WWDC 2018 - what you need to know

 

On Monday evening Apple streamed it’s eagerly awaited annual keynote from WWDC 2018. Within seconds CEO Tim Cook quashed any rumours of hardware innovations by declaring ‘today is all about software.’ And indeed, there was an awful lot about software.

If you missed it here’s our take on the major announcements, the subtext and the implications for you and your apps.

iOS 12

iOS 12 will be available on all the same devices as iOS 11 - meaning there’ll be no device depreciation in 2018. Currently, 81% of over a billion active iOS devices are running iOS 11, making it the largest ever base to be supported by an Apple release.

From there it was all about focusing on performance, especially for its oldest devices, ‘doubling down’ on performance. As an example, on an iPhone 6 Plus:

  • App launches are up to 40% faster
  • Keyboard display is up to 50% faster
  • Slide to take a photo is up to 70% faster
  • Up to 2x faster share sheet display when under load
  • Up to 2x faster app launch when under load

Working at a silicon level with their chip team, Apple was able to make huge gains in their A-series silicon - enabling these performance gains for their full range of devices. In iOS 12 their CPU usage is much smarter, and when they detect a need for sudden performance (such as at the start of a scroll, or an app launch), they ramp up processor performance instantly - instead of the usual slow and gradual start seen in previous iOS versions.

Augmented Reality

ARKit, Apple’s framework for allowing applications to provide Augmented Reality experiences was originally introduced back in 2017, and from there - significant improvements have been made. Apple has announced ARKit 2 for iOS 12, and the feature list has got us excited for the possibilities it brings:

  • Improved face tracking

  • Realistic rendering

  • 3D object detection

  • Persistent experiences

  • Shared experiences

Working with some of the greatest minds in 3D, at Pixar, Apple came up with a new file format for sharing, and persisting Augmented Reality 3D experiences. They call it Universal Scene Description, or USDZ for short. It’s optimised for sharing, very compact and has an open file format - which means it can be used and implemented by anyone, and not limited to just Apple software or devices.

Apple demonstrated the new improvements, and usage of its USDZ file format with a demo from Lego, and even created their own game called SwiftShot - a 3D AR slingshot game that can be played simultaneously by multiple players all able to view the same space across different devices.

Also coming in iOS 12 is their new Measurements app, using ARKit 2 to measure 3D objects through your iOS device’s camera.

We’re particularly excited to hear Adobe (and others) are bringing native support for the USDZ file format to their Creative Cloud for us to be able to create content for these Augmented Reality experiences.

If you want to learn more about the improvements Apple has made to Augmented Reality we’d recommend checking their WWDC videos (will be watchable once they’ve aired live this week); What’s New in ARKit 2 and Integrating Apps and Content with AR Quick Look.

Shortcuts and Siri Integrations

The biggest change we’ve seen this year that will enable developers to accomplish even more, and allow users to experience more of our applications even when they’re outside of your app is called “Shortcuts”.

Shortcuts are app-specific features made available by developers to the Siri assistant, so that users can call upon these features via voice at any time. Think of it as being able to ask Siri for your train times before commuting home using Citymapper, or your own app.

Shortcuts aren’t only made available through Siri voice commands. The Siri assistant can contextually provide relevant suggestions for shortcuts on a variety of factors using Machine Learning, and allowing developers to define “relevance” for a shortcut based on these factors in their application. One such example could be getting a Shortcut suggestion when arriving home late at night to turn the lights on. These can appear in your lock screen, and in your search screen where it also currently shows app suggestions.

Alongside this feature, Apple is releasing a new application, the Shortcuts app. The Shortcuts app will allow users to chain together these shortcuts from multiple applications - even pulling out variable data to use further along in the chain. For example, using a shortcut with the Maps app to determine your travel time to home, and sending that data through another shortcut such as one for the Messages app to let your family know when you’ll arrive.

Shortcuts can be used on both from iOS and watchOS, all synced to make it even easier.

If you want to learn more about the new Shortcuts feature, its companion app, and what exactly they’ve allowed us as developers to achieve, we’d recommend checking out their WWDC videos (will be watchable once they’ve aired live this week); Introduction to Siri Shortcuts and Building for Voice with Siri Shortcuts.

Limiting Distractions

This year, Apple has worked on a bunch of features to help you limit distractions. The first two of which are to do with the Do Not Disturb feature, and notifications.

The Do Not Disturb feature in iOS 11 is great, and last year they added improvements to easily activate Do Not Disturb whilst driving. This year, with iOS 12, this feature is getting a new “Do Not Disturb during bedtime” feature.

Primarily this feature will activate during your sleeping hours, dimming the lock screen and hiding your lock screen notifications until you really want to view them. When it's morning, you gradually transition back to seeing all of your notifications.  

Do Not Disturb also got a new feature in the control centre - it allows you to quickly turn on Do Not Disturb for a specific amount of time, until you leave a certain location, or until the end of the current calendar event.

