June is always a busy month for nerds. Not only are we met with Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), but E3 and other events as well. It can be a hard few weeks to keep track of all the information coming at you, even in a slow year. This years Apple event was anything but slow though, nearly three hours jam packed with information that barely scratched the surface of whats to come. Shifting the way we view devices and the world via a few software updates is no small task, but its one Apple takes on every year. The following paragraphs are a quick summary of what Apple announced, at least as quick as I can make it. If you want to see my opinions on the releases skip ahead to the impacts title at the end.
Apple TV and Apple Watch
First to the stage was Apple TV. You know its a big year when you get significant Apple TV updates! Multi-user support, big screen Apple Music lyrics that play along with the song, and xbox and playstation controllers now work on any Apple device. I am personally excited for the new underwater screensavers. Still wish there was a way to select which ones you want to show on screen specifically.
Moving right along, Apple Watch got some new watch faces, beautiful, yet a reminder that we would gain so much more with custom third party watch faces. You can now get chimes on the hour from a playful robin singing from your wrist. Major changes making the watch more independent of the iPhone, including independent apps that no longer need a phone counterpart, an App Store on the watch, and a streaming audio API. New health features like background noise level tracking to warn you when its too loud, activity data trends, and even cardio fitness level. These platforms are maturing at a good rate as we see how apple has pivoted from their early days of simple entertainment and fitness to being a central part of our daily life.
Next up is probably one of the biggest updates in years, iOS 13. Most importantly, it has been forked into two distinct naming systems; iOS 13 for iPhones and iPods, and iPadOS for all iPads. These systems are technically still iOS top to bottom, but by having different naming conventions for each it shows a renewed commitment to constant and reliable updates to the iPad software. This has been happening slowly for years due to each device having unique features,, but now its more official and hopefully will mean Apple has nowhere to hide and give us iPad features on the regular.
First, general speed boosts across the platform; Face ID is faster, apps launch up to two times faster, and app downloads are 50-60% smaller. Finally seeing some huge benefits from APFS shared libraries, meaning apps can share similar assets across the system without duplicating them. Keyboard improvements across the board allowing swipe typing, or in Apple parlance "glide typing" and the ability to create a small floating keyboard on the iPad. This floating keyboard is ideal for using iPad in tablet mode, and especially on iPad mini where having half the content covered up by the keyboard has always been an issue.
You can now get fonts donated by apps, meaning you can manage fonts on a system level across apps. A revamped share sheet with suggestions based on routine and siri shortcuts built right into the menu. Messages got updates to allow submitting a name and photo to your contacts so they dont have to maintain this info themselves. Also you can now use @name to tag a person in a group chat to give them a notification specifically to bypass chat mutes. Safari got a huge update to allow desktop sites to display the way they should on tablet devices, and improved per site rules the user can generate like auto reader mode and desktop mode. Apple maps got a huge bump up with heavily detailed maps and its own google street view like service with fluid navigation through the 3D images. And a whole lot more, which will be covered in more detail over the coming months into the public release in September.
iPadOS got its own updates to go with its new name. A more dense home screen with a uniform number of apps across the top and side so your app arrangement does not change when rotating the device. Pinned widgets to the home screen and the ability to have the entire today view on the home screen. When you have an app in slide over, it can now be switched between every app open in slide over with a swipe across the bottom of the window, much like iPhone X gestures. Now there is windowing in ipadOS with unique workspaces maintained per app, meaning you can have a different instance of the notes app open on three different apps. This is managed by tapping the icon in the doc to view all open windows of that specific app. iPad gains the iPhone XR contextual menus that replaced 3D Touch with a touch and hold gesture. Files app can now view external drives, connect to an SMB server, and native support for zip archives. The biggest feature for me with files app is the ability to connect my camera and import photos to a specific location in files, so i can import directly to an affinity photo project!
