WWDC 2021 is here and Apple has already revealed a ton of new features across iOS 15, MacOS 15, iPad 15 and so much more. Here’s what Apple announced today.
The main event is of course iOS 15. Last year iOS 14 brought with a major redesign and changes. This led us to believe that iOS 15 would deliver mostly incremental upgrades.
While this is true for the most part, there are still some big new features that mostly centre around communication. This is mostly a product of COVID-19 and people having gone through lockdowns.
FaceTime is being injected with some big upgrades:
- Spatial Audio: spreads out sound so voices come from the direction they are on screen
- Voice Isolation: blocks ambient noise and prioritises your voice
- Wide Spectrum: picks up your voice and everything around you
- Grid View Video: in calls with multiple people they all appear as the same sized tiles and whoever is speaking has a white outline around their pic
- Portrait Mode video: blurs the background and places focus on the person
- FaceTime Links: share a link for a FaceTime call anywhere — in messages, email, WhatsApp, or Calendar. It also works for Android and Windows users.
- SharePlay: this allows you to share music, movies and TV on FaceTime calls. In addition to working with apple TV and Apple Music, third party apps will work, too. This includes TikTok, Disney+, Twitch, NBA and Paramount+. It will also be compatible with Apple TV, naturally.
Messages is getting a new Share With You feature that will flag something that has been shared — like a music playlist, podcast, article, etc — so you can easily jump back into the conversation with that person about that content.
iOS 15 will streamline notifications by bundling them in a notification summary. This can be delivered to you at a time of your choosing. Messages will still come through in real time, though.
If you need to be left alone you can mess with the new Focus feature which lets you basically set a status – Do Not Disturb, Work and Personal.
Depending on which you choose, you will only see notifications from people you have assigned to those categories. You can also customise apps to be assigned to Work and Personal.
For example, you might allow Slack and Emails to come in while you’re set to Work but not during Personal time. Your status will also appear in Messages, much like Slack. A person can still choose to push a message notification through if it’s urgent.
Devices compatible with iOS 15
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone SE 2o2o
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone SE (1st generation)
- iPhone SE (2nd generation)
- iPod touch (7th generation
Some new features are also coming to Photos:
- Your iPhone camera will be able to scan text from a photo and allow you to copy and paste it, look up more info and even directly call a phone number that appears. It can translate from seven languages
- Photos can be searched directly from the Spotlight screen
- Photo Memories will allow Apple Music tracks to be added to an AI-generated video from these photos
We knew a bit about Digital Keys coming to select manufacturers, like BMW, but this is going to be extended to include house keys, work passes, hotels and even digital identification in some parts of the U.S.
Don’t get too excited, though. This probably won’t come to Australia for a long time and is even rolling out slowly in the U.S.
iPad is up next with some new features:
- Widgets: they’re no longer banished to the sidebar on iPadOs. They can be placed anywhere on the home screen and the sizes can be enlarged to suit the bigger screen
- App Library: another iOS 14 addition to the iPad, allowing app folders and easy search and accessibility
- Split View and Slideover: now more easily switchable with a new three dot menu so you can more quickly go between and use apps simultaneously
- Notes: you can now tag users in collaborative documents. A notification will be sent if something needs their attention
- Quick Notes: lets you create a note from any app or window and it will remember if a note is attached to a certain URL. For example, if you have an online recipe you’ve written a Quick Note for. This is available on iOS and MacOS as well but for viewing only. They need to be created on an iPad with Pencil functionality
iPadOS 15 compatible devices:
- All iPad Pros
- iPad (5th – 8th generation)
- iPad mini 5
- iPad mini 4
- iPad Air (2nd – 4th generation)
Apple has stuck with its recent trend of naming its latest MacOS after Californian landmarks. This time around it has gone with Monterey.
Much like iOS 14, Big Sur brought huge changes to Mac in 2020. So this year the upgrades are a little more moderate.
But addition to getting some of the new features announced scross iOS 15 (Quick Notes, Focus and SharePlay) it does have some cool new features:
- Universal Control: Continuity is getting an upgrade, allowing you to sit your Mac and iPad side by side and use your cursor, trackpad and keyboard for both.
- Shortcuts: this will now be available on MacOS so you can automate tasks on your Mac, including imported Automater workflows
- Tab Groups for Safari: if you’re a tab fiend like me you can group tabs together and switch between the groups from the sidebar. They will sync across devices, update in real time and can be shared
- Safari Extensions: these are now getting across-device support
We’ll have to wait a few months for the Apple Watch Series 7, but we got a peak at what’s in store with Watch OS 8.
- Portrait Mode Watch Faces: According to Apple, photo watch faces are the most popular on Apple Watch. Now portrait mode has been added, and you can mess with the aspect with the digital crown.
