It has been quite a few years since I could consider myself a fulltime software developer. It has probably been about the same amount of time since I could justify the cost of spending a week in San Jose to attend something like WWDC. That said, the conference has always interested me, and I was really excited to participate in this year’s entirely virtual version.
Before I get into some thoughts about the event, let’s go over Elyssa’s and my predictions.
Elyssa predicted that Apple would announce it is donating a substantial sum of money to charities associated with current social movements. Tim Cook addressed these movements, but did not announce any new donations. Elyssa says she gets half a point for this one.
She then predicted that Apple would announce some kind of COVID-19 prediction technology. Apple did not do that, but it did announce hand washing reminders. Elyssa says she gets another half a point.
Elyssa’s last prediction was a new Apple Watch. Apple did not announce any new hardware at all during WWDC, so Elyssa gets zero points for this prediction.
Overall, Elyssa ended up with one point based on her three predictions. Not too bad for someone who does not follow Apple news at all.
The Keynote Will Be a Combination of a “Live,” on Stage, Presentation, and Pre-Recorded Videos That Explain or Demo Feature Details.
I think I got this one, though the “in front of socially distanced people” part in my explanation might lead you to believe otherwise.
Macs will be Transitioning to ARM.
This one was the biggest “lock” prediction one could make, so I am not sure I should get a lot of credit. I’ll have more to say about this transition below.
OS Improvements to Help with Working from Home.
There was a part of the presentation about being at home, but there did not seem to be an emphasis on new features related to working from home. I will have to wait to try the beta to learn if issues like split-screen video conferences have been addressed.
iPadOS Home Screen Improvements
I got this backward. I thought Apple would definitely improve the iPad home screen, but any changes to the iPhone home screen would minor. It turned out to be the other way around. iPhone got more options to display widgets in various places and also got the new ‘app library.” iPad can display some of the new widgets, but the widgets are still pinned to the left side of the screen. iPad is apparently not getting the app library feature.
Items I was hoping for, but that I doubted would happen.
Apple did announce that the first ARM Macs will start shipping in 2020. It did not, however, make major improvements to the Files app (though it did redesign the app, with a better sidebar and smaller icons.) There was no mention of bringing Shortcuts to the Mac (even with the announcement that ARM Macs will be able to run iPad and iOS apps natively.)
Because the most significant changes this year seem to all be related to the Mac, I am going to separate my Mac-related thoughts from everything else.
Everything but the Mac
- The pre-recorded keynote was excellent. I loved the format and the little bits of humor Apple tried to throw in. Two hours without applause breaks or transitions from people walking on and off stage made the whole thing pretty exhausting to watch, though. I am glad I did not have to liveblog it.
- I also enjoyed the developer sessions. Having shorter, targeted sessions made it easier for me to watch them when I had availability (instead of always having to block off 45-50 minutes for session, even if it felt like there was only 20 minutes of content.)
- The ability to add widgets to my iPhone home screen is intriguing. I have been looking at my current home screen and have already identified a few apps that will lose their “Home screen One” status when I move to iOS 14.
- The changes to Messages look good and helpful. Even just pinning a few key conversations to the top of the message panel will make the app easier to use.
- iPadOS did not get as many changes as I was hoping for. Specifically, it did not receive changes that would address the few remaining things that I just punt until I am in front of a Mac (e.g., saving five attachments from an email into DevonThink.) I am cautiously optimistic that the design changes (sidebars, context menus, etc.) will result in some quality of life improvements when using the iPad, though. I am pretty sure the new search on iPadOS will be a sneaky, big improvement.
- Sleep tracking in watchOS 7 is nice. I wonder what the killer hardware feature will be in Apple Watch 6 (and if it will be enough to make me want to upgrade…again.)
- Even though Shortcuts is not coming to the Mac, information that has come out since the keynote suggests that Shortcuts on iOS and iPadOS got some significant updates. The updates are so good that they are already tempting me to install the iOS 14 betas. I have a few Shortcuts that are time-based automations, and the ability to just have those run in the background without my input would be helpful.
- Most people seem to be saying the betas are pretty stable. I am tempted, but I have too many major things going on right now to risk something going wrong. I really should wait until at least mid-August to install any betas on my devices. At a minimum, I will see what people say about the next few rounds of betas and how certain apps work with them. It is always tough to balance my desire to use the newest and greatest stuff with the knowledge that I have a metric-butt-ton of stuff to do.
- On the hardware side, Mac is transitioning to ARM (or “Apple Silicon” as Apple is currently calling it.) On the software side, macOS is finally moving up to version 11 with macOS Big Sur.
- The Big Sur design as been polarizing. Mac “traditionalists” seem to dislike it. I like how much it looks like my iPad. The design language used in Big Sur has lead many to speculate that Apple will release a touch screen Mac in the future. I would love for macOS to adopt the iPad’s cursor, but I imagine that it would be even more of a shock for Mac traditionalists. I would not bet against it happening at some point, though.
- Apple’s ARM chips look like they will be quite fast. GeekBench has said Apple mobile chips have been faster than Intel laptop chips for years, and I am looking forward to seeing them in action. (I would guess Apple already knows their ARM chips will be significantly faster-running macOS than the current generation of Intel chips.)
- The ability to natively run iPad and iOS apps on an ARM-based Macs has me more excited the more that I think about it. Part of the reason I prefer using an iPad for most of my work is that iOS / iPadOS has more of my favorite apps. If I can end up using those apps on my Mac, that would completely change my analysis.
- The combination of promised speed, better power management, and the ability to run iPad apps natively, have me drooling over a new Macbook Pro running on Apple Silicon. I really hope the rumors are true, and the first Mac out of the gate running on Apple Silicon is a 13” Pro. I would buy that in a heartbeat. (It also means I will try to hold on to my current, 2017 Macbook Pro w/o Touchbar until a new ARM-based Macbook Pro comes out.)
As someone who has never actually been to WWDC (and likely would not attend in person for quite some time), I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual format. Selfishly, I also enjoyed that my favorite tech writers were also at home, providing even more coverage of the event than normal. I am not saying I hope that WWDC is always virtual, but I would not hate it if it were.