Apple WWDC21 Keynote Recap

Today Apple held its World Wide Developer Conference where they provide information about what is coming in the next version of their operating systems, and Apple announced a lot of things including new features iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS 12. Let us start where Apple started, with FaceTime.

FaceTime

FaceTime is Apple’s audio and video calling software that will allow you to communicate with others and it is getting a bunch of changes. 

FaceTime will now allow you to choose how much background noise to let onto the call. You can either use “Voice Isolation”, which will reduce background nose through machine learning, or you can use “Wide Spectrum” which will include your voice and everything in the background. You will be able to easily switch between the two.

While on a FaceTime call audio will be improved as well through Spatial Audio. Spatial Audio will automatically have audio seem as though it is directional. This means that if someone is on the right side of the screen, the audio will seem as though it is coming to your right, just as if you were in the same room.

While you are on a video call, you can turn on a new grid view. Grid view will provide everyone with the same size tiles and the active speaker will have an outline around their tile.

FaceTime has always been an Apple device-only feature, and it will largely remain that way, at least with native apps. There is a new feature called FaceTime links that will allow you to generate a FaceTime link and share it anywhere, including to those who may be on Android and Windows, through their browser. This will be a great way of getting everyone together so everyone uses the same platform, and it will remain end-to-end encrypted.

SharePlay

iOS 15 SharePlay in FaceTime

FaceTime is a good way of being able to communicate with others, but when you want to be able to consume the same media, it may not always be easy to do. This is where SharePlay comes in handy.

SharePlay is a new way of being able to, as the name implies, share and play things simultaneously. This could be something like listening to Apple Music or watching a movie on Apple TV. It is not limited to just Apple services, third-party apps can support it as well. Some third-parties are already working on integrating SharePlay into their apps, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, Twitch, TikTok and others.

If you use a streaming app, all of the audio and video will be synchronized, so you can all be at the same spot. When you use SharePlay you will be able to share your screen, you will be able to show someone what you see, which makes it great for tech support and being able to help someone through a problem spot.

Next, let us look at another item used for communication, Messages.

Messages

Messages is one of the primary communication tools used on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. People share all sorts of things within Messages, like links, pictures, articles, and more. Right now, there is no easy way to gather all of this information together. 

Now, with the latest operating systems, media that is shared with you will be able to be found in the appropriate app. Photos will appear in the Photos app, any articles will appear in News, and podcasts will appear in Podcasts. 

When you are ready to consume that, you can, and you can even jump right back into the conversation to discuss it once you ready to do so.

Focus

Focus on iOS 15

Life is full of distractions and constant interruptions. With the ever increasing remote work happening for a certain segment of the population you may want ways to be able to concentrate on certain tasks during specific periods through the day. There is a way feature called Focus that lets you do just that.

Focus will allow you to create different homepages on your devices for certain times throughout the day so you can focus on the task at hand.

On device machine learning will help identify which apps are used throughout the day and suggest them for during those times. The same can be said for notifications and messages. Of course you will be able to override suggestions and even create your own custom Focus sessions.

The biggest feature though is that all of the focus sessions will synchronize across all of your devices, so you can have the same consistency no matter what device you use.

Maps

Apple is expanding maps to include more detailed maps so that they include things like marinas, buildings, and they can indicate elevation. Along with this, there is are new road colors and labels that will help you determine which lane to get in during your trip. Maps will also make it easier to identify things like turn lanes, bike lanes, taxi and bus lanes, and crosswalks so you can be aware while driving.

These features will be coming to some countries this year and more in the future. 

If you enjoy using maps at night, there is a new Nighttime mode, which will change the look with a moonlit mode.

For those who use public transit, there are some features for you like nearby stations, the ability to pin your favorites, and this will work with the Apple Watch so you will be able to know which stop you need to take to get to your destination.

iPadOS

iPadOS 15 Home Screen with widgets

The iPad is seeing some major changes, including getting Widgets on the home screen like iOS got with iOS 14. This includes a specialized Extra Large widget specifically designed for use on the iPad. 

There are some new widgets coming as well including widgets for FindMy, Contacts, Game Center, and a redesigned Files widget. Along with this the App Library is now on iPadOS, and is available in the Dock at all times, so you can quickly access any app. Beyond this though, you can also use the App Library to quickly move entire pages of applications, or hide them, all with a few quick gestures.

Multitasking has gotten some great updates, including the ability to always access Split View and Slide Over, right from any app. You simply tap on the three buttons at the top of the app and the controls will appear. Simply tapping on one of the buttons will switch it. And if you are using only one app at the moment, it will bring up the home screen so you can select the app you want to use in split view or slide over.

There is a new Shelf feature that will allow you to easily temporarily move windows so they can be accessed more easily later on. 

