Brief Thoughts on Apple's WWDC 2016 Event

The "D" in WWDC stands for "Developers," and that's exactly who Apple focused on in their two hour event Monday. No new hardware announcements, no updated MacBooks, it was all about their four software platforms:

  • tvOS
  • watchOS
  • macOS (Newly re-named)
  • iOS

While there were a few new feature announcements, the biggest changes came in what developers could do with Apple's platforms and devices.

tvOS

The new Apple TV is great, and the updates Apple announced should address many of the minor complaints. Siri will get better, there's a new iPhone remote app (desperately needed), dark mode for the UI, and Single-Sign on for your cable provider. 

watchOS 3

The Apple Watch's success remains to be seen. I enjoy mine, and notifications on the wrist are genuinely beneficial. But the poor performance of third party apps and UI inconsistency has held it back.

At the keynote, Apple touted that in watchOS 3, apps will launch almost instantaneously. A combination of using more RAM per app and allowing the battery life to take a minor hit will make this possible. Time will tell how good these improvements will be, but if third-party apps become more powerful because of this update, the Watch could become increasingly useful.

Apple added a few more watch faces and complication options, plus made it easier to swipe between watch faces rather than Force Touch. Prediction: Two years from now they will allow developers to make their own watch faces, like Android Wear does now.

macOS Sierra

New name, new backend file system, and many updates that developers loved. One of the biggest developer-facing features was non-Mac App store apps could use CloudKit (iCloud Drive syncing).

Auto-Unlock is a great feature, basically your Apple Watch can unlock your Mac when it's in proximity; no more typing your Mac password. Siri will now be on the Mac, and there is a universal clipboard across macOS and iOS (will be very useful, trust me).

iOS 10

As usual, the most time was spent on iOS. On the surface, Apple made some sweeping design changes to notifications, the lock screen, Today widgets, and is trying a redesigned user interface with Apple Music. But the more promising message was this: Developers now have many more tools to play with.

Siri API's were announced, they're limited, but developers of ride sharing apps, workout apps, messaging and three other categories will be able to hook into Siri. More categories and types of apps will get access in the future.

Messages and Maps also got developer APIs that would allow "mini applications" to run without ever leaving Messages or Maps. For instance: Search for a restaurant in Maps, Open Table can make a reservation for you, Uber can summon a car, and you pay for it all with Apple Pay, without ever leaving the app.

Overall, the more interconnectivity exists between apps, the better the experience is for users and the faster you can get things done. Much like Extensions in iOS 8, Apple displayed a few examples at the Keynote, but some of the most powerful extensions arose later, like Workflow. This is a similar situation, where the most exciting developments from these changes will come months from now.

Messages

Of all the features and apps Apple gave stage time, Messages got the most. Stickers, apps, message effects, and a whole lot more. Why are messages that important? For starters, Apple has proclaimed many times that Messages is the most used app on the iPhone. Period. 

Second, Whatsapp, WeChat and other platforms stake their entire business on messaging, so messaging is important business around the world. Lastly, all those effects and stickers make iMessage a desirable platform regardless of the kind of phone you use. Prediction: iMessage will be available on Android in the next two years.

Further Reading

There are literally hundreds of other features and tweaks Apple made across their four platforms. For all those little tweaks and features, watch this video.

Also, Apple apologist and Daring Fireball author John Gruber held a live Q&A show with Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller! Watch it here.