Apple WWDC 2015
Today was Apple's 26th Annual World Wide Developer's Conference, or WWDC, for short. In a similar fashion to Google's I/O conference, Apple tends to use this platform to update its fans and core developers on what to expect in the coming year, from new products and services to refreshing existing categories.
So, let's start breaking all of the news from today's event down.
OS X 10.11 EL CAPITAN
As soon as Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of software engineering, took to the stage, he unveiled the name for the newest version of OS X - El Capitan. It's more so an iterative update from Yosemite, similar to Snow Leopard from Leopard, rather than a massive change from Mavericks to Yosemite. 10.11 is all about performance updates, making things feel faster and smarter.
Spotlight, the universal search inside of OS X, got a long needed update in the form of contextual searches. You can now type in, "Files I worked on last June," and Spotlight will find all the files that you indeed did work on last June. This is great, because that means you no longer have to remember the exact file name that you had given to a specific document. As long as you know the approximate timeframe, Spotlight can help you to find it that much faster.
Another big improvement to the whole productivity aspect in OS X is that you can now Snap windows side-by-side. No longer do you have to waste precious minutes perfectly placing them on your screen - OS X can do this for you now. Granted, this feature first appeared in 2009 in Windows 7, and was then later improved upon in Windows 8 in 2012.
Another big improvement is the way Apple is using Metal, the optimization tool that was first introduced in mobile last year. It supposedly allows apps to launch up to 1.4x faster than on Yosemite, which is good. Safari also saw some minor improvements, with new ways to pin tabs (the new feature , and the ability to mute noisy tabs right from the URL bar (again, another feature that first appeared in Chrome).
OS X 10.11 El Capitan is available to developers today, a public beta will be made available in July, and a free download for all users in the Fall.
iOS 9, much like El Capitan, is all about making the platform faster and smarter overall. Federighi fielded this by first starting off by mentioning how iOS 8 was at an 83% user adoption rate, where as Android 5 Lollipop was only at 12%. This isn't surprising, given the fact that Android updates have long been a sticking point with the platform, especially with non-Nexus users, so I'm not exactly sure why Apple feels the need to mention this at every WWDC.
Siri got a pretty great update, bringing it and Spotlight, the search application on iOS, closer together. Much like it's desktop counterpart, iOS users can now also search contextually. For instance, you can be browsing a web page, and ask Siri to remind you about it later, and it will know exactly what you're talking about. It's still not nearly as useful as Google Now is on Android, but it's a step in the right direction.
Along with Siri is the announcement of Proactive, a smart assistant that knows what you want to do at any given time. It can queue up your favourite audio app whenever you plug in your headphones, or give you calendar based reminders to leave on time based on current traffic reports in your area. Again, it's a lot like Google Now in many aspects, and that's really not a terrible thing.
Two minor changes were the Newsstand app that no one ever touched being rebranded as News with more of a Flipboard-esque vibe to it. In fact, it is a direct challenge to Flipboard, and almost every other news reading app on iOS, and it's built right into the platform itself. You can select any site already built into to News, or add in your own, but Apple insists that the best reading experiences come from those formatted to News, and I do have to admit that it looks absolutely stunning. Sites that you subscribe to will pull the aesthetics from their native pages, so that each article you read has its own distinct look and feel, which I think is a really nice touch. What's really compelling about this is that the more you read, the more News will be able to suggest new articles that it think you will be interested in.
Passbook was also renamed to Wallet, and in another step in hoping to replace your actual wallet, Apple has opened up the app to let you store any loyalty cards you might have. This, in conjunction with Apple Pay, is really great. The downside to this, however, is that there is still no word on when, or even if, Apple Pay will ever come to Canada. It is, however, coming to the UK next, and will be supported by London's public transportation systems, which is really awesome.
The iPad was also shown some serious love. With an improved task and app switcher (also taken from Android) and the ability to have two apps side-by-side on a single screen (a 50/50 or 70/30 split), the iPad has become the true post-pc device that it was always meant to be. The iPad now also has sortcuts just above the keyboard, with settings for cut/copy/paste, and if you slide two fingers down on the keyboard, it becomes a sort of trackpad that helps you to move the on-screen cursor around to help aid in more accurate text-selection.
Along with all the new software features, Apple also went ahead and tried improving the battery life of your devices. By their estimates, you can now squeeze out an extra three hours of battery using their new low-power mode.
