WWDC 2017 Initial Thoughts


Apple had an unusually large number of announcements at the WWDC keynote this past Monday. I can't possibly cover all of the new stuff (both hardware and software) that was introduced but I did want to cover just a few of the things that I am most excited about.

iOS Productivity:

I have been using an iPad Pro almost exclusively as my main computer for 18-months now. Despite how well this works (most of the time), there are still quite a few pain points with very specific tasks when using iOS. Apple is eliminating most of those pain points with iOS 11. iOS 11 will include three things that make complex tasks on iOS MUCH easier...a "Dock", "Multi-Tasking" and "Drag & Drop." I can't give these 3 new iOS functions enough description here to do them justice and even if I could it wouldn't mean much until you actually started performing these tasks yourself. Mac Stories has a very good in-depth article about these new features in iOS 11 plus many other feature, so I recommend you read that article if you want more details. You can sum up these 3 new features this way...it is now much easier and flat out enjoyable to perform complex data exchanges and operations between apps in iOS with these 3 new features. Because these are all gestured based actions you really need to get hands on to fully understand the potential, so most of us will need to wait until this Fall when iOS 11 is released. I can't wait...

iOS File Management:

The closest thing we have to file management on iOS today is iCloud Drive and it's just "ok." With iOS 11 Apple is introducing a dedicated file management app called "Files" that will work with iCloud as well as other 3rd party cloud services like DropBox and Google Drive. Also the Files app will (finally) bring tagging to iOS, so now you can tag files on iOS and on the Mac. For someone like me who is working mostly on iOS I wasn't able to take advantage of tagging on the Mac because it didn't carry over to the iPad. Now it will.

Apple Pay:

Two really important announcement by Apple concerning Apple Pay. One, Apple Pay will be a payment option at over 50% of US retailers by the end of the year. That is huge if Apple can actually pull that off. Right now Apple Pay is only a payment option for me at a small fraction of the places I shop. I also notice that several places I shop tell me they don't take Apple Pay but when I try it the payment goes through. Apple has a lot of room for improvement here but it sounds like they are expecting to make improvements. The other announcement concerning Apple Pay is that Apple will be rolling out a person-to-person payment option using Apple Pay via iMessage. So you will be able to use iMessage to send someone money using Apple Pay and that payment will be stored on an all new Apple Pay "cash card." Once you have money on your "cash card" you can then use that balance to make other purchases or transfer it to your bank. There weren't a ton of details about how this is going to be implemented or what if any fees will be involved but I love the idea of being able to quickly send money like this...its both secure and convenient.

Lock Screen & Control Center Changes/Enhancements:

Because of the new Dock in iOS 11 (which you activate by swiping up from the bottom of the screen...which is how you used to activate Control Center) Control Center access is changing. In iOS 11 Control Center will be accessed from the main notification (lock) screen which will be accessed by swiping down (like you used to do for performing a search). Recent notifications, all notifications, Control Center, Search, Widgets and quick access to the camera will now all be accessible from the notification (lock) screen. Apple is also enhancing the interface of Control Center and packing in more useful controls and taking advantage of 3D Touch to access even more controls. This is another set of features that is hard to really describe until you get hands on with it, but I'm optimistic that Apple made things easier to get to with these changes. But they are changes so be prepared.

Do Not Disturb While Driving:

Apple is extending its Do Not Disturb feature to driving. It is doing this by detecting when the iPhone is in a moving car and asking the user if they wish to enable this mode. When you are in the Do Not Disturb While Driving mode most function will not be available including receiving text notifications. For the most part your iPhone will be a black screen except for certain applications like Maps for driving directions. But Apple is being smart about this. For example, if you get a text while in this mode the sender will receive an automatic reply telling them you are driving and will get back to them soon. The sender can then choose to override the block if the message is urgent. You also have the option of setting up certain contact to ALWAYS break through the Do Not Disturb While Driving mode. And of course, if you try and access an app like Safari or a game while driving the phone will give you a message that those functions are disabled while driving, but it will give you an option to tell your iPhone you aren't driving (for example, if you are a passenger in a moving car). Distracted driving is a huge problem and I'm glad to see Apple at least giving people an option to be responsible and safe drivers. I just hope people choose to do so. They guy I passed on the highway this morning on my way to the airport sure wan't making the right choice...he was reading a book while driving on the freeway!

watchOS 4:

The next version of the Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 4, comes out this Fall as well and there are quite a few exciting new features there as well. All of these features look to be available to all Apple Watches. The features I am most excited about are:

  • An all new Siri watch face that uses machine learning to automatically adjust the style and information on the watch face based on what information it thinks you need at that time
  • An upgraded Apple Music interface on the Apple Watch, making it much easier to jump into Apple Music and start listening to music right from your Apple Watch. The real audience for this feature are Air Pod owners.
  • An upgraded Workout interface including the ability to quickly switch from one type of workout to another and support for high intensity workouts
  • The Apple Watch will now have a safety feature you can enable while running at night which turns your Apple Watch into a blinking light

Those are the things that most excited me about this past Monday's announcements. I'm sure we will be getting more details as it gets closer to the Fall release of iOS 11 and watchOS 4.

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