The best of Apple’s WWDC 2017 announcements

Amazing and inspiring words from the world’s biggest company. I usually can remember all the top features after an Apple keynote, but this one was SO packed, I had to go back and check things.

Apple was flying through their keynote at a blistering pace, and needingly so. They presented a ton of new features (and new hardware) across their line. Here is the top stuff that caught my attention. You can also replay the keynote.

Table of Contents

iOS 11

Holy hell is this a major update. Let’s dig in.

Smallish Stuff

  • The Lock Screen and Notification Center have been merged together.
  • New animations when launching/switching apps and unlocking the phone.
  • New Control Center design and layout. Now takes up the whole screen and is customizable via Settings.
    • New Control Center actions include: Apple TV remote access, built-in Screen Recording which saves the output to your Camera Roll, Low Power Mode, Wallet, Notes, Accessibility Shortcuts, Alarm, DND while Driving, Guided Access, Magnifier, Text Size, and Voice Memo.
  • Small version of a screenshot appears in the bottom left corner after taking it. You can then optionally edit the screenshot via the Markup tool (via drawing, text, arrows, etc.).
  • Wi-Fi password sharing. Say your friend wants to connect to your Wi-Fi. Simply have your phone near theirs when they are at the password prompt for your network. You will be asked if you want to securely send the password to their phone. Simple and awesome! Apple is fantastic at these little things that make a big difference.
  • UpdateThe Camera app can now recognize QR codes (finally), and handle them based on their content. Two confirmed use cases so far are prompting you to join a Wi-Fi network or visit a website.1

I like the new Control Center design, although it will take a little getting used to. Still can’t switch Wi-Fi networks from it directly, but it’s heading in the right direction. So many people have been clamoring to customize it, and Apple has delivered. See it in action below.

New Control Center UI in iOS 11.
Control Center Customization
You can customize the Control Center in iOS 11.

Siri Upgrades

Siri was a big presence this year, and is emerging as the key player for tying their ecosystem together. Last year, Apple introduced Proactive features for Siri, including an App Suggestion widget based on different factors. These features are being expanded in iOS 11.

Gone are the microphone and waveform representations of Siri. Now, we get this globular icon that evokes feelings of HAL9000. I think this is a huge indication that Siri isn’t just a voice assistant, but IS the machine that is learning. Apple even made a little joke about this in the keynote. Here are some of the things she’ll be able to do in iOS 11.

  • Enhanced voice. It sounded really nice in the keynote.
  • Language translation.
  • Personal DJ (Siri will play songs it thinks you like).
  • More types of apps can use Siri for features such as: photo search, workouts, car controls, lists, and QR codes.
  • New Machine Learning Features
    • Showing you news you might be interested in.
    • Suggesting names of things and places you’ve recently viewed via the QuickType keyboard.

App Store Redesign

It looks a lot like Apple Music and News. The App Store now differentiates Games from Apps, has a new Today view which shows Apps of the Day, tips, and stories behind how apps were developed. Also redesigned is each app’s page, featuring a neater look.

App Store Redesign
App Store Redesign.

ApplePay Cash

You can now pay your friends directly via iMessage using ApplePay Cash. Credit gets sent to an ApplePay Cash card in your Wallet app. From there, you can withdraw to your bank account or use the funds to pay someone else. I’m going to love using this over Square Cash or Venmo.

Files App

A new Files app replaces the iCloud Drive app. From here, you can see and manage all files on your phone, iCloud Drive, and other cloud services (e.g. Box, DropBox).

Apple Maps

  • Lane Guidance (YES!)
  • Posted speed limits for your current location while driving.
  • Floor plans for shopping malls and airports.

Solid stuff. Lane Guidance was one feature that seriously had me considering a switch back to Google Maps. Happy its finally here.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

This is a nice little feature. When enabled, you won’t get notifications on your phone, unless you’ve whitelisted certain individuals. Incoming text messages can also be automatically replied to with a canned message letting the person know you are driving.

