This morning Apple held their annual WWDC keynote, which has proven to be one of the best in years, with a plethora of new software and some new products as well. The keynote featured the unveiling of two new operating systems, iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, as well as iTunes Radio, and hardware in the form of a new MacBook Air, powered by Intel’s new Haswell processors, a sneak peek at the new Mac Pro, and a new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule.
Since the sacking of Scott Forstall late last year, following the many issues seen in iOS 6, Apple was under the pump to really deliver something special in iOS 7. With Jony Ive placed as the head of design, changes were sure to be made, and the differences between iOS 6 and 7 are massive.
The bulk of these changes are through the user interface, which has been completely redone, giving the operating system an entirely new feel, one that is more modern and sophisticated, leaving behind the old skeuomorphic look of previous iterations.
The changes in UI are evident from the lock screen alone, which does away with textures and the like in favour of large imagery, clean type and a simplistic unlocking gesture, which requires a swiping up of the screen. The layout of the homescreen is much the same, with major changes coming in the form of redesigned icons, and the now flat look of the dock. In addition to this, wallpapers are linked to the device’s accelerometer, meaning that titling you device will move the image, treating it as a completely separate layer than the icons.
“There is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation—it’s about bringing order to complexity,”
– Jony Ive
The folders design has also been reworked, allowing users to now have unlimited pages of apps in one folder, which has not been possible since the feature’s debut in iOS 4.
A major addition to iOS is the Control Center, a quick access settings panel which allows for toggles and such to be used, without having to enter the settings app. To activate the Control Centre, an upwards swipe from the bottom of the screen is completed, bringing up this new interface. From here, a number of different settings can be altered, such as Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Do Not Disturb. While these all previously had to be accessed through the settings application, Control Center gives them a centralised, easy to access location. In addition to this, there are several more functions of the Control Center. The music player controls previously seen in the multitasking interface are now available, as well as volume and brightness controls. The bottom row of the interface holds several new elements, the Flashlight, Compass, Calculator and Camera. These all look to be quick activations of these elements, and while the flashlight triggers the flash in the camera, the compass and calculator may actually open their respective applications.
The Notification Center has also been reworked, now being accessible from the lock screen. It features a slightly transparent backing, which will reflect the colours of whatever interface is behind it, providing a sense of integration throughout. The Notification Center is split up into three separate views, “today,” “all,” and “missed.” Today is a rundown of any appointments, stocks, weather information and the like relating to the current day. It acts as the hub of notifications, providing a more easy to view, quick summary. The all and missed views do exactly as they state, displaying notifications in a manner more familiar to iOS 5 and 6 users.
A main gripe by many users with iOS has been the lacklustre implementation of multitasking, which involved a laborious hold and minus interface for closing open applications. In iOS 7, the multitasking has taken on a completely new look, much alike Web OS’ interface. Tiles presenting the current state of applications are shown, as well as the respective app icon below. These apps can be navigated with a horizontal swipe, while flicking an app upwards closes it. The new way multitasking has been approached in iOS 7 was touched upon during the keynote, with Craig Federighi detailing the manner in which iOS 7 treats applications. It now pays attention to which apps are used the most, for example, social media services, and will keep them not only constantly running, but also refreshed, so they are up to date at any time. However, this always on approach to certain apps in multitasking could prove troublesome for battery life, although Federighi stated that battery life was of a high priority, which hopefully indicates that it will not be overly effected.
Another new feature coming to iOS 7 is AirDrop, which allows for peer-to-peer sharing of files between nearby people. AirDrop is activated through iOS’ share sheet, which presents images of those nearby who can receive AirDrop files. Initially only those in your contacts list will be shown to share with, but AirDrop can be turned to public to share with others. However, this is one of the more limited features in iOS 7, as only newer devices can use it, being the 4th-gen iPad, iPad mini, 5th-gen iPod Touch and iPhone 5.
Apple’s personal assistant has also been modified, not only on a visual level, but also in functionality. Wikipedia and Twitter integration come to Siri to provide better answers, and Apple has dropped Google searching in favour of Bing integration, clearly indicating its severed ties with Google. The voice of Siri has been refined, while a male voice has also been added.
While Apple has not added any new apps to iOS in this iteration, all the stock ones have received a visual overhaul, fitting within the operating system’s new design language. Clean type and at times, sparsely designed screens are seen throughout, with a complete abandonment of the skeuomorphic flavour seen previously.
