Apple’s WWDC 2020 came to a close last week. Although this year’s event was a little different (digital-only), several new updates announced during this year’s keynote will undoubtedly shake up mobile app development.
Here’s what you need to know:
As has become customary at these events, Apple unveiled its latest mobile operating system – iOS 14. This year’s emphasis is on personalization and convenience. Specifically, the introduction of new widgets, and App Library, some argue that Apple is doing better than Android, long known for its ability for users to personalize.
The first update to the iPhone operating system is its App Library, which automatically sorts and categorizes apps on a user’s phone based on their function. It puts your most-used apps in an easy-to-navigate view. For example, Facebook and Twitter would list under a social media tab while Apple TV+ and Netflix will list under entertainment.
Users will now have more options for widgets and will be able to freely move them around the iOS 14 home screen to personalize it according to their needs. One of the widgets Apple introduced during the event was the Smart Stack, which is basically a stack of multiple swipeable widgets in one and even intelligently curates them according to the time of the day.
Other updates include picture-in-picture functionality for video, an improved Apple Maps with a special view for cyclists, and a Translate app that works in real-time.
In a significant decision, Apple CEO, Tim Cook announced that Apple would stop using the Intel processors that have long powered Macs and roll out computers made with ARM-based Apple Silicon chips for Macs. The first Mac computers with Apple chips will be released later this year as a part of a transition that is expected to take about two years. The switch is meant to make Mac devices more energy efficient, ensuring better performance and battery life.
Mac computers will be able to run apps made initially for the iPhone and iPad. Developers will be able to develop apps that work on all Apple hardware. Apple’s new operating system, Big Sur, was built for integration with the latest processors to allow for a smooth transition. Apple computers had used Intel processors for the last 15 years.
Apple’s smart home platform will utilize facial recognition software, allowing users to see who’s at the door through their smart doorbells and cameras. Users can also adjust the lighting in their homes. Apple touted security, noting that its Home App and HomeKit utilize end-to-end encryption to protect customers.
Apple is partnering with Amazon, Google, and other tech leaders to set up a smart home network, enabling easier use of this innovative technology.
watchOS7: Most of the watchOS7 updates, like the iOS14 updates, were focused on personalization with providing users with the ability to now create their watch faces and share them with other users.
The most anticipated announcement, however, was the introduction of long-awaited sleep tracking capabilities to the watch. The new watchOS sleep tracking features include a Wind Down mode, which helps you go to sleep by setting your desired bedtime, wake-up time, and setting your screen to Do Not Disturb.
Additionally, the latest update will introduce a hand wash timer that tracks how long you wash your hands by counting down with you.
tvOS 14: With the latest updates, Apple seeks to create a more immersive experience for gamers. With the tvOS 14 updates, Apple has expanded Xbox controller support to work with Xbox Elite 2 and Xbox Adaptive controllers, making the gaming experience incredibly immersive. Additionally, they have introduced a new multi-user feature for Apple Arcade. Users playing games on their iPhones or iPads can continue their Apple Arcade games on their Apple TV, right from where they left off.
macOS Big Sur: The OS includes updates to major apps like Safari and Guide, with Apple claiming a 50% increase in the speed of the upgraded browser. Safari also comes with even better tab management, making it a smoother experience altogether. Additionally, the new OS includes a familiar notification and action center to that of iOS 14 with customizable widgets.
Right now, Apple’s macOS Big Sur is available for MacBook (2015 and later), MacBook Air (2013 and later), MacBook Pro (late 2013 and later), Mac mini (2014 and later), iMac (2014 and later), iMac Pro (2017 and later) and the Mac Pro (2013 and later).
AirPods Pro will get spacial-audio using directional audio filters, based on where you and your device are positioned, to give a surround sound experience from two earbuds. Spacial-audio is compatible with 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos. The new firmware update will also enable automatic switching, creating a seamless transition when playing audio on one device and switching over to another (i.e., MacBook to iPad).
One of the most significant announcements is the new user privacy features that will be bundled in with the iOS 14 update. Starting with iOS 14, apps will need to receive permission from users to use the Identifier for Advertisers, the IDFA, which explicitly grants permission to track users across apps and services.
This is a clear prompt for developers to converse with users to gain tracking permissions and to clarify the value exchange in granting these permissions to their users. More than ever, developers and businesses need to reimagine the app experience through new formats for app discovery and user acquisition.