If you hoped that Tim Cook would surprise the world and introduce some new Apple hardware at this year’s WWDC keynote, you must feel sorely disappointed. But if you get all hot and bothered by attractive and useful macOS upgrades, you are in luck. The annual developer conference is off to an interesting start with a long list of little things that will make using Apple products a lot better.
All the little announcements on stage at the WWDC 2018 keynote might get your head spinning, though. There was kind of a lot! And the new features and products span the entire breadth of Apple platforms including iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS. Curiously, however, the connection between the platforms is stronger than ever before. Now let’s dig into the details, in some particular order.
Are you sick of your MacBook Pro being too bright all the time? Then you’re going to love the new Dark Mode on macOS Mojave. It looks just like the macOS you’ve known and loved for years, except all the menu and windows are shades of black and grey. In other words, it looks just like the macOS you’ve known and loved for years, except more badass. Dark Mode will even turn itself automatically and dim your whole desktop.
You can tell that Apple is excited about Dark Mode for a few reasons. First of all, the graphics for the keynote were white outside of the venue, but once the presentation started, they were dark up on stage. All of the demos of macOS Mojave were also in Dark Mode. There was also a big leak where Apple revealed Dark Mode two days too early, but people still loved the actual reveal. The enthusiasm was shared by developers, who have been asking for Dark Mode for about a decade. That said, a large number of developers are now complaining that Apple built Dark Mode for macOS but not iOS 12. Maybe next year.
While Dark Mode is obviously a big visual tweak, the latest version of macOS is also getting a lot of smaller upgrades that will make it easier to use. There’s now a kind of dynamic desktop that sorts your files into something called Dynamic Stacks. Basically that means similar documents will get grouped together and help you stay organized.
Making changes on documents is also getting easier thanks to some Finder upgrades. A new file-browsing method called Gallery View puts more information, like metadata, as well as simple editing action buttons at photographers’ fingertips. Meanwhile, you’ll now be able to do simple editing of documents and photos in Quick Look, so you don’t have to open a bunch of apps to do simple things. Screenshots and screenshot editing is getting similarly streamlined.
The other really big set of changes includes the addition of four new Mac apps—News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home—that used to be native on iOS only. Craig Federighi says that these apps represent a shift in Apple’s approach to merging the two platforms. Next year, he says that Apple will start letting third party iOS developers create apps that also work on Macs.
Craig didn’t go into too much detail, but basically your Apple products are about to get more secure, especially in the face of evil social media companies that track your every move online. (Cough cough Facebook cough.) Some of these features will improve privacy when you’re surfing the web and tracking sites identify you with a unique browser fingerprint Apple will now attempt to obscure. As Craig Federighi put it, “Your Mac will look more like everyone else’s Mac and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device and track you.”
The only real catch is that you’ll have to use Safari to enjoy some of that anti-tracking stuff. Otherwise, feel better about your webcam not spying on you!
If Dark Mode made macOS Mojave seem splashy, iOS 12 seems sort of boring in how many of the upgrades are simply performance related. First of all—and perhaps most refreshing—is the fact that iOS 12 will work on all the same devices as iOS 11. Apple also says it will make these devices noticeably faster. Who doesn’t love a faster phone for free?
Apple also announced a major upgrade for Siri in the form of Shortcuts. Now, you can program your own Siri commands that work with native Apple apps as well as third party apps. Craig’s demo involved a “Go home” routine that triggered various apps to check traffic on the way home, turn on a smart thermostat, and turn the car radio to a favorite playlist. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa offer similar functionality, but Apple’s integration of these features does look pretty slick. The new Siri also offers suggestions so, for instance, if you’re walking by your favorite coffee shop, Siri might pull up a notification inviting to you to order a coffee. Whoopee.
Digital health is a hot topic right now, given the fact that so few people can control themselves when they’re near a smartphone. Apple is here to fix that problem with a few new features in iOS 12. “Do Not Disturb During Bedtime” is the one that looks most natural and useful. Basically, you turn it on when you go to bed, and your iPhone won’t bug you while you’re asleep. When you wake up, your phone shows a lovely “Good Morning” screen, and then you can start your day off fresh, instead of being inundated with a million notifications.
There’s also a new app called Screen Time that makes it easy to monitor your phone habits—or those of your children. With Screen Time you can set time limits that remind you when you’ve been drooling over Instagram for two hours or whatever. You can also set allowances for people in your family, so that Junior only gets to drool over Snapchat for one hour a day. Finally—and this is my favorite feature—Screen Time also limits the number of notifications you can see. Additionally, iOS 12 finally has the ability to group notifications based on the app or a particular topic.
Let me speak my mind for a second. Just because Apple thinks Animoji is a cute way to show off the powers of Face ID does not mean that Apple users want more ways to turn themselves into cartoons. And yet, that’s exactly what Apple did today.
Now, Animoji have something called “tongue detection.” It is what it sounds like. Memoji is basically a ripoff of Bitmoji and a better version of Samsung’s animated avatars. Maybe the kids will love it, but I’ll stick with my perfectly creepy Bitmoji. It’s also worth pointing out that Apple also made a bunch of really fancy filters like the ones Snapchat made popular, so now you can send weirder selfies to your friends without leaving the safe space of the Messages app.
Oh and there’s also group FaceTime, which sounds like my worst nightmare especially since you can now group FaceTime as your Memoji. So you can have a whole conversation with over 30 friends as a cartoon version of yourself. Like a said, worst nightmare.
I’m not even sure who uses apps built with ARKit—except for that Ikea one, of course. But Tim Cook apparently loves this shit, so Apple is doubling down and bringing new features to ARKit 2. Chief amongst these is a new file format: usdz. With these files, developers can add AR elements more easily, which means that you can design for a new guitar on the Fender website and then see what that guitar would look like in your garage before your buy it.
ARKit 2 also comes with the ability to have multiplayer AR games as well as the ability to turn your phone into a very neat ruler thanks to a new app called Measure. Seriously, you point the camera at an object, tap the corners, and your phone tells you how big the object is. Other apps have used ARKit to do this in the past, but Apple’s realization of the concept looked very slick in the demo. Beyond that, you can still use ARKit to put Ikea furniture in weird places.
Although it’s arguably the least high tech thing that Apple announced this year, the new Walkie Talkie feature is somehow hilarious. It works just like a walkie-talkie and lets you send messages to a friend just like Dick Tracy or an eight-year-old version of yourself.
Apple continues to push the Apple Watch as a health device first and foremost. But the Workout app has always sucked because you needed to set up an activity every time you did it. Now, Apple has made the app smart, so that it knows when you’ve started a run and asks you to track it without having to dig through the app. Workout also got some new methods of measuring and displaying what you’re doing, like showing you previous mile time and your cadence for runs.
There were other watchOS upgrades like a new Siri Watch face and some new ways to challenge your friends to be active. Best of all—second to walkie-talkie—is the ability to download and listen to podcasts on the Watch. Because everybody loves to be fit and also smart at the same time. Also neat is the newfound ability to view web content on the watch.
If you’re lucky enough and wealthy enough to own a home theater that supports Dolby Atmos, you’re in luck. You can now access Dolby Atmos content with your Apple TV.
Apple also announce a new “Zero Sign-on” program with some cable companies that mean you’ll automatically download all the right apps when you plug in your Apple TV. You won’t even have to sign in with them. Which must seem like a bit of a snooze, but it’s actually the most exciting Apple TV news we heard today.
For the first time since, I don’t know, a long time the Mac App Store got a big overhaul.
It’s about damn time!