And so the Apple World Wide Developer Conference happened today. Once my migraine was in check, I watched the video replay. And it was jaw-dropping (after you got over the truly heinous opening video, which was groan-inducing awful). There's some very cool technologies being dropped into the upcoming iOS 15 and macOS Monterey builds that I am having a tough time wrapping my head around it. But let's try, shall we?
• Spatial Audio FaceTime! Now when you are in a multi-person FaceTime session, the audio will take advantage of the Spatial Audio feature of some headphone devices (like AirPods Pro) and give you the illusion that different people are in different areas of the room. I think this will be one of those "you have to experience it to get it" things, because right now I don't see how this is all that useful. It's a gimmick that feels like it wouldn't make a FaceTime call any better.
• Voice Isolation! On the other hand, the new "voice isolation" feature feels like it would be highly beneficial. It effectively cancels out ambient noise so you can be heard easier in a noisy environment. No clue how well this will work in the Real World, but it certainly seems like a technology that's worth a shot, given the example they show in the keynote of a woman on a FaceTime call while somebody is using a leaf blower in the background.
• Wide Spectrum Audio! The opposite of Voice Isolation, this mode will pick up as much audio information as it can sense and relay that... like when you are at a piano recital, which is the example they used. I can see this being a welcome technology for people who do stuff like that, but it will likely have very little use for me.
• Grid View! This seems pretty superficial. You're talking to people in a grid? Yeah, that's the way online conversations work. Did Apple suddenly discover Zoom or something?
My guess is that Apple is just trying to compete with the juggernaut which is Zoom.
• Portrait Mode! Turn your iPhone sideways and you'll be FaceTiming in "Portrait Mode" which seems to softens your face and blurs out the background so the people you chat with can focus on you...
This actually looks highly useful, because face-to-face you don't tend to wander like you do when you're online. Nice.
• FaceTime Links! And Facetime is now multi-platform! Android and Windows users (or any device with a compliant web browser) can join into a FaceTime conversation via a link. About damn time. Did Apple really think that iPhone users ONLY talks to other iPhone users? Typical Apple arrogance here. At least they're finally over it. This time.
• SharePlay Music! Maybe I'm misreading this... but I think it only applies if both people in FaceTime will be able to listen to music in sync with each other while on a chat?
I have Amazon Music Unlimited... I wonder if that will be permitted? If different people subscribe to different services, can they all coordinate the same song across services? Music is music, so does it really matter? My guess is that they can't. At least not right now. Maybe eventually everybody will play nice together, but this IS Apple we're talking about.
• SharePlay Video! If there's one thing 2020 taught us, it's that being together while apart is essential. Not just in a pandemic. But here comes SharePlay to make things better! Well, as "better" as it can be given that nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact. But SharePlay is a very cool technology which actually does look like it will help bring people together while apart. Basically, it allows shared video experiences to happen over the internet effortlessly...
Well, depending on the service, that is. Disney+ will reportedly allow a shared experience only if both of you are subscribed to it... which makes sense. Other services may or may not have this requirement. What I want to know is whether or not I can share HOME movies with somebody via SharePlay? I dunno.
• SharePlay API! SharePlay isn't an Apple exclusive feature, it's an API which all developers can integrate into their apps. Apple has demonstrated how you can share your screen while in other apps... and even how you can chat via text instead of voice if you're trying to watch a show together (via Picture-In-Picture)...
Now THIS interests me, because I already do this with friends. If more companies make shared experiences easier, then it's going to be more beneficial to everybody who wants to stay in contact while apart.
• SharePlay AppleTV! Okay... here's where things are getting exciting. Being able to cast the shared video to your television while chatting or texting on your iOS device or macOS device is exactly what I want...
You'll even be able to watch TikTok together!
Please, please, PLEASE let Plex integrate this into their apps! And please, please, PLEASE let Windows and Android integrate it into their products too!
• SharePlay Screen Sharing! I have questions. "ScreenPlay Sharing" allows you to share your video screen, which is not new technology... but Apple sure is making it easier. The issue is refresh rate. Will it stream your screen fast enough to watch videos? I dunno. But one thing's for sure,
It will be interesting to see if Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others work SharePlay into their products so everybody can participate. I guess that's on them.
• Messages! New features being added to Messages is cool, but hardly revolutionary. Oh look... picture sharing is prettier and easier to swipe through!
Wheeeee. The new "Shared With You" feature in Messages, which curates links and such for viewing at a later time, isn't so superficial. And when you pick up on them later (in their respective apps like News, Photos, Music, and such), there's a link back to the message thread so you can continue the conversation. Now that's helpful. As is pinning a text. Thanks, Apple!
