Apple took the tech limelight once again, as its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off June 5 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.
WWDC is where the tech giant presents its latest updates to the operating systems running across all of its product lines. It is also a venue for its unveiling of new hardware and services that are on the horizon. It will truly be another exciting week not just for Apple fans but for technology aficionados in general.
Here are all the software and hardware announcements and details you may have missed:
1. Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV
Finally, that one major streaming service that’s notably missing from the AppleTV will be making its welcome debut. As rumored earlier, Amazon Prime Video is coming to the TV app and all Apple TVs later this year, bringing with it the streaming service’s massive library of great content – movies, TV shows, and of course, Amazon original content.
2. watchOS 4
The Apple Watch is getting cool new features with watchOS 4. First up is an intelligent Siri watch face that uses machine learning to automatically display information that it thinks is most relevant to you. This includes dynamic bits of data that are updated throughout the day such as news, calendar events, commute times, reminders, photo memories and even sunrise/sunset times.
Another new watch face is Kaleidoscope, a circular shape filled with beautiful, ever-changing symmetrical patterns, some of which can be created with your own photos. Joining the ever-popular Mickey and Minnie faces, Toy Story’s Woody, Jessie, and Buzz watch faces are also making their debut on watchOS 4.
watchOS 4’s Activity app is getting personalized notifications and monthly challenges based on your activity history. Closing a ring or earning an achievement will be satisfying as ever with brand new celebratory animations. Tweaks to the Workout app include faster “tap-and-go” routine starts, swimming pool auto-setting, high-intensity interval training, multiple workouts in one session, automatic music playback and NFC data syncing with gym equipment.
The Music app on watchOS 4 will sync and display updated playlists based on your tastes and likes. Apple also showed a new vertical swipe app dock for quickly switching between recently used apps, a feature that I think watchOS 3 sorely needed.
And finally, the Apple Watch will now support core Bluetooth connectivity with watchOS 4. This will allow it to directly communicate with other Bluetooth-enabled devices like glucose monitors and motion sensors.
watchOS 4 developer preview is available now. Public rollout is expected this fall.
3. macOS High Sierra
Although iPhones and iOS are still Apple’s main cash cows, Tim Cook professed at WWDC 2017 that Macs are “the heart and soul of Apple.” At the center of all this is macOS – “the heart of the Mac experience.”
High Sierra is the next version of macOS, the follow-up to last year’s Sierra update. High Sierra brings new refinements to the core Mac experience including automatic blocking of autoplay videos and speed tweaks to the Safari browser (Apple claims the update will make it the “world’s fastest browser”). Safari can also improve user privacy against ad trackers with something Apple calls “Intelligent Tracking Prevention.”
Mail gets a split-view Compose mode and Mail search will now use macOS’s built-in Spotlight tool for more relevant results. Apple also found a way to make Mail more efficient, compressing its data storage up to 35 percent less.
The Photos app in High Sierra gains a persistent sidebar, chronological import view, improved facial recognition and new editing tools like Curves, which can automatically fine-tune an image’s color contrast.
However, the main changes in High Sierra are under the hood, starting with the replacement of HFS with a 64-bit Apple File System (APFS) as the new default file system for macOS. Apple said that this file system is faster, safer and more secure with built-in crash protection, stable snapshots, native encryption, and instant file and directory duplication.
High Sierra is getting video codec support for H.265 or HEVC, allowing for better compression rates and more efficient 4K and HDR video handling. Metal, Apple’s graphics API, will also be updated to the more efficient Metal 2, delivering up to 10 times more performance compared to its predecessor and support for external graphics cards via Thunderbolt 3. Not only that, Metal 2 will be jumping on the virtual reality train with the aptly named Metal for VR.
High Sierra Developer Beta is now available. A public beta is available later this month and it will ship as a free upgrade for everyone this fall.
4. Upgraded iMacs
Finally, Apple’s iMac line of all-in-one desktops is getting much-needed updates (the line hasn’t been refreshed in almost two years). Both 21-inch and 27-inch iMacs are getting brighter displays (43 percent brighter at 500 nits) with 10-bit dithering support capable of a billion colors.
Internally, the 2017 iMacs will get faster 7th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors, capable of higher Turbo Boost speeds with built-in acceleration of 4K video and 10-bit HEVC decoding. RAM capacity is also increased with up to 32GB on the 21-5-inch and up to 64GB on the 27-inch, twice that of the previous generation.
Graphics hardware updates are also implemented throughout the line – from the integrated Intel Iris Plus 640 GPU on the entry level 21-inch (80 percent faster than the previous model), the Radeon Pro 555 or 560 on the 21-inch 4K Retina iMacs (3 times faster than the previous generation) and the Radeon Pro 570, 575, or 580 on the 5K 27-inch iMacs.
Hybrid Fusion Drives will come standard on all 27-inch and higher end 21-inch models. If you opt for a full-on SSD, the drives are 50 percent faster with options of up to 2TB.
Connection wise, the new iMacs have two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connectors, together with the standard 4 USB 3.0 ports, a fast SDXC slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a 3.5-mm headphone jack.
