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. 

Apple WWDC 21 Wish List

Typically when Apple has an event, I typically end up doing a post about my predictions for what the event will hold. For most of Apple’s events, I think it makes sense, yet for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, called WWDC, keynote it does not make as much sense to do so.

WWDC is where Apple provides information about the next versions of their operating systems. On the first day of WWDC there are two keynotes, one aimed towards the general user and a second one called the “State of the Union”. The State of the Union is the keynote for developers that can get a bit more technical.

Instead of doing purely a predictions post, I am going to do more of a wish list post. With that, here is what I would like to see from Apple.

Music

Apple likes to say that “Music is part of Apple’s DNA”. Recently, Apple announced that there will be lossless audio available on Apple Music as well as Dolby Atmos enabled tracks. There have been a number of changes over the years for the Music app, but there are a couple of things I would like to see.

The first is that I would like to be able to zoom in on artwork within the Music app. I cannot see why there is any reason why this has not been something that we can do.

The second item that I would like to see related to music is the ability to create Smart Playlists from the Music app. The Music app on macOS, previously iTunes, has long allowed you to create playlists based on certain criteria. These playlists can be uploaded to one’s iCloud Music Library and then view them on an iPhone or iPad. My question is why can this not be done on an iPhone or iPad. The interface would need to be built, but the devices definitely can handle the need. It may even be that the songs for these are only updated once a day, or only when a device is on a charger. This would be nice to see.

iCloud

Apple is all about services and one of the services is iCloud. Ever since its introduction in 2008, as the replacement of MobileMe, the amount of free storage has been 5GB. To me, this is not only woefully inadequate, but it makes Apple look really stingy. I understand that Apple has billions of customers and that it is a lot of data that could need to be stored. However, Apple has the money to make this happen. I think the minimum should be at least 10GB. Yes, additional storage can be purchased, but the minimum should be something that users can actually use.

The second iCloud related item, is that there should be a place where one can see all of their iCloud Shared folders. To me, this should already be in the system, but it is not. This should be available in the Files app, in Finder on macOS, and available on iCloud.com. This would be a small feature that would go a long way.

Apple Watch

There are two things that I would like to see for the Apple Watch. One of these relates to charging and the other to watch faces.

When you charge an Apple Watch once the Watch is fully charged a notification will be sent to the paired iPhone. What I would like to see is this enhanced a bit so that the notification will be sent to other nearby devices, like a Mac or an iPad, provided that the devices are logged into the same iCloud account. Like the listing of shared iCloud folders, this is a small feature that would add a nice touch.

The second change is third-party custom watch faces. I think allowing developers to create custom watch faces, and having users install them, is sorely needed. The Apple Watch has a wide variety of watch faces, however, even with all of the customizations that are available, not all watch faces suit the needs of all users. I am not sure if Apple will ever do this, but I am sure that there is a market for this.

Widgets

Widgets were introduced with iOS 14 and have been very popular. When they were introduced there were two limitations, minimal interaction and iOS only. I would like to see some updates to these limitations.

Currently with Widgets you are limited to opening a deep link into an app. I think adding some interactivity is needed. It completely makes sense to limit the feature set for the first release, but adding more features as time goes on makes sense. It would be nice to be able to have additional interaction options.

Along with enhanced interactions, I would like to see Widgets come to the iPad. Right now, Widgets are limited to the left side of the first page on the iPad, whereas the iPhone allows widgets on the home screen. I know this would make my iPad usage experience a bit nicer.

To coincide with widgets on iPad, I would like to see additional sizes. Right now there are three sizes, called “small”, “medium”, and “large”. A small widget is a two columns by two rows, a medium widget is two rows tall by four columns wide, and a large widget is four columns by four rows. The additional sizes could be “extra small”, which would be a one two columns by one row. Additionally, it would be handy to have a vertical “extra small”, where it would be one column by two rows. Furthermore, a “extra small wide” version, which is one row by four columns, as well as the vertical variant, would also be an option.