• Focus! I get it... your iPhone is a constant distraction... but do we really need to have Apple monitor all of it for us? I just go into Do Not Disturb. Granted, having Apple trying to figure out what's important or not based on your preferences is kinda a game-changer, but allowing people to break through when something is horribly urgent is a definite game-changer. At least it is if I am understanding it correctly. If I can tell iPhone that I always want somebody to break through my Do Not Disturb because they are Just That Important? Yes please!
I never stop working. If I just ignored people while I am working, I'd never hear from anybody. But perhaps Apple trying to prioritized can change that? Worth a shot... just CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS...
No idea if this will work for me. But maybe? It looks highly customizable, so I'd like to think it can!
• Intelligence! I am all for my phone and computer being smarter and helping me more. Apple is doubling down with Artificial Intelligence by giving us... Intelligence? Alrighty then. I was hooked on the idea with Craig's first demo of "LiveText"... YOU CAN SELECT TEXT IN PHOTOS NOW?!? SERIOUSLY?!? ZOMG!!!
And "Intelligence" will allow a lookup of the highlighted text so you can get results on searches for that term. Highlight the name of a restaurant? BOOM! There it is. Holy crap!
Phone numbers are an obvious use... just click on it and choose "dial"...
AND IT RECOGNIZES EIGHT LANGUAGES?!? DOES THIS MEAN TRANSLATION WITHOUT HAVING TO GO THROUGH GOOGLE TRANSLATE?!?!?
And it's not just text... "Intelligence" can also recognize objects, like pets, books, flowers, art, and landmarks...
Now THAT'S awesome.
• Spotlight! Apple's answer to search, "Spotlight," always seemed to be a distraction... and now Apple is adding more distractions. Maybe I'm not using it right?
• Photos Memories! Being able to create smart "Memory Albums" seems like a great idea but, once again, requires Apple Music in order to use it to its full potential. I'm with Amazon Music Unlimited, so...
• Wallet! Now, I absolutely love, love, love Apple Wallet. Especially its integration with my Apple Watch. I don't even take my phone out of my pocket when paying for stuff at the store any more. I just double-click my watch and it's done. The fact that Apple is adding even more capabilities to Wallet is perfectly fine by me! Credit cards, transit cards, and park passes... that's great!
Adding keys to wallet would be great... if I had a car that supported it. But now they're adding the ability for other keys... like a house key... to be added as well. My electronic locks are by Schlage, which are utter shit, so I'm guessing they won't support this. They can't even bother to update their damn app so that it's bug-free!
Room keys uploading to your phone before you even arrive so you can just walk to your room is very cool, so long as you're staying in one which supports it...
BUT HERE'S THE INTERESTING ONE... YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE ON YOUR PHONE?!?!
Alas, I live in Washington State which is always slow on the uptake. We still don't have Real ID compliant licenses. And our DOT website still uses phrases like "Disabled Parking" instead of "Accessible Parking" so who knows if I'll ever be able to take advantage of it.
• Weather! Oh look. They made the Apple Weather app prettier.
• Maps! I use Google Maps because I find them more complete and Waze because their traffic routing can't be beat... but Apple Maps is SO pretty that I may try and switch. Again. Just look at the gorgeous new renderings they are adding...
IT EVEN SWITCHES FROM DAY TO NIGHT MODE! GAAAAH!!! So pretty...
Of course, it's only as useful as it's completeness... which I'm guessing is only for the major cities. I hope they really push forward on including ALL cities, because the renderings of lanes, intersection complexities, and overpasses is just too smart...
I dunno. It will be tough to give up Waze, but Apple seems to be really innovating. Like when you're in a city that has its building mapped. You just scan the area and Apple Maps will tell you exactly where you are in Augmented Reality...
Phenomenal. IF you're in London, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, or Washington DC.
• Audio! Apple is REALLY making AirPods a compelling purchase. First with spatial audio, and now with focused listening for people with hearing difficulties... and even a way to modify what is being heard to make AirPods better than a hearing aid!
But the news that grabbed my attention? AirPods will now be on Apple's Find My Network service! You can even have them chirp to help you find them...
And the separation alerts, which let you know if you are leaving your AirPods behind is something that should be including on Apple's AirTag products. In other news... currently Apple's killer "Spatial Audio" feature is only available on iOS, but Apple is bringing it to AppleTV, which will be nice since those are the places I mostly watch TV and movies. It's also available to M1 Macs, which leaves me out. Oh well.
• iPadOS! Ever since Apple spun off iPad from iOS, the experience just keeps getting better and better. Now they're adding old iOS features... and adding even more cool iPad exclusive features... very few of which I'll likely remember! I need to use my iPad more often so I can remember this stuff! Craig says that multitasking has been made easier, and the demo by the iPad guy looks like maybe it's more intuitive than it is now? So maybe there's hope for me yet!
• Oh Siri! Apple is kinda an industry leader when it comes to privacy. Though I think they fall short in so any areas, I like that they're at least trying. And their latest iOS 15 innovation is addressing a major concern I have with Alexa... having everything I say go out onto the internet. In the next iOS, Siri will start processing more and more of what you say locally... not on the internet... which makes it more secure and also faster.
