Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) opened today in San Jose, California, and the opening keynote revealed transformational releases coming to nearly every product in Apple’s portfolio.
WWDC 2018 began with boasts about the 6,000 developers in physical attendance, 20 million Apple developers around the world, the App Store’s 10th birthday next week, and its 500 million weekly visitors.
From there, it was off to the races as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook shared an overview of Swift, which he said was the fastest-growing programming language in the world with 350,000 apps in the App Store alone. Before Cook handed things off, he left audiences with the theme of the keynote, and Apple’s mantra for the year ahead: “Put the customer at the center of everything.”
The impending release of iOS 12 was a linchpin of all other announcements at the keynote. Existing iOS customers will get it as a free software update and can expect it to double down on performance.
Augmented reality was — predictably — the first and most exciting announcement of the day. A collaboration with Pixar has yielded a new file format: USDZ. Optimized for sharing and great graphics, USDZ allows you to place 3D objects into the real world.
They demonstrated this new technology through a partnership with Adobe, who announced native USDZ support for Creative Cloud. Designers and developers can now use Photoshop to create AR content and bring it easily to USDZ. They’re also unveiling a new set of apps for iOS, which will allow users to bring images, videos, and text from Creative Cloud into native AR environments.
AR Kit 2 was announced as the world’s largest AR platform, with improvements coming to face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, persistence, and shared experiences. Apple also demonstrated an impressive multi-user augmented reality feature in which two players, and a third observer, experienced the same environment in real time.
Apple Shortcuts now makes it possible for users to program shortcuts into Siri. For example, if you use the Tile App regularly to find your lost keys, you can easily program a Shortcut to say, “Siri, I lost my keys,” so Siri immediately pulls up Tile.
Browsing updates are coming to the News App, and users can expect a completely rebuilt Stocks App with performance-reflecting stock bars and a news integration. And iBooks is getting a rebrand to — wait for it — Apple Books. The biggest cheers in this portion of the keynote came when it was announced Apple CarPlay will now support third-party navigation apps — which tells you just how much even Apple developers dislikes Apple Maps.
When it came to tracking app and device usage, Apple struck a similar tone to Google’s keynote saying we’re all too distracted by our devices. To solve for this, they announced a trio of features to help users understand how they’re spending their time.
Do Not Disturb is getting new functionality blocking notifications at night, for an hour, or while you’re at a specific location. And grouped notifications, which group by app, topic, or thread, received roaring applause. Apple also unveiled a reporting function that provides a weekly overview of how you’ve spent your device time.
Tongue Detection (yes, you read that right), new Animojis, and a Memoji that allows users to create a personalized Animoji of themselves were also big hits with the audience. Because haven’t we all been waiting for an emoji that sticks out its tongue on command?
The next Apple product to put in face time with developers was, fittingly, FaceTime. And Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, announced one of the most exciting additions to this native app — not just to developers, but to consumers and businesses of all walks of life.
That addition is Group FaceTime.
Group FaceTime integrates directly with group chat, allowing you to shift a text thread of up to 32 participants into a FaceTime with all 32 people represented. Apple’s entire FaceTime Team helped Federighi demonstrate:
Users can also answer the audio of a Group FaceTime in which they’re a participant through Apple Watch.
Apple’s VP of Technology Kevin Lynch took the stage next, with a fitting transition into a number of enhancements to Apple Watch, a still-new device as part of Apple’s suite of hardware.
As young as Apple Watch is, Lynch announced some truly competitive additions to its operating system, Watch OS 5 — most of which are to its Gym kit.
After studying 6 terabytes worth of real fitness data, Apple Watch has reportedly made its fitness system much more intuitive to how people exercise. This includes a new hiking app, using elevation gain as a key metric by which users can analyze their hike; and enhancements to the classic Running app, which can now detect when it thinks you’ve started a workout — and start tracking it accordingly.
Arguably the biggest Apple Watch rollout was Walkie-Talkie (and yes, it does make you look a bit like a secret agent when using it). This new feature will allow you to hold and release a “Talk” icon on the Apple Watch face to send short audio messages to your recipient. See this wearable walkie-talkie below:
Lynch closed out his remarks on Apple Watch with a brief announcement that’s sure to be exciting among college students: Student ID cards. Those who use Apple Wallet can add their college IDs as a scannable item to the app, allowing them to access dorms, dining halls, laundry machines, and more right from their wrist.
It will be available to students of Duke, Temple University, the University of Oklahoma, and more this fall.
Some of the most beautiful announcements came from Apple’s Design Lead, Jen Folse, who described what is sure to please Apple TV customers.
Folse began her keynote revealing Apple TV’s new integration Adobe Atmos, Dolby’s three-dimension sound technology. But what good is fresh new audio without fresh new video to go with it? Folse went on to announce more than 100 new video channels that incorporate both live news and live sports into the Apple TV viewing experience. Apple is currently working with Canal+, a company in France; Salt., a company in Switzerland; and more to bring these channels to audiences abroad.
Convenience is another challenge that Apple is likely aware of in Apple TV, which is why Folse closed her keynote with new login protocol that makes Apple TV much easier to use.
Rather than “single sign-on,” which is normally required when signing into each network of which you are a customer, Apple TV plans to upgrade all customers to “zero sign-on.” This will enable Apple to sign you into all pay-TV networks automatically when using Apple TV, with just a basic set of internet login credentials.
Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi returned to the stage to give the highly anticipated Mac keynote, featuring a slew of interface-related improvements and a timely statement on data privacy.
“We’ve left the high country,” Federighi said, commenting on Apple’s several mountain-inspired macOS nicknames — Yosemite, El Capitan, and High Sierra among the most recent. Apple’s new Mac operating system is Mojave, and with it, Dark Mode.
This new Apple ecosystem brings Mac users a soft, nighttime look and feel to their desktops and laptops. It will be of particular appeal, Federighi says, to photographers and programmers who want their content to pop off the screen when working. Take a look:
Image by Abhimanyu Ghoshal
In addition to News, Stocks, and Home app integrations — all of them familiar to iPhone users — Federighi took a hard stance on personal privacy when introducing Apple’s next big release. And in light of recent Facebook data breaches coming from analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, this is a topic that Apple made sure to include at WWDC 2018.
Apple is now hiding social media share buttons from publisher websites without a user’s explicit permission. Federighi cited the fact that these icons can track your web browsing behavior whether or not you click on them.
This is a part of a larger move to make it harder for data collectors to identify the machine’s owner (a process Apple calls “Fingerprinting”), and establish a sense of uniformity across all Apple computers that have access to the internet.
Apple CEO Tim Cook concluded the company’s opening keynote with an expression of commitment to its developers. From making machine learning easier to implement, to a new dark interface that highlights the programming code these apps depend on, it seems like a bright future ahead in Cupertino, California.