Apple WWDC 2016 news: what matters to designers

Apple's 2016 WWDC proved to be just that - a developers conference. The much-rumoured upgraded MacBook Pro was nowhere to be seen - instead Apple focussed on its platform offerings: macOS Sierra, iOS 10 and a much-needed redesign of Apple Music.

First off, a note on branding. Apple has unified the names of its platforms - so Mac OS X has become macOS to sit alongide iOS, watch OS and tvOS. This makes sense as, with iOS's latest updates you'd end up with the potentially confused OS X and iOS 10 - especially when said out loud.

No more of this now.

MacOS Sierra

Siri is the headline feature in what will be macOS Sierra, which is due in the autumn. As had been rumoured, a new Siri icon will be accessible in the Dock; clicking on it will launch a Siri window (above) that iOS users will be familiar with. During the macOS Siri demo at WWDC, Apple VP Craig Federighi used Siri to find files and followed up the search to refine the results. Federighi also showed how Siri results can be integrated into other Apple apps, such as Reminders.

Speaking to your Mac probably isn't something you'd use much in the studio unless you're a freelancer - imagine the cacophany - but here are few new feature you might actually use on your Mac

Auto Unlock Sick of typing in your password to unlock your Mac? If you have an Apple Watch, you can use Auto Unlock. When you want to unlock your Mac, Auto Unlock senses your Apple Watch and instantly grants you access to your Mac.

iCloud Drive Desktop access Creatives often use the Desktop as a place to save files. If you use multiple Macs, macOS Sierra will allow iCloud Drive access to those desktop files on a specific Mac. This feature will also allow iOS devices to access those Desktop files.

Optimized Storage Apple, for the most part, has phased out hard drives in its Macs in favor of flash storage. But in order to keep costs down, flash storage capacities aren’t as spacious. With Optimized Storage, older files are kept in the cloud to free up local storage space. The feature also gets rid of files that you will never use again. During the keynote, Federighi showed a Mac with 20GB of free storage space; after running Optimized Storage, the amount of free space expanded to 150GB.

Picture in Picture If you’re watching a web video, you can pull it out into its own stand-alone window. When you switch to another app window, the video window stays on top. This would be great for watching Glastonbury while you're working.

Tabs Tabs are now built into every window of the operating system to help keep down the screen clutter. Tabs can also be used by third-party apps.

Universal Clipboard A clipboard that is accessible by any Apple device. Cut or copy on your iPhone and you can paste on your Mac.

iOS 10

iOS 10 offers some interesting integration options for designers working on iOS apps, and there's enough change to some apps to prompt discussion about what it says about UX and digital design.

App development studios can now design apps to directly enhance iMessage, Siri, Maps, and Notifications - as well as offer better integration of VoIP calling and a brand-new Home app.

Apple’s most noticeable update comes to Messages, which the company said is the most frequently used app on iOS. In addition to opening up the iMessage platform to third-party developers, Messages in iOS 10 has gone through a major “emojification.” Emoji sent by themselves are three times bigger, and it’s easier to simply tap-and-replace certain keywords with emojis.

Messages has other visual quirks, including rich links and in-line video and Apple Music playback, as well as bubble effects, full-screen effects, handwritten messages, Digital Touch interactive greeting cards, Tap Back for quickly responding to a text, and Invisible Ink that you can swipe away to reveal a message or photo.

Other major Apple services that were opened up to developers include Siri and Maps. With Siri on iOS 10, you can now do something as simple as request an Uber or enable another third-party app thanks to the just-released SiriKit. Next-level Siri intelligence was also brought to QuickType, so whenever you get a text asking where you are, Siri will suggest dropping a pin, as well as store recent addresses, access your calendar availability, and offer multilingual support without having to change keyboards.

And with Maps extensions, you can make a reservation using OpenTable without leaving the Maps app. Additionally, Maps has gotten more proactive Navigation so you can see the traffic on the route ahead or spot any upcoming gas stations or restaurants.

Apple also spruced up its long-ignored Phone app in iOS 10. Most notably, there’s a new voicemail transcription service that transcribes audio voicemails into text, as well as new detection of potential voicemail spam. Apple also introduced a VoIP API, so that whenever you receive a call from Skype or WhatsApp, it will look like a native Phone call.