Barry Sullivan’s Ideas

Barry Sullivan, friend of mine and editor my books, has some ideas on what it might be good for Apple to as well. “for Apple to unleash the iPad Pro with the M1 ‘desktop class’ processor that should allow: Widgets all over the place not just the left side of the screen, a real file system to move files and data around, a mail system that allows “nested folders” that a user can open and close (just like on the Mac), more choices for icon size (think small, medium, and large – like you can in widgets)”.

Barry also added “For me the mail nested folders thing would make my life easier since I track bill pay for me, [and my relatives]. And if the iOS mail world would tie in better with the Mac imap world I would be able to work across devices, after all it is 2021.”

Barry is right, the Mail app on iOS and iPadOS has remained mostly unchanged for the last decade.

iPad

On the topic of the iPad, the new 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 3rd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro includes an M1 processor. What we do not know is why Apple has in store for the device. There needs to be some big changes for the iPad, beyond getting feature parity, like widgets, with the iPhone. If the iPad is truly going to be its own device, then it needs the software to catch up to the hardware.

There have been those who have speculated that the M1 iPad may be able to run virtual machines or docker installations. It is possible that Apple will do this, but I am not sure, but anything is possible. No matter what, there needs to be a significant improvement in iPadOS, otherwise what is the point of having the iPad because it is effectively a giant iPhone.

The hardware of the iPad has long outstripped the software, and it is beyond time for the software to catch up. It would be great to see iPadOS push the M1 iPad to its limits, possibly with some features only being available on the iPad with the M1 system on a chip. This would not be unprecedented in the history of the iPad, so it would be prudent for Apple to show that they are indeed putting functionality into the iPad and iPadOS.

tvOS and HomePod

There is one prediction that I am going to make. That prediction is that tvOS will be renamed to homeOS. homeOS will be a combination of the Apple TV and the HomePod. The reason that I think this is that the HomePod has been running the same software as tvOS for a couple of years. With the Apple TV and HomePod both being home-based items, it would make sense. Furthermore, with an Apple TV and HomePod both being capable of being a HomeKit Hub, renaming it would make sense.

A couple of job postings have hinted at this. Both of the job postings listed homeOS. Once this was discovered, one was changed to tvOS and the other now says “HomePod”. This is why I think these two will be combined into tvOS.

App Management

There are a couple of things that I would like to see related to the management of apps. These are around data and availability.

All apps contain at least some data. One thing that I would like to see is the ability to backup and restore an individual app’s data without needing to go through Xcode. While many apps sync their data via the cloud, there may be aspects of an app that are local and being able to backup and restore this individually would be a nice thing to have.

Availability of apps is an important one. As much as I would like this next feature I highly doubt that Apple would make it happen, and that feature is side-loading. I would like to see iOS and iPadOS app side-loading similar to that macOS. This would allow for some apps that would not be available otherwise. However, given how much control Apple wants to keep on iOS and iPadOS, I do not see this happening.

Closing Thoughts

Apple’s WWDC keynote, as well as the State of the Union, will be streamed on Monday at 10am pacific time, and 2:30pm pacific time respectively. While the main keynote is great for most users and the media, the State of the Union is geared towards developers and is where we will more likely learn about the nitty gritty details.

As is the case with all of Apple’s keynotes, I will have a recap post after the event has ended. So check back then to see what Apple actually announces.

Apple Announces WWDC21 Dates

Today Apple announced that they will be holding their annual World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC, again this year. The theme for this year is “Glow and Behold”. WWDC21 will be held in an all-online format starting June 7th and going through June 11th. Apple’s WWDC20 was also held in an all-online format. While last year’s was due to Covid-19, and the reluctance to gather so many people in one place, there has been no mention as to why Apple is having an all-online conference.

Even though there is no mention for the reason, the all-online format is somewhat better for all developers because everyone can see the exact same sessions as the same time and there is no lottery for tickets, no rushing to be the first, and just like WWDC20, this is a free conference which provides more accessibility for all developers to attend. Everyone can see the same conference no matter where in the world they are.

