Apple WWDC: Trust Us With Your Life, Please

Medicines, family photos, the car: Apple wants to manage our entire lives. At the WWDC developer conference, it showed a glimpse into the brave new Apple world.

In the Apple universe, the beginning of June traditionally means: time for the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). Apple's in-house developer conference is primarily aimed at software developers.

But the opening is also interesting for users: Apple not only shows the latest software for iPhones, iPads and Macs, but also more and more new Apple devices for a few years. So also this year. An overview of the most important changes:

What do I have to know?

For the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors came to Apple Park in Cupertino for a keynote speech. Nevertheless, Apple stuck to a pre-produced product presentation. It was quite a challenge: in just under two hours, we went through the entire Apple ecosystem with rapid tracking shots. One line ran through the evening: Apple wants to reach into all areas of the everyday life of its users.

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The most important software announcements were the iPhone lock screen, which can now be customized, the window management on the iPad, which is more closely based on desktop computers, and documents shared across all platforms like Google Docs. Two new notebooks, a new Macbook Air and a new Macbook Pro, were announced as hardware – with a new chip from Apple's own production. In addition, the company now wants to know its users' medications, take control of their cars and do away with passwords altogether. Apple intends to release most software innovations in the fall.

What new things will my iPhone be able to do soon?

iPhone users will soon see the biggest changes directly when they turn on their smartphone: iOS 16 comes with a redesigned lock screen. With its customization options, it is a bit reminiscent of the clock faces of the Apple Watch: In the future, widgets such as calendar entries or your own fitness progress can be displayed directly here, and all displays can be customized in size, shape and color. In the future, new messages will fly into the screen from below instead of from above (for whatever reason), your own photos can be directly provided with filters as backgrounds or - this seemed impressively easy in the presentation - cut out. In the future, the iPhone should recognize what is human or animal in a photo and what is the background.

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Although they are often the most important point of the presentation, camera features hardly played a role beyond that. Only the live text function released last year, with which text can be copied from images, should now also work for videos and as a live translator through the camera. Fast typists can rejoice: messages sent via iMessage can soon be edited afterwards or, in the worst case, even withdraw them. It should also be easier to type and dictate messages.

The iPhone will soon be not only a dictation machine, but also a card reader: With iOS 16, private individuals and retailers should be able to accept contactless payments. There was also minor news for the Maps app, which continues to lag behind Google Maps, for family sharing of photos and the smart home center of the Home app. Of note was an unusually serious moment in the otherwise consistently upbeat and enthusiastic presentation: Katie Skinner, senior manager for data protection in software, spoke about domestic violence and abusive relationships. In the future, anyone who shares data such as passwords or location with their partner in a relationship should be able to use an emergency reset to reset all permissions and log off all devices from the cloud. 

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This is to prevent anyone from noticing what you are photographing or where you are. Such functions are necessary because Apple is increasingly connecting its users with each other in the software. Shared photos and documents may be convenient, but they can pose a real security risk. This was already shown by Apple's location trackerAirTags, which can easily be abused for stalking.

Is the iCar coming now?

You can't be sure yet. At least Apple has polished its Carplay interface for the iPhone in the car. So far, it's not really pretty and its range of functions is far behind the entertainment systems in more expensive cars. The new Carplay should not only be more beautiful, but also become a direct car operating system. Apple manager Emily Schubert spoke of "deep integration with the car's hardware". The iPhone should have access to all important data and take over the dashboard so that users can control the air conditioning or the radio via Carplay. Supposedly, the communication between iPhone and car should remain privacy-friendly.

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So the Apple Car, which is always discussed as a rumor, is coming – but not as hardware, but through the software backdoor. You should hear about the first cars at the end of next year, Apple's presentation showed brands like Mercedes, Ford or Audi among the companies that want to support the new Carplay.

What if I'd rather walk than drive?

Then you are probably one of those people who wear an Apple Watch on their wrist. It is the most successful smartwatch, in the past pandemic years there have been millions of new customers who have been driven by the watch to exercise. There was comparatively little that was new here: from watchOS 9, the watch also helps with triathlon training, remembers route times so that ambitious athletes can compete against their own best time, and it collects new measurements about the running pattern.

Will the Apple Watch become a health monitor?

There are also new measured values ​​for all non-athletes: In the future, the Apple Watch will analyze sleep phases and heart health by tracking any atrial fibrillation that may occur and transmitting it to your doctor if you wish. Apple also wants to be more integrated into the everyday life of its users in other health matters: Apple Watch and iPhone will be able to record medicines from autumn, remind them of when they should be taken and point out critical interactions with other medicines. So far, there have been third-party apps for this, which are now probably becoming superfluous for many.

