Top announcements from Apple’s WWDC 2018 Keynote
Apple opened WWDC today with its annual keynote that focused completely on Apple’s software. From iOS to macOS, every OS Apple makes got talked about today. While some got important but niche features like Dolby Atmos on the 4K Apple TV, others got massive upgrades. These are some of the most important announcements from today’s keynote.
Now I know what your thinking… AR is just a gimmick right? Well, Apple is trying their hardest to take AR from gimmick to a legitimately useful tool. One of the most important AR announcements was the introduction of a new file format called USDZ. Made with Pixar, USDZ is an uncompressed format for 3D objects. With Adobe and many other 3D modeling software companies on board this new format should make it much easier for developers to integrate augmented reality into both app and web content.
Apple’s example of this format in a real-world scenario was customizing a Fender guitar. Instead of just customizing it and looking at a basic 3d model, users would be able to actually put a live size version of that into the camera view of their iOS device. If sizing is consistently accurate, this could be a great way for people to look at everything from furniture to clothes without installing tons of apps from random companies.
Time Well Spent
Time well spent has been a big topic in silicon valley for a while now and it’s finally starting to see it’s way to consumer products. As apps get more and more addictive, many people have brought up concern over how mobile devices are affecting users mental health. To help users gain some control back, Apple has introduced the digital health dashboard.
Similar to Android P’s upcoming “digital wellbeing dashboard”, iOS 12 will show you how long your spending in your apps, let you see what apps send you the most notifications, and let you easily limit time within apps or disable notifications. Unlike the Android version of the dashboard, iOS will allow you to easily ignore and snooze the screen time limit. iOS 12 users will also be able to limit apps and entire app categories for their kid’s devices.
Apple is also introducing a version of Do Not Disturb for when you are going to bed. This gives you an empty notification screen and darkens the display to help users wind down before bed.
Apple is finally doing something about the chaotic notification system that has plagued iOS for years with the introduction of grouped notifications. Users will no longer have to scroll through a random mess of notifications. This also will help users with time well spent as it means it’s much easier to get the notifications you need and ignore/limit the notifications from apps you don’t care about as much.
This has been a core complaint of mine about iOS since I used an iPhone as my daily driver for the first time a few years ago.
Most complaints about Siri are focused on accuracy, reliability, and search. Siri will regularly mess up on a voice query completely or get the search correct but not be able to pull info from Google’s powerful knowledge graph in any consistent way. These are the things that most expected Apple to focus on during today’s announcement. Instead, Apple announced something that could ultimately be far more useful than improved search. Well, if Siri is able to actually understand what you’re saying to it.
Shortcuts come in two parts. Apps will be able to give you premade shortcuts you can manually add to Siri. After adding Tile’s shortcut to Siri, you would be able to say “I lost my keys” and have it activate your Tile tracker device. Siri’s suggestions will now use other apps context in order to generate shortcuts like texting that you’re going to be late when it notices your running late for a meeting.
Shortcuts are also getting a dedicated app that can be used to create custom, multi-step actions. Controlling multiple smart home devices, turning on music or podcasts, sending messages, checking the weather, and more can all be added to a single voice action. Similar to Alexa’s blueprints or Google Assistant’s routines. It will be interesting to see how this compares to the competition once it’s released.
macOS Mojave and Privacy
Mojave is a fairly massive update to macOS. Everything from Dark Mode to a vastly improved file explorer app where announced. Despite all of the much-requested changes, one of the most important comes from the new version of Safari. Changes that will help protect privacy and hopefully find their way to the likes of Chrome and Firefox.
Apple took a major jab at Facebook today by targeting the share and like buttons found on many websites. Those seemingly harmless buttons are a key way services like Facebook track their users across the web. That button allows Facebook to see when you are researching products, planning trips, or doing most anything on the web. These social media buttons can even track users when they haven’t interacted with them. With Safari on Mojave, users gain control over these buttons ability to collect information.
These buttons will no longer be able to track users at all without interaction and when users do interact, they will be warned that they may be tracked. Apple is also introducing all sorts of security measures to prevent digital fingerprinting of devices including a vastly simplified system configuration so everyone’s Mac looks like everyone else’s Mac. They will even prevent things like installed plug-ins and fonts from tracking users.