Swift Student Challenge

Animoji in 3D of a student with a Graduation Cap, wearing gray glasses, with the Swift and Xcode icons reflected from an M1 MacBook Air.
Swift Student Challenge

Just as was the case last year, there is a “Swift Student Challenge”. The Swift Student Challenge, an opportunity for young developers to demonstrate their coding skills by creating a Swift playground, is now accepting submissions. These submissions are due by April 18th and all of the information, including the application to apply, can be found on the Swift Student Challenge website.

Some of the requirements for the application are:

To be eligible for the Challenge, you must:

  • Be 13 years of age or older, or the equivalent minimum age in the relevant jurisdiction (for example, 16 years of age in the European Union);
  • Be registered for free with Apple as an Apple developer or be a member of the Apple Developer Program; and
  • Fulfill one of the following requirements:
    • Be enrolled in an accredited academic institution or official homeschool equivalent;
    • Be enrolled in a STEM organization’s educational curriculum;
    • Be enrolled in an Apple Developer Academy; or
    • Have graduated from high school or equivalent within the past 6 months and be awaiting acceptance or have received acceptance to an accredited academic institution.

Apple will be releasing more information in the next couple of months. As has become my tradition, I will be making predictions of what we might see at WWDC once it is closer to the start of WWDC.

Source: Apple

WWDC Prediction Results and Thoughts on WWDC 2020

As has become a tradition, I make predictions about what Apple will announced at their World Wide Developer Conference. You can see those predictions on this post. Along with the prediction results, I do have some thoughts about the new format for this all virtual conference. But first, here are the results of those predictions.

Messages on Mac same as iOS — 95%

I was right on this prediction. Messages on macOS is now a Mac Catalyst app. This means that they are the same application with the same features across iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

New health-related task on watchOS — 75%

This is also correct. There is sleep tracking available on watchOS 7. I am sure this has been the most requested feature for watchOS.

App List view on iPadOS — 70%/App List view on iPhone — 60%

This was not announced. There is a new App Library option, but it is not a list view, instead it is a grid of your applications that are grouped together.

macOS being one of the names listed — 65%

The macOS name has indeed named one of my guesses. In fact it is named macOS Big Sur. I guess Apple’s marketing team ‘drug-fueled minibus-driven vision quests’.

Transition to ARM being announced — 50%

Yes, Apple did indeed announce the transition to their own Apple Silicon, which is based on ARM.

Improvement to Controls on Mac Catalyst — 50%

There were improvements with controls on Mac Catalyst, so this on is correct as well.

Third-party Watch Faces — 25%

This was not announced. There is the ability to share watch faces, but you cannot have full third-party watch faces.

ARM Dev Kit available for order — 5%

Despite giving it a low possibility, there is a Developer Transition Kit available for developers. This Developer Transition Kit is not representative of what Apple will release with its Apple Silicon. The specifications for this transition kit are:

  • Apple A12Z Bionic Processor
  • 16GB of Memory
  • 512GB of SSD Storage
  • Two USB-C ports (up to 10Gbps)
  • Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gbps)
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet

You are able to apply for the Developer Transition Kit. However, one thing to remember is that you are renting this transition kit in order to develop your apps on Apple Silicon. You are not allowed to keep the device. There is a fee for the transition kit, $500 USD. You can apply on the Developer website. To quote the Apple developer website:

As part of the program, you’ll have limited access to a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), which will be shipped to you, for developing and testing your Universal apps. The DTK is owned by Apple and must be returned.

Double base iCloud Storage — 5%

I was incorrect about this one. There has been no change to iCloud Storage, although I still think there should be.

Prediction Recap

I only got 60% correct, which is not too bad for only having 10 predictions. I do have some thoughts about the WWDC format, so let us dive into that next.

Thoughts on WWDC 2020 Format

When Apple announced an online-only WWDC for this year, due to Covid 19. No one was 100% sure what to expect, myself included. We were expecting a Keynote, State of the Union session, and session videos. Due to Covid-19, we could not expect an audience and I think Apple did a pretty good job for the videos.

