Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is underway. Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off WWDC 2020 on Monday with a short but jampacked keynote.
At the event in Cupertino, California, Apple announced iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, tvOS and macOS 10.16. The big finale? Apple’s future Mac laptops and desktops will be powered by Apple silicon, aka an in-house-made processor akin to the A-series chips that power the iPhone and iPad.
The Home Screen will look a little different this year. It’s currently just rows of apps with a bar on the bottom, but now, for the first time, Apple will let you add a bit of flavor into iOS.
App Library is the first of these updates. It will sit at the end of your home screen and populate little squares that contain apps. These little boxes will each contain a range of apps and the ones at the top are just a tap away for using them.Think suggestions for your most used apps, “entertainment” to house streaming services, “creativity” for editing and “social” for networks and messaging. It will take on a list view and is a well-deserved refresh for the ecosystem.
Better yet, widgets are getting a big upgrade and moving beyond the notifications tab. It seems that with iOS 14, Apple is pulling from how widgets play on the watchOS. There are multiple sizes and you can customize each to your liking. Notably, the battery widget is looking pretty sweet, as it will let you see battery levels of multiple devices without clicking in. You can also move these anywhere on your home screen, giving you customization within iOS like you’ve never had before. It looks like it’s going to be a compelling experience.
There’s also a widget called the Smart Stack, which lets you swipe in real time to pick the widget you need. It will also use AI to update: You get news in the morning, calendar in the afternoon, and at night it switches to Apple TV. It will learn as you go, so expect this to keep getting better and to learn what apps you use the most.
We’d been hoping for Picture-in-Picture, and Apple made that happen. You can watch content or have a FaceTime call while using iOS. It’s pretty similar to what Android offers — and even what’s been available on iPadOS. You can make it bigger or smaller, or even tuck it to the side.
Siri power users have something to scream about: Engaging or triggering Siri will no longer bring up a full-screen interface. Instead, Siri stays as a small, colorful bubble on the bottom, so you can still see the iOS interface. This will also help when making a request that works in the content of the window you have open.
For instance, ask Siri to text a friend movie times, which you can read off the Fandango app. The transcription of what Siri caught and aims to text will appear at the top in a small box. It’s a much cleaner interface. Translation will still work with Siri, but iOS 14 gives you a full-fledged Translate app.
Messages is getting a change on iOS 14 as well, starting with group messages. The Messages app will now let you pin conversations to stay on the top, so you can track what is most important. Groups is getting a full redesign, with inline replies and mentions (finally!), and now you can see all the members via photos on the top of the group. You can make a group photo or emoji, which should make finding your conversations a lot easier.
Apple finished a robust updated Maps earlier this year, including remapping of the United States. And now in iOS 14, it will give route recommendations that emphasize green commuting. There are also native cycling directions for a number of cities built into the app. It will have you ride bike lanes, sidewalks, some stairs and anything else that might be on the route. This will be available for New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing to start, and a few more cities will be announced closer to the public rollout.
Electric Vehicle Routing will be for those with electric cars, as Maps will track your battery levels (along with elevation and weather), but also add in charging stops. This is a big win for electric car owners, with BMW and Ford on board at launch. We expect we’ll learn more about which cars will be supported (and to what degree) in the coming months.
For the car, Car Play is getting some new apps and the ability to change the wallpaper. Apple also wants you to use your iPhone or Apple Watch as a car key, using the near-field communication standard. The BMW 5 Series will be the first car to support the system. This will arrive even sooner in iOS 13 as well.
Apple is also introducing App Clips, which seems to be using location and a mix of NFC and QR codes. Apple is also making App Clip codes, which use a visual code (like a QR code) and NFC. This way, you’re going about your life and a card can pop up to use an App. For instance, at the coffee shop, an App Clip will open up and you can pay for the transaction. It seems likely to help with using your phone in everyday life, but also with finding new apps.
After a short run to the top of the Steve Jobs Theater, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, dove right into iPadOS. It’s still designed for the iPad from the ground up, with more than 1 million apps designed just for iPad.
With Photos in iPadOS 14, you can now easily navigate with an update to the user interface with a sidebar. Apple is integrating the sidebar with many preinstalled apps: Files and Notes were shown off during the keynote. From a quick glance, it should be great for power users as you can navigate effortlessly throughout an app. Drag and drop will be enhanced.
The sidebar is also in Music and it feels a bit more grown-up —- not just a bigger version of the iOS app.
Like iOS 14, iPadOS 14 is getting a new Siri interface. It doesn’t take over the whole display, but rather just in the bottom left corner. It’s compact and doesn’t have you lose the place. Same goes for calls from your iPhone or VoIP apps, both of which will live at the top.
Search is much more intuitive and no longer blocks the full screen. This seems to be a theme with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. You can use search from within the app and it’s fully universal across apps, documents and data. Like Spotlight on the Mac, it can be an app launcher.
Everything from iOS 14 is here as well. Additionally, Apple Pencil is seeing updates within iPadOS 14. Scribble will let you use the Apple Pencil anywhere in the OS. You just scribble and iPadOS 14 will automatically convert it and make it workable. You can just handwrite in the search field of Safari and it will convert to typed text. This is system-wide in iPadOS 14. Additionally, it’s not just English but with multiple languages. Scribble supported English and Chinese in the demo during the WWDC keynote.
AirPods get auto-switching
Surprisingly, we’re getting some updates to AirPods and AirPods Pro. Apple’s True Wireless Earbuds will now auto-switch between devices: an iPhone to the Mac and back to an iPad for a FaceTime call.
Spatial Audio is arriving for AirPods Pro, a big feature packaged in a software update for all users. It will aim to increase and widen the soundstage, so you have audio from all directions. This taps into the accelerometer and gyroscope of the AirPods and the device it is connected to. We’re very eager to put this to the test and will be reporting back soon.
In terms of time dedicated during the keynote, watchOS 7 (the software that powers the Apple Watch) was short and sweet. Apple is really focusing on two core things: personalization and more tracking. With the latter, it expands into sleep tracking (finally here, in a very Apple way) and a whole new look at workouts.
macOS Big Sur
Apple saved news about its classic device for last, coming in the form of macOS Big Sur. It’s a full redesign of the user interface and apps on desktops and laptops. We’ll get this out of the way right now as well: Messages finally got the update it deserved, with better syncing, memojis built in, and all the new iOS 14 features.
On the right side, you’re going to get an updated quick settings feature. This pulls a lot from the design language of iPadOS, and that goes for almost all of macOS Big Sur. It’s aptly called Control Center (same as iOS and iPadOS) and looks quite nice. Plus it will give you easy access to a ton of settings in a customizable way. There’s an updated design language for buttons, text, the dock and clickers. There’s also a lot more to Big Sur and we will be unpacking it all shortly.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.