OS X Mavericks
Apple’s new version of OS X is a much less significant upgrade when compared to the step taken by iOS this time round, but nonetheless, it is important.
Apple’s reading application has now made its way to the Mac, bringing its reach to the computer, much the same as Amazon has done in the past with Kindle. The App takes on the basic design of its iOS counterpart, being separated into two distinct sections, the library and the store. From here it is pretty much straightforward, with notes and annotations made carrying across through iCloud, and multiple books being shown at once if needed.
Another iOS app has made its way to OS X through Maps. It comes as a standalone app for the Mac, with the same style of interface as seen in the iOS 6 Maps app. The power of the app is highlighted through the Send to iOS feature, which allows users to plan their trip on the Mac, and then send the directions to their iOS device for use within its native Maps app.
Apple has provided a solution to another problem through the Keychain, possibly nullifying popular app 1Password. Passwords are synced through iCloud to all your devices with AES 256-bit encryption, and even generates passwords for you. However, its functionality is not yet fully clear, as currently its only seen use is through Safari, which could prove problematic if people don’t use Safari for browsing, or require passwords in other apps.
For a long time, hooking up your Mac to an external display hasn’t been the most efficient process, with a lack of functionality forcing many errors and issues. Although these look to have been corrected in Mavericks, with full screen, Mission Control, Spaces, Menu Bars and the Dock accessible on each display without effecting the other, great news for multiple display users.
The Finder has received a bout of new functionality with tabs, which allow for several areas of Finder to be open simultaneously, yet within the same window. This will help with file moving across separate folders and the like, again making OS X just a little easier to use.
Although Apple didn’t really make a fuss about it, iTunes radio may well be one of its best releases at WWDC. Operating similarly to Pandora, iTunes Radio is baked into the Music app on iOS, and the iTunes app on both Mac and PC. Fortunately for Apple, most users store their music library on these apps, and hence, will find it incredibly easy to use iTunes Radio as a discovery platform. The service is supported by ads, providing Apple with payment for the music streaming, and will directly help users purchase music off the iTunes Store, as the Radio experience is directly linked in with Apple’s music purchasing system.
Apple updated its baseline MacBook, the Air, with new Intel Haswell processors, which help it provide up to 12 hour battery life, as claimed by Apple. These new processors have a profound impact on not only battery life, but will also help the overall speed of the Air, giving it a power boost.
Apple previewed its much anticipated Mac Pro at the Keynote, which certainly takes a new direction in design. The Pro features Xeon processors, dual FirePro GPUs, ECC memory and Thunderbolt 2. Also importantly, the Pro is assembled in the USA. Although no specific release date was given, Apple says the Mac Pro will be available later this year, and it wil certainly be very important for their share in the pro market.
Apple has delivered a long overdue update to their AirPort devices, with a major change in the design area. The AirPort Extreme Router and Time Capsule now size in at 4 inches by 6 inches, and are vastly different visually to their predecessors. Underneath the body is next generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is said to offer 1.3Gbps of throughput. The AirPort extreme is $199, while the Time Capsule starts from $299 for the 2TB version. Both devices are available now.
WWDC was key for Apple not so much on a hardware standpoint, but on a software one. iOS 7 is definitely one of the more important releases for Apple in the past years, and as I’m writing this, I feel that the update will be truly great. It has provided a much needed visual update to ageing software, and added in new functionality that has been sorely wanted for years now. OS X Mavericks is much less important, not only because of OS X’s incremental nature, but because it was not overly under any pressure to dramatically update. The new features are good, but many design elements still remain that would not sit well with Jony Ive, and these will be fixed in the next release of OS X, or as it may be called, OS XI.
The updated MacBook Air is great to see, albiet without a Retina Display, but it does prove just how much Intel’s Haswell processors can do for speed and battery life. Although Apple didn’t update the other MacBooks in the line, as well as the iMac, they will do so later in the year, as to keep all Macs on the same internal standing point. It was the Mac Pro that is really important to Apple, not only because it proves Apple is still viable in the pro market, but also because it is built in the USA, possibly signifying signs of manufacturing the future.
One thing that may be overlooked is iTunes Radio. While it has been quite discreet in its unveiling, it will definitely have a massive profit impact on Apple, as its integration with iTunes is undeniably useful.
This year’s WWDC keynote was very important to Apple, although many interesting rumours will continue to persist, in the form of new iPhones, iPads, and even the fabled iWatch. One thing is for sure, watch this space, Apple is certainly nowhere near done for 2013.