Apple focuses on software every year when it unveils its forthcoming upgrades at its Worldwide Developers Conference. This year’s installment of the WWDC featured more hardware than usual, but still provided exciting glimpses of what’s next for the hundreds of millions of Apple devices in use worldwide.
Apple’s Commitment to Privacy vs. Brands’ Need for Data
Apple has leaned hard into privacy over the last few years, and continued to do so at WWDC, with announcements that are great for users but not so great for marketers.
The company introduced a new privacy-centric login system for apps and websites, called “Sign In With Apple”. It competes with Facebook or Google sign-in, but crucially doesn’t require users to disclose their names or email addresses. In fact, Apple generates unique, disposable addresses securely tied to the user’s real address so brands and marketers won’t be able to harvest user data during sign-up.
Beyond that, Apple is adding new restrictions on how apps can access users’ locations and new features to silence and screen robo-calls. The company also touted machine learning features that live on its devices, rather than in the cloud, as more secure and private.
During the WWDC keynote, Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said, “At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right and we engineer it into everything we do.” For users, this is great. For marketers that want user data, it’s an ongoing challenge.
Apple Encroaches on Others’ Territory
Besides taking aim at data-collection practices, Apple also made announcements that undercut products, features, and revenue streams for other companies.
Sign In With Apple is clearly aimed at Facebook and Google, but other companies will feel a pinch, too. These include Tile (whose Bluetooth trackers will face competition from new iOS and macOS features), menstruation and fertility apps (the Apple Health app gains those features), third-party video editing apps after improvements to the iOS Photos app, third-party keyboards, Bitmoji (iMessage icons and Memoji are encroaching there), and others.
These features range from fun to essential, and having OS-level support is great—unless you work for one of the impacted businesses.
The End of iTunes
Beyond introducing new things, Apple also announced the end of an old one: iTunes is being discontinued (for Mac, at least; it persists on Windows). It’s being replaced by standalone TV, Podcast, and Apple Music apps, with all of iTunes’ music features landing there. Given the bloated state of iTunes recently, it likely won’t be missed by many, by its demise marks the end of an era.
The iPad Gets Its Own OS
With Apple increasingly positioning the iPad as a productivity device to rival laptops, the tablet has strained against the limitations of the phone-derived iOS. Apple solved that problem at WWDC by announcing the iPad’s own operating system, branched from iOS, called iPadOS. The improvements and changes in iPadOS are numerous—substantial in some places and subtle in others—and they’re aimed at making the tablet a better productivity tool. Some key improvements include widgets on the homescreen, support for external USB storage and mice, and letting the iPad double as an external monitor for Macs. Expect to see more iPads replacing laptops as this OS matures.
iOS 13 Ushers in Numerous Improvements
While iOS 13 perhaps wasn’t the biggest news of the event, Apple’s most important platform is getting some great updates. First off, there’s improved speed: Face ID unlocks 30% faster and app downloads are around 50% smaller. Beyond that, iOS 13 brings a system-wide dark mode (to reduce eye-strain and conserve battery on some models), a totally revamped Reminders app, competition for Google Street View in Apple Maps, and the merger of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends into an app called Find My. Core apps like Mail, Safari, and Notes get major enhancements, while the Camera and Photos apps see enhancements to Portrait Lighting and video features. Lastly, Siri is getting a new, more natural-sounding voice (powered by a smarter system for generating that voice).
A New Mac and a New macOS
Apple also unveiled its totally revamped and redesigned Mac Pro computer. A processing powerhouse, the new Mac Pro will be essential for extremely processing-intensive applications and can support up to 28 processor cores and up to 1.5 TB of RAM. Of course, this won’t come cheap: the high-end models could cost over $35,000—but for the right users, that’s a bargain. Apple also announced a new version of the macOS, called Catalina, that adds dozens of useful features.
watchOS 6 Steps Out on Its Own
While not a major part of the event, watchOS 6 gained some useful features, too. Chief among them is that Apple Watch apps will no longer be tied to a corresponding iPhone app. Users will be able to download apps right on the Watch. This may point a way towards more robust wrist-based experiences and new opportunities with the Apple Watch. Beyond that, there is a new Voice Memos app and an ambient noise detector that warns you if your hearing could be damaged by nearby sounds.
Beta versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS Catalina, and watchOS are out now, with full versions coming as free upgrades this fall.