The entry-level 21-inch iMac starts at $1,099, the 4K Retina 21-inch iMac starts at $1,299 and the 5K Retina iMac starts at $1,799. All models are available now.
5. iMac Pro
One surprise hardware announcement was that of the 27-inch iMac Pro, an all-in-one desktop that will cater to video and graphics professionals who demand workstation-level performance.
The 27-inch iMac Pro will have the same design as its 5K iMac counterpart except it only comes with a sleek Space Gray finish. Apple also managed to fit workstation-level internal hardware inside the traditional iMac form factor by designing a new internal centrifugal fan that generates more airflow.
With its 8-Core Xeon processor and 10-Core and 18-Core options), Apple is calling it “the most powerful Mac ever built” (for now. At least until the Mac Pro gets a refresh hopefully later this year). Graphics-wise, the iMac Pro gets the brand-new AMD Radeon Vega GPU with up to 16GB of VRAM, up to 128GB ECC RAM and as much as 4TB of 3GBps SSD. Now, that’s truly a monster all-in-one.
Aside from the standard 4 USB 3.0 ports and the 3.5 mm headphone jack, the iMac Pro will get two extra USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports more than the iMac, a 10Gb Ethernet port, and an upgraded UHS-II SD slot.
iMac Pro starts at a whopping $4,999 and it won’t be shipping until the end of the year.
6. Upgraded MacBooks
MacBooks are getting the faster 7th-gen Intel Kaby Lake processor upgrades and 50 percent faster SSDs as well. The 15-inch MacBook Pro also gets a speed increase with its graphics performance. The MacBook Air wasn’t mentioned but it also gets an updated 1.8 GHz processor. It’s still a 5th-gen Intel Broadwell instead of Kaby Lake.
MacBook starts at $1,299, 13-inch MacBook Pro likewise at $1299, 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro at $1,799 and the 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro starts at $2,399. They are all available now.
7. iOS 11
Tons of new enhancements were also announced for iOS 11 – a redesigned Messages app drawer with support for iCloud syncing and person-to-person Apple Pay transactions, a smarter Siri with “on-device learning” and language translations and a redesigned Control Center with a unified lock screen/notifications section.
Apple Maps is getting 3D mall and airport navigation, a speed limit indicator and lane guidance while a mode called “Do Not Disturb While Driving” will be introduced. Camera and Photos apps are getting tons of new features including better compression, new filters and effects and new modes for Live videos.
Apple’s App Store is also getting a big makeover for iOS 11. Three new tabs will be added to the store – Today, Games and Apps. Speaking of games, expanded augmented reality support will be rolled out with the ARKit for iOS 11. In the home front, HomeKit 2 with a new “Speakers” category for AirPlay 2 devices will be added while Apple Music gets a social network component.
iOS 11 Developer Preview is available now, Beta will be available at the end of June and will be available for everyone this fall.
8. New iPad Pro
As rumored earlier, a new iPad Pro with smaller bezels and a larger 10.5-inch display was unveiled. Basically, it’s a larger display with the same form factor of the older 9.7-inch iPad Pro. With its display size, Apple was finally able to display a full-size virtual keyboard and fit a full-size physical smart keyboard on the smaller iPad Pro.
Both 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are getting upgraded True Tone displays with 600 nits of brightness, ultra-low reflectivity, wider color gamut, HDR support and a faster 120 Hz refresh rate called “ProMotion.” Internally, the new iPad Pros are powered by the A10X Fusion chip, which has 30 percent faster CPU and 40 percent faster graphics performance than the older A9 chip.
The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro starts at $649 and the 12.9-inch version starts at $799 and are both available now.
9. New iOS 11 iPad features
There are a number of iPad-centric upgrades to iOS 11, as well as an app dock that can auto-suggest and accommodate more app icons, drag and drop support between open apps in split-view mode and a quick way to access alternate characters on an iPad keyboard. Notes will also get a built-in document scanner.
The Apple Pencil will also get a continuous markup mode for hand-drawn notes on screenshots. Basically, everything you can print from the iPad you can markup.
iOS 11 on iPad will also introduce a new file manager app simply called “Files.” Although not a full-featured file manager, this app will allow users to organize documents and files stored on your iOS device. Aside from iCloud files, this app can also track files in third-party storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.
WWDC 2017 marked the unveiling of Apple’s new product category – a “smart speaker” that can compete with the Amazon Echos and the Google Homes of the world.
Dubbed the HomePod, what with fancy audio terms like real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, multi-channel echo cancellation, it tries to outdo its smart speaker competition more with its sound quality than its virtual assistance capabilities.
Armed with Apple’s A8 chip, seven speakers and an upward facing Apple designed woofer, the HomePod has spatial awareness, meaning it can sense a room’s dimension and space and adjust its sound automatically. Users can even pair two HomePods for room-filling stereo sound. Apple is clearly aiming for other premium connected speakers like the Sonos with the HomePod. Aside from the usual Siri-powered virtual assistant capabilities, Apple is touting the HomePod as a “musicologist” that can answer music trivia related questions with ease.
The HomePod will come in White or Space Gray and can be yours for $349. It will arrive later this year.