Earlier this week, Apple officially kicked off their annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) event in San Francisco. As always, the event began with a keynote during which Apple announced updates for their OS X, iOS, and watchOS platforms. This year the keynote also included the official announcement of Apple's new music streaming service, Apple Music.
This year's iOS update is an incremental update and doesn't include as many new features as iOS 8 or iOS 7 had. The clear focus for iOS 9 is refining existing iOS features and usability to make the overall experience better for the user. This is evident by the fact that iOS 9 is supported by every device that runs iOS 8, including the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5G, and the very first iPad mini.
For the first time ever, a public beta of iOS 9 will be available sometime in July, enabling non-developers to try out the update and to provide feedback to Apple. A subtle but definitely noticeable change in iOS 9 is the changing of the standard system font from Helvetica Neue to San Fransisco, the font Apple created for the Apple Watch.
The other new aspects of iOS 9 are split into four distinct categories:
Siri is receiving an important update in iOS 9. In addition to improving voice recognition accuracy, the update also adds a number of new capabilities. This includes the ability for more advanced searches. For example, the phrase "Show me photos from Utah." will now show all the photos on your device that match the specified location. Similar searches can also be performed with dates and times, in addition to location.
Siri can now also create contextual reminders based on the app you're currently in. For example, if you're viewing a web page in Safari or a message in Messages, you can ask Siri to "Remind me about this." and Siri will create a reminder that contains the content you are currently looking at or, in the case of a web page, a link to the content. In iOS 9 Siri also gains a more colorful look, similar to that of the Apple Watch.
These improvements culminate in a new feature Apple calls Proactive Assistant. The new assistant can be accessed by swiping to the left of the home screen—where search was located before iOS 8—and provides access to Spotlight search, contacts, and app suggestions by Siri, nearby activities, and news items.
This new Proactive Assistant also adds calendar items automatically for you by detecting event times and locations in emails and messages received on your device. It even learns your daily habits and can present content when it thinks you will need it, for example, music on your daily commute to work.
In terms of privacy, the personal information collected by this assistant is completely in control of the user and does not leave the device. For items that do require communication with Apple's network, the information transmitted is completely anonymous and not linked to your Apple ID.
In iOS 9, Passbook has been rebranded as Wallet and includes some new additions to the Apple Pay service. Apple Pay will be able to store not only credit cards but also store cards for VIP services as well as offers on a merchant-by-merchant basis.
Later this year, Apple Pay will also be launching in the UK. It will be available in a wide range of leading retailers as well as on public transport systems in London.
The Notes app in iOS 9 gains some important features, including a new formatting toolbar to easily format text, create lists, and even add images. In addition to regular bulleted and numbered lists, the new Notes app lets you create checked lists, which you can tick off as you complete the items in the list.
Notes now also includes a basic drawing tool to illustrate your ideas quickly and easily. Multiple types of content can now be added to your notes, including images and links. When a note includes a link, a clickable button with a thumbnail preview is displayed, taking you directly to the linked web page.
Maps also received a significant update in iOS 9, especially interesting for people who travel via public transport. A new map category, Transit, displays bus, subway, and other public transport routes and stations.
The data used for these maps is so detailed that, for large stations and buildings, it even shows you exactly where the different entrances and exits are, giving you clear walking directions. When iOS 9 is launched later this year, the following cities will have Transit data available:
Also launching with iOS 9 is a brand new News app. It will provide beautifully styled articles, designed specifically for iOS devices, based on your interests. Content creators can layout their articles specifically for the iOS News app with specialized layouts, elegant animations, and embedded photo galleries.
At launch, there will be numerous pieces available from major content creators, such as The New York Times and WIRED magazine.
With iOS 9, the iPad received a number of great features that will help increase productivity. The first of these new features is the QuickType keyboard. In addition, to the suggestion bar introduced in iOS 8, on iPad this bar will now also show cut, copy, and paste shortcuts as well as other formatting options.
By panning with two fingers across the keyboard, you can also turn it into a trackpad to quickly move the cursor and select portions of text.
Split-screen multitasking is finally coming to the iPad in iOS 9. You can now drag in from the right hand edge of the screen to "slide over" another fully functional app. This feature, known as Slide Over, is available on iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini 3.
In addition to Slide Over, iPads can now also display a video, FaceTime call, or any third party video content in a picture-in-picture resizable view that remains on top of your content, no matter where you are in iOS.
On the iPad Air 2, you can go a step further and have two active apps side by side at the same time, allowing full multitasking between applications.
iOS 9 also includes many under-the-hood improvements to make the whole experience better across the entire operating system. The first of these improvements is in the form of extended battery life. By making the operating system, apps, and key technologies more efficient, your devices running iOS 9 will be able to last an hour longer per charge. An brand new Low Power mode can add up to another three hours of battery life on top of the existing one hour improvement.
iOS 9 also has a much improved system update process that requires, compared to iOS 8, far less free space to install. To install iOS 9, your device will only need 1.3 GB of free space, compared to the 4.58 GB that iOS 8 required. You will also be able to choose to update your device at a convenient time when you're not using your device.
Finally, the core apps and technologies of iOS 9 have been redesigned to take advantage Metal, Apple's excellent 3D graphics API. This results in the entire system running much faster with smoother animations, making everything feel fluid and natural.