• iCloud! Apple's iCloud is somthing I love to hate. Yes, I love how it can sync all my bookmarks and passwords and all that... but the fact that it's not consistent in how it works... or wheter it works is frustrating as hell. Apple is now adding features to their iCloud Service (I pay $2.99 a month, I think?) which may or may not work as advertised. I am dubious. One is a "trusted contact" who won't have access to your account, but can receive a passcode if you're locked out of your phone so you can call them to get it. Nice. Apple is also adding Digital Legacy for when you die. Once dead, you can have a trusted contact access your stuff. I'm not sure how nice this is, but I like the idea of it, so I guess I'll look into it.
• iCloud+! Since Apple now makes more on the services they offer than the computers they sell, it's only smart of them to offer more services to sell. An upgraded iCloud offering is an obvious way to go. Fortunately for me, the new features are added at no additional cost. And they are compelling...
• Health! Yeah... it's all cool being able to more easily and automatically share your health data with your doctor and receive health information from your doctor electronically... but, again, it's only useful if your health provider will use it! Mine doesn't. So this is all useless to me. Pity.
• Watch! Thanks to the third-party AutoSleep app, my Apple Watch is a favorite piece of tech I own. Once I managed to get used to wearing a watch, I don't know how I managed without it. Paying via ApplePay on my watch is awesome. I don't know about this new "Mindfulness" hippy-dippy crap... because I fond it annoying rather than helpful... but some people might like it.
• HomeShit! I absolutely HATE HomeKit. Apple fucked it up SO bad. It's unreliable. It's made complicated from being overly-simplified. And it doesn't work with most smart home devices, so what they fuck good is it? And since the new features are tied to HomePod... a product I fucking hate with every fiber of my being... I honestly don't give a crap. Maybe one day Apple will understand that OTHER TECH COMPANIES FUCKING EXIST and try harder to work with more of them. Apple says that they are a part of a new tech alliance called "Matter" but forgive me if I'm dubious about that working out. I'll sit here and hold my breath.
• Continuity! Being able to hand-off from your iPhone to your MacBook to your iMac seamlessly is incredible. That Apple knows this and is working to make it even more functional makes me very happy. I mean, check this out... set your iPad next to your Mac... AND THE TOUCHPAD WILL CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY AND ALLOW YOU TO DRAG AND DROP BETWEEN THEM! ZOMFG!
Craig says "How cool is that?" then proceeds to show drag-and-drop between the two and I literally shouted back at my computer "SO FUCKING COOL, CRAIG!!" Because it is. And then because Craig isn't satisfied with me talking back to him like that... HE ADDS AN IMAC TO THE MIX AND IS USING THE MACBOOK TRACKPAD TO CONTROL ALL THREE LIKE A BOSS!!!
Continuity is a technology that Apple undersells... I absolutely love the Mac ecosystem because of exactly stuff like this.
• AirPlay to Mac! I send video from my iPhone to my AppleTV from time to time. Apple's now allowing you to send iPhone and iPad video to your Mac. Nice.
• Shortcuts! Apple's "Automator" scripting language is something profoundly useful if you have the patience to learn how to use it. Apple is making that easier by bringing iPhone "Shortcuts" to the Mac. And it integrates with "Automator" so you lose nothing. SMART AND MUCH APPRECIATED!
• Safari! Oh God. Apple is "simplifying" again... which usually shits all over the user experience. I am still fucking LIVID that Apple "simplified" Mail by taking away your ability to select from different mail servers AS YOU COMPOSE an email. This is a feature I used DAILY and... poof... just like that, Apple complicates something that used to be easy by "simplifying." Well here's an idea Apple, LET THE USER FUCKING CHOOSE IF THEY WANT SOMTHING "CLUTTERING" UP THE INTERFACE! Because what you consider "clutter" may just be the thing that somebody needs, relies on, and will miss badly if you take it the fuck away. God. These are the things I positively loathe about Apple. "Simplification" is just coded Apple-speak for "not pretty" and they need to get the fuck over themselves. New Safari "streamlining" looks prettier... but, again, in looking at it I have to wonder if it's going to force me to switch to Google Chrome because I don't want simple I want useful.
• Programming! I haven't written an app in years. But boy do these new Apple Developer Tools look awesome (Xcode Cloud is about as cool as it gets). I also love that Apple is trying to level the playing field by making programming concepts and practice more accessible to everybody with Swift... and will now allow apps to be developed on iPad! Sweet.
• The End! And that was the end of that. Another WWDC Kenote in the bag. All-in-all, this is some really amazing steps forward that I am looking forward to. Also some maybe great things... but I'll reserve judgement until I have a chance to work with the stuff they announced this Fall.