While the Keynote and State of the Union sessions were streamed, the remaining days of videos have been released at 10 am. Pacific Time on each day. While this worked for me, being in the US Central Time, I am sure it did not work for others, who may be on the other side of the world. I understand Apple’s choice here. To maintain some semblance of an in-person conference, they chose a time close to the usual time of starting the conference. It might be good if they either changed the time to earlier, say maybe 8 am Pacific Time, or released a couple of batches of videos throughout the day.

Last year with the conference being in-person, many of the sessions needed to be between 35 minutes and an hour. This is because you had people to move between sessions and they needed enough time to get to the next session. With a completely virtual conference, this is not necessary. Instead, Apple is able to have a video be just as long as it needs to. There are some videos that are still 45 minutes, or longer. A couple of these are Introduction to SwiftUI, Port your Mac app to Apple Silicon, and What’s new with in-app purchase. However, most videos are around 30 minutes, with some being as short as 8 or 9 minutes. Furthermore, the various lengths have also allowed the extraneous things that would have been required in years past to not be included, like coding demos. There are still some coding demos in some of the videos, but it is significantly fewer videos that have full coding sessions.

I think these various length for videos makes it easier for developers to be able to find what they are looking for instead of having to search through an entire session to find one snippet. For myself, I think I have gotten through watching more videos in a shorter amount of time, which means I can get started on my books that much sooner.

The last tidbit I will mention about the WWDC videos is that I do enjoy seeing the different areas of Apple Park. It is entirely possible that everything was done with green screens and that we are not actually seeing places where these videos were recorded. Even if that is the case, it is nice to see different areas of Apple Park, particularly since many of us will never be able to see them for ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

Even though I likely would not have gone to WWDC myself, the change to the videos is quite nice. I hope that Apple is willing to either move the entire conference to be virtual, which does create a consistent experience for all developers. If they were to go back to an in-person conference, it would be good to see some sort of hybrid, maybe fewer sessions, or more pre-recorded videos. I really do enjoy having the various length videos, it has helped me get to exactly what I need to watch instead of watching an entire session’s video.

Apple WWDC Keynote Announcements

2020 has not gone as most might have expected, it has provided twists, turns, and things that were completely unexpected. Even with so many things not following the usual pattern, some things must go on. One of those things is Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, albeit with a slightly different approach.

Today’s keynote has provided a look at what is coming with the latest releases of their platforms. We will look at all of them, but let us start with watchOS.

watchOS

In just over 5 years, the Apple has become a mainstay and a constant throughout their day. It might become a constant companion at night as well. This is due to the new Sleep Tracking feature of watchOS 7. Sleep Tracking will keep track of your motions throughout the evening, including micro movements, to help you determine how well you slept.

watchOS will also be gaining new Watch Face sharing capabilities with “Face Sharing”. If you see a Watch Face that you want, you can easily download it from a webpage, iMessage conversation, or in the App Store.

The Apple Watch is great for quickly glancing at information from complications. Developers will now be able to provide you with more information and multiple complications. This means that you can have multiple complications from the same developer.

Health is the primary focus for Apple Watch and one way to stay healthy is by exercising. There are a variety of different workout types available now, but there are a couple more. These are dance, functional strength training, and cool downs.

One of the biggest focuses this year, health wise, has been Covid-19. One way to help minimize exposure is through hand-washing. The Apple Watch will detect when you are washing your hands, through motion and sound, and will help you make sure that you wash your hands for the recommend length of time.

Next, let us look at iOS.

iOS

iOS powers the iPhone and iPod touch. iOS 14 has seen some major changes this year. The iPhone’s home screen has remained largely unchanged since the original iPhone with its grid of icons. Now, you will be able to hide entire pages of apps and move them to your App Library.

The App Library will allow you to search for apps, and will automatically organize applications so you can find them. The App Library is just a swipe to the right after your last page of shown apps.

Arguably though, the biggest change is with Widgets. Instead of having all of your widgets live in one view, you can now various sizes of widgets, provided a developer creates them. This will allow you to be able to see the information that you want more easily.

Additionally, the widgets you see can be personalized. For instance, you may want to see news in the morning, meetings throughout the day, and fitness information in the evening. This is entirely possible through machine learning. iOS now supports picture in picture including the ability to hide the currently playing video but still have the audio continue so you can do other tasks while still continuing your audio.