Restrictions can also be set for this. Sorry teens, your parents might lock you down from texting in the car (even though the message can be bypassed if you say you’re a passenger).

Any texting while driving deterrent makes good sense.

AirPlay 2

Apple’s spec for remotely playing audio and video has been upgraded in iOS 11. Now, you can play to and control multiple speakers at a time. You can also use a new Shared Up Next feature in Apple Music to collaborate on party playlists with others.

Home App

Apple’s Home app now appears to offer triggers based on the location of multiple people in your iCloud Family Sharing account. Your Home Hub will have to be running either tvOS 11, iOS 11, or be a HomePod (more on that later). Also new in HomeKit is the ability to add speakers for controlling . I wish Apple was able to do more in this space, but they’ve done so much else, so they get a pass.

New Automation Options
New automation options in the Home app.

iPad-Specific Features

It’s about time Apple actually differentiated the iPad from the iPhone software-wise. I’m totally stoked for all the following coming to the iPad. I definitely will be more inclined to use it in certain situations over my Mac going forward.

  • New pervasive app dock that appears when swiping up (replaces Control Center gesture).
    • Via the app dock, you can tap-and-hold to drag other apps out onto the screen. You can then snap them side-by-side and reorganize in split-view.
    • Holds a large number of apps.
  • Drag-and-drop images, text, links, etc. between apps.
    • Can be done between apps that are split-screened or by tapping-and-holding on an app in the Dock to view recent files, then dragging and dropping.
  • Drag-and-drop supported between the Files app and other apps.
  • Instant Notes. Simply tap your Apple Pencil on the lockscreen to launch straight into the Notes app, where you can now draw inline with text.
  • App Switcher redesign.
    • Up to six apps and their preview windows now appear on the screen (as opposed to the gigantic carousel, where you could only really see one at a time at full screen).
    • Control Center has been relocated to the right of the App Switcher. I like this. Makes more sense here on iPad, and allows for the pervasive Dock access.

Here’s a couple videos highlighting multitasking and drag-and-drop.

Multitasking itself has been re-worked.
Drag-and-drop demonstration.

iOS 11 will be available in the fall, but you can sign up to beta test it.

watchOS 4

  • 3 new watch faces.
  • Siri Face proactively shows you destinations, passes from Wallet, etc. I can really see myself using this a lot for location-based stuff and just triggering Siri even faster.
  • Kaleidoscope changes colors throughout the day.
  • Toy Story (3-in-1 featuring Woody, Buzz, and Jessie).
  • Gym Equipment compatibility
    • Can sync fitness and health information. Definitely an added bonus and motivator.
  • Vertically-oriented app dock. THANK YOU. Absolutely made no sense to scroll the horizontal list of apps in the dock with the digital crown.
  • Developer code updates to allow for better, more reliable apps.

Pretty minor stuff here. No custom watch faces, which I’ve heard rumors of for a while. I’m willing to bet there is some secret stuff planned for Apple Watch Series 3, though. Sounds like there’s some under-the-hood enhancements that will improve app reliability on the Watch. Good; it seriously needs it. Apps are always crashing or are just way too slow.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Despite the plethora of pot jokes, High Sierra is shaping up to be a nice optimization and refinement update with major technology upgrades under-the-hood. High Sierra will be available in the fall, but you can sign up to beta test it.

Apple Filesystem

Launched on the iPhone with iOS 10.3, APFS is a modern filesystem which will now be used by macOS. It is aimed to be far more robust, responsive, and secure.

Metal 2

How did they not call this Heavy Metal? Total missed opportunity, especially with High Sierra. Anyway, Metal 2 is an upgrade to the low-level graphics access Apple grants to developers. The Metal 2 and VR demo was highly impressive. What we saw today was Apple’s entry into to the VR development market, they seem to be going all-in with the Mac as a developmental workhorse.

From Apple’s site:

Along with key peripherals like the HTC Vive VR headset and apps like Final Cut Pro X, SteamVR, Epic Unreal 4 Editor, and Unity Editor, developers will have everything they need to create immersive new worlds for you to explore.

