Yesterday, Apple held its annual WWDC keynote, which sets out the direction for software and (sometimes) hardware for the next twelve months.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:
Apple announced a bigger screen MacBook Air. The 15” model joins the 13” and comes in at a low-ish price. The 13” now starts at €1349 with the 15” at €1649. In recent years if you wanted to stay under the 2k mark, a 13” Mac was your only choice. Opening up the two options for a lower budget is a welcome move.
The “Air” tag also rings true. The 13” comes in at 1.24kg (2.7lb) with the 15” at 1.5kg (3.3lb). This makes the 15” MacBook Air considerably lighter than the 16" MacBook Pro, which is over half a kilo heavier (2.15kg, 4.7lb).
Every year at this time Apple sets out the changes it will make to the iPhone software. Expect this to arrive in late September or early October…
The highlights include:
- customisable wallpaper which appears when you call another iPhone user- you get to set your font, colours, picture etc. This will pop-up on the other users screen during your call.
- a very clever feature for voicemail- when a person begins a voicemail message, a live transcript will appear on your screen as they speak, so you can decide if you need to hop in and answer, or just sit it out! (I have a slight suspicion this may not make it to Ireland, but I live in hope…)
- a version of this also works for audio messages- if your friends love to leave short audio clips as messages, your Messages app will turn these into transcriptions automatically so you can quickly read what they said when you’re too busy to listen back
- FaceTime on Apple TV- a neat way for Apple TV users to use an iPhone camera with a TV, so you can sit on the sofa and make FaceTime video calls
- use your Lock Screen as a control pad for music, Home accessories, calendars, clock etc. All customisable to contain what you need:
- a new feature called NameDrop, to swap contact info with people next to you by moving the phones close together:
- And the Photos app can now recognise dogs and cats in the “People” section, and find their photos in your Library!
To learn more, check out Apple's Preview page for iOS 17:
Yes indeed, the iPad software will get an update too:
- widgets on the Lock Screen, allowing you to tick off reminders, pause music, turn on Home accessories etc all from the Lock Screen (no need to open an app):
- the Health app comes to the iPad, which is great for being able to read all of your data on the bigger screen:
- Autofill for PDF documents, making it faster to complete PDF forms on your iPad
The update to iPadOS also includes many of the iOS improvements mentioned above.
For more information, check the Apple preview page:
The Watch software reaches version 10, and so they have redesigned a lot of the built-in apps to give them new looks:
- Smart Stack allows you to use the Digital Crown to scroll through widgets of information, such as Activity, Weather, Calendar events and news headlines
Overall a new look for the Watch as it celebrates its milestone.
Continuing with the Californian names, “Sonoma" will take over from Ventura and bring many new features to the Mac.
- new slow motion screensavers
- a new desktop design, with widgets for quick actions which fade into the background when not in use:
- the ability to turn regular websites into apps, by saving them with their own icon into your Dock
- better team-collaboration for items in your Notes app
- start a Note and send it to Pages- very useful for when you’ve started a few rough ideas and want to then develop this in the full Pages app
- better search in Messages and other apps, plus improved auto-correct and dictation
For the full list of changes- click here:
One more thing….
At the end of the event, Apple announced “one more thing”: the Apple Vision Pro, their "spatial computer" which is a headset for augmented reality computing.
This is a remarkable device, aimed at 3D computing and with a wide range of uses:
1/ Personal computing:
- to project documents in front of you so you can read and edit them with eye-movement, hand gestures, and add content via dictation and virtual keyboard
- allowing you to lay out documents with no boundaries: the windows can be displayed wherever you like in the room.Documents can be as big or small as you make them, with no “screen” boundaries
- all of your regular Mac apps can work this way, launched by eye movement or hand gestures
- play a TV show or movie and watch it on as big a screen as you wish. The sound comes from the speakers on the sides of the headset and the background of your show or movie can be darkened, blocking out any distractions
- watch sports games at a chosen angle, on the court or pitch side
- multiple angles for events where you can move location to view a show the way you want to see it
3/ Augmented Reality:
- when wearing the headset, you can choose to see the room around you. The image or document you’re looking at can appear within the environment you’re sitting in, or you can choose to exclude the outside world
- the shape, perspective and width of your screen can be whatever size you choose, adjusted with the swipe of a hand:
4/ The reality, unaugmented…
Apple was not the first smartphone manufacturer or the first MP3 maker but, as with the iPhone and iPod, what they come to the market brought a new level of vision and design. They have worked hard on the concept of what this headset can be and are selling a very high end product with a very clear vision.
The reality is that it will be launched in the US in early 2024, and cost $3500. This is not a product for everyone, and so can’t be compared to say the iPad or Apple Watch. This is a new market and Apple are aiming high with the best that can be produced in this new field. This is likely to sell very well, but it won’t be the same level of mass-market product.
However, where this take us in the next 5 years is exciting as it’s likely to come down in price and lead to other variants, with a wider reach. The detail and the ambition of the Apple Vision Pro headset is incredible, and instead of coming to the market with a rough concept product, they have brought a top quality realisation of what an AR headset can do, and how it can be used in business and entertainment.
We’ll have to wait until 2024 for the reviews and the final details. But the word from those who used it after the keynote event is that it certainly lives up to the promise, even if it'll be a long wait until most of us get to try it out.