Heading into the WWDC keynote this year, developers didn’t have much information to go on like we typically do: There was simply not much in the way of rumors or spoilers leading up to the event. The only thing we knew we were getting: updates to Apple’s macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS and watchOS.
Heading into the keynote, we were most excited for the iPad, it just recently had a major hardware update that included at the high-end the ability to configure an iPad Pro with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Coming out of the keynote, however, we were excited for the myriad of announcements that bridge together all of Apple’s platforms into a cohesive shared experience.
Let’s recap what’s been unveiled on the first day of WWDC and at the Platform State of the Union address, and what we’re excited about for both consumers and developers alike.
New OS features and what they mean to us
iOS and iPadOS
FaceTime received a huge improvement on iPad, iPhone, and Mac, gaining several new features that we’re excited to use to improve our daily work life and life outside of work. Two of the biggest announcements were Share Play and FaceTime Links. FaceTime links let you schedule FaceTime conversations in advance and provide a link through email, Messages, or calendar invites to participants — When someone receives a link, clicking it will launch FaceTime or a web browser on non-Apple devices to join the conversation (yes, even on Windows and Android). The second feature, Share Play, lets users easily share content during a FaceTime call: You can share music, movies, or even your screen. All of these new ways to chat will also work with the new Spatial Audio feature with compatible AirPods and machine learning that lets you easily block background noise and focus on your voice. The best part? There’s APIs for developers of apps to work with the Share Play feature.
Focus Mode is a new feature that lets you easily set a scene on your device to restrict it to certain apps, Home Screens, or even contacts. Create a scene for work, home, and even the gym to restrict who can contact you and which apps can display notifications to you while in that Focus Mode. We’re excited for any technology like this that can bring a better work-life balance to our lives.
Wallet received a major new update that expanded on iOS 14’s ability to use car keys. Not only can you also add house keys, and hotel keys, but now you can also add a state issued ID to the Wallet app for participating states. Best yet? You can use this to check into a flight as the TSA will be one of the first participants in the program.
Maps will receive an update that includes new driving directions, UI, and more that will allow for drivers to get additional information about bike lanes, taxi lanes, and user reported issues on the road.
As a remotely distributed team of over 15 years, we use our AirPods daily. We use them to block out noises and distractions that would otherwise cause us issues while working. AirPods are receiving some new updates on iOS including the ability to add mild hearing loss assistance, and being able to find them using the Find My app (sorry this will still not work with your Siri Remote).
Live Text in Photos and Camera allows taking photos of text to a new level: You can now OCR the text in a photo and be able to select it (and even have data detectors detect things like addresses and phone numbers where you can tap them to open Maps or call a number). This feature also ties into some accessibility APIs to let developers ensure that photo content is accessible to users.
Health on iOS is opening HealthKit up to allow users to share health information with loved ones and care partners. This great feature also joins Labs information for health information to help iOS users better make sense of their health lab work. In addition, health data from your watchOS devices can be compiled and shared with compatible hospital systems to allow doctors to better monitor patients’ medical conditions remotely.
On iPadOS, multitasking changes means that discoverability for split screen is even greater. If you’re not already providing great split screen experiences in your iPadOS apps, then you will want to ensure your apps can support it going forward as users will be able to discover this feature even better in iPadOS 15.
On iPadOS, Widgets now have the ability to be placed on the Home Screen, and there’s an all-new large size widget only available on the iPad to allow for additional information for the larger screen.
The Apple Pencil has been a go-to tool for us on the iPad, but Apple is adding even more Apple Pencil features in iPadOS 15 including QuickNote that lets you pull up from the bottom corner in any app or on the Home screen to begin writing a note with the Pencil.
Apple consistently adds new and innovative features to ensure that customers’ data remains secure while on their device. This year, they added a few new features that we would be wrong to skip over.
Privacy Reports is a new feature that lets users see apps in a list along with the data and networking calls they make. It’s an attempt to let users understand where their data is going and how often it’s used.
Mail Privacy Protection kills the ability for tracking pixels in emails as Apple is now randomizing your IP address from Mail, which means it cannot be used to track you or retrieve your actual location.
There are many great new features in macOS Monterey, but we’re really excited about two revolving around Shortcuts and Universal Control.
The Shortcuts app is officially being brought to macOS to allow for even more automation on the Mac. Apple has had a long history of automation on the Mac since the early 90s with AppleScript, which later morphed into Automator in Mac OS X Tiger. Shortcuts is the modern answer to automation, and it will even allow you to import your old Automator workflows into the app and continue to use them. We cannot wait for apps to take more advantage of Shortcuts to allow us to build the ultimate productivity and time saving workflows.