There is another new feature to highlight for iOS. That feature is called App Clips. App Clips are small parts of an app that allow you perform particular tasks. App Clips are great for tasks like paying for parking but you do not have the app, an App Clip can allow you to pay for the parking, but not having to get the entire app. However, you are able to get the full app if you need to.

Communication is a major aspect to human culture in general, but is vitally important this year. There are many ways to communicate and one of the primary ways is with Messages. Messages has been updated with a couple of new features. The first of these is improved group messages. You can assign an icon to a group so you can easily identify the group. Similarly, you can pin it to the top so you can quickly access your chats. Some group chats are quite active and you may not always want to be notified for each message. Now with iOS 14 you can change it so you will only be notified when you are mentioned in a chat. This means that you can always react when you need to, but you can also go back to the previous messages later on.

Communication does not always occur via a screen, it can also occur in-person. While it happening left often now with Covid-19, but that will not always be the case. The world does not have a single language and this can make it difficult to communicate. There is a new app called Translate. The Translate app will allow two individuals to communicate by translating the languages used. This means that you can communicate with someone who is using an entirely different language much more easily. The key to this is that all of the translation is being done on device.

iOS 14 contains a significant number of changes and many of them that cannot be covered, but you can see the list on the iOS Preview page. Next, let us look at iPadOS.

iPadOS

Last year Apple separated out the iPad into its own operating system. When this was announced it was expected that the iPad would get some of its own features, and that has come to fruition with iPadOS 14. iPadOS 14 includes changes around the Apple Pencil and handwriting. Handwriting has been significantly enhanced with iPadOS 14. You are now able to write just about anywhere and when you do, it will be automatically converted to typed text, with a feature called Scribble.

iPadOS will now be able to use a new feature called Scribble. Scribble allows you to write something in a text box and it will automatically convert it to text, so you can begin searching. Additionally, you can select any hand-written text and you will be able to copy it as text so you can paste into other applications. Handwriting and Scribble will also be able to detect many different types of data, like addresses and phone numbers, and provide you the ability to easily tap on them.

One of the things that you usually cannot do with handwritten text is manipulating the writing. That changes under iPadOS 14. Now you can select text from a single character, to a word, or to an entire paragraph with your Apple Pencil and then copy and paste it into another application.

One of the largest changes for iPadOS is that some elements no longer cover the entire screen. This is true for both Siri, voice calls, and Spotlight. For Siri, the icon is now in the lower right corner. For voice calls, you will now see a small notification alert at the top of the screen. You can swipe it away to dismiss it, or you can answer it right there. For Spotlight, the search window has become very much like macOS. When you swipe from the top, you will see a popover that has a Search, Siri Suggestions, and any Handoff activities.

You can see all of the new feature on the iPadOS preview page.

tvOS

tvOS is designed for the living room. This does not mean that you do not need to be aware of other things going on. Your Apple TV can be used as your HomeKit hub and because of this, tvOS can now notify you of some things that occur, such as your HomeKit doorbell being rung. When this happens you will see a live view of that, so you can identify who is there. Furthermore, it uses facial recognition from your tagged photos so it can identify people you already know.

One of the biggest areas for HomeKit is smart lights. Now with tvOS 14, your smart lights will be able to automatically adjust their color temperature throughout the day. This means that you will not have blue light showing when you are trying to get ready for bed, but you will be able to have the brighter light during the day.

Apple TV is a great gaming platform, in particular the ability to pair Xbox One and Playstation 4 controllers to the Apple TV. Controller support is expanding to include Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite 2 controller, and more importantly, the Xbox Adaptive Controller will be supported. This change is great for accessibility and including all game players.

Let us turn to the biggest change, macOS.

macOS

macOS has been around in its current iteration for almost 20 years. The first version of Mac OS X was released in March of 2001. macOS has seen its share of changes with the Aqua interface, the removal of Carbon-based apps, and ultimately the removal of 32-bit applications, and even the source of names going from big cats to California place names. This year’s release is code-named Big Sur. macOS Big Sur brings a slew of changes including a new sidebar, an all-new Control Center, a revamped Notification Center, and a whole new design language.

