Apple’s WWDC 2015 – What you need to know

WWDC Roundup

Another year, another Worldwide Developers Conference. Yeah year, as has become the clear Apple formula, WWDC was all about the software. No bad thing, considering Jobs once said that the iPod and the Mac were just boxes for OS X.

OS X is a good place to start. Firstly Verizon 10.11 will be called El Capitan, after the mountain in Yosemite national park. Hum, naming the new OS X around the namesake of the previous version? If you’re getting flashbacks of Leopard to Snow Leopard and Lion to Mountain Lion, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. This seems to be Apple taking a year to really make some optimisations to their core OS. Given that if they were to sack off this effective two year cycle between major revisions ‘pundits’ would make noise about Apple losing momentum and not innovating. Putting out an OS every year makes them rash and haphazard. They can’t win in the press with this one. It’s a good thing they don’t care.

OS X 10.11 will be for the most part, a massive maintenance release. Again, no bad thing. Apple have spent a lot of time optimising and refining the new visual style from Yosemite. Using the Metal engine for direct communication with the graphics card points at two big things. Firstly, for now, it’s going to be a speed boost for almost all upgrading Macs. Secondly it starts to lay the groundwork for Apple’s own A series chips ending up in MacBooks over the next few years.

The other announcements around El Captain are mostly minor tweaks to improve performance and kill some third party apps. Use a little app for organising and resizing windows in OS X, well you won’t need it for much longer. Also, you know how pinned tabs in Chrome are really useful? Well Apple is borrowing those for Safari and hoping no one notices.

To sum up the changes to OS X, it’s a 2 out of 5. Some effort but nothing that will blow the socks off regular users. One noticeable absence from OS X was Siri. She’s been given a big billing in iOS and it would have made sense for with these enhancements for her to have finally made her way to the big screen.

Speaking of iOS, there’s been a lot more going on there than there has been on the desktop. This makes sense as there areĀ over half a billion iOS devices and 83% of them use the latest version.

iOS hasn’t gotten to the point where it get’s names yet, so the next version is logically called ‘9’. I wonder if next year it may well become iOS X? Anyway, iOS 9 is bringing some more polish to iOS 8 and some behind the scenes improvements that will speed up all the devices it’s on and free up space. It will be doing this by using Metal for graphics in all of iOS’s built in apps to speed things up and to reduce the space used, apps that are downloaded will only download the assets that your device needs, rather than assets for all apps as are currently downloaded.

The biggest improvements are easily summed up with one word: Siri.

Siri has been enhanced and the developmentĀ of Siri as a personal assistant has really been push in to over drive. Usually, this would mean hours of adverts of a disembodied head talking to a phone that’s sat on a table (*cough*Microsoft*cough*) that would mean you have to use the voice mode for everything.

Well, as you would expect, Apple haven’t followed this formula. Instead, Apple have separated Siri’s powers across three areas; OS options, like adding email address from people that have been on similar message chains or giving you contextual notifications such as when to leave for your next appointment if the traffic is bad. The second is in the Search view.

Search has been moved back to being on the far left of all of your home screens and as such, removed from the pull down placement it currently has. In this new search area, your quires now do more than search the content of your phone but also does unit conversions, weather forecasts and sports results.

The third area, oddly, is in the same area, but has a different level of functionality. As you use your device more, the Search area will fill with contextually relevant information. This means the quick contacts at the top of the app switcher have gone and are now in this area. So are apps that you frequently use at certain times of the day and recommendations of places near by and information in the news that may be of interest to you from the area you’re in.

All of this adds up to the continuation of the iPhone becoming the ‘digital hub’ in your life. Something that will be evolving with the iPhone’s new life-partner, the Apple Watch.

WatchOS, is going straight to a 2.0 and that is simply because it wasn’t ready to ship with it back in April. Native applications, Enhancements to the user interface and to the general operation of the device, all seem like things Apple wanted for launch but needed some more time to get them finished up. Well, they are almost there and September should bring all of this to the public. Interestingly, iOS and OS X had specific enhancements on battery life / performance issues addressed and WatchOS didn’t. Let’s see what the betas bring.

Other Notable Things:

  • Transit information now built in to Maps and work across Siri’s new assistant features. It’s clear Apple have put a lot of work in to this and given that it’s only launching in eight cities, it’s clear there’s more of that good work to do.
  • Apple Pay is coming to the UK with iOS 8.4 in July – There will be a separate article for that
  • Apple Music is coming at the end of the month with iOS 8.4 as well – There will be at least one separate article on that!
  • CarPlay is going wireless
  • The iPad is getting split screen apps for true multitasking
  • The new News app is like an RSS reader for normal people
  • Notes is going after Evernote
  • Videos now get ‘Picture in Picture’ like you do in the YouTube but across the OS

There will be more coming on iOS 9, OS X 10.11 and Apple Music over the next few weeks from your friendly Tame Geek.

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