Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) for 2020 took place but online.
It is the first time the tech giant will be hosting a virtual developer's conference. Rival and fellow Big Tech, Google cancelled its developer conference, I/O, for this year. All thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, Apple made some big announcements at WWDC. The subsequent paragraphs are highlights of WWDC day one, June 22, 2020.
Everything you need to know about Apple’s WWDC
The notable announcement is the migration of Mac from Intel’s silicon processors to Apple’s ARM-based processor. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, described it as a ‘historic day for the Mac’.
Other highlights include a preview of software updates. Notably, for iPhone (iOS 14) Apple Watch (watchOS 7) and the next version of macOS (Big Sur).
iPhone: iOS 14
Apple showcased the new update coming to iPhones later this year, iOS 14.
The most notable change is the addition of widgets on the home screen. The widgets are of different sizes and are customisable.
They can be placed in a smart deck, which allows you to swipe through to see different content quickly.
Apple also introduced the App Library. A new feature that automatically organizes apps based on their categories. It provides quick access to apps that are outside the first and second home screens.
Another feature on iOS 14 is App Clips. App Clips would allow you to install only a function of the app that you might need. They don't show up on the home screen and are automatically uninstalled. App Clips are ideal for specific locations use as they can be launched with NFC or QR codes.
Picture-in-picture (PiP) is another iOS 14 feature. PiP allows a resizable floating window to appear on your home screen. This floating window can be of a video or other apps that support PiP.
Apple also showcased a fancy iOS 14 feature called digital car key. Compatible with only BMW 5 series (for now), digital car key allows you to unlock and start your car using NFC.
Siri is getting a few tweaks too. Siri will no longer take over your whole screen and its responses will be displayed as small notifications. Ditto incoming calls.
Other iOS 14 changes include a revamped message interface focusing on group conversations. And the translate app, which now enables more dynamic conversation.
Similar to iOS 14, widgets are also coming to the next iPad OS update. Apple also showed a new sidebar to easily navigate apps on the iPad.
One of the biggest improvement of iPad OS 14 is Scribble. It allows you to handwrite into any text field and turns your writing into text. Scribble can recognise English and Chinese, and it can distinguish handwritten addresses and phone numbers.
Also, Siri results would now appear at the bottom right of the screen on the iPad. Ditto incoming calls, rather than taking over the whole screen.
Apple Watch: watchOS 7
The new watchOS will let you configure and share your watch face. You will be able to download custom watch faces from apps and the web too.
watchOS 7 would also have a sleep tracking feature. Apple renamed the watchOS activity app to fitness and added workouts like dancing, core, and cooldowns.
On both iOS 14 and watchOS 7, maps will now feature cycling-specific directions.
And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple Watch can now detect hand washing. It shows a countdown of 20 seconds while you scrub your hands. Once completed, it commends you on a job well done.
Airpods can now automatically switch between Apple devices. This means no need to manually switch Bluetooth from say, your phone to Mac or Apple TV. With this new feature, anytime you receive a call, Airpods will automatically switch the audio back to your phone.
Airpods Pro no has a spatial audio feature that creates a surround sound-like effect. According to Apple, these features will support Dolby Atmos and will be available later this year. Spatial audio tracks your head and device location to provide a more immersive experience.
Apple is quite big on privacy. So, expectedly, some features that improve personal privacy were announced.
iPhone users will now be able to see key details of privacy policies without reading all the fine print. Apple calls this feature nutrition label; it shows users how much information they are sharing.
Also, whenever is using the phone’s mic or camera, there’ll now be an indicator in the status bar. Apple is also adding permissions for tracking across apps and websites. And instead of sharing your precise location, you can now share coverage areas.
macOS (Big Sur)
The next version of the macOS is called Big Sur and its design has been overhauled.
There is a customisable start page with a refined app dock, finder and translucent menu bar.
The browser, Safari, on Big Sur is faster and more private. Safari has improved tabs and in-built translation to seven languages (Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian, English and Portuguese). The browser will also provide a privacy report.
Apple is moving to ARM-based chips
Apple plans on using its own custom-designed chips based on ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) architecture instead of the Intel's silicon process in its computer Mac.
Macs with Apple processors will ship before the end of the year. For the time being, Apple has been busy recreating its apps to run natively on the new platform. According to Apple, it will need third-party developers to do the same thing which is why Apple is launching a quick start programme for this purpose.
The quick start programme provides access to documentation, forum support and beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12. It also provides developer transition kit comprising of a mini Mac running Apple’s A12Z Bionic Soc paired with 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. The programme will cost $500 (N194,260).
Because Macs will be running on to ARM, developers will be able to make their iPhone and iPad apps available for Macs without any modification. The switch to ARM-based custom processors on Macs will give them industry-leading performance.
In short, ARM-based custom processors create a common architecture across all Apple products. Hence, developers can easily write and optimise software for the entire Apple ecosystem.
Apple expects the transition from Intel to its custom-design processors based on ARM to take two years, nevertheless, Apple will launch more Intel-based Macs and says it will support Intel-based Macs for a long time.