Is it finally possible to work on the iPad?

Since 2019, iPads no longer run on iOS, but on their own operating system iPadOS. Right from the start, Apple emphasized that it wanted to make the iPad more of a full-fledged laptop replacement. A promise that Apple has not really been able to keep so far - but with iPadOS 16 it should really be that far.

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Apple is introducing something like a desktop view that can display multiple windows side by side (and not just in split-screen mode as before), Apple calls it Stagemanager. In addition, more functions from the Mac should also be available on the iPad, such as customizable toolbars or searches -and-replace function. Whether the iPad can finally be used productively is at least questionable.

Is Apple on Microsoft Teams?

Maybe not, but it announced a new collaboration feature. In the new operating system versions of iPadOS, macOS and iOS, users can share different documents and edit them together, a kind of Google Docs in the Apple cosmos. There will also be a digital whiteboard called Freeform. 

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In conjunction with FaceTime group video chat, Apple is not only in competition with Google, but also with Microsoft, which has benefited significantly from the pandemic with its all-in-one productivity solution Teams. The timing of the announcement seems strange in the return to office times, but Apple may not be too late. The problem for the company from Cupertino is more likely to become, with the iWork apps Pages, Keynote and Numbers on the popular Microsoft Office with Word.

What's up on the Mac?

Home office workers will soon be able to use their own iPhone wirelessly as a webcam on the Mac. This is particularly useful for anyone who has closed their Macbook and connected it to a screen without a camera and does not want to buy their own webcam. However, it's also a feature that many would probably have welcomed two years ago.

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The Stage Manager is also coming to the Mac, which seems a bit odd here because it just looks like a second dock. In addition, the Mail app and the search function Spotlight on the Mac are to become smarter and display more comprehensive search results. Apple only briefly introduced the Passkeys function, which is intended to make passwords superfluous in the future. What sounds revolutionary has been known for a long time, and Google and Microsoft also want to take part in the password-free standard Fido, which is behind the function. Soon the user name and identification via face or fingerprint recognition will be sufficient to log in - and that across platforms and providers.

And with the new Macbook Air?

The most popular Mac has long been the Macbook Air, there is hardly a lecture or a hip inner-city café that can do without at least one Air unfolded. The design has remained similar over the years and models, with a wedge-shaped case that tapers towards the front. It's over now, because Apple's Macbook Air is getting a new format. It is now designed with straight lines and looks like two iPads have been glued together. It is just over eleven millimeters thick and weighs 1.2 kilograms. The edges of the display are narrow, the Macbook Air only has the so-called notch on the top, a black bar like the current iPhone models. The laptop is powered by the latest version of Apple's own chip, the M2, whose speed advantages Apple praises in detail in many percentages. Apple is also launching a Macbook Pro powered by the M2 with a 13-inch screen.

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As every year, there were also big promises in terms of the supposedly incredible gaming performance of the new Macs. A developer behind Resident Evil Village, which is now coming to the Mac, was the chosen gaming representative this time. It is more likely, however, that the Mac will not become a gamer's dream in the future either.

Wait, and what about virtual reality?

Up until a few days ago, many had speculated on another hardware announcement: augmented or virtual reality glasses, i.e. a type of headset that either simulates a complete virtual environment (VR, virtual reality) or through the user’s built-in screen semi-transparent glass extends the real world (AR, Augmented Reality). Rumor has it that Apple has been working on such glasses for a long time. After source code for an operating system called realityOS surfaced earlier this year, some were hoping for a presentation at this WWDC.

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Such a device might even be helpful for Apple's competitors: Facebook group Meta and Playstation parent Sony already have similar headsets on offer with Oculus Quest and Playstation VR, Facebook even sees the future of the internet (or the whole world) with its Metaverse . through virtual reality glasses. Nevertheless, the VR market has been a niche so far. As with smartphones or tablets before, Apple's commitment could make an existing technology interesting and accessible to the general market.

In the run-up to the conference, however, it had already become apparent that the presentation of a VR or AR headset would be rather unlikely: According to reports from the New York Times and Bloomberg, Apple had to postpone the release until next year because there were still battery problems, heat development and the software.

Accordingly, nothing could be heard from a headset – apart from that, Apple surprisingly said little about virtual or augmented reality that evening, after all, that was an essential item on the program in past keynotes. That could indicate that Apple wants to save VR or AR features for future presentations. Until the " one more thing"but come, it might take a while.

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