Virtual Reality Development Kit

Apple is adding External GPU support to macOS alongside a VR development kit for $599. External GPU support will not arrive for regular customers until 2018 (gamers rejoice!).

Here’s what the kit comes with:

  • Sonnet external GPU chassis with Thunderbolt 3 and 350W power supply
  • AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB graphics card
  • Belkin USB-C to 4-port USB-A hub
  • Promo code for $100 towards the purchase of HTC Vive VR headset**

Photos App

Minor updates to the Photos app will allow you to access your pictures better with an always-on sidebar. There are also more editing options that sync with popular editors like PhotoShop and Pixelmator. Setting names to Faces in the Photos app now syncs across your devices via iCloud. This was sorely needed!

Safari Tweaks

Safari will now handle Intelligent Tracking Prevention, preventing marketers from tracking you on the web. Safari will now automatically stop videos on websites from autoplaying (thankfully).

iMessages in iCloud

Your entire iMessage history is stored and synced from iCloud. Thank. God. All messages and files will now be accessible from each of your devices. Hopefully this means no more off-syncing and weird out-of-order messages.

There’s a whole lot more little things to be found on the High Sierra Preview page.

macOS is a mature platform. All the little tweaks will continue, but Apple is really pushing for macOS to be the development platform for VR, which some think is the future of computing. Nice to know the Mac has a new frontier to conquer.

tvOS

  • Amazon Video comes to Apple TV, as reported.
  • UpdateHome Screen Sync. If you have multiple Apple TVs, this allows you to keep all of their home screens in sync. I have been wanting this ever since I got two, so I’m glad to see it here. 2
  • UpdateAutomatic dark mode switching option (light during the day, dark at night). 2
  • UpdateAirPods will now automatically pair with Apple TV.3

No major love for the TV. I bet they’re saving a new model and minor updates for the fall.

iPad Pro

  • New iPad Pro with 10.5″ screen starting at $649.
  • 12.9″ iPad Pro updated.
  • Both now have:
    • Base storage of 64GB.
    • A10X Fusion chip (30% faster for tasks than the old iPad Pro, 40% for graphics).
    • 120Hz refresh rate (called ProMotion). The screen refreshes itself twice as fast as before, making for. buttery-smooth animations and an even faster response time when using the Apple Pencil (only 20ms).
    • True-Tone display. This is the tech Apple introduced last year with the 9.7″ iPad Pro. The screen actually changes its color profile depending on the light you are in.
    • Same exact rear camera system as the iPhone 7 (not Plus). This should always be the case with iPads from here on out. No more second-rate cameras.
    • Second-generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor (ultra fast).
    • Same 10-hour battery life.
  • Both iPads are available to order now and begin shipping next week.
  • New iPad Pro cases with built-in Pencil storage. Took them a while to do this.
  • New Apple Pencil cases.
  • New Smart Keyboard cover for 10.5″ iPad Pro.

I think Apple hit the mark on everything here. My 12.9″ iPad Pro is a bit of a beast for note taking (which I try to use it for), so I’m seriously considering the 10.5″ as my next purchase. Seems like it will hit the right size-to-convenience ratio.

MacBook and MacBook Pro

Both received expected speed bumps (Intel’s Kaby Lake processor and faster SSD storage). The MacBook Air received its (most likely) final update via a tiny speed bump.

iMac and iMac Pro

Wow, just wow. Apple has recently been criticized for leaving their desktop and pro users behind, but today they made a statement with these new offerings.

iMac

  • Fusion Drive is now standard in the top 21″ model. Bottom models still have a Hard Drive.
  • Radeon Pro 500 series graphics (VR-capable).
  • Faster SSDs options.
  • 43% brighter display.
  • Virtual Reality development makes its debut on the Mac. This is a huge one, and Metal 2 plays a huge role as I mentioned earlier.
  • More info.

