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WWDC 2016 Aftermath

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 iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS platforms. In this article, I'll tell you everything you need to remember from the keynote.

1. iOS 10

This year's iOS release is a huge one for both consumers, in terms of new features, and for developers, with new technologies and APIs. Let's take a look what iOS 10 has to offer.

User Experience

The biggest change in iOS 10 that people will see when updating from iOS 9 will be the visual design changes.

Firstly, the lock screen has been reimagined with the classic "slide to unlock" being removed entirely. Now, from the lock screen, swiping from right to left will open the camera and swiping left to right will open the Today view. On the Today view, you can add widgets from apps installed on your device to take a quick look at the information they provide.

Notifications are now displayed in white bubbles on both the lock screen and at the top of the screen when you are in another app. In iOS 10, notifications are also gaining a lot of extra functionality through rich notification extensions. When interacted with, a notification can now present any user interface it wants to.

With Messages for example, a live view containing the conversation can now be shown so that you can not only reply to the message you just received, but you can also remain in the conversation right from the notification. In the first iOS 10 Developer Preview, this feature is only accessible on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus by using 3D Touch on the notification. Apple said, however, that rich notifications will be coming to all devices capable of running iOS 10 and will be activated in another way for devices that don't support 3D Touch.

iOS 10 Rich Notifications

Control center also got a visual update with some extra functionality as well support for 3D Touch. You can now press firmly on the bottom four buttons, flashlight, timer, calculator, and camera, to get bring up a menu with shortcuts and actions. Control center has also been split up into two views with the music playback portion being given its own view. This allows for the song's album artwork to be shown and for the controls being spread out a bit more. Interestingly, in iOS 10, Apple also split up the video and audio components of AirPlay, with one being on each page of the control center.

iOS 10 Control Center

Siri

As expected, iOS 10 will allow for third party apps to integrate with Siri, which will greatly expand the functionality of the personal assistant. This integration is handled through Siri extensions and the brand new SiriKit framework. One of the applications shown by Apple was calling an Uber car using Siri without even having to enter the app.

User privacy has been taken care of as well. Third party apps don't get access to what the user's input. Instead, Siri takes care of the entire voice part and creates an intent which an app can then act upon.

Maps

The Maps application of iOS 10 is getting a complete redesign, which will make it easier to use and much easier to search for nearby venues. Turn-by-turn navigation is also getting some great improvements, including traffic-on-route and options to avoid tolls and highways. As with Siri, Apple is also opening up the Maps application for developers through extensions. For example, through third party extensions users can make reservations at a particular venue without having to leave the Maps application.

Music

Just like Maps, the Music app in iOS 10 also got a complete redesign with iOS 10. This new design makes the app much simpler to use, especially for Apple Music, and makes it very clear which songs have been downloaded. While this update doesn't add any new functionality to Music it is a very welcome visual change across the board.

Messages

Arguably, the most revamped application in iOS 10 is the Messages application. There have been so many features added to iMessage and here a just some of the major ones:

  • third party iMessage apps to add stickers and other content to conversations
  • inline link, video, and music previews
  • bubble and full screen effects for messages
  • read receipts on a per conversation basis
  • bigger emoji
  • emoji quick type suggestions
  • tap to replace words with emoji
  • handwritten messages
  • digital touch and heartbeat messages

These changes bring iMessage up to par with other apps, such as Facebook Messenger. If you want to see these features in action, check out Apple's video.

3D Touch

In addition to all of the new 3D Touch functionality related to notifications and control center, the home screen is also getting more 3D Touch features. For apps that support a Today view widget, this will appear in addition to the app shortcuts when firmly pressed on the home screen. Third party applications will also gain a shortcut for sharing a link to the app on the App Store.

Activity Widget on Home Screen

Phone and VoIP

Another new type of extension in iOS 10 allows apps to integrate into the Phone application. While all the possibilities of phone extensions have not been shown yet, the example Apple showed during the keynote was an app detecting a spam phone number and displaying this on the incoming call screen.

Another interesting API Apple showed during the presentation is one specific to VoIP apps, such as Skype and WhatsApp. Instead of getting a regular push notification when receiving a call, a full-screen overlay (almost identical to the one that appears when receiving a FaceTime call) can now be shown once the apps have been updated to support it.

Home

With iOS 10, Apple is further expanding HomeKit, Apple's framework for controlling connected accessories in your home. The home automation accessory platform supports more types of accessories and iOS 10 also includes a dedicated Home app so you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories from a single app, rather than going into each manufacturer's specific app. The Home app also greatly simplifies the setting up of rooms and scenes in your house.

