Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference is where they showcase their new operating systems so developers can get excited about how the new features that are coming. This sounds like a pretty dull affair but Apple, being Apple, always add their trademark sheen to proceedings. We were bound to hear about the new versions of OSX and iOS, but previous WWDCs have taught us to expect a few surprises along the way!
Tickets for WWDC used to be available to any interested developers, but as Apple have grown they’ve had to impose some restrictions. This year, would-be delegates had to enter a lottery to win the opportunity to buy their $1,599 tickets – and you thought Glastonbury was bad! In addition, Apple run a scholarship programme, and this year 350 young and up-and-coming developers were able to share the experience.
Apple’s Craig Federighi (the one with the great hair) took us through the new developments in OSX, the next update will be called ‘El Capitan‘ – named after a famous landmark in the Yosemite National Park. The name suggests an incremental update as opposed to a major change, however there are some improvements that definitely caught our eye.
Spotlight has been improved to be more intelligent and better at interpreting natural text searches, and this feature extends to the Mail and Finder apps too. They’ve also added a Snap feature – admittedly Windows has had this since 2009, but it’s still nice to see it appear fashionably late on OSX
We’re also getting an improved Safari with the ability to pin sites to your tab bar, and you’ll also be able to see if any tabs are playing sound – and mute them. Anyone who’s ever had to frantically scroll through 15 tabs trying to find a Guardian advert that won’t shut up will understand how welcome this feature is. It’s only a small thing, but it will do wonders for the sanity of many a user!
iPhone and iPad users have some improvements to look forward to as well. A new UI for Siri promises to make things more intuitive and context-sensitive, continuing the theme set with the Spotlight improvements for OSX. Apple also revealed a feature called ‘proactive assistant‘ which can do clever things based on time and location, for example if you like to run in the morning your phone will offer to play music when you plug headphones in. However, when you’re in the car for your drive to work it might offer you an audiobook instead, because it knows you like to listen to those when you drive.
The underlying theme for iOS was making it easier to find the things you need in among an ever-increasing mountain of information. The search feature has been improved and is now able to search for results within apps and take you straight to the relevant content, whilst a scrubber bar in Photos makes searching through your pictures easier. It’s true that some of these features mirror the improvements to Google Nowannounced at Google I/O so it will be interesting to see how they perform for users in the wild when they’re released later this year.
The Notes app in iOS is getting a much-needed revamp, and the addition of checklists and picture support should hopefully make it a viable alternative to the likes of Evernote. Maps are also getting some love too, with particular attention being paid to improving public transport information.
There’s a new News app too which will provide a personalised feed of stories that are relevant to your interests. Again it’s not a new idea, we’ve seen it before from the likes of Flipboard and HTC’s Blinkfeed but it’s always interesting to see Apple’s take on these things.
The Apple Watch is getting more native apps which should decrease its dependency on your iPhone, a major criticism levelled at the device. The watch will also be able to connect to known Wi-Fi networks on its own which further increases its abilities as a stand-alone wearable. There were some improvements to core apps like Health and Homekit announced, while the spectacularly named ‘Time Travel‘ allows you to use the digital crown to view future events.
Apple Pay is coming to the UK next month – unless you’re a Barclays customer, as they haven’t joined the party yet. They’re launching with 250,000 locations, which is more than they had when it launched in the US, so from July you’ll be able to pay for everything from coffee to tube tickets using your iPhone or Apple Watch. And to answer the burning question on everyone’s lips – yes, if you’re craving a cheeky Churrasco Thigh Burger, Nando’s are on board!
ONE MORE THING…APPLE MUSIC
Speaking of who’s on board, we finally know why Zane Lowe swapped Radio 1 for sunny LA! Tim Cook’s “one more thing” was the Apple Music streaming service which features Beats 1, a new 24-hour global radio station which will be headed up by the aforementioned Mr Lowe. Ever since Apple acquired Beats last year we’ve been wondering exactly what they were going to do with it, but now they’re finally ready to take on the likes of Spotify and Pandora.
Beats 1 launches on 30th June and will be free to anyone with an Apple ID, while Apple Music subscriptions have been announced at $9.99 a month and will also be available on Windows and Android devices.