There’s also a brand-new Home app to control all your HomeKit-enabled devices around the house. In addition to tapping your devices on or off, you can use Home to set specific Scenes, like closing the shades and locking the front door before going to bed.

Other native apps like Apple Music, Photos, and News also got updated.

Besides a new look, Apple Music now has integrated song lyrics. We'll reserve judgement on how good it is until we've had a chance to try it out.

Photos has a new Memories tab that stitches together your photos based on facial recognition and location that’s all stored on-device to protect your privacy. And News will let you read paid-subscriptions like National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal. Plus, you’ll be able to view conversations in Mail, edit your Live Photos, and use Split View in Safari for iPad.

In terms of user experience, iOS 10 brought a redesigned lock screen and Control Center, more-interactive Notifications, and better implementation of 3D Touch. From the lock screen you can now access your Camera by swiping from the right, and see all your widgets by swiping from the left. The Control Center is now multi-page, so you can control just Apple Music or Home by swiping to the left. And 3D Touch lets you do more with your Notifications on iOS 10. For example, you can reply to a Message or accept a Calendar invitation.

Swift Playgrounds brings iOS app development to the masses

Swift Playgrounds, a free new app for beginners who want to create iOS apps using Swift, Apple’s programming language.

Swift Playgrounds features lessons to help beginners learn coding concepts such as creating functions, issuing commands, loops, and more. Apple will release new challenges, so coders can continue to learn new skills as they progress. Apple says that teachers can use Xcode to create their own content for Swift Playgrounds.
The interactive, intuitive interface has support for Apple’s Multi-Touch iPad interface. It has a coding keyboard with a shortcuts bar, and you can swipe across a key to type Swift-specific characters. There’s also a pop-over keypad for numbers, a color picker, and more. To implement code from the library, you can drag and drop.

Swift Playgrounds is an environment for coders to learn how to make iOS apps. However, you don’t actually build apps within Swift Playgrounds. Any code created in Swift Playground can be exported and then brought into Xcode, where the code can be used to make an actual iOS app.

A final version of Swift Playgrounds will ship in the autumn and requires iOS 10 and a newer iPad or iPad Pro.

watchOS 3

The Apple Watch’s biggest problems are its apps, namely the time it takes for them to load, and the limited features developers are allowed to bake in. Apple is fixing these issues with a major overhaul to watchOS, coming this autumn as a free upgrade for all Apple Watch owners.

Every Apple Watch owner knows the struggle of launching apps. By the time the app opens, you’ve given up and turned to your iPhone for help. Apple Watch apps will launch instantly in watchOS 3, and not just Apple’s native apps—third-party ones, too. Your favorite apps will be kept in the watch’s memory and update automatically in the background, so you always see the most up-to-date information without having to stare at the spinning wheel of death. Apple’s technology VP Kevin Lynch said apps will launch seven times faster in watchOS 3 than watchOS 2.

The Apple Watch is also getting its own app switcher, just like in iOS. You can put your most-used apps in a dock and swipe between them. In the dock, you’ll see the most recent information at a glance, which is much more useful than the slow-loading Glances view.

Apple is bringing its native Reminders and Find My Friends apps to the Watch so you can view your to-do lists and check them off and see how far away your friends (or, more likely, your family) are from you.

The Apple Watch has supported Apple Pay since day one, but now third-party app developers will be able to integrate Apple Pay as a payment option in their apps, which wasn’t available before.

Apple is at the forefront of developing features with accessibility for all users in mind, which is why watchOS 3’s Activity app has new settings for wheelchair users. Apple conducted studies on how Apple Watch owners in wheelchairs use their watches and will put the results of those studies in the next-gen OS. Activity rings will recognize wheelchair pushes, two workouts in the Workout app are designed for wheelchair users, and there'll be an option for “time to roll” notifications instead of hourly “time to stand” ones.

The Apple Watch is also getting a brand-new health app called Breathe, which guides you through meditative, deep-breathing exercises. The new app can be launched from the watch face, dock, or through notifications that remind you to breathe. You can adjust the length of a session using the Digital Crown and take advantage of haptic feedback for vibrations that will guide you through each breath.

Third-party fitness apps will now be able to run natively in the background for workouts, which means they'll get access to all of the watch’s sensors, like heart rate data, while users are working out.

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