WWDC 2016 Day 1 Recap
The first round of announcements from Apple's WWDC conference, including new iMessage apps, Siri and Maps integration, and HomeKit improvements.
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The first WWDC keynote just wrapped up earlier today, and Apple announced a lot of new features across tvOS, iOS 10, Mac OS (formally OSX), and watchOS. However, there wasn't a ton of news that was relevant to the D of WWCD — Developers! Here are the most exciting and relevant announcements from today's talk. All of the following features are available in the developer preview that released today.
The Lock Screen
The iPhone lock screen is about to become even more useful. Right now, in order to answer a text, you get on your phone, you need to swipe the text notification, and then enter your password or use your thumbprint to access the app. Now, Apple is allowing you to access and use both Apple and third-party apps from the lock screen, so you can reply to iMessages, see where your Uber ride is, or add events to your calendar without having to unlock your phone.
As we covered earlier, Siri will be available for developers, so now you can use Siri to use non-Apple apps on your iPhone. Some examples included getting rides from Uber or Lyft, or sending messages through Slack or WhatsApp. This functionality will extend to CarPlay as well, so you can send messages or make calls through non-Apple software without needing to use your phone or car console. Siri will also be available on Macs.
The most egregious moment of the entire presentation (in my humble opinion, of course) happened when Siri was asked to play a power ballad playlist. This song started playing:
What power ballads do you know with blistering fast guitar and drum solos? I mean, it would've made more sense if it was something like "Nobody's Hero", am I right, Rush fans?
An app which I doubt really recovered since its disastrous launch in 2012, Maps is also being opened to developers. An example of how Map APIs and extensions could be used was with the Uber app, allowing users to call a ride, pay for it with Apple Pay, and see where the car is without leaving Maps.
A lot of very cool features were added to HomeKit, which I'm personally most excited for. More categories like door locks and cameras can now be controlled through HomeKit, and iOS devices will include an app called "Home" with iOS 10, which allows users to control any HomeKit-compatible devices from their home. You will also be able to create pre-saved home automation settings. For example, a "good night" preset could turn off the lights, lock the doors, turn on your security system, and set the thermostat how you like it.
You'll also be able to set up geofences for additional security when you're not home. If you have one set up, HomeKit will automatically recognize your Apple Watch, and greet you with bright lights, open garage doors, and maybe a movie queued up on your Apple TV.
Swift is the number one language project on GitHub right now, and adoption has been climbing since the project was open sourced in December. Now, Apple's making a play to introduce Swift to developers as early as possible: when they're children. As a free app on the iPad app store, Swift Playground aims to teach children the fundamentals of Swift programming.
From the demonstrations, the early lessons involved dragging and dropping Swift commands to make a cartoon character run around and collect gems—certainly a lot easier than the Java class I took in college. It seems like this feature is going to be more useful for children, but we'll have to wait and see if there are any beginner programs geared toward adults as well.
Swift Playground also includes a physics app for you to play around in, letting you adjust gravity and other parameters like the iPad gyrometer to make Emojis dance and bounce around the screen.
iOS 10 will also include a new coding keyboard that will allow you to scroll on individual keys to type numbers and other keys without needing to switch to a different screen each time.
Security and privacy have been hot topic issues for a while, and with every tech giant facing scrutiny over how user data is being used, Apple decided to address their policies today. According to Tim Cook, every new feature announced will include end-to-end encryption. Apple's new deep learning technology, which is used to analyze your pictures to find happy memories of loved ones or curate special playlists, will do so on the device, not in the cloud, and will not profile users as it does so.
One major selling point was a commitment to "Differential Privacy," which is a way to maximize the accuracy of queries and data gathering without identifying records of where that data comes from. For example, Apple is planning to analyze what kind of words are trending to improve its suggestion feature in iMessage. With differential privacy standards, the words you type and contribute to this effort would not be traced to you. The co-author of The Algorithmic Foundations of Differential Privacy, Prof. Aaron Roth, described the work as "groundbreaking" and considered Apple a tech leader in user privacy.
My instinct is to be skeptical until more information comes along, but the initial news definitely seems more promising than what comes from most big tech companies.
This is a feature that I almost missed because so much of the discussion around it seemed pointless. Developers can now create apps that can be used within iMessage, including a JibJab app to add faces to pre-generated animations, or you can create new animations yourself. However, this section of the keynote was surrounded by a lot of demonstrations of "bubble effects," which are new ways to express your feelings by applying animation effects to the texts you send, and new Emoji features, like bigger icons and "Emoji predictions" for text messages you're working on.
For a Developer conference, these features took up way too much time, and the possibilities of iMessage apps seemed to be glossed over in favor of showing off cute features more than necessary. After demonstrating bubble effects, for instance, Apple switched gears, by demonstrating bubble effects in a group chat! Ooooooooh!
These are all very cool improvements to several of Apple's important projects, but overall it was a slow news day for developers. There have been no huge announcements yet, and it seemed like Apple was really reaching to highlight ten amazing things on the first day of the keynote. The announcements that were cool, like Maps and Siri integration, seemed to be breezed through.
As Tim Cook closed out the presentation with a "thank you" to Apple developers, it seemed like it was a developer conference in name only, with most of the new announcements focused on fun things for users to do and less on the possibilities for new apps and ideas. Overall, I'm not entirely impressed yet, but it's always possible that I'll be wrong. We'll see what news and details come out of San Francisco over the next few days!
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