to be an interesting development, and we can only wait and watch.
Last, but definitely not the least, and perhaps the biggest surprise of the conference was the announcement of a new programming language called Swift. Apple has always worked on Objective C, and according to them, this new language is like “Objective-C without the C”, which means it’s still fast and versatile, but much easier to use. Apple also says that apps written in Swift are faster and more efficient than those written on Objective C, and can still run side by side in apps with it as well as C. A demo shown highlighted the ease of use of the language, with changes appearing as the code was being written, and rendered with another game development toolkit introduced, called SpriteKit. If you’re interested to learn more about Swift, Apple has released a new ebook detailing it (Download it here), as well as launched the SDK to create Swift based apps, Xcode 6 Beta (Download it here).
Thus ended the WWDC 2014 keynote, one notable more for the ‘under the hood’ changes than those readily apparent. A true developers delight, we might add. Let us know what you think of all the announcements, and also about the recap via the comments below!