June 4, 2019
Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is one of their annual special events, and the WWDC keynote always sets the stage for the rest of the week. During the conference, they publicly introduce new hardware, software, and services, and arm developers with tools to build fantastic apps that take advantage of new capabilities of each of their platforms— iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS. Seats are always limited, so we were excited to have the opportunity to attend in person this year.
In recent years, we have seen more incremental improvements and fewer truly new things from Apple as they worked to build a solid foundation on which to build future updates. This year showed the fruits of those labors. Most of the WWDC keynote address was dedicated to enhancements to benefit end users.
We learned that, in iOS 13, Siri will process speech-to-text on mobile devices rather than sending it to the cloud for processing. This is exciting news, for it improves user privacy. Further, it opens the possibility to support speech-to-text in medical apps that might have otherwise been concerned about HIPAA compliance related to sending patient data to Apple’s servers for processing.
The audience was also excited to learn about some changes related to the Apple Watch. When it was first introduced, the Apple Watch required an iPhone to function. It was later improved by allowing the Watch to operate more independently from an iPhone, but still required an iPhone to install apps. In the next release of watchOS, the Apple Watch will be able to operate completely independently of an iPhone and install apps directly from its on new Watch-specific App Store. That will be convenient for consumers, but also great for developers who can build new kinds of watchOS apps that weren’t possible before, like those requiring a user to log in to authenticate. (Logging into Watch apps currently happens on the paired iPhone.)
Apple also introduced a new iPad-specific operating system during the WWDC keynote called iPad OS. Until now, iPads have run iOS, the same operating system that runs on iPhones. But this fall, iPads will run iPad OS, allowing developers to take advantage of the unique characteristics of the iPad, including a much larger device size and support for Apple Pencil.
On a tangential iPad note, anyone who enjoys the extra screen real estate of an external display will appreciate the announcement of Sidecar, the new feature that makes it possible to use an iPad as an external display for your Mac.
It was also shared that macOS Catalina will be able to run iPad apps on a Mac when it is released this fall. Although many users have migrated toward mobile devices and away from laptops and desktop computers, they certainly haven’t disappeared. This new capability will allow us to serve Mac users with very little extra effort when we are already creating iPad apps.
From the software end, Apple introduced their new Swift programming language 5 years ago. We have benefited from each annual update to the language since it’s release. As the language has matured, it has gotten faster, more sophisticated, and easier to use. But this year, Swift reached a major milestone that allows it to be built into the operating system, rather than individual apps. This significantly reduces the size of each individual app on a user’s device, which will not only free up space, but also speed the download of apps from the App Store.
Although we have been able to create apps on each of Apple’s platforms with the same core Swift code since the language’s introduction, we haven’t been able to share as much code as we’d like across the platforms. Developing apps for Apple TV and Apple Watch is very different than developing apps for iPhones and Macs. With the introduction of a framework called SwiftUI, developers will be able to create apps that run on all of Apple’s platforms with much more shared code and user interface, reducing development times and costs for projects that span multiple Apple platforms.
Roughly the last 30 minutes of the over 2 hour and 15 minute WWDC keynote address targeted developers and pro users. The only hardware announcements of the day included a new Mac Pro and display that are remarkably advanced and expandable, but come with an astounding price of about $11,000 for the pair. Although video and audio editors, 3D modelers, and a handful of specialty developers will be well served by the blazing fast speed and computing capabilities, most users (including most developers) will have a hard time justifying the price.
Tim Cook announced during his WWDC keynote address that over half of the conference attendees are first-timers. We think the inspiration boost is well worth repeat trips. The WWDC keynote announcements are fun, but the Apple Design Awards, one-on-one time in the labs with Apple engineers, and meeting developers from all over the world are the real highlights of the week.
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