Two minor additions to the whole iOS 9 features announcements was that Maps was getting transit directions, and Notes was becoming more like Google Keep with the additions of making lists with checkboxes.
iOS 9 will have a public beta also available in July, and will also come out as a tiny 1.3GB update (down from the 5GB update that was iOS 8) in the Fall, and will be available on every device that supported iOS 8: iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 3, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and the iPhones from the 4S all the way to 6+. If that's not insane support for your devices, I'm not sure what is.
The Apple Watch also saw a brief update today, with the announcement of watchOS 2. Yes, watchOS does look a lot like webOS at a glance, but I guess that's a good thing, since most mobile operating systems are still using webOS as a source of inspiration. With watchOS 2, you can now have pictures from your photo albums as a watch face, along with something that they are calling, "Complications."
As far as I can tell, Complications is just another watch face that gives you a bunch of different information on one screen, like sports scores, your car charge, flight information, as well as the time. Complications is also the worst name Apple has ever given a product in recent memory. A close runner up is Proactive, also from this event. With Complications comes another feature - Time Travel. You can scroll into the future and see those Complications update in real time based on current information.
The Watch also has a horizontal nightstand mode (cue the angry screams of everyone who just purchased a vertical charging stand), the ability to install native apps, answer FaceTime audio calls (I'm not sure how this is any different from a basic phone call that you answer on your watch, but sure) the ability to answer emails, and watch Vines. If you must do all of that, and watch videos on your watch, go ahead, but all of these announcements seem like they're coming from a company that still doesn't know what purpose this device is supposed to serve. But, more on that at a later date.
Developers can get their hands on watchOS 2 today, and the public will get the wide release in the Fall.
And if you think that was way less to announce than normal at WWDC, then you're right, because shortly after, Tim Cook came back on stage for the classic, "oh, one more thing..." moment.
Jimmy Iovine took to the stage to announce Apple Music. As he put it, Music has been a mess for a very long time. Too many different ways and applications to stream too many different kinds of content, from audio to video. He wanted to fix that and consolidate it all. Hence, Apple Music.
Iovine broke it down by saying that they want to treat music like the art it is, not just bits of digital information, and not as a place where only top-tier artists get to hang out, but a place where the kids at home can also showcase their work as well. If that's not a direct, and really compelling Tidal burn, I'm not sure what is.
It's not just a streaming music service, but also a radio station, a way to connect with your fans, and will be a single app on our phone. The streaming music service will likely have access to the full iTunes library, which is really good since that's one of the largest out there in terms of sheer number. The Radio station concept seems like Apple is trying to take on Songza, 8tracks, Spotify, AND SoundCloud all at once. It's called Beats One, and will be a 24/7 service, and right now has three main DJs in charge. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'd go for it myself.
Connect is interesting, because it allows both signed and unsigned artists to upload their music, share it with their fans and potential new listeners. Both sides can comment and start a hopefully meaningful conversation. This is basically what iTunes Ping was always meant to be, but in this case, it actually has the potential to be a really useful tool. The only thing they didn't walk about was how the promotion or royalties would work.
One of the many questions I have regarding this app is if will replace the iTunes, Music, and Beats apps on your phone, or will it just become yet another app that you can't remove? If Apple is serious about this, then they'd really need to consolidate it all, remove the other three, and kill iTunes off entirely.
And here's the killer part - there will be Windows, and - wait for it - Android versions of the Apple Music app. Here's hoping that Apple designs each to fit the design language of the different operating systems, and doesn't shit out a half-assed port.
Apply Music will be $9.99/month for one users, and $14.99/month for families up to six people. That's kind of crazy.
And that's it for the major announcements at WWDC 2015. Some things to note were that the App Store is now seven years old, and has passed over 1 billion downloads, and that Apple, to date, has paid out over $30 billion to developers (the same amount that they make in roughly six weeks). The average iOS users also has 119 apps installed on his/her phone (of which 100 are Apple-made and you can't uninstall yourself) and that every single second, there are 850 apps downloaded from the App Store. Crazy numbers those are.Swift, the programming language that they announced last year went open-source, which is very un-Apple like, and even more un-Apple like is their support for Linux users.
Side note, between Drake being onstage to talk about Apple Music, The Weeknd performing live, and various presenters searching recipies for poutine using Siri, WWDC 2015 was Canada's being Apple event today.