What Did Developers Think Of This Year’s WWDC?

What Did Developers Think Of This Year’s WWDC?
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For Apple enthusiasts, there’s no bigger event than the Worldwide Developers conference. It’s the one week of the year the famously secretive company opens itself up to third party developers to ask questions, test new and unreleased features in the company’s products and read the tea leaves on the future directions of the iPhone, Mac and Apple Watch. I spoke to a few developers to gauge their reaction to the announcements of WWDC, and the mood was generally positive.

The majority of developers I spoke to were most pleased with the changes to watchOS. The watchOS 3.0 update due this spring will allow up to ten apps to be marked as favourites, and will keep those apps available for instant access and faster launching.

Russell Ivanovic, an Australian developer from Shifty Jelly, summed up the feelings of most developers I spoke with. “I’m really impressed that Apple had the humility to admit that they tried something that failed, and reworked the entire system into something better.” Philip Blackwell, a developer from Canberra, agrees. “I’m most excited about watchOS apps becoming more useable… It’s good to see Apple being honest about the shortcomings of watchOS 2 and trying to address them with watchOS 3”.

Paul Virapen’s company Wooga makes games for the Apple Watch, and is excited to be able to build games using SpriteKit, an animation toolkit previously only available to iOS, to create more dynamic Apple Watch games. Chris Lambert, CTO of Lyft, was also excited to get his hands on SpriteKit in watchOS 3. “For the first time we’ll be able to show a car approaching on a map, like we can in iOS, on the Watch”.

Quentin Zervaas and Isaac Forman’s app Streaks won an Apple Design Award this year, and were singled out by Apple as creating “the best Apple Watch app we’ve ever seen.” Even they were happy to acknowledge the limitations of the current Apple Watch, but are excited for the new tools available.

Zachary Simone from Western Sydney was one of eight Australians to win a scholarship to WWDC. He’s spent the last few days making as many contacts as possible.

“I’m most excited about iOS 10 opening parts of iOS up to developers. So things such as expanded 3D Touch, Maps, Siri and Messages. Messages being opened up is exciting because everyone likes to communicate in a different way and there are now opportunities for developers to create unique ways of sharing things.”

Caleb Thorson made the journey from Canberra despite not having a ticket to WWDC. Instead, he’s spent his time catching up with iOS developers and designers, and attending another conference, Layers, that has sprung up to accommodate the many designers in town.

On the Mac front, Bart Reardon from CSIRO was excited for the security changes coming to the Mac, most notably the new File System, the underlying structure of macOS. “I’m keen on APFS.

Due to the way HFS+ works on the Mac, FileVault is whole disk (or whole volume) encryption. With APFS it could be possible to encrypt only a single folder”

Reardon continues “Overall, everything shown has been evolutionary and I think that’s a good thing. Apple also appear to give each of the four platforms equal billing. macOS is not left by the wayside out of the iOS/watch spotlight and AppleTV is no longer a hobby.”

With WWDC tickets costing just over $2000 AUD, before the cost of flights and accommodation, I had to ask what keeps someone like Russell coming back year after year. “Simple. 10,000 or so journalists and tech people all come to SF at the one time. It’s the one time of the year I can catch up with all the people I need to as well as meet new people. I’ve met so many people here that turned out to be instrumental in future products or parts of my career.”

For me, it’s about having heated discussions over what font was used during that demo of Apple Music, or the merits of a new file system for OS X. Seeing Mac podcasters surrounded by nerdy groupies. Meeting passionate, intelligent nine year old app developers. I can’t imagine these moments happening anywhere else, but these are my people.

Peter Wells travelled to WWDC at the invitation of Apple.