What Apple Just Dropped at WWDC

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Apple’s much-hyped WWDC keynote is over for another year, leaving a trail of mind-blown app developers and, more importantly, a flurry of iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch-related changes in its wake.

But amid all the much-quoted performance stats and open APIs, here are seven things that Tim Cook and co revealed that you need to be revisited even if you’ve only a passing interest in Apple. If you’re a fully signed member of the Cupertino club, prepare to be happy.

1. You can Apple Pay your way across the UK this summer (yes, even in Nando’s…cheeky)

UK businesses will soon play ball with Apple’s contactless payment system for iPhone, iPad and Watch, with the likes of Bank of Scotland, Boots and Nando’s all signed up and ready to be spent with/at.

Reward and store cards will sit smartly in Wallet, the app formerly known as Passbook, while Londoners  will finally be able to use their iDevices as Oyster cards on the Tube. Bye bye card-clash.

2. Apple Music launches this month and it’s part Spotify, part MySpace, part record label

The much-anticipated music streaming service that Apple’s buyout of Beats Audio has long suggested is called simply ‘Music’ and will be available from June 30 as part of the iOS 8.4 update.

It will bolt your bought iTunes albums to the ability to stream the millions in Apple’s online library for a Spotify-rivaling $9.99 a month, or, less conventionally, up to six-person families for $14.99. It will be throwing its tunes at Android devices later this autumn, too.

But that isn’t where the multi-tiered features end. There’s also Connect, a social-network skin not dissimilar to MySpace (or, whisper it, Ping) that lets musicians, both successful (Drake’s next album will be released on it) and aspirational (you), share lyrics, enjoy sound bites and, most importantly, flog their songs.

Then there’s the option of musical curator, either algorithmic and personalised (musical recommendations based on your playlists, purchases, etc) or actual and general, in Zane Lowe and the international DJ gang who have signed up to Beats1, Apple’s utopian 24-hour, genre-less global radio station.

3. iOS 9 lands in autumn to boost your battery, multi-task and let you make checklists in Notes at last

Using the same word – ‘Proactive’ – that Google did just weeks before to describe its updated digital assistant, it was voice-activated sidekick Siri that led the widespread updates on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9. So as with Google Now’s refinements, Siri is now especially context-sensitive, offering time-based suggestions (“A bar? At this time of the morning?”), real-time traffic data-fuelled calendar alerts and a “remind me of this later” order that we’re going to use the hell out of.

Even more instantly useful to these eyes, though, was the addition of checklists to Notes – food shopping shall never be the same again. More widely noteworthy, however, were public transport directions on Maps, a four-hour boost to iPhone battery with “low power” mode and, at last, multi-tasking (Yes, we know Windows has done it for ages). If you’ve got all that RAM crammed in an iPad Air 2, you can even split your screen 50:50 with multi-touch in both simultaneously.

Developers have the beta software now and for the first time Apple is running a public beta in July – sign up at beta.apple.com – and it will be on non early-adopting iPhones and IPads come autumn.

4. Apple flips the News bird at Flipboard

This is the news! And News is a magazine-like publishing app, the kind of “Internet+” reading experience that Flipboard made its name on iPhone and iPad. Except this is Apple’s version, and so that means this is beautiful and revolutionary, with web content spruced up for more arch inspection but with publishers encouraged to create bespoke content that can be scrolled, manipulated and animated, too.

A bit like that Instapaper “S**t” moment when Apple introduced Reading List, News seems a very calculated leap into someone else’s turf, but a fairly inevitable one. However, with this effectively killing off Newsstand, too, the reading priorities of Apple on both iPhone and iPad are shifting dramatically.

5. Apple Watch apps will soon be able run on the actual Watch

This is good news. The WatchOS 2 update will let apps and complications live on the Watch itself, rather than be beamed from the accompanying iPhone via Bluetooth, as well as speak to Wi-Fi networks directly. Which should all not only increase response times but also build more powerful, feature-rich applications you’d actually want to fiddle around with.

Other bonuses in the new firmware include FaceTime audio support, the ability to reply to emails, a Night Stand mode that flips your Watch into a ready-made alarm clock (Apple Watch stand makers cry in unison) and a time-lapse watch face of London throughout the day if you’re feeling particularly patriotic or just really like digital photo frames so much you want one on your wrist.

6. HomeKit is still a thing and Philips Hue is supporting it

The slow burn of Apple’s ‘internet of things’ connected home system was given a slight elbow in the right direction with iCloud remote access support, which means you can now control your domestic appliances from outside your house – fairly fundamental when we’re talking, say, central heating.

But Philips Hue is also throwing its smart light bulbs behind Apple’s connectivity standard come autumn, and a slew of carbon monoxide sensors, motion detectors and automated window shades controlled by your Watch might just follow. That’s unless Google’s Brillo has something to say about it.

7. The new OS X 10.11 update is called El Capitan and it’s very Metal

Revealed concurrently with iOS 9, to the point that many thought this could be the big unifying announcement in a Windows 10 style, the new OS X is still a separate computing beast, though increasingly in tune with iPhones and iPads. Named ‘El Capitan’ (apparently not after the Idlewild song), it boasts better performance and a slew of productive nips and tucks.

You can now type incredibly specific search requests into Spotlight and it will find them, a bit like a physical Siri: “Find all silly videos I sent to Dave and subsequently deleted”. Genuinely useful. You can also push emails in progress to be suspended at the bottom of your email window while you multi-task, similarly like your phone, while the much-vaunted Metal game development framework makes the jump from iOS to Mac, too, which alongside the now open-source Swift 2 coding language should give Mac gaming a not-so-pixelated shot in the arm.

But as ever with OS X, it’s the little, everyday things that stand out: you can now pin websites to the tab bar in Safari and, best of all, if you’re doing the “where’s my cursor gone?” shaky mouse dance, your pointer will leap out of the screen to remind you where it is. Now don’t say that isn’t progress.

About the Author

Barry Baeta
Web Developer, Graphic Design Enthusiast, Apple Fanatic, Technology Enthusiast, Born Leader, Innovator.

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