In case you missed our over-excited tweeting on the night – we were very into El Capitan, disappointed by the lack of beards and divided about Danny Pudi’s rap – here’s a roundup of Apple’s big announcements from WWDC 2015.
OS X 10.11 El Capitan
User experience and semantics seem to be at the heart of this update, with new gestures, improvements to Safari and a new, more powerful Spotlight that builds on the new, more powerful Spotlight that we got with Yosemite this time last year.
Key gestures we saw demoed at WWDC include shaking your mouse (or scrubbing your trackpad) to enlarge the cursor to make it easier to find, Tinder-esque two-finger swiping left and right to mark email unread or delete it, and the ability to ‘pin’ commonly used sites in Safari by dragging the tab they’re open in to the left corner of your browser.
Safari has also caught up with Chrome in terms of letting you find and mute audio when you’re not sure which tab it’s coming from. (On a personal note, we’re glad that Rickrolling is still a popular enough phenomenon to be included in WWDC. Does this make it the longest-running meme in internet history? Will it ever cease? Will Rick Astley become the Hegelochus of our age? Only time will tell.)
But the update we’re going to rely on most is probably the increasingly powerful search in Spotlight, which can now handle natural language chains like ‘mail I’ve ignored from Phil’ or ‘documents I worked on last June’. Just type in your vague query and El Capitan will pull all the documents and emails that qualify. Now of course, we’re incredibly committed and organised people who know exactly what we were working on 18 months ago, but if we weren’t, this would be a godsend.
Another change that looks like it’s going to do wonders for our productivity is the ability to tab your Compose window in Mail, and drag and drop pictures and attachments from emails you’ve just received into the Compose window – we’re already getting excited about how much easier this is going to make approvals, especially as El Capitan allows you to snap applications to a side-by-side view for easier comparison and drag/dropping.
Creative users will be pleased to hear that Apple’s graphics acceleration solution, Metal, is making its way to the Mac. This should mean that graphics-heavy applications (and games) will launch and run faster – Apple are reporting a 50% increase in rendering speeds, and a 40% reduction in the amount of power your CPU needs to do that rendering.
Adobe have said that they’ve seen an eightfold increase in rendering performance in After Effects, and seamless interactivity within apps like InDesign, so you can zoom seamlessly and shouldn’t experience any lag when performing common tasks. They’re planning to support Metal on all their OS X 10-compatible apps, so you can check that off the list of things to worry about when you move to El Capitan.
Over the past year, Siri has become 40% more accurate and 40% faster. In iOS 9, she’s going to get proactive, doing things like starting your music player when you plug in your headphones, adding invitations to your calendar automatically, and advising you on the time it will take to get there based on realtime traffic info. She can even suggest who a caller might be by trawling your email for phone numbers hidden in email signatures.
Other highlights include:
– Apple Pay coming to the UK in July.
– Its partner app, Passbook, being renamed Wallet. This is the TfL-compatible app that’s going to let you use your iPhone or Watch as an Oyster card, or a credit card if you’re with one of the eight major banks (more will be supported from the autumn).
– The ability to sketch, create to-do lists and take photos from within the Notes app.
– An extra hour of battery life for your iPhone.
– A new, Flipboard-style app calls News which replaces Newsstand, and organises all your regular reading into a single, simple feed (think of it as an RSS feed that arranges itself like a magazine and has lovely transitions between articles).
– Transit routes added to Maps for 20 cities worldwide, including London.
Not to be left out, Apple Watch has seen an update to its operating system, watchOS 2. This is paired with WatchKit, a set of tools that will allow developers access to key hardware like the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and microphone. New software APIs enable audio and video playback and animation, and with the ClockKit framework, developers can represent their data as complications on the watch face. You can download WatchKit here.
The upshot of this? You can now develop more robust apps that will run natively on Apple Watch, and some apps will now be able to run using just your Watch and a known WiFi network, rather than having to do everything through your iPhone.
From an end user point of view, the big new features are:
– Nightstand Mode that transforms Apple Watch into a bedside alarm clock, with the Digital Crown and side button serving as snooze and off buttons for the alarm.
