Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is the tech giant’s annual conference dedicated to software and technologies for software developers. WWDC 2019 began in style with Apple’s flagship event. Lasting over two hours, the keynote showcased new mobile and desktop software, alongside hardware in the form of a long-awaited Mac Pro refresh.
Here are the five biggest announcements Apple made across the course of the night.
The next version of iOS will be called...iOS 13
In announcing the latest version of the mobile operating system, SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi jokingly quipped “when it came to naming this release, our crack marketing team really surprised us this year”. iOS 13 will again be an incremental update, refining the iOS 12 experience that Apple claims has achieved a 95% customer satisfaction rate.
The headlining news was dark mode, brought to the Mac for last year’s Mojave and one of the most widely requested features. The Reminders app has undergone a redesign to be more in keeping with the rest of Apple’s stock apps, while Safari and Mail have been subtly improved to enhance the experience on the iPhone.
Maps has been upgraded with emphasis on the user experience, while Messages allows you to attach a user ID to your number (complete with Memoji if you like), similar to WhatsApp. The ability to swipe across the keyboard to type has also finally been added to the stock keyboard, while the whole user experience is set to be that much faster.
A notable update is “Sign in with Apple”, the tech giant’s alternative to the regular options to sign in with social accounts that we are often presented with. Apple assured us that this will be securely encrypted in a way that cannot be guaranteed when using the likes of Facebook or Google to sign in, using Face ID to authenticate each login.
The iPad now has its own dedicated OS
Ever since the release of the original iPad Pro in 2015, users have been crying out for a set of features optimised for tablets. iPadOS provides this, offering subtle tweaks to iOS which are designed to aid productivity.
One of these is Slide Over, allowing you to keep a number of apps readily available with a quick swipe from the side of the screen. Split View has also been upgraded to include the option to have two windows of the same app open side by side.
The updated home screen allows users to pin widgets of their choice, while the Apple Pencil’s latency has been reduced to just 9ms. New gestures and keyboard controls aim to make the experience as fluid as possible.
The Files app is more comparable to a desktop experience than ever, with a new column view and heavy emphasis on sharing and collaboration. Apple has even added support for USB drives and SD cards, allowing users to directly load their own data onto the device with unprecedented freedom.
These are features that have been requested for a number of years, but their inclusion in iPadOS might just bring the iPad Pro a little closer to becoming your primary computer.
MacOS Catalina brings about the death of iTunes
In a widely expected move, iTunes has finally been disbanded and replaced with three separate apps in Catalina, to reflect Apple’s growing emphasis on media content: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts. As streaming services took over this decade, making content available instantly and across all devices, iTunes’ influence began to waver and a closure has been inevitable for some time.
macOS 10.15 adds iOS features such as Screen Time and a dedicated Podcasts app to the desktop. Apple also launched Sidecar, which allows the iPad to be used as a secondary display for the Mac for the first time. This has been a long-requested feature, but is bad news for third-party alternatives such as Duet Display and Astropad.
Project Catalyst was launched to much fanfare, aiming to make it as easy as possible for developers to produce fully functioning apps across multiple platforms, in particular the transition from iPad to Mac. XCode, Apple’s tool for software developing, aims to make this process as smooth as possible.
WatchOS 6 makes Apple’s wearable more independent than ever
The upcoming release of watchOS looks set to make the Apple Watch closer to a standalone device than ever before. It will include its own App Store, meaning users can download apps direct to the device and use them regardless of whether they are installed on their iPhone or not. Software updates will also no longer rely on the iPhone.
Health features have been a clear focus ever since the Apple Watch was first released in 2015, and this year is no different. The watch will periodically listen in to ambient noise and notify you when audio levels may be dangerously high, while women will now be able to track their menstrual cycle direct from their wrist.
A host of stock applications, such as Calculator and Voice Memos, have also been added to the watch, while there are inevitably a host of new watch faces to try.
Mac Pro receives first upgrade in six years
Despite the inevitable jokes comparing it to a cheese grater, the Mac Pro offers the ultimate Mac experience that professionals have long craved. Starting at $5,999 (UK pricing is yet to be confirmed), a 28-core Intel Xeon processor is supplemented by a formidable graphics card and up to 1.5TB of RAM, enough to support three streams of 8k video being played simultaneously.
This product, in the works for almost two years, is almost exclusively marketed at creative professionals, so the high price tag is unlikely to discourage them from taking the plunge.
Also announced was the Pro Display XDR, a 32-inch 6K display complete with portrait mode and 10-bit colour. Starting at $4999, the XDR includes “extreme dynamic range”, marketed as a significant upgrade on the HDR we see in many modern screens.
Apple is inexplicably selling the stand separately, and with an eye watering $999 price tag.