Apple’s annual spring developers conference WWDC 2017 has just concluded at San Jose, CA, where a host of new major updates were announced by key Apple executives Craig Federighi, Phil Schiller, and big chief Tim Cook. The event, which was surrounded by a lot of speculation and predictions, also saw new hardware being launched by the technology giant, including powerful MacBooks and a Siri-powered smart speaker. Let’s look at the seven biggest announcements from the keynote:
The Siri speaker is here and it’s called Homepod
Apple’s much hyped Siri-powered speaker is here and it is called Homepod. About 7-inches tall and powered by the A8 chip, the Homepod is likely to provide stiff competition to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home speakers. It used advanced spatial awareness that allows its 4-inch woofer and seven beam-forming tweeters to fill the room with sound based on the space it is in. That means no matter where you put the speakers, they will sound great. You can also add a second HomePod, sync the two speakers and get a wide stereo sound output. Additional features include ‘Musicologist’ that works with Apple Music to stream the music you ask the speaker’s built-in Siri to play. If you are a hardcore music buff, you can even ask questions like “Who is the drummer in this song?” or “Who were the founding members of this band?”
Available in black and white colors, and prices at $349, the HomePod can also be used to control home devices, check the daily weather and new briefings. Shipping is expected to begin in December 2017 to customers in the US, UK and Australia.
Upgraded iMacs and a new iMac Pro
Apple’s iMac range has been static for quite a while and at WWDC 2017, the company launched new upgraded versions of existing iMac models. Featuring Kaby Lake processors, faster SSDs, Radeon Pro 555 & 560 graphics, up to 4GB VRAM, and a significant bump up to 64GB of RAM. The new desktops will also support graphics to create virtual reality (VR) content. This was showcased by Apple through a VR game demo featuring Darth Vader, a lightsaber and TIE fighter.
A new iMac Pro was also launched during the event, having 5K display, enhanced cooling capacity, 8-core Xeon processor (upgradeable up to 18-core,) up to 4TB of SSD, up to 128GB of ECC memory, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and built-in 10GB Ethernet.
The updated iMac desktops are priced from $1,099 for the 21.5-inch model, and $1,299 for the 4K model, while the iMac Pro starts at $4,999, with shipping commencing in December.
One of the major highlights of the event was iOS 11, which includes some pretty radical features, such as person-to-person payment from contacts through iMessage. The new platform, built within Apple Pay will compete with Square Cash and Venmo and is expected to redefine use of wallets within a smart device.
Another key change is Files, in which there is a full-fledged file system that integrates with services like iCloud, Google Drive, and DropBox, while also allowing iOS to control their files in a similar way that they would in macOS. This seems to be a step forward in developing a seamlessly integrating operating system by bridging the gap between macOS and iOS.
In addition, there are several incremental updates that promise to make the mobile experience smoother. For instance,
- Photos: Live Photos will be able to create seamless loops, improved video compression will lead to smaller files, and you can create amazing long exposures without requiring a tripod.
- Maps: Compared to Google Maps, this is mostly a second-tier service but the gap is slowly and surely narrowing new with features like mall and airport maps, and navigation upgrades with lane guidance.
- Do Not Disturb While Driving: This extremely helpful safety feature uses Bluetooth, location and Wi-Fi data to determine whether you are driving or not and subsequently turns off notification when you’re behind the wheel. It also sends text messages across to the sender, prompting them to enter ‘urgent’ if the message is important, following which the message will break through to be read by the receiver.
iOS 11 is available today for developers, and will go into public beta by June-end 2017.
MacOS High Sierra
The newest macOS version is called ‘High Sierra’ and it has a slew of improvements over previous versions. Mail will have the feature to show important features at the top of the window, making it easier to compose new messages, and will also consume 35% less storage space than before.
Safari now has extensions that can help block site trackers and autoplaying videos, and will also be nearly 80% faster than Chrome (as claimed by Craig Federighi, Apple’s VP of Software Engineering). Other features include new phot-editing tools like curves, better filtering tools, an updated file management system, VR support, and a Metal 2 developer kit that can be ordered with an AMD GPD to tune apps for external graphics.
10.5 Inch iPad
Turns out, all the rumors about the 10.5 inch iPad were true. Featuring a 12-megapixel camera, 7 MP selfie cam, and up to 10 hours of battery life, the new iPad Pro costs around $649 for a starting model of 64 GB. It also has a new feature called ProMotion that reduces the Apple Pencil’s latency to 20 milliseconds and can also automatically adjust the refresh rate depending on what you are watching- fast moving video or a still image. The refresh rate is also doubled up to 120 Hz.
ARKit for Augmented Reality
Augmented reality, along with VR, are the future of tech and Apple understands this very well. At WWDCC, the company introduced a new ARKit that allows developers to build AR apps for the iPhone. The kit comes with sophisticated motion tracking, enables estimation of scale and ambient lighting, as well as allows real-time rendering for popular gaming apps like Pokémon Go.
WatchOS New Features, tvOS News
Apple Watch will have three new faces- Siri, Kaleidoscope, and Toy Story. Each one will have a strong focus on usability, a move in line with Apple’s push towards creating a better user experience. Other improvements in the WatchOS will be activity tracker, music, and a horizontal menu system. For tvOS, the only thing we heard was that Amazon Prime Video will be coming to Apple TV soon, a news out around a couple of weeks back.