Review: WWDC 2016

With the WWDC 2016 week finally coming to an end, I feel now is an appropriate time for me to give my proper review of everything announced this week.

For this post I’m going to break it down into each of the software platforms:

watchOS 3:

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I see this as the most improved operating system update out of any of them.

With apps that can launch instantly, it seems to only be for apps that are included in the Dock.

The Dock is really a new form of multitasking on the watch, which replaces the watch side button functionality from the Digital Touch Friends feature. This is a really great move, as from what I’ve heard, hardly anybody uses Digital Touch on the Apple Watch.

It is worth noting that the apps that launch quickly are in the dock and not any on your watch. I do question though how many apps you’d be able to put into the dock given this instant loading?

Activity Sharing, SOS function, Breath app are all definitely welcomed additions to the watch.

I particularly like the approach for wheelchair people across the watch as this proves that Apple does take accessibility and people with disabilities seriously.

Changing the swipe up gesture to just show Control Centre is definitely a smart move to get more people use to the watch.

Overall I am getting this impression that Apple Watch 2 (or Apple Watch S) will be at least announced at the September event this year running watchOS 3, and if they at a minimum put in a vastly better processor then I can see a lot more watches being sold this Christmas than last.

tvOS 10: 

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This was perhaps more of a subtle update compared to the others, but still has some great additions.

Dark Mode is great for people that use the Apple TV primarily at night, and hope it comes to iOS soon.

Single Sign-On is great for people that subscribe to a lot of video services, and the Live TV function is really great and a massive step forward for the Apple TV, although I question a) support for free-to-air channels in multiple countries and b) streaming restrictions vs. connecting a digital aerial to a future Apple TV?

YouTube Siri Search is a very good addition for someone who uses YouTube a lot.

tvOS also has support for HomeKit to control smart accessories at your home, including when you’re away from home.

Other small additions like notification and app badges, new Remote app on iOS, support for 4 game controllers and removing necessity for Siri Remote support for games are all steps in the right direction for the platform.

macOS Sierra (10.12):

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This is the sequel to OS X El Capitan 10.11.

The reason for the name change was evident on stage to make macOS fit better with watchOS, iOS and tvOS, but I think it’s also due to OS X and iOS 10 sounding the same.

A lot of the features that are coming to macOS seem to rely on Continuity/Handoff functionality, which does not personally work for me that well which is why I don’t use it, so I feel like the following features are not going to work well for me.

Universal Clipboard, Apple Pay support via the web are great additions as well as Auto Unlock but do wonder if it only works for Apple Watch users? Which it seems like this is the case.

Photos and Messages apps have been updated with features that are in the iOS versions, which are great.

Deeper iCloud Integration allows backup of files on the desktop screen, which is great but again pushes people to pay at least US$0.99 per month to get more storage to make these features worthwhile.

One feature that does stand out to me is support for multiple tabs in all programs running on macOS Sierra. I currently do this in the Finder and in Safari & Chrome all the time, so bringing this to all apps will just make navigating that much easier for people that have far too many windows opened at once.

Siri is now included on the Mac and I like that they have finally added support for it but I do question if it does more than what Spotlight search can do currently and if there will eventually be ‘Hey Siri’ support, and how that is handle with ‘Hey Siri’ on all Apple devices?

Another great feature that is likely not implemented when macOS Sierra is released in the Apple File System (APFS) which is a new way of saving files to SSDs etc. and engineered for best performance and saving data space. Apple currently uses HFS+ which was developed by Apple in the days of floppy disks, so it definitely needs updating and can make everything just that bit better.

Apple is also adding support for Picture-in-Picture support for videos which is great, but I do question if this would work for all web-based players including YouTube only from Safari? Which is likely the case.

Overall I like what I see with macOS Sierra and didn’t really hope for too much from it, but not particularly looking forward to the Continuity/Handoff features as they never seem to work for me, when I’ve tested the feature in the past.

iOS 10:

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iOS 10 is the major update that I have the most mixed feelings about.

I do like what they have done with the OS, but I do question if a few of the things that they have done are exactly what Apple needs to do right now.

The Lock Screen is one of the biggest indications that an iPhone with no home button is in the works, especially with the raise to wake feature like the Apple Watch. This could very well be an iPhone with no headphone jack, no home button and no volume controls or silencer switch if there’s a wrap around/curved display based on recent Apple patents. It’s also worth noting that devices with the M9 Motion Co-Processor are supported, including iPhone 6s/Plus and SE only.

