Apple on Monday unleashed a wave of software updates covering almost its entire product line. None of the announcements are likely to lead to the creation of new break-out products or new streams of revenue, but a number of new features are already being praised on social media because of the protections to consumers.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook got down to business fairly quickly at the show, updating the crowd at the World Wide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on previous announcements.
Call back to March
It started with a call back to last March’s announcement of TV+, which includes a large number of exclusive television programs produced by well-known Hollywood stars, including Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. Monday’s WWDC opened with the trailer for “For All Mankind,” a TV show premised on Soviet Russia landing of the Moon before the US.
Also announced in March was the Apple Arcane, a subscription gaming service. While the original announcement left out many details about the upcoming service, we now know that you will be able to play those games using Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 game controllers. The games will only be playable on Apple’s devices, however. Monday’s announcement still doesn’t give us a launch date or a subscription price.
Apple is continuing to cut the once necessary connection between the Watch and the iPhone. Two years ago Apple gave the Watch a cellular connection, removing the need to keep the iPhone within range. Now, Apple has added the App Store to the Watch, allowing users to install apps and updates directly to the device.
There are also a couple of new features that are likely to be popular on the Watch, including a calculator and voice recorder.
Apple also continues to build up the Watch as a health apparatus, with this year’s addition being exclusively for women. Called the Cycle App, it will help women monitor their menstrual cycles. The app works on both the Watch app and on the iPhone.
If there was any surety before Monday’s event, it was the launch of iOS 13. The second most likely outcome was the launch of a feature called Dark Mode. Both were announced as predicted by Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. The launch was accompany be a number of “dark” jokes while the Depeche Mode song “Dark Celebration” played in the background.
Dark Mode is a feature that uses light-colored text and icon against a dark background. Many users believe this is easier on the eyes - a point that is still disputed - and easier on your battery.
Apple announced it finally releasing a significantly redesigned Apple Maps program, which looks to finally one-up Google Maps. This release has been a long time coming for Apple. When Apple launched iOS 6, Apple dropped Google Maps as the default map app on the iPhone for its own software, which was notoriously inaccurate. Apple’s new version of Maps has many of the features as Google’s Maps, and it also appears to have smoother graphics for real world navigation than Google’s Street View.
But what will probably be the best received part of the Maps launch was the announcement that Apple is cracking down on apps that monitor your data, including your GPS location and other personal information, such as your email address.
Apple also launched a new features called Sign In, aimed at preventing third parties from collecting personal information. Many apps ask users to create accounts by signing in using their Facebook or Google details. With Apple Sign In, Apple has provide users with unique and random IDs that allow them to sign in anonymously. In situations where an apps require an email, Apple will provide a unique, random email address. Apple Sign In can be used with Face ID or Touch ID to make accessing these apps easier. Apple said it will not profile users or their activity when using Sign In.
Apple is also including security feature in other areas as well, including HomeKit, the software system that controls third party home security cameras and other “Internet of Things” devices, which often capture sensitive data and video from inside the home. Apple will now encrypt this data before it leaves these devices, insuring it stays secure. Apple is even going so far as to include this HomeKit feature on home routers, ensuring that any data on the system, even from non-Apple devices that connect directly to the router, stay secure.
Siri’s too robotic
Apple apparently thinks Siri sounds too much like a robot and has been working on smoothing out her speech. When iOS 13 rolls out later this year, Siri will now be using what Apple calls “Neural Text to Speech,” software that makes her sound less robotic.
Siri isn’t the only portion of Apple’s software getting a voice upgrade. iOS13 is now getting Voice Control that allows users to control their iPhone, iPad or Mac entirely with their voice.
One last note about iOS 13 is that it has added some additional browsing and editing tools for photos. This app now looks very similar to what Google Photos offers.
A new OS for iPad
Along with WatchOS, MacOS, iOS and TvOS, Apple is now adding iPadOS to the menu. This is a separate, if derivative, operating system that aims to make the iPadOS more of a laptop replacement that just a large, non-cellular iPhone. When it launches, iPad users can now open multiple windows different apps and will have a desktop web browsing environment instead of the mobile web browsing that comes with iOS. It will even include support for USB thumb drives and micro-storage cards.
While it’s part of the new Mac OS and not the iPadOS, Apple is also rolling out an app called SideCar, which will let Mac users connect their iPad’s to their MacBooks as a second screen.
Updated Mac Pro
At the end of the the software announcements, Apple announced a long-awaited update of its Mac Pro line. Based on the specs and prices announced, Apple was targeting the developers in the house with this computer, not your average consumers. It starts at $5,999.
If that sound expensive, that is because it is designed as a high-end work station, although the configuration would make any gamer incredibly happy. It features an Intel Xeon processor with 28-cores, 1.5 terabytes of system memory, and 8 internal slots for PCI expansions. It includes also includes what Apple is calling the world’s most power graphics card. When fully maxed out, the machine will run with almost 26 teraflops of graphics processing power and 128GB of video memory. For comparison, the Xbox One X runs at 6 teraflops. Top-end gaming video graphics cards usually run at about 11 teraflops.
However, reaction online to the design of the new Mac Pro, which is designed to handle heat more efficiently, has already earned it the nickname, the Cheese Grater.
If you thought the price tag on the Mac Pro was expensive, wait until you see the accessories. Apple also launched a professional-grade, 32-inch monitor with 6K resolution for $4,999. The company also launched a Pro Stand (no monitor; it’s just a, admittedly, very well designed monitor stand) for $999.
The death of iTunes has not be exaggerated. Apple made it clear at Monday’s event that they are moving away from the iconic software, which will be replaced by three apps, which are Apple Music, the Podcast app and the AppleTV app. The apps will be available across most Apple devices.
Apple is still pushing ahead with Augmented Reality, adding new layers to the budding technology. It launched ARKit 3, which now includes motion capture technology, which was first made famous by actor Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings movie series. The technology records a person’s movements so that can be used to create lifelike animation. Apple demoed the technology at WWDC by having presenters insert themselves into an Augmented Reality-based version of the popular game Minecraft.
Just how well investor are talking the news about Apple’s new software was hard to determine on Monday, because at the same time that Apple CEO Tim Cook was preparing to take the stage, the US government was announcing a federal anti-trust probe against Alphabet, Facebook, and Apple.
Reuters was reporting the Department of Justice was given jurisdiction over Apple’s investigation.
Alphabet finished the day down 6.12 per cent. Facebook tumbled 7.51 per cent to $161.01. Apple was down as much as 2.7 per cent but later recovered to finish down just over 1 per cent.
Apple is also currently facing several lawsuit regarding pricing and allegedly anti-competitive behavior over its App Store. The ongoing lawsuits in combination with concerns about tech in the US-China trade war have already driven Apple’s market capitalization, an estimate of over-all value, to below $800 billion. Last August, the company became the first publicly listed firm to be valued at more than $1 trillion.