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WWDC 2021: What’s New?

WWDC 2021: What’s New?

Introduction

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the rumours and our expectations for WWDC, which you can read about here: We didn’t get everything we anticipated, but it was a great showcase of Apple’s capabilities, in a year in which their employees were all working from home. If you missed the event, you can watch the full Keynote here: https://developer.apple.com/wwdc21/101

App Store & Developer Tools

WWDC is an opportunity for Apple to showcase what they’ve been working on for the past year, but the event is really for the thousands of developers that use Apple’s tools and services to build apps. This year saw some great updates to developer tools and a slew of new APIs to get started with.

The App Store will now support A/B testing of screenshots, app icons and videos so you can see which were most popular with users. According to Apple, you can now ‘create up to 35 custom pages with varying promotional text, screenshots, and app previews for different audiences. This enables app developers to enhance their product pages for conversion to download.

3 Mobile Phones displaying an app

In-app events allows developers to present live events on their product page and even have the potential of it being featured in the App Store or on the new Widget.

For Mac, Apple finally introduced TestFlight which will provide macOS users with the ability to test apps there. Xcode Cloud was also introduced as a way to build apps in the cloud on each commit using multiple device types so developers can focus on coding on their machine and collaborating with team members.

iOS 15 & iPadOS 15

iOS is arguably Apple’s most popular platform and this year they took the time to refine the best bits of the operating system. After over a year of working from home, the big changes appeared to cater to this, perhaps based on Apple’s experiences.

First up, Apple introduced us to an improved version of FaceTime. Users can now create links to FaceTime calls in advance, to add to calendars and share with others. We also saw a new grid layout, the ability to screen share across devices and even watch the same content through a feature called SharePlay. FaceTime is now a real contender as a business tool, with the introduction of FaceTime on the web for Windows and Android users too.

iOS 15 also saw huge improvements to the way Do Not Disturb works by allowing you to set a different ‘Focus Mode’. This could be a pre-set mode, such as Work, Sleep or Driving, or a completely custom one. For each mode, you can customise which notifications you want to allow through and even share your status with others so they know you are busy.

iPadOS 15 saw some huge improvements to the Home Screen and how apps are displayed. Firstly, you can now add Widgets (introduced in iPadOS 14) anywhere on the Home Screen instead of just the Today View and the App Library has finally made its way to iPad as a way of freeing up space on your Home Screen. Improvements to scene management on iPad mean it’s easier than ever to run two apps side-by-side and switch them out when required.

For developers working on their very first app, the Swift Playgrounds app will be updated to support writing complete apps on an iPad (in SwiftUI) and then submit the build to the App Store. This means the barrier to entry for creating apps has been lowered somewhat considerably for people who can’t necessarily afford a Mac to code on.

Other notable improvements included a brand-new Weather app, on-device Siri, text scanning in photos and updates to the Maps and Wallet apps.

macOS 12 Monterey

After last year’s huge macOS 11 Big Sur redesign, Apple took the time to really refine the experience. As well as the new FaceTime SharePlay features, Apple introduced a few big upgrades to the Mac.

Universal Control is an innovative new way to use multiple Macs or iPads seamlessly together. Simply put, your iPad or Mac next to another, and you’ll be able to drag and drop across the different devices as if they were simply just an external monitor.

The Siri Shortcuts app has available on iOS for a number of years and is now available on Mac for the first time. As part of a multi-year transition to replace Automator, the current way to create macOS automations, Apple has provided users with the ability to create and use Shortcuts throughout macOS 12.

With the new update, we also saw the ability to AirPlay from an iPhone or iPad to a Mac and a complete redesign for the Safari app.

Other Platforms & Services

Apple’s other platforms and their services also got some love during WWDC. We saw some smaller updates to watchOS sleep tracking and the ability to create new Portrait photo Watch Faces. tvOS enabled HomePod minis to act as speakers and there were some improvements to HomeKit mentioned alongside this.

Apple prides itself on its privacy measures and this year we got some interesting new privacy features. Emails are known for containing hidden trackers that send off your IP address, when you opened the email and other details – Apple will be putting a stop to this. In similar vein, Apple is introducing a privacy report for apps that lists all the websites installed apps are making contact with.

There were also some improvements to iCloud which allow family members to recover accounts and the introduction of iCloud+ that introduces a VPN style service to stop devices from being tracked across multiple networks.

Conclusion

This year’s WWDC really focussed on improving an already stellar experience for users and we can’t wait to see how they improve further next year! The new updates are in developer preview until around September when new iPhones are released.

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