- Photo memory highlights and favourites
- Photo Messages: it’s easier to send photos with texts directly on the watch
- GIF integration for sending Messages on the Apple Watch
- New Fitness+ workouts with Jeanette Jenkins
- Artist Spotlight: this is basically Apple Music playlists based on a particular artist for Fitness+ integration
- Focus for Fitness, which links to your iPhone
- Keys: for countries where this is applicable (not Australia) the Apple Watch Series 6 and above can be used as a digital key for the car, home, work or hotel
- New Find Items and Find Devices app
- Always-On Display: this now supports Maps, Mindfulness, Now Playing, Phone, Podcasts, Stopwatch, Timers, and Voice Memos
- Respiratory tracking has been added
- New Tai Chi and Pilates workouts
- Mindfulness App: this will replace the Breathe app, adding reflection prompts and a more enhanced experience
- Assistive Touch: this allows gesture control. For example, you can make a fist to start a workout or pick up a call.
- Walking Steadiness: this tracks the way you walk and is able to let you know if your movement has changed to a point where you’re at risk of falling. It also includes mobility exercises to increase balance and strength
- Enhanced Lab Results: this lets you view your results over time for provided context. For example, it will no longer just deliver blood pressure metrics such as LDL without an explanation as to what the data means
- Trends: similar to the trends found in the Fitness app, but for the Health app
- Your Health data will now be shareable with physicians or select family members, in the US anyway
AirPods are also getting some love.
- Conversation Boost: to help those with hearing difficulties to hear voices, particularly in loud spaces. It will isolate the voice of the person and there’s even an ambient noise slider
- Notifications: AirPods will be able to read out more notifications than just messages and Texts. This will be integrated with location tagged tasks in your Reminders so, for example, a shopping list can be read to you while you’re at the shops. The new Focus settings will be integrated as well
- Find My: AirPods are getting some of the features of AirTags, including proximity view and access to the wider Find My network. They’ll also chirp if you’re close, in or out of their case
- Separation Alerts: you’ll be notified if you’re about to leave your AirPods somewhere
- Support for Spatial Audio in FaceTime, on Macs and on Apple TV
Siri is going offline!
One of the biggest complaints with digital assistants is fear around online processing and its implications, such as having parts of conversation recorded and listened to.
This addresses one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording,” said Apple in a statement.
Siri will now have on-device processing for audio. This means it won’t need an internet connection or to be sent to the Cloud for assessment. And the process will apparently be faster.
It’s worth noting that for internet-based requests, like a Google search, you’ll still need internet access.
Siri will also now be available for third party HomeKit accessories for the first time ever.
Building on the app tracking permissions recently implemented on iOS 14, iOS 15 is taking things a few steps further.
- Mail: this will now have tracker blockers that will prevent marketing emails from clocking your IP address and location. It will also stop these emails from logging if they were opened or not
- App tracker Report: this will let you see how often apps used your info over the last seven days and if that info was shared with third parties
- Siri: as discussed above, offline speech recognition means that it all stays on-device
Maps is also getting some upgrades. But even more importantly, the new Maps experience we have been waiting on will finally be launching in Australia later this year.
- Maps is becoming more detailed
- Improvements for transit riders, including notifications on when your stop is coming up and the correct exit to use in a station
- More details for commercial districts, marinas and buildings
- Elevation, road colours and labels have been added
- 3D modelled custom designed land marks
- Nighttime mode with a “moonlit glow”
- More road details for drivers, including turning lanes, medians and bus lanes
- It will show overlapping interchanges and highways in 3D
This is a new service Apple announced that is apparently going to adhere to the current iCloud prices.
- Private Relay: this routes web traffic through two servers to hide what is being browsed and by whom. If you think this sounds like a VPN, you’d be right
- Hide My Email: this lets you use a randomly generated email address while signing up for stuff like newsletters and services. They will forward to your regular email address and there’s no limit on how many faux email addresses you create
- HomeKit Secure Video: this let’s it detect people, animals, cars and packages in your security camera feeds
In other iCloud news, there is a new Account Recovery feature that lets you add another person you can request access from. They won’t be able to access you data, though.
There’s also a new Account Legacy feature that lets you select several ‘legacy contacts’ who can receive access to your account when you die. This means all your data won’t be lost.
Stuff for the developers of course
It wouldn’t be a developer conference without stuff just for the devs. As the conference is going all week, plenty more will come out. But here are a few things that were mentioned during the keynote:
- TestFlight is coming to MacOS
- New Swift features
- Xcode Cloud, designed for team collaboration. It builds an app in the cloud for free as well
- Brand new APIs for the lies of SharePlay, Always On and Focus
- 3D object scanning for iOS
- AB testing for the app store, allowing you to build multiple product pages for the same app to see which works best
- The ability to showcase in-app events in the App Store
This story is updating…