All in all, a good update for the iMac (aside from Fusion Drives and Hard Drives). The base model has no excuse for not coming with an SSD in 2017. I have an iMac with a Fusion Drive and I can definitely tell it’s slower. This was disappointing, because most common folks will simply purchase the base model and not get the full benefit of an SSD.

iMac Pro

Holy shit. Apple was recently very candid about the current Mac Pro, saying they “designed themselves into a thermal corner” which prevented them from taking it the direction they wanted. This is them meeting pro users halfway. The iMac Pro is simply ludicrous.

iMac Pro
The new iMac Pro.
  • Only comes in Space Grey with Space Grey Magic Keyboard and Mouse (not sold separately).
  • Configurable with up-to 18 CPU cores achieving 4.5GHz in clock speed during turbo boost. Holy shit.
  • Radeon Pro Vega. A custom GPU chip capable of pretty much anything you can throw at it (again, Apple is hoping you’ll throw VR at it).
  • Up to 128GB of RAM. Good lord.
  • Up to 4TB SSD. Very sweet.
  • 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 10Gb Ethernet (hey can we just get 1Gb Ethernet on Apple TV).
  • 43% brighter display.
  • Advanced thermal management.
  • Upgraded speakers.
  • Launches later this year, starting at $5,000.
  • More info.

This thing is just insane. If I really couldn’t wait for a new Mac Pro, I would definitely consider this machine. The main difference is that Apple confirmed none of the internal hardware is replaceable. The new Mac Pro is said to be modular and offer more flexibility when it comes to hardware.

Either way, Apple seems to have course-corrected with the Mac, and it’s glorious.

HomePod

Guess we can’t call it the Siri Speaker anymore (or make jokes about the iPod Hi-Fi). Love or hate the name, it makes total sense in true Apple fashion. EarPods/AirPods for your ears, HomePod for your home. It also echoes back to the device that saved apple, the iPod.

HomePod
The HomePod.

Audio

Apple has vowed to reinvent home music, and are positioning the HomePod more as a Sonos competitor than an Amazon Echo or Google Home competitor. It is a killer speaker first and Siri interface second. That much was clear in the keynote.

  • Comes in Space Grey or White for $349
  • A8 chip originally introduced with the iPhone 6.
  • High-Excursion Woofer
  • 7 tweeters
  • Six microphones
  • Coated in a mesh fabric.
  • Available December 2017

The HomePod can sense the acoustics of the room and adjust playback automatically. From Apple’s site:

Place HomePod anywhere in the room. It automatically analyzes the acoustics, adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, and steers the music in the optimal direction. Whether HomePod is against the wall, on a shelf, or in the middle of the room, everyone gets an immersive listening experience.

Two of them work together automatically to produce the best sound, and you can of course use AirPlay 2 to control them all simultaneously.

Siri & Control

You can access Siri via “Hey, Siri”, and HomePod will hear you over any sound that’s playing. No word on how the speaker will know you’re talking to it and not another Apple device. I’m excited to hear more details about this. It most likely analyzes your voice inflection, volume, and proximity to other devices as a gauge.

Siri also assumes the role of a musicologist, so you are able to ask things like “Who’s the drummer on this track?” or “Play something I might like”. More machine learning.

HomePod also doesn’t have a screen, as rumored, but instead a function area on top with lighting.

Tap the top of HomePod to play, pause, or adjust the volume. The top also shows you when Siri is listening, with an LED waveform that animates with your every word.

Smarts

You will be able to control HomeKit accessories via Hey Siri and the HomePod. It will function as a Home Hub, just like the Apple TV, allowing you to control the same accessories from anywhere.

I’m jazzed about this product, and excited to hear how it sounds. I currently have an Echo Dot in the living room to control my lights, but the HomePod will definitely be replacing it, as all my devices are HomeKit-compatible.

More info about all the announcements will surely be spilling out over the next week or so. Keep it locked in to Gaddgict for the latest.


  1. Added at 3:56pm on 6/6/17. Source. 
  2. Added at 11:02am on 6/6/17. Source. 
  3. Added at 11:25am on 6/8/17. Source.