OS X El Capitan
Apple also announced the successor to last year's OS X Yosemite—OS X El Capitan. This update to OS X has been developed on the same principles as iOS 9, refinement and improving the operating system as a whole.
Just like iOS, the system font has been changed to San Fransisco and a public beta will be available in July to anyone with an Apple ID. The most important new features and improvements in OS X El Capitan fall under the focuses of experience and performance.
One of the first new features in OS X El Capitan is Split View. What this enables you to do is fill the screen with two apps side-by-side, eliminating all other distractions. The size of each app in this split view can be customized very easily, without the need to manually drag windows around.
This focus to improve window organization has also led to a more streamlined and functional Mission Control. In this view, windows will no longer be stacked on top of one another and it's easier than ever before to create a new desktop space by simply dragging a window to the top of the screen.
Spotlight search also gained some significant improvements. It can now display weather, stocks, sports information, and even video links. You can now also search using a more natural syntax, such as "Documents I worked on yesterday" and Spotlight will return the correct results for you. This natural search syntax can also be used in Finder and Mail.
The Mail app in El Capitan also received a major update, which is especially useful when used full screen. When composing a new email, you can now minimize the window to the bottom of the app to continue looking at other messages. In this composition window, you can even open multiple tabs to write severals emails side by side. On OS X, Mail now also has swipe gestures, similar to the ones Mail for iOS features.
With OS X El Capitan, Safari also managed to grab a few small usability features. You can now pin websites to the left side of the existing tab bar to keep them readily accessible. While pinned, Safari will also keep that web page active in the background so that they are always up to date whenever you decide to open them. Safari will now also show you which tabs are playing audio and will provide a quick and easy way to mute all tabs in the case of some surprise audio.
This year's update to OS X also shares some common functionality with iOS 9, specifically all of the new features outlined earlier in iOS 9's Notes and Maps apps. OS X El Capitan will also have support for third party extensions in the Photos app. These extensions will be available through the Mac App Store.
The biggest performance boost for OS X El Capitan is going to come from the availability of Apple's Metal Graphics API on Mac. Introduced last year for specific devices alongside iOS 8, Metal is a replacement to both OpenGL and OpenCL, and will speed up the system-level graphics of OS X by up to 50% and allow for 10x faster draw call performance.
The overall improvements across the entire operating system will also allow for 1.4x faster app launch and 2x faster app switching.
Not even three months after the Apple Watch officially launched, Apple announced the next version of the Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 2. The most significant aspect of this update is the ability for native apps. On watchOS 2, apps can now run on Apple Watch instead of on a paired iPhone.
Native apps will also be able to utilize all of the hardware capabilities of the watch, including the microphone, speaker, digital crown, and various sensors. Of course, performance will improve drastically with the arrival of native apps.
The watchOS 2 update will also bring with it numerous new features, including three new faces, Time Lapse, Photo, and Photo Album. These faces, in particular Photo and Photo Album, let the user customize their Apple Watch even more.
In addition to these new watch faces, existing faces will also be able to take advantage of the new third party complications available. Any native Apple Watch will be able to create its own complication, which the user can choose to put on their current watch face.
With watchOS 2, your Apple Watch will also gain the ability to Time Travel. From the home screen, you can turn the digital crown to go both forwards and backwards in time, enabling you to have a look at the weather, calendar events, and other time-sensitive information.
Your Apple Watch will also gain a new Nightstand mode. This allows your watch to still be useful when you are no longer wearing it and it's charging for the night. In this mode, your watch will display the time, date, and alarm, whenever it is touched. When your alarm goes off in the morning, the digital crown and side button on your watch will function as snooze and off buttons respectively.
In addition to announcing updates to OS X, iOS, and watchOS, Apple also announced new developer tools to create applications for its popular platforms.
The most important announcement is arguably the announcement of Swift 2.0 and the decision to make Swift open source later this year. This new version of the Swift language includes better error handling, an improved syntax, and a much faster compiler.
Xcode 7, the next generation of Apple's popular IDE, brings with it a great deal of new features, including advanced user interface testing and an improved interface builder. For the first time, it will be able to run iOS apps on a physical device without the need for a paid Apple developer account.
This year's "One more thing ..." was focused on music. Apple announced their brand new music streaming service, Apple Music. In addition to streaming all the music that is available on iTunes, Apple Music will also provide a 24/7 worldwide radio station, called Beats 1, and a channel for artists to easily communicate with fans, Connect.
Apple Music memberships will be available for $9.99 per month for a single user or $14.99 per month for a family membership, which can be shared with up to six family members. In a very interesting move, Apple Music will not only be available on iOS and OS X, but also on Windows and Android devices. Apple Music will be available on June 30.
At this year's WWDC, Apple announced a lot of new things regarding their products and services. Free updates for OS X, iOS, watchOS, and Xcode are all coming later this year, with developer betas already available to developers.
Apple's new music streaming service, Apple Music, is launching June 30. It will include a free three-month trial. We will post many more articles and tutorials on Tuts+ to tell you all about iOS 9, OS X El Capitan, and watchOS, so be sure to look out for those.
If you'd like to watch the keynote of this year's WWDC, then you can do so on Apple's website.