Apple WWDC 2018: All the news

Alex Kidman 5 June 2018 NEWS

No new hardware, but Apple is focusing heavily on security and performance for its new iOS 12 and macOS Mojave software systems.

Overnight, Apple held its keynote for its WorldWide Developer Conference, aka WWDC 2018, where it was expected to announce new versions of its software platforms, along with the possibility of new hardware refreshes for several of its key hardware families. Outside of a new Pride-themed Apple Watch band, there was no new hardware, but there was certainly plenty of software news to share around.

iOS 12 focuses on performance

As expected, Apple announced iOS 12 at its WWDC keynote event, noting that performance was a key factor it was looking to improve.

The claim is that iOS 12's performance improvements will scale backwards to older devices. As an example, iPhone 6 Plus users will benefit from up to 40% faster app launching, up to 50% faster keyboard launching and a 70% improvement in launching the camera from the lock screen.

New Augmented Reality (AR) features using Apple's new ARKit 2 platform were also demonstrated. That'll depend on Apple's developers implementing AR features, but again, this is a development conference, so that's very much the point of announcing new developer features. As an example, Apple showed off AR-based Lego applications that allowed an AR city to be overlaid on an iPad pointing at an actual Lego model. That's got to be cheaper than buying a whole load of Lego if nothing else.

iOS 12 will also feature photos enhancements, including improved image recognition and search features. Apple will also rework its iBooks applications, and in line with its shift away from its rather old "i" branding, it won't be iBooks anymore, but instead Apple Books. The Apple Books store will get a new look and have a focus on audiobooks.

Alongside performance improvements, iOS 12 will also allow for less distraction from your phone, including do not disturb features for overnight so you're not woken up, screen time logging features so you're aware of how much time you're spending on apps and limits on app usage.

For those who like the rather sillier features of iOS and have the iPhone X, new Animoji including Ghost, Koala, Tiger and T-Rex will debut, and they'll add tongue detection. But if animals aren't your style, Apple will also add what it's calling "Memoji", personalised bitmoji/Mii-avatar style avatars as well.

Apple will also pump up its FaceTime application for iOS with support for what it's calling "Group Facetime" for up to 32-person calls. With a tiled approach that emphasises speakers by making their tiles larger, Group Facetime will support both audio and video calling, presuming you've got 32 friends who want to talk at the same time. Group Facetime will work across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, although it's rather understandably be audio-only for the Apple Watch.

iOS 12 will be available on the same devices as iOS 11, which means that no iPhones will be made (effectively) redundant when iOS 12 arrives later this year. Although it's a fair bet that while Apple talks up performance, you'll see more features and better boosts for newer iPhone models.

Specifically, iOS 12 will be available for the following:

  • iPhone 5s and later
  • iPad Air
  • iPad Pro
  • iPad 5th and 6th generation
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPod touch 6th generation

Developers will be able to access the beta version of iOS 12 from today, and a public beta will launch later this month.

WatchOS 5 adds competitive elements

Apple's next software update was for its Apple Watch. WatchOS 5 will have a competition focus, with the activity monitor now able to set seven-day competitions with your friends, yoga, hiking and automatic workout detection. That's a feature that's existed on some competing Android-based watches, so it'll be interesting to see how accurately it picks actual workouts relative to other activity types while you're wearing it.

Apple Watch will also get a new "Walkie Talkie" app that allows you to talk to other Apple Watch users over Wi-Fi or LTE data connections as well as support for Apple's podcast platform. Which means you'll be able to listen to the View Finder podcast while you're out running. Very neat!

Apple Siri will also get smarter under WatchOS 5, with the ability to raise your wrist to talk to Siri, and an improved array of smart notifications.

Like iOS 12, WatchOS 5 will be available as a free update, but not for owners of the original Apple Watch, which isn't supported.

Apple TV gains Dolby Atmos support

The Apple TV 4K's big improvement this year with tvOS 12 will be the inclusion of Dolby Atmos support onboard. Naturally, you'll need an Atmos-compliant sound system to use it, but Apple's claim is that it will offer a wide range of Atmos content through the iTunes store.

The Apple TV update to tvOS 12 will only come to the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV 4th generation.

Next macOS version is macOS Mojave

Apple's next software update was to its macOS platform, which this year will be called macOS Mojave.

It had been widely leaked that one of the new features of macOS Mojave would be a new "dark mode" theme, which Apple kicked off its macOS demos with. Dark Mode does what the name suggests, providing a black-enhanced version of the mac desktop if that's to your style. You'll also be able to use what Apple calls "Dynamic Desktop", a time-based desktop animation system that subtly changes the desktop depending on the time of day.

The new Desktop Stacks feature will intelligently group the contents of the desktop based on document type, so that (for example) your images are grouped together until you click on them, at which point they'll fan out to be searched and used.

Apple's screen capture utility will also be updated to allow for video capture without having to run Apple's Quicktime platform.

Apple also addressed privacy concerns across both the macOS and iOS platform, noting that it was in a different space to competing platforms when it comes to security and privacy permissions. The updated version of Safari on macOS and iOS will by default disable user tracking on like, share and comment fields, with notifications if you're tracked to allow such behaviour. On the Mac, a unified system configuration feature will make it harder to track an individual Mac because they'll all appear similar to tracking systems, rather than unique.

The Mac App store will also see a refresh, with a new design featuring tabs labelled Discovery, Create, Work, Play and Develop. For the first time, Microsoft's Office 365 will appear on the Mac App store as will Adobe's Lightroom CC.

macOS and iOS won't merge

Apple's Craig Federighi also addressed the longstanding rumour that Apple would merge macOS and iOS. "No!" he rather emphatically stated, noting the features of the mac platform as being unique. Apple programs macOS explicitly for the features of the hardware platform he stated. However, that doesn't mean Apple isn't working on bringing key features of iOS, and eventually apps, to macOS.

Federighi showed off what he called a "multi-year project" to bring key iOS frameworks across to macOS. He demonstrated an upcoming feature that will allow macOS to run iOS apps natively, using the UIKit platform for iOS apps on macOS. At first, this will be Apple's own apps this year (news, stocks, voice memo and home apps), while developers will be able to port their own apps for next year's macOS update.

Like its siblings, macOS Mojave will be a free update. It'll be available later this year for mid-2012 or later Mac models as well as 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro as long as they've got Metal-capable graphics cards on board. Like iOS 12, macOS Mojave is available for developers today, with a public beta arriving later this month.

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