Many of these features are small but important, and I wish I could cover them all in one write up, but in an effort to make this worth reading I'll keep it short. HomeKit secure video recordings that record 10 days worth of content for free without going against your iCloud storage. New "log in with Apple" feature that will let you log in with your Apple ID or a randomized email to any app or website that supports the feature. And since apple is making it a requirement, I'd say we will have plenty of opportunity to use it. I plan on moving as many logins as I can to this new service when it launches. CarPlay has major redesigned features like split view between maps and the active audio app. New screenshot tools including a new Apple Pencil gesture for taking screenshots and entering markdown immediately. And finally the Apple Pencil latency was vastly improved from 20ms to 9ms via software improvements.
Ok, I'm 1000 words in, tired yet? Next up is Dark Mode. Yes, it's cosmetics at its finest, but one of my most desired updates for the past few years. Once I discovered that apps could be something other than a blinding stark white background, I wanted it everywhere. I made it my mission to find the best places with dark mode support and implement them across my devices, but one group of apps stood out; Apple apps. Messages and notes being the worst of the bunch, I was aching for a native dark mode to cure my OCD on the matter. Now my apps are uniform and look amazing on both my OLED iPhone XS and my iPad Pro.
I'm not going to cover macOS or the Mac Pro today, and all that was left is the new AR kit updates. These included new reality kit which will work with AR kit to ensure that physics and space are respected together in an app. And the big one; people occlusion. Something that took massive computational power before is now possible native on your pocket computer. Even the early form of Minecraft Earth showed how powerful it was with very little error, so it can be expected this improves with time.
All that being said, it was a huge update with years of work revealed on the stage. Lots of "finallys" and Sherlocking occurred and I was very excited and hanging on every word of each presenter. Everything else aside, iPadOS is the greatest impact of all the updates. As a writer I now have better tools to manage my notes and documents without all the previous workarounds in files.app. As a photographer, my workflow is much more efficient because I can place my new RAW photos directly into my project folder for that shoot and bypass the photos app entirely. This is huge because private photos for my clients never have to touch my personal library now. In addition to better management of my local files, which is great on my 1TB iPad Pro, I can now backup project files, documents, and other data on an external drive while on the go. Heck, now I can plug in my iPad Pro with a usb C cable to my Logitech 4K display and be automatically connected to a keyboard, mouse, external drive, and ethernet, all over one cable, and finally have the full desktop experience on iOS. Even more so than ever, iPad is my primary machine. It acts as my desktop, laptop, and tablet with ease, and these updates have brought it to a whole new level of ease and functionality. I am excited to see third party vendors take full advantage of all the new APIs and systems in the next updates.
As I mentioned before, Apple went the extra mile to “Sherlock” some apps, many I used. Notes with rich formatting and dark mode has now replaced Bear. Auto unknown caller rejection has replaced my spam call blockers. Calendar with its full dark mode has won me back from fantastical. Sidecar on Mac has replaced duet display. Reminders and its updates took Things place as my reminders and todo list. Launch center pro is gone because NFC tags and location triggers are built into Siri shortcuts (more on this in a future post). And most of my file management apps and utilities are gone, replaced by a much more capable files app. Some of these apps still have functions that Apple does not provide, so chances are bear or launch center pro might come back. For now, I want to test the Apple apps.
What was left out? I've been asking people this on twitter and reddit, and am met with a universal response: Xcode. Yes, Xcode on iOS would be an amazing tool for us all. The ability to build and execute tools and apps on the same device, something computers have been able to do since their inception, is just out of reach for iOS users. Outside of that, very few things are left that needs addressing for most users. I stand firm that iOS 11 was the bar that set the device as a computer alternative for most users, iOS 13 just cements that further.
Now I have no doubts that out of Apple's 2 billion users, 80% or more could easily have all their needs met on iPad. A few missing points for me that seem more oversights than limitations; contacts group management, the ability to manually add and remove faces from photos facial recognition, and the ability to add music to you iCloud music library. These are the only things that just cant be done on iOS using apple apps. The contacts thing is easily handled by Cardhop, but face management and Apple Music management are impossible even with third party software. Outside of this, for me personally, I can think of nothing else that iOS provides as an obstacle.
I am very excited for everyone to use the public beta and release of these new updates. I hope you give me a follow on twitter and keep an eye on this blog for further coverage of the new operating systems. Thanks for reading!