Universal Control is a great tool that allows you to put Macs and iPadOS devices together side by side and use a single Mac to move the cursor between the devices, drag and drop content, and otherwise control the other machines. The demo for this is mind-blowing and we cannot wait to use it in practice to move between devices, especially when testing iPadOS apps while developing them on macOS.
Developer tools we’re excited about
By and far Xcode Cloud appears to be the largest change that Apple Platform developers may see in their day-to-day work with the development tools updates announced today. The promise Apple has made will enable new and experienced developers alike to skip an entire profession’s worth of knowledge when building and releasing an app.
Xcode Cloud aims to solve the tricky and nuanced problem of continuous integration and delivery–that is the process of continually testing your code as it evolves and publishing your app. This will be achieved in most cases via interface updates made directly within Xcode 13 where you can configure workflows such as building and testing every commit made on specific branches or pull requests submitted to target branches. Developers across your team will have access to detailed test result information as well as screenshots taken during UI tests from various simulator types.
In the case where more advanced tasks are necessary developers will be able to inject customized build scripts at various points in the build process as well as utilize REST API and configure notification integrations with communication tools like Slack.
This of course comes with the giant caveat of “More details on pricing and availability of Xcode Cloud will be announced this fall.” At this time we’re unaware what it will cost to use this feature but we hope that Apple provides a free tier for indie developers or perhaps anyone who is in the Small Business Program.
In addition to these features Xcode also has fantastic new Source Control features, many of which have been years in the making. If you aren’t already using Xcode’s Source Control features this might be the year to give them a second look. One of the biggest new features appears to be Pull Request support–allowing you to create and manage pull requests right within Xcode.
With Swift being open source there are actually very few surprises at WWDC anymore. If you follow along with the project or keep an eye on what excellent content creators such as Paul Hudson are sharing you’ll have seen what is coming in Swift 5.5. That said, easily the largest change coming in Swift 5.5 is the long awaited (no pun intended) new concurrency model.
SwiftUI has received some nice improvements that are sure to make the adoption of it progress even further than in years past. At MartianCraft, our clients have already started building SwiftUI-only applications, and we’re sure the adoption will only increase with iOS and iPadOS 15.
This year, Apple decided to work on four key areas of SwiftUI: Tools, accessibility, macOS, and watchOS.
On the Tools front, new features and improvements exist for list views, better search experiences, and support for control focus areas. SwiftUI also gains low-level drawing primitives using an API called Canvas API, which is a modern take on drawRect.
With accessibility and universal access a key initiative for Apple, they also brought some new features to SwiftUI to make apps built with it as accessible as possible. The Rotor API lets developers easily surface top items to users to aid navigation in apps, and with Accessibility Representation API you can integrate full accessibility features with existing standard SwiftUI components.
macOS was a big sticking point with SwiftUI 2, but version 3 has beefed up macOS support and is adding a lot of new APIs, plus support for multicolumn tables — a macOS standard component that was missing from initial versions of SwiftUI.
watchOS has a new trick up its sleeves: Apps can now remain on the screen when the device goes into dimmed display mode (supported in Watch Series 5 and above). This is supported in SwiftUI-only watchOS apps and lets those apps that support it to keep data glanceable even when the user lowers their wrist.
Swift Playgrounds 4
While we didn’t see a full version of Xcode for iPadOS, we did get a slice of Xcode on the iPad in the form of Swift Playgrounds 4. With this new version of Swift Playgrounds, you will be able to not only write Swift and SwiftUI code, but also deploy that code to TestFlight and even the App Store.
You will not be able to write any iOS or iPadOS app that relies on Storyboards or Interface Builder files for the user interface, you’ll instead need to write the app entirely in SwiftUI (which we expected when we first heard the rumor that we could see a version of Xcode for iPadOS), but from the demos it appears that the SwiftUI recompile and display is extremely fast and responsive as you type.
We’re not expecting to be writing any major apps in the Swift Playground apps, but it will be fantastic for on-the-go debugging or prototyping apps; plus, seeing how quickly the SwiftUI views recomputed in the demo (assumedly with an M1 iPad Pro), do we dare say it’s faster than anything we’re currently using to do our iOS development and may tempt us to investigate writing our SwiftUI views on iPad Pro (especially coupled with the drag and drop-ability between iPadOS and macOS with Universal Control).
We’re excited to see how Swift Playgrounds plays out on iPadOS and certainly excited to see apps being built by a whole new generation of developers who’ve never used a Mac before.
… and many more things
Of course, with the keynote and Platform State of the Union address, this is only scratching the surface on WWDC. There’s more to be had this week at the conference. Be sure to download the Apple Developer app on iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, or macOS to continue watching sessions throughout this week that goes into detail on the various APIs and features available to developers and how to use them.
At MartianCraft, we’re here to support companies who want to make incredible products using Apple’s products, developer tools, and services. If you have an app idea that makes use of the tech announced at WWDC, get in touch with us today!