– The ability to use merchant rewards and store-issued credit and debit cards with Apple Pay, which can be added to Wallet (née Passbook).
– Support for Transit in Maps, so you can view detailed transportation maps and schedules, including walking directions to the nearest stations with entrances and exits precisely mapped.
– Workouts from third-party fitness apps contributing to your all-day Move and Exercise goals.
– Using Siri to start specific workouts, launch Glances and reply to email.
– Activation Lock, which lets users secure their Apple Watch with their Apple ID, preventing another user from wiping or activating the device if it is lost or stolen.
For those of you who have been eagerly awaiting Pay, here’s the official rundown of what will be supported when it launches:
“Starting in July, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch users will be able to make purchases anywhere contactless payments are accepted. In addition to the 39 Apple Stores in the UK, leading locations for everyday shopping that will accept Apple Pay include Boots UK, BP, Costa Coffee, Dune, JD Sports, KFC UK & Ireland, Liberty, LIDL, Marks & Spencer (M&S), McDonald’s UK, Nando’s, New Look, Post Office, Pret A Manger, SPAR, Starbucks, SUBWAY stores, Wagamama and Waitrose. Transport for London will also accept Apple Pay, so you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for your travel or daily commute.
“We are proud to be one of the first retailers to introduce Apple Pay at our stores across the UK. Whether customers are enjoying our special food range or our clothing collections, our early introduction of Apple Pay will provide them with a seamless and secure way of checking out,” said Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks & Spencer.
“In apps, checkout is simple and there is no need to manually fill out lengthy account forms or repeatedly type in shipping and billing information. Apps that will accept Apple Pay in the UK include Addison Lee, Airbnb, Argos, Booking.com, British Airways, Domino’s, easyJet, Hailo, HotelTonight, hungryhouse, JD Sports, Just Eat, lastminute.com, Miss Selfridge, Ocado, Stubhub, thetrainline.com, Top 10, Topshop, Uncover, Vueling, YPlan, Zalando and Zara, among others. When paying for goods and services within apps, Apple Pay is compatible with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.”
Meanwhile, on iPad…
Over on your iPad Air, the new Slide Over feature lets you simultaneously work in a second app without leaving the first. All you need to do is access the same Split View feature thats been promised in El Capitan, and you can work in two apps at the same time, side-by-side. Sadly, pre-Air iPad models won’t be able to support this feature.
Crowd favourite Picture-in-Picture lets you continue a FaceTime call or video while using your favourite apps (so if you want to check your calendar while you’re on a call and trying to arrange a meeting, now you can).
And if you’re particularly fond of the trackpad on your MacBook, you’ll be happy to hear that a new gesture control has been added that will let you open a trackpad over your iPad keyboard, so that you can perform OS X-style gesture controls while moving between apps (great if you’re working in two apps with their own specific gesture controls but just want to perform an iOS function like swiping between apps or tabs).
Swift 2 goes open source
Importantly for developers, APIs for all these new features and controls will be made available. They’ll also get a new version of Swift, Swift 2, the compiler and standard library for which will be made open source later this year. Your new API tools will include:
– Extensible search that deep links directly to content within third-party apps.
– GameplayKit and Model I/O for building better games and ReplayKit for recording gameplay.
– New HomeKit profiles for motorised windows and shades, motion sensors and home security systems.
– Wireless CarPlay and support for auto manufacturers to develop apps within CarPlay.
– New HealthKit data points for reproductive health, UV exposure, water intake and sedentary state.
And one more thing…
We were hoping it’d be the next generation of Apple TV, but apparently we haven’t earned that yet. Instead, Apple unveiled a new music streaming service, Apple Music, that turns iTunes into a sort of giant, Taylor Swift-rich Spotify rival. As well as listening to your own iTunes library, you can stream any of the 30 million songs Apple has access to, or listen to carefully curated playlists based on your tastes.
Siri is also getting in on the action, and is now able to respond to requests like, ‘play the number one song from August 1987′ or ‘play the best U2 songs’ in order to fire up the appropriate playlist.
Apple Music starts with a free trial, but will be $9.99 per month for an individual and $14.99 a month for a family thereafter.