Apple on Monday kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, flaunting a redesigned iOS and new Mac system-on-chips - plus even throwing in an assistant for washing your hands properly.
"We're all looking forward to hoping for a better tomorrow," CEO Tim Cook said in his opening keynote, welcoming developers from all around the world in its first-ever virtual WWDC.
He also touched on the current issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and racial tensions, and what Apple has been and is doing to help these causes, including a $100 million dollar fund that will help support businesses owned by people of colour.
Cook also announced that Apple will start using its own processors - called Apple Silicon - in its Mac computers - joining the likes of its in-house Fusion chips in its iPhones and iPads - stressing that "integrating hardware and software is fundamental to everything what we do".
The move will also give Macs a unique set of features and will make it work in further harmony across Apple's ecosystem.
Cook said the first Mac with Silicon will be shipped by the end of the year, and that the full transition will take two years.
Apple did not reveal any hardware at the event. Rumours did swirl about a possible unveiling of a new iPad, iMac and the long-awaited AirPods Studio over-ear headset. Apple did use the WWDC to preview new devices in recent years, but this time stuck to tradition - showcasing software and their development.
iOS 14, the software powering the iPhone, received a number of makeovers, which would make it "more powerful and easier to use", said Craig Federeghi, Apple's senior vice-president of software engineering.
Arguably the most interesting change in iOS 14 is App Library, a feature that organises apps into folders and reduces the number of app screens, located at the end (right) of all the app pages. Entering jiggle view will allow a user to delete an app page; once done, all apps that were in the deleted pages will appear in App Library, organised by category and alphabetically when doing a search.
The apps are classified into folders according to type, with those on the top level the most-used. The top two folders are suggestions, for the most-used apps, and recently added.
Widgets, meanwhile, can now be added to app pages. Users just have to drag a widget from the iPhone's Today screen to an app page and everything will be automatically adjusted. Widgets are now also more data-rich and can be resized to user preference.
Apple also added Picture in Picture on iOS 14, allowing a user to, for example, watch a floating video while using another app. It can be moved around anywhere on the screen and can even be hidden on either side while keeping the audio on.
Siri, meanwhile, has been given a more compact view, removing the erstwhile full-screen view. For example, an app will automatically be launched when it is requested to be opened, or information such as weather will appear on top of the screen similar to notifications.
Apple says that Siri receives about 25 billion requests monthly, and at present it has 20 times more facts than three years ago, offering more insightful results.
Maps, on the other hand, will be having a new cycling feature that will guide riders through the proper routes, and electric vehicle routing, which will provide EV owners with useful information such as monitoring charge levels and the appropriate charging stations. These two features will be available initially in the US, with the latter also to be rolled out first in select major Chinese cities.
AirPods with spatial audio
The AirPods received new features as well. It will now have the ability to switch between devices seamlessly without the need to manually connect them, automatically switching between tasks including calls, listening to audio and going on video calls.
The higher-end AirPods Pro, meanwhile, will now feature spatial audio, which replicates a surround sound experience akin to that in a movie theatre. It will support top technologies including Dolby Atmos.
Dance, wash hands with WatchOS 7
WatchOS 7 was also given an interesting new feature - the ability to track dancing. Its accuracy is shown by being able to detect if a user is using only certain body parts or the whole body to dance.
And in line with the times, WatchOS 7 can also guide you through handwashing; it can detect once you've started washing your hands and will guide you through the proper way of doing it.
The Health app will also be renamed to Fitness.
Scribble with iPadOS 14
iPad OS 14, meanwhile, features a new compact design, an enhanced app experience, redesigned sidebars and universal search. Apple has been steadily ramping up its tech on its iPads, positioning it as a potential replacement for traditional laptops.
Apple introduced Scribble on iPadOS 14. Users will be able to write into any text field, which will then be converted to type text and can be used across several supporting apps. It will initially support English and Traditional and Simplified Chinese, with more language support to come soon.
And in the aftermath of the release of the latest iPad Pros that feature LiDAR scanners in its cameras, Apple enhanced augmented reality capabilities in iPadOS 14. The new ARKit will provide users a system that will capture more accurate data, which in turn will produce even better and more sophisticated projects that are more realistic.
macOS Big Sur: Biggest update since X
The newest macOS - and the biggest bump-up since Mac OS X - is named Big Sur, and it has several enhancements, including a cleaner design and quicker access to tasks. Apple has also incorporated a customisable Control Panel - a feature iPhone and iPad users will be very familiar with - into Big Sur. The new design will also prevent clutter and help organise apps better.
Focus was also put on privacy and security. Safari, Apple's Web browser, also received its biggest update since its 2003 debut; users can now choose which websites a Safari extension can work with, and a tool that keeps all your passwords a secret - even from Apple.
The Mac App Store, meanwhile also features enhanced privacy options, with users given even more control over their data. New privacy information - similar to, as Apple puts it, nutrition information in food labels - will be available on the store, including potential data apps might collect and whether it would be shared to third parties.
Apple says all these software updates will be available to users by the fall, which would, if history holds up, be a short while after the next iPhone is revealed, which is expected to be in September.
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