These changes to Do Not Disturb wouldn’t be complete with a revamp for how notifications are displayed on your lock screen. In iOS 12, notifications will have the ability to become grouped notifications - allowing users to see notifications grouped by threads, topic, conversations, or by specific apps. Best of all with this feature is the ability to triage the entire group of notifications with a single swipe.

If you want to learn more about the changes to notifications, and how you can better improve your notification strategy for your app, we’d recommend checking out these WWDC videos (which will be watchable once they’ve aired live this week); What’s New in User Notifications, Using Grouped Notifications, and Designing Notifications.

Screen Time

On top of the features to limit distractions, Apple has been working on a new application called Screen Time. This app gives you, as a user, insight into your usage of your iOS devices - your most used apps, how many times you’ve picked up your phone, and how long you’ve spent using your phone each day.

Alongside your usage, you’re able to see which applications are sending you the most notifications - and when you’re receiving them. Equipped with this insight users may become more savvy around which notifications they turn off - so watch out if your application is notification heavy!

Whilst this level of insight into your usage may be scary to some, it does provide a unique set of tools for parents with children that use iOS devices. The same insights are available to children, and their parents through weekly insight reports - and Apple are releasing an “App Limits” feature that allow parents to set control on their children’s usage of these devices, the amount of time their children can use the applications through allowances, and more specifically when they can use these applications. You can prevent your kids staying up late at night playing games on their iPad, although they may still not go to sleep!

macS Mojave

The next iteration of macOS is going to be called Mojave, named after the Mojave Desert - Apple’s marketing team have decided to move away from their naming convention over recent years from names of mountains.

Mojave brings a bunch of new features, and one a few of our developers are especially excited about is “dark mode”. With current versions of macOS users are able to have a dark menu bar and Dock - but it really lacks the feeling of a truly dark mode operating system. With Mojave, the dark mode also affects macOS applications and can change the appearance of those to a darker appearance. Developers can opt-in and improve the experience of their macOS application by following the latest standards of using asset catalogs to manage their media assets and colours - where they’ll also be able to specify alternatives for use when dark mode is turned on by the user.

Mojave also brings changes to how the user’s desktop appears, grouping icons to reduce visual clutter and noise, and also brings significant changes to how Finder and Quicklook behaves on macOS.

macOS developers will be able to expose their application’s functionality as quick-actions in Finder (similar to how they can expose Shortcuts on iOS), allowing more opportunities for their applications to be shown outside of the app. For example, letting a PDF app expose a quick action to create a PDF from a set of images and text documents.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning has been a hot topic, and its capabilities and potential usages are expanding every day. One such use, Apple uses In iOS is to detect faces in your photos and organise your photos based on who’s in them, and where they’re taken using Machine Learning models and algorithms. Significant improvements over the last year have enabled Apple to revamp the Photos app on iOS making it more feature rich, and a lot smarter.

Apple has made Machine Learning readily available to app developers back last year with the introduction of CoreML, and support for many third-party machine learning model providers.

This year, Apple has expanded its network of providers and integrations whilst also improving the CoreML technology and underlying technologies such as Metal to increase its performance, and available features to developers.

What we’re most excited about is Apple’s new CreateML additions, which integrate with Swift and Xcode Playgrounds for app developers to easily create mobile-friendly, small machine learning models straight from macOS - without the need for complex integrations.

The benefit of all this machine learning is that it can be done on-device, without the need to upload the data to cloud or other third-party services. This doesn’t require expensive server costs, and is better for users as their user interfaces respond quicker; aren’t reliant on network connectivity, their personal data remains secure, and their privacy remains well protected.

Privacy

Apple has always been very good at keeping your sensitive data private, and with iOS 12 and macOS Mojave they’re raising the bar. More aspects of macOS will be put behind privacy-gated user consent such as access to your Camera, Microphone, Mail database, message history, safari data, time machine backup, itunes device backups, locations and routines, and system cookies.

In addition to the above, Apple has made significant improvements to prevent “Fingerprints”. For those not in the know, this is the process by which a third-party can identify your device (in the same way your fingerprint can identify you) through system configuration settings, installed fonts and a variety of other factors. Apple is preventing this by exposing the minimal system configuration, and basic font lists to third-parties (through the browser, and to applications) - so that your device can’t be uniquely identified by its system configuration or installed fonts, and you can hide among the masses of similar devices.

Apple is also being more stringent on apps going through the App Review process to make sure your App has sufficient, and specific privacy phrases when the App requests access to privacy-gated user content.

There’s lots more!

These are just a few of the new features that you’ll see in iOS 12, watchOS 5, and macOS Mojave - specifically those that will have an impact on your current and future applications.

You’ll have to wait until autumn this year to experience the new Dinosaur and Ghost Animojis, or the new Memojis for Messages and Facetime; Competitions, Workouts and the retro Walkie Talkie mode for watchOS. Or if you have access to the Apple Developer centre, like us, and don’t mind risking the stability of your devices - the developer beta’s are available to try out!

If you want to hear more about what Chelsea Apps Factory can do for you and your digital strategy, utilising Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, or the new Shortcuts for iOS - get in contact.

 

 
Joshua Finch