WWDC 2021

Another year, another WWDC. At first viewing, I felt this event was pretty lackluster. However, once I had the chance to mentally digest and dig more into some of the announced features, I decided there is a lot to be excited about! Some of my takeaways and opinions on the various additions across Apple’s OS lineup are listed below.

iOS 15
* Many, if not most of the features listed in this section are not only coming to iPhone but also coming to iPad in the new version of iPadOS as well as to the Mac in macOS Monterey.

  • The first thing I thought of when SharePlay (specifically the screen sharing feature) was announced was, “Apple just reinvented remote tech support for the in-laws…” - also this.
  • Now that I can invite anyone to FaceTime, I can finally include my poor green bubble friends/family in the video chat fun. This will help me cut down on the insane number of video-chatting apps I have on my devices (e.g. Slack, Messenger, Discord, Duo, Meet, Chat, Zoom, etc…) which have been necessary to accommodate the non-iPhone-wielders.
  • The Shared with You feature for Photos which aggregates the pictures sent to you via iMessage, I can see being very useful depending on where they draw the line. I’m sure plenty of people get a lot of pictures (*cough* GIFs) that they don’t necessarily want junking up their Photos app. I personally share and receive a lot of articles and it would be pretty nice to have those aggregated for me in News / Safari.
  • New Memoji - Do people use Memoji?
  • The new Notification summary claims to leverage “on-device intelligence” to order and prioritize your notifications. No chance (in my mind) that this can accurately order my notifications. I wonder if they’ll allow me to manually order my notifications based on app? In any case, I am pretty conservative with what apps I allow to send me notifications in the first place so I don’t really need this support.
  • The new Maps redesign looks really cool, I especially like the elevation visualization. I want to use Apple Maps, I really do. It’s just, I still don’t really have confidence in it.
  • The new immersive walking instructions seems very useful as I NEVER know how to orient myself in situations like getting off at a metro stop.
  • They’ve redesigned the aesthetic of the Safari tab bar. I think the new design is fine, but I don’t really get why they feel the need to redesign this every year. Just leave tabs alone!
  • Safari extensions are no longer just for Mac! This didn’t get a lot of air-time but I think this is one of the really awesome features from the event. Just take a look at the new 1Password extension interface!
  • ID cards (i.e. Driver’s License) in the Apple Wallet app?! This is one step closer to getting rid of the wallet all together. I’m very much looking forward to this. This will require state-by-state buy-in though before it becomes practical.
  • The new Key feature is interesting. I’m wondering if my existing August Smart Lock (from 2018) will support this. Similarly, I wonder if Tesla would ever add support for the Car keys feature.
  • Live Text is a cool feature and one that I can see myself actually using. From pictures of recipes to whiteboards - there’s certainly practical use cases.
  • Visual Look Up will be an awesome feature if it works well. I’d love to ID a plant or animal just with a picture.
  • Not sure why they needed to rebrand iCloud as “iCloud+”. Why not just add features to iCloud and leave it with the same name?
  • iCloud Private Relay is just Apple Tor yeah? Well since Tor is so secure this should be too right? =P. I’m curious who runs the relay nodes.
  • Not explicitly announced, but I did see some new iOS widgets that I am interested in putting on my home screen.
  • With new features added to Notes, it’s getting dangerously close to something I would switch to as my main note-taking app. I do love Simplenote but it’s getting harder to deny the advantages the native integration of the Notes app has.
  • I like the idea of the new Focus feature but feel it’s so customizable that I think you’ll actually just be more productive if you simply put your phone away when trying to focus on something rather than obsessing over different focus profiles for hours like I know I would.
  • Siri now has on-device speech processing and offline support. This should hopefully alleviate some pain points with using the voice assistant.

iPadOS 15

  • All together, I do think the iPad is getting a pretty decent productivity boost.
  • The new Multitasking suite seems better. But… the demo left me feeling a bit lost. It will definitely take some hands-on time to really get the hang of it.
  • The biggest thing I wanted from iPadOS was widgets on the home screen. This was such an obvious thing and one that I really can’t believe didn’t ship when widgets first debuted. With the insane processing power of the latest gen, M1-enabled iPads, there really was no reason to not add it.
  • App Library is dumb. It’s on iPad now. Meh.
  • I think Quick Note is awesome! One other reason why I am thinking of moving to Notes as my primary notes app. I wish this feature was on iPhone as well.
  • It would be cool if the screen sharing feature of FaceTime could be limited to a specific split-screened app on iPad.
  • So we didn’t get Xcode for iPad. But we did get a souped up version of Swift Playgrounds. I think in time a more feature-filled, Xcode-like app will make its way to iPad, but for now, it’s Swift Playgrounds.
  • Universal Control is a feature I will definitely use. I typically have two separate Mac devices and an iPad open on my desk and being able to control all from a single set of peripherals is a great idea…

macOS Monterey

  • The new macOS is bringing the ability to AirPlay to a Mac. What I really want is to AirPlay the screen of a MacBook Pro to a set of connected displays attached to a different Mac. Here’s my scenario - I have three displays connected to a desktop Mac Pro which is used as a “personal” device. I also have a MacBook Pro that is a work machine. I would love to be able to leverage the screen real estate of the displays connected to my Mac Pro on my laptop without having to disconnect the displays and connect them to the MacBook Pro. Imagine if I could simply AirPlay three “spaces” to the three remote displays? That would be amazing.
  • Shortcuts on Mac has the potential to be really powerful. I wonder what support it will receive with respect to third-party developers making actions available to the app.

watchOS 8

  • The keynote had a video where a smart doorbell was rang and an Apple Watch immediately brought up a video view from the doorbell’s camera. I have an Apple Watch 4 so maybe I don’t realize how fast the recent gen Watches are, but the smoothness of bringing this live video feed up seems too good to be true in real-world use.
  • Home key on the watch will be my favorite new Watch feature. Just *tap* and I’m into my house.
  • Still don’t care about the Breathe app.
  • There are new Sleep tracking features but I still don’t know when I would charge my Watch if I was using this.
  • Next-hour precipitation alerts are nice.
  • Walking Steadiness is completely ridiculous. I can’t wait for it to go off constantly when I am playing basketball.

There are also some new features coming to tvOS this Fall. The most interesting of which is the ability to use HomePod Mini’s as speakers for your Apple TV.