Notes

One of the big uses of iOS and macOS is the ability to takes notes. There is a new feature called QuickNote that will let you start a new note from anywhere. These are not just basic notes, but instead they are fully functional notes that you can either enter text via a keyboard or you can use the Apple Pencil to write in. 

Notes now also has a new feature called Tags, so you can easily organize your notices and find them within search. If you want to share a note with someone, you simply have to mention them in the note and they will get a notification that a note was shared.

Swift Playgrounds 

Swift Playgrounds 4 on iPadOS 15

One of the most requested features is the ability to not only run, but develop apps directly on the iPad. That is now possible with Swift Playgrounds. The new version of Swift Playgrounds will allow you to build, run, and submit apps directly to the App Store. These will be limited to SwiftUI apps, but even this is a HUGE step forward. This is one feature that I will definitely be testing.

Safari

Safari is getting an overhaul. There is a new feature called Tab Groups. Tab Groups allow you to organize different sets of tabs together. These can be accessed together as a group and opened up as a group. These synchronize across all of your devices so you can access them on your iPad, iPhone, and Mac. If you add or remove a tab from the group, it will be automatically synchronized between them.

Along with this, the tab bar is redesigned so the tabs are at the top and the tab bar will adopt the color of the website, so it all looks like its a single page.

iCloud

iCloud is seeing some new features as well. This includes new account recovery options, digital legacy, and some privacy additions. 

It is inevitable that at some point someone is going to lose access to their iCloud account. However, there are some new account recovery options that will allow you to add trusted individuals who can receive a code to allow you to login, should you somehow lose access to your account.

There are two inevitable things in life, death and taxes. While Apple cannot help with the second one, they can with the first, with the new Digital Legacy program. This program will allow the important information to be passed down to family members, so others will have it when you are no longer around. 

iCloud is getting some additional features called iCloud+.

iCloud+

iCloud includes a feature to allows you to store HomeKit video. This is limited to five cameras. That will no longer be the case, once you upgrade to iCloud+. You will be able to have unlimited cameras connected, and they will not count against your iCloud storage limit.

Privacy is an important aspect in today’s modern society. Many companies will use whatever information they can to track you across websites. This information can include IP address, so they can obtain a general location. 

When you go to sign up for a service you may not want to give away your email address, so there is a new feature called “Hide My Email”. This feature will generate a randomly generated email address that you can provide to the company and it will forward to your main email account. 

There is an option to allow your data to be sent through two different relays so that the services cannot ascertain your location and they cannot track you. In reality, this sounds like an Apple VPN and is similar to the Mozilla VPN service.

Next, let us turn to macOS.

macOS

macOS Monterey on a MacBook Pro

macOS 12 is Apple’s next version of macOS. Each version of macOS has its own name, and this year’s is macOS Monterey. 

macOS gets a bunch of features that have already been discussed, including SharePlay, Spatial Audio, the microphone modes, grid view, and macOS Monterey supports FaceTime links.

Just like FaceTime, the features in QuickNotes are supported on macOS, including tags. Any Focus configurations will be supported on macOS as well, which is great for productivity.  Maps gets all of the same features including Globe Mode, the new transit features, and the new landmarks, and Night mode.

There are three new features coming only to macOS. These are AirPlay, Shortcuts, and Universal Control.

AirPlay

macOS has long been able to send what is playing from a Mac to another device. However, you have not been able to send things to a Mac. This changes with macOS Monterey, provided you have a supported Mac. 

Shortcuts

Apple introduced the Shortcuts app with iOS 12 in 2018 and built in the app with iOS 13 in 2019. Shortcuts is a way of being able to automate iOS. This is now coming to macOS. Apple indicated that this is going to be the platform going forward, but it will be a mull-year transition to Shortcuts, but AppleScript is still supported.

Universal Control

macOS Monterey Universal Control

There are a number of users who use multiple devices, like an iPad and a Mac. Many users would like to be able to easily move between their Mac and their iPad. There are some third-party apps and hardware that allow you to do this, but it is not built into the system. But with macOS Monterey it is, provided you have supported Macs and iPads.

When you use Universal Control you can use your Mac to move between your iPad and the Mac, using the trackpad on your Mac. This is not limited to just being used between a Mac and an iPad, but you can use it between two Macs as well.

There are some limitations, like both devices need to be on the same iCloud account, within 30 feet, have two factor authentication enabled and not sharing an internet connection.

This will be a great way to enhance productivity if you need to easily move between Macs and iPads.

Closing Thoughts

This is just a sampling of what Apple has announced with today’s WWDC keynote. There are more things related to Health, the Home, and I did not even cover watchOS, which has some stuff like a mindfulness app, respiration rate tracking, and two new workout types Tai Chi and Pilates.

There are so many new features that can be found within the operating systems. You can see previews for macOS Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS, and watchOS.

All of these changes will be coming later this year with the release of the various operating systems.