The new sidebar that is shown on all apps brings a refined look to macOS that is reminiscent of iOS and iPadOS. In fact many of the designs take the best parts of Apple’s operating systems and combines them into a single design-language. You have more icons shown in the sidebar, along with different colors to help group elements together. Toolbars are redesigned as well. Toolbar icons will generally be along the top of the screen next to the search icon, which is collapsed until you need to use it.

The new Control Center is inspired by iOS and, just as is the case on iOS, you can quickly toggle settings within the system. Some of these include WiFi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, Do Not Disturb, the screen brightness, sound volume, and keyboard brightness. This will make your productivity even faster by eliminating steps that you would normally have to take to change a system setting.

Besides the design, there are some changes to core applications that are used on macOS every day, in particular Messages and Maps. Messages and Maps are now both built on Apple’s technology called MacCatalyst. These new apps will allow you to have complete feature parity between the iOS/iPadOS and macOS versions of the apps. This means that you will be able to see the things like confetti, balloons, and other effects just as on iOS. Furthermore, this also means that any new features that come to Messages will appear on both platforms, which creates a better experience overall.

Maps will also have feature parity with iOS and iPadOS. This includes features like Look Around, the new detailed maps, progress on a friend’s estimated time of arrival, if they have provided one, as well as much more. Some of these include Cycling Directions, electric vehicle charging stations, and curated guides to places.

When you begin to use macOS Big Sur, you will notice that many of the controls are different. The buttons that you have used have all subtly changed and have become more refined. This includes things like icons. App icons are now more rounded, similar to iOS. Even with this, they still remain unique to themselves. There are a large number of changes that are not being covered in this post, because there are too many to cover in a single post.

There is one last big change with macOS Big Sur that needs to be covered. That change is the version number. When Mac OS X was first introduced, it began with Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah. Each new version of macOS changed this. Version 10.1 was Mac OS X 10.1 Puma followed by Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, and so on, until we got to macOS 10.15 Catalina. macOS Big Sur is now version 11.0. Besides the visual changes, macOS Big Sur also brings with it, another underlying change called Apple Silicon.

All of the macOS features are available on the macOS Big Sur preview page.

Apple Silicon

Outside of the visual transitions, macOS has undergone a transition from PowerPC to Intel and that transition occurred from 2005 to 2006. macOS is about to undergo another transition. This one from Intel to Apple Silicon. The transition from Intel to ARM is now underway, with the release of Xcode 12 and the ability for developers to begin taking their existing apps and converting them to Apple’s Silicon.

There are many reasons for this transition. The biggest amongst them is that Apple will be able to more tightly integrate the hardware and software for macOS. This means that they will be able to fine tune their silicon to work for macOS as well as bringing new features that macOS has not been able to have, like better battery life, Apple’s integrated graphics processors, and the Secure Enclave.

As with any transition there may be changes that developers will need to make to their apps. Some of these will take some time and if you are not able to complete your code changes, you can rely on the emulation layer, Rosetta 2. This will allow your existing apps to continue running on Macs running on Apple Silicon. One of the biggest tasks performed on macOS is development work. Sometimes this requires you to have more than one operating system install, and this is done with the built-in Virtualization software. This software will take

Developers can apply to be in the Universal Quick Start Program to begin getting their applications ready for the Apple Silicon transition. Apple is anticipating selling its first Apple Silicon-based Mac by the end of the 2020. Furthermore, Apple is expecting the transition to take two years to complete.

Closing Thoughts

This is a big year for Apple overall. iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 bring new features to each of their respective platforms. The biggest change comes with the new version of macOS with the transition from Intel to Apple’s own Silicon.

The features I have highlighted only scratch the surface of new features that are available in all of the new operating systems. Some topics have been skipped entirely, like enhancements to Car Play and the ability to use your iPhone as a car key, which will also be coming to iOS 13.

The developer betas of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, watchOS 7, and macOS 11.0 are available today. There will be public betas of each of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and new this year, watchOS, will be available next month.