Image: AP

Apple just kicked off its annual developer conference with a customary jumbo keynote, where it announced the next major updates for iOS and macOS. The company also launched a ton of new hardware, including upgraded MacBooks and a brand new smart speaker powered by Siri.

There’s plenty of news to get into, so let’s go ahead and dive right in. Here is everything Apple announced at WWDC today that you need to know about.


A Siri smart speaker to control your home

Apple announced its long-awaited smart speaker that’s set to compete directly against Google Home and the Amazon Echo. The device itself works a lot like its competitors.

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You can start using the speaker by saying the wake phrase “Hey Siri” and then ask it to do things, like play music. The smart speaker can also do things like answer questions about the weather or traffic. It’s also meant to be a hub for all the HomeKit-enabled smart home devices that are already out in the wild being sold.

The real standout technology here is in the thought and engineering that went into the speaker part of the equation. Apple engineers supposedly built this thing for high-fidelity audio. On that front, we’ll have to wait and see how the thing sounds when it ships in December. [Read more about the Apple HomePod here.]


MacOS gets way faster and smarter

Apple showed off a bunch of performance upgrades made to macOS (10.13) and some of the default applications that ship with all Mac computers. One of the most noticeable changes comes in the default web browser, Safari. The browser supposedly now has 80 percent faster JavaScript performance, according to Apple, meaning that even the clunkiest websites will load faster. Apple also built auto-play video blocking directly in the browser to speed up performance.

Mac users will also be happy to find an upgraded version of the Photos app in the newest version of macOS. The application has been reorganized to include a persistent sidebar that will likely make it easier to sort through your photos. If that doesn’t work, other tweaks like improved facial recognition and photo tagging will make it easier for people to quickly search through their photos rather than having to scroll through dozens at a time. Finally, Apple is now working with Steam, Unity and Unreal to bring new virtual reality engines to the operating system. [Read more about macOS updates here.]


A powerful new iMac enters the arena

Who doesn’t love a super powerful computer? Apple claims that the new iMac Pro is packed with enough hardware to make it the most powerful Mac computer to date. It also has a $5,000 base price to match.

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The most notable feature on this new iMac Pro is an 8-core Xeon processor that ships with the base version that can also be upgraded to a 10- or even 18-core Xeon processor. This is a critical upgrade now that Apple is making a strong push into graphics-heavy applications.

The graphics processing will be powered by the Radeon Vega with up to 16 GB of VRAM. In essence, this means that the computer is powerful enough to handle multiple 4K displays or up to 44 million pixels at any given moment if you have the screens to support it. The new iMac Pro can also be equipped with a beefy 128 GB of ECC memory and 4 TB SSD drive to ensure that it rarely slows down. The computer also ships with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 10GB ethernet connection. Ahhh, sweet, sweet overkill. [Read more about the iMac Pro here.]


Beautiful new Macbooks with Kaby Lake processors

Apple has gone ahead and updated all of its new laptops and desktops to Intel’s latest generation of Kaby Lake processors. This is a huge improvement for iMacs and MacBooks and should give them a slight edge n last year’s MacBooks that shipped with Intel Skylake processors.

[Read more about the new MacBooks here.]


iOS gets a huge makeover

Apple made a bunch of design tweaks that will make it easier for people to navigate native apps in iOS. One of the biggest changes is to the Control Center and Notifications Center. Control Center will now feature an improved vertical slider design for things like brightness and volume controls. This means that you won’t have to slide between two screens anymore.

Apple is also combining the lock screen and the Notificaions Center in iOS 11, again streamlining the experience and making it easier for people to get relavant information at a glance.

Other tweaks include the ability to quickly send payments (encrypted end-to-end) through iMessage. You can use TouchID fingerprint to authenticate any payments, and it works just like Apple Pay. [Read more about iOS updates here.]


Siri is getting much smarter

Siri is getting some much needed love and attention from Apple engineers. The digital assistant is getting a brand new voice (both male and female) to make it sound less like a robotic drone and more human. Users will most likely notice the difference in things like the inflection and delivery of long words or sentences.

The digital assistant is also getting the ability to instantly translate anything from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, or Spanish. You’ll now be able to say something like “How do I say, ‘Where’s the nearest grocery store?’” and the assistant will automatically translate for you, and say it out loud.

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Finally, Siri will be getting some much-needed contextual awareness. A great example of this is if you were to receive a message from a friend that asks, “How far away are you?” Siri will suggest responding with things like your location or even a calendar location. The point of contextual awareness is to make replying on-the-go much easier. [Read more about Siri updates here.]