Other small features

While Apple could not cover everything in the keynote, there are a lot of smaller features in iOS 10, including:

  • It is now possible to delete some of the preinstalled iOS apps, including Maps, Mail, and Notes.
  • Alert-style notifications will now appear the same as banner notification, but remain at the top of your screen until a manual action is taken.
  • The HUD when changing media volume no longer appears.
  • iOS 10 includes a redesigned iPad Camera app interface.
  • It is now possible to clear all your notifications in the notification center using 3D Touch.
  • The new keyboard also supports multilingual typing.

Overall, iOS 10 is a major update and supports every device that can run iOS 9 with the exception of:

  • iPhone 4s
  • iPad 2
  • iPad 3
  • iPad Mini
  • iPod Touch 5th Generation

2. macOS Sierra

This year's Mac-related portion of the keynote kicked off with the official rebranding of OS X to macOS. This new name puts the Mac desktop operating system in line with Apple's other platforms, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Apple named the first update under the macOS moniker Sierra.

Siri on the Mac

The most significant new feature being added to the Mac in macOS Sierra is Siri. By pressing the Siri icon in the dock or the menu bar (or by using a custom keyboard shortcut) you can interact with Siri on your Mac. On macOS, Siri can perform almost any of the same requests that she can on an iOS device, including weather, playing music, and searching the web.

On the Mac, however, she can also handle complex file search queries. What's even more useful is that any response Siri gives you can be added to the widgets section of the notification center. For example, you can search for a specific group of files, pin the response in the notification center, and then, throughout the day, drag and drop the files that you found directly from the widget.

Siri Returning a File Search on macOS Sierra

Apple Pay on the Web

Another new significant feature is the ability for Macs to use Apple Pay in Safari. On websites that support Apple Pay, a prompt will appear on your iPhone to authenticate a purchase with Touch ID. The process is as simple as making any other payment with Apple Pay apart from the added step of picking up your phone to authenticate the purchase.

Organizing Windows

In an effort to make your desktop less cluttered, macOS now supports tabs in almost any application. For example, if you are working on several documents in Pages, rather than having three windows open you can now have one window with three tabs, a tab for each document. Apple said that supporting this feature in macOS applications will be automatic if the app is using the NSDocument class.

Next, macOS Sierra also allows you to create a picture-in-picture view of a video you are playing. This feature works identically to how it does on iPad. The video view can be resized and pinned to any corner of the screen. On macOS Sierra, the video player always stays on top of whatever you are doing, including in full-screen apps.

Working With Other Apple Devices

macOS Sierra builds on Handoff, which was introduced in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, to make Apple devices work better together through the following features:

  • Auto Unlock will detect when you are nearby through the use of Apple Watch. If you are currently wearing your Apple Watch and it is unlocked, then your Mac will not prompt you for a password when signing in.
  • Universal Clipboard allows you to copy and paste almost anything between all of your devices.

Storage Optimizations

Lastly, Apple is also making it easier for you to manage your files and Mac's storage space with macOS Sierra. Firstly, a new Desktop folder will be created in your iCloud Drive and will automatically synchronize the files on your desktop between computers so you don't have to manually drag them into iCloud Drive. These desktop files will also be accessible on your iOS devices through the iCloud Drive app.

Also, macOS will intelligently look at the files on your computer and determine which files aren't needed any more (for example, duplicate files or files that haven't been used in a long time). macOS will either delete these files (in the case of duplicate files) or automatically upload them to iCloud Drive for you. By doing so, the operating system can free up a lot of space.

While macOS Sierra is nowhere near as big of an update as iOS 10 is, it does introduce many great improvements and features, such as Siri and Apple Pay. macOS Sierra is compatible with the following devices:

  • 2009 and later MacBooks and iMacs
  • 2010 and later MacBooks Airs and MacBook Pros

3. watchOS 3

Similarly to watchOS 2 last year, the main focus of watchOS 3 is on performance and small usability improvements, which add up to a significant update. With watchOS 3, your Apple Watch will also gain a few new built-in applications, including Reminders and Find My Friends.

New User Interfaces and Interactions

Firstly, the Friends menu, which used to appear on your Apple Watch when you pressed the side button, has been replaced with an app Dock. You can choose which apps appear here and which order they are displayed in.

watchOS 3 App Dock

The apps shown in your dock are not just visual snapshots of when you last used that app either, they are live previews.

As the live previews of your applications in the dock let you glance at information from your most used apps, glances have now been removed. Now, swiping up from the bottom of the screen will bring up a brand new Control Center that looks very similar to its iOS counterpart.

Instant Apps

The most noticeable performance improvement for Apple Watch users will be the speed at which apps can now launch and be ready to use. As a result of new APIs in watchOS 3, any app the user puts in their dock or adds a complication for on their watch face, gets special privileges to update their app's content in the background and remain in memory. As a developer, this allows you to make sure that your app is ready to go at a moment's notice whenever the user wants to open your app.