The redesigned Proactive Assistant screen is now a widgets screen (originally exclusive to Notification Centre) and is one of the best moves for iOS when it comes to the home screen. This is likely an indication however that Widgets will not come to the actual home screen but rather stay as a separate menu, likely from a mobile data and battery life perspective.

Messages got the biggest update out of anything in iOS 10 with 15mins of on-stage time, which now has option for different text sizes, digital touch, tapback replies, predictive emojis, bubble effects, rich links, background animations, handwritten notes, per thread read receipts, hidden “invisible ink” messages and most importantly, a Messages App Store that allows developers to create apps that can be used in Messages.

A dedicated Home app has been added to support HomeKit devices in your home and is definitely the best way forward to get more people using HomeKit devices.

Apple Music and News both got redesigned interfaces that looks similar to each other and are welcomed changes. The only thing I dislike about the Apple Music interface change is that it is more of a black and white interface as I like the coloured backgrounds based of album of playlist artwork, but I am more of a fan of the navigation of the app itself and especially with the addition of lyrics support.

The QuickType keyboard has also been updated to provide contextually related predictions for different conversations, and has support for multilingual typing including for quick type predictions so users do not need to switch keyboards when changing languages if not needed.

Photos app got a lot of updates when it comes to handling facial and object recognition capabilities through the use of locally run artificial intelligence which protects the users privacy.

Apple Maps has got some decent improvements, which allows you to find places to stop at when driving and how long they’ll delay your journey, dynamic views when getting turn-by-turn directions which shows turns further into the distance and support for not going on roads with tolls.

Siri has also received an SDK which is massive step forward for Siri, however the only types of 3rd party apps that can be supported include:

  • Ride sharing apps like Uber,
  • Messaging apps like WeChat,
  • Search Photo apps for specific images or videos,
  • Dealing with payments,
  • Make a call via apps like Skype, and
  • Start workouts.

Siri is definitely moving in the right direction so I expect from here that even in minor updates to the OS that new types of functions will get supported, and looking forward to seeing it for apps that rely on databases.

There’s also lots of little improvements across the system, including option to close all safari taps at once, 3D Touch on home screen can now show Widgets or more detailed information for each app, 3 pane windows for Mail and Notes on 12.9inch iPad Pro, Split-View Safari on iPad (exclusive to iPad Air 2 & iPad Pros), Notes Collaboration features, support for CallKit which allows 3rd party apps VoIP apps like Skype incoming calls to appear without app needing to be open, voicemail transcripts, bedtime alarm, removal of game centre app and more.

Apple has also improved their security and privacy features on the OS with differential privacy which makes your data more anonymous if it needs to sync to Apple’s servers for apps such as Maps, and also supports end-to-end encryption.

Apple is also improving the loading times for apps that fetch content from the internet, such as a Twitter News Feed by fetching data sooner and keeping it around for longer after scrolling past. This should help to increase the frame rate to a really smooth 60FPS. You can read more by clicking here.

iOS 10 will work on all devices that have an A6/X chip or newer in them, which means the iPhone 4s, iPad 2 & 3 and iPod Touch 5G are no longer supported and signals the death of the 3.5inch screen and 30-pin connector.

Overall I like quite a lot of the changes that have happened, but without discouraging what Apple has done, a lot of it is not what I wanted to see from them for this release.

Conclusion:

watchOS 3 is great and has the potential to help sell a lot more units this Christmas compared to last.

tvOS 10 has some nice changes that makes the platform and 4th generation Apple TV feel less like a rushed product and encourage even more developers to support it.

macOS Sierra has some nice additions but question the support for Continuity/Handoff features in terms of reliability, but like the other stuff included.

iOS 10 is definitely my most critical OS update out of any, but overall I do like what they have done with it a lot. It seems that a lot of the work has gone into areas that have:

  • Not been updated in a while.
  • Need updating for future iPhone support.
  • Address major criticism, and
  • Improving privacy features.

I’m somewhat inclined to stick with iOS when iOS 10 releases, but really don’t see myself upgrading from my iPhone 5s to the iPhone 7/Plus this year currently, given the very few changes that are expected to happen.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention that when people have expectations for events like WWDC and Google I/O a lot of people tend to get more and more hyped about an event year over year (including myself I admit) but the problem here is that sometimes expectations outgrow what company’s can realistically do every year. We also have to understand that companies like Apple and Google are also working on projects that are within their interests and what they believe is best for their company, not just addressing everyone’s issues.

In short, WWDC this year was not the worst but it definitely was not the best one in recent years.

That all being said, thank you for reading this post. If you enjoyed this be sure to give it a like and follow me here or on Twitter @neilh_apps.

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