Report from Cupertino – Highlights from the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Hand-Washing Alerts, iPhone Widgets, CarKey Among New Features Introduced

An iPhone 11 Pro in the new midnight green color

By Kurt Stolz on 22 June 2020
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CUPERTINO—The 33rd Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, one of the most important vendor events of the year, kicked off on Monday, albeit in a virtual fashion. Apple uses the event to showcase the company’s newest operating systems and tools and augments it with in-depth sessions with Apple engineers and experts.

This year, however, was different.  The event, known colloquially as “Dub Dub,” took place on line and anyone could attend, developer or not.  Only a few Apple employees were present including Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, and the one-hour 40-minute session, especially absent the cheers and jeers of eager developers, had the feel of an extended infomercial versus the authentic excitement of past such events.

Apple has spent well over a decade building a suite of hardware and software products around the iPhone, but the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference made it clear that the iPhone is just one of several halo products it now offers.

This year, Apple introduced the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 14, its tablet operating system, iPadOS 14, the operating system for its Macs, and a plethora of new features and functionality across its product line.

Apple unveiled iOS 14, the latest version of its mobile operation system, subtly changing the user interface by adding the App Library, an all-new section that automatically organizes all of a user’s apps into a single, easy-to-navigate view. App Library intelligently surfaces apps that may be helpful at a given time, based on a variety of factors such as time-of-day, location, and past habits.

The new Widgets feature allows users to pin different size widgets on any home screen page, thereby providing (hopefully) useful information at a glance.

In addition to those features, the two most noticeable changes are to Siri and to incoming calls.  Starting in iOS 14, neither will take over the entire screen when in use, an issue in past releases and a non-issue in the competing Android mobile operating system.

Apple said that ‌Siri‌ has expanded its knowledge and that it can help find answers from across a variety of sources across the Internet. With iOS 14, users can now ask ‌Siri‌ to send an audio message, and ‌Siri‌ is expanding its translation capabilities to support a number of new languages.

The Weather app and widget will add a new next-hour precipitation chart shows minute-by-minute precipitation whfen rain is in the forecast.

The iPhone gains an all-new Translate app for translating conversations, with support for 11 different languages at launch and an offline mode for private voice and text translation. It also gains a new feature called App Clips, which surface information from a relevant app without the need to download the entire app.  This would allow, as shown in the demonstration, a user to conduct various transactions at shops without having downloaded or signed into the shop’s app.

In addition, in what some consider a sea change, iOS 14 will allow users to set third-party e-mail and browser apps as defaults.

Apple added lots of goodies to its watch operating system, WatchOS 7.  The new version will only be compatible with Series 3 Apple Watches and later and it features enhanced watch face customizations, a rather useful-sounding hand-washign coach, a new sleep-tracking feature, and updated health and fitness tools.

On the Mac side, Apple will transition its laptops and desktops to new custom chips with “incredible” performance over the next two years, replacing the current Intel chips in all of its Macs and MacBook Pros.

Finally, in what may be the slowest advance of a version number ever, Apple introduced MacOS 11, code-named Big Sur, which replaces MacOS 10, code-named Cheetah, which was introduced in 2001, albeit with updates along the way up to and including version 10.15, or Catalina, in 2019.

 

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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