New watch faces

As usual, Apple has also added a few new watch faces to watchOS 3. These include:

  • Minnie Mouse
  • analog, digital and chronograph watch faces that feature your Activity rings in the center of the watch face
  • a simple watch face, Numerals, which only displays the hands of the clock and the current hour in a variety of fonts
New watchOS 3 Watch Faces

In addition to these new faces, watchOS 3 now has support for more complications on existing faces, such as weather on the photos face. Lastly, you can now also swipe on the screen to change watch faces rather than going through the Force Touch menu.

New frameworks

To make the Apple Watch an even more capable device, even more frameworks and developer tools are now able to be used on watchOS (in both apps and notification interfaces) including:

  • Apple Pay within watchOS apps
  • background workout, real-time heart rate, gyroscope access, and all-day accelerometer data for fitness apps
  • SpriteKit
  • SceneKit
  • Game Center
  • CloudKit
  • precise touch and digital crown events
  • support for inline video playback and access to the watch's speaker

4. tvOS 10

tvOS was introduced last October with the release of the fourth generation Apple TV and is effectively a modified version of iOS with a unique user interface. This update is the first major update to the platform since its launch in October. While being the smallest update across Apple's platforms, tvOS 10 adds a few very useful features.

Smarter Siri

Firstly, Siri can now search for movies and TV shows by topics, such as "high school comedies". This makes it even easier for you to find something great to watch.

In addition, Siri voice search has now also been extended to YouTube. When you ask Siri to search YouTube for something, the YouTube app will open the search page.

tvOS YouTube Search via Siri

Single Sign-On

With tvOS 10, Apple is also simplifying sign up and authentication for users. With this new feature, you will only have to authenticate your Apple TV once and tvOS will take care of the rest for each app you download.

Dark Mode

tvOS now also has a dark mode. This will change the appearance of your Apple TV to be more suitable for dark rooms and home theaters. Developers can also adjust the appearance of their applications through a new UITraitCollection property that tells the application whether the current device is in light or dark mode.

tvOS Dark Mode

iOS Remote App

Alongside the release of tvOS 10, Apple will also be releasing a completely revamped version of the iOS Remote app. This new app will allow your iOS device to perform all of the same functions as the Siri Remote that is included with Apple TV. In addition to this, it can also display relevant information about what is currently playing on the Apple TV, such as album artwork.

iOS Remote App

5. Xcode 8 and Developer Tools

This year's Xcode release, Xcode 8, is going to make developing apps for any of Apple's platforms easier than ever.

Swift 3

For Swift users, Xcode 8 includes Swift 3, the latest and upcoming version of Apple's programming language. Swift 3 contains many new features, including many enhancements and improvements that form the foundation of the language. If you don't want to move to Swift 3 right away, though, Xcode 8 also includes Swift 2.3. Xcode 8 also includes the familiar migration tool to migrate from Swift 2.3 to Swift 3 when you are ready.

Interface Builder

Xcode 8's Interface Builder has many great improvements, including:

  • the ability to edit a storyboard while previewing a particular device size/orientation
  • the ability to make edits to views and view controllers at any zoom level
  • a much easier way of creating different layouts for different size classes
  • a dark mode previewing and interface editor for tvOS storyboards

Debugging

Xcode 8 also makes debugging applications easier. It also comes with excellent crash reporting while running tests, memory graphs to detect memory leaks, and an FPS gauge for debugging performance in games. User interface issues are now also easier to debug in Interface Builder.

Xcode App Extensions

Third party developers can now create extensions that plug directly into Xcode. The first (and only) type of Xcode extension is a source editor extension. These extensions are capable of:

  • adding and deleting content
  • transorming content
  • modifying content selection
  • modifying the pasteboard
  • change in-file navigation

Usability

Lastly, Xcode 8 includes many small improvements that make working with Xcode easier and more enjoyable, such as:

  • the addition of color literals inline with code. This not only provides you with a preview of color objects, but you can open a color picker to easily change colors.
  • autocompletion for image assets. This addition shows a small preview inline with your code.
  • automatic code documentation generator
  • automatic code-signing and provisioning for applications. Xcode can now take care of creating and maintaining certificates and provisioning profiles. This means that, if you work across multiple machines, you will only need to sign in with your Apple ID in order to sign and distribute your apps successfully. You no longer need to export and import certificates and provisioning profiles manually.
  • unified API documentation across platforms. This means that for the class UITableView, for example, you won't get separate pages and documents for the iOS and tvOS platforms. There will only be one page that contains the availability of that API for each platform and any platform specific elements.
  • offline API documentation included in Xcode. Due to the unification of the documentation across all platforms, the total size of the documentation has become small enough that it is included by default in Xcode.
  • last but not least, a new San Fransisco Mono font

Conclusion

This year's WWDC was jam-packed with updates to Apple's four platforms, iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. All of these updates are currently available in developer preview, with iOS 10 and macOS Sierra having a public beta launch in July. These updates are going to be free for compatible devices and are releasing this fall.

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