Apple’s WWDC 2018 keynote: An overview of the announcements

Earlier today Apple wrapped its WWDC 2018 developer keynote, with a long list of announcements. Apple has four platforms, iOS, MacOS, Apple TV and WatchOS. Each one saw new upgrades or features.

We’ll have “what it means” stories about several of the announcements later and tomorrow, but the following is a summary overview of everything that was presented from the stage.

New iOS 12 features

Augmented reality: Apple announced ARKit 2 and USDZ, available to developers now and in the fall for all users. USDZ is a new open file format designed to make AR more widely available and easy to integrate. The company also demonstrated a new app called “Measure,” which, as the name suggests, measures objects with the iPhone camera. Another feature called “Quick Look for AR,” lets iPhone owners put virtual objects into physical spaces (think: interior design) using the camera.

There’s also support for multi-user AR experiences and gaming. These features together help support Apple’s vision for “persistent AR,” which the company hopes will make its way into more app experiences on iOS.

Siri Shortcuts: Siri now can create routines with multiple actions, which are already available for Alexa and the Google Assistant. There will also be recommendations based on user behavior, time of day and context (e.g., time for coffee). Siri will also remind you about birthdays and in general try to make suggestions at various points throughout the day.

Group FaceTime: There is a new group FaceTime capability that as many as 32 people can use at one time. You can also launch group FaceTime sessions from a thread in the iPhone messages app. Unfortunately there’s no interoperability for Android or Windows, which prevents this from taking over from Skype.

Screen Time and privacy: Like Google, Apple has now introduced new usage monitoring tools and parental controls to help people overcome smartphone addiction (their own and their kids’). There’s also enhanced Do Not Disturb capabilities and new notifications management. Apple is also doubling-down on anti-tracking/data mining tools for users in the browser (see below). The gestalt of this batch of announcements is more control over the smartphone experience in various ways.

CarPlay: Apple said that later this year users will be able to access Google Maps, Waze or other third-party mapping apps in CarPlay in addition to Apple Maps.

Custom emojis: Apple introduced new emojis “Animoji” (animals) and Memoji (customizable likenesses). They can also be used in FaceTime chats. Silly but engaging to many, Apple spent a good deal of time during the keynote demonstrating these.

Apple Watch and Apple TV

Apple announced Watch OS 5 and a number of upgrades. These included new fitness features, Siri suggestions and content from third party apps in the Siri watch face. Users can also invoke Siri simply by raising their wrists rather than saying “Hey Siri.”

A new “Walkie-Talkie” feature allows watch-to-watch communication. Apple is also making notifications interactive, including paying for things with Apple Pay. In addition, some limited web content will be available on Apple Watch.

Apple debuted tvOS 12 with more 4K HDR movies and features, as well as support for Dolby Atmos audio. There are some new screensavers and a new cable partner (Charter) added to the list of others in the US and abroad. Apple TV users with iOS12 on the iPhone or iPad also don’t need to enter passwords for their favorite apps on Apple TV, which will be auto-completed.

MacOS Mojave and Safari

The next Mac operating system update is called Mojave. As anticipated, there will be a new “dark mode” as well as a new dynamic desktop that changes throughout the day based on time. The Mac app store will also now look and act more like the iOS app store.

A new desktop feature called Stacks will automatically help users organize messy desktops into neater categories (“stacks”) of files. Finder will have a “Gallery View” that lets users browse files in a more visual way. Quick Actions and Quick Look will enable full-size previews and some actions (light image and video editing) within Finder.

Existing iOS apps, Apple News, Apple Stocks, Home and Voice Memos, will now be available to the Mac. Group FaceTime will also work on the desktop.

As mentioned, arguably the most significant desktop-related announcement was the expansion of Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention to block social media button tracking. Safari will also seek to defeat “fingerprinting” and other types of discrete user identification for tracking and targeting.

Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said these new features overall “will [make it] dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device and track you.” He added that “Like and share buttons and conversation windows . . . can be used to track you whether you click on them or not. This year we are shutting that down.”

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