Here’s a riddle: “What would you call an Apple event with no hardware announcements?”
If you guessed this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), you nailed it. The rumors of new iPhones, MacBooks, Watches and other Apple products now have the whole summer to fester.
What we did learn, however, is what those devices will be capable of, and we were given a preview of iOS 12. The new operating system, which will be available at an unspecified time in the fall, will be pushed out to 81 percent of existing Apple phones, to models going as back as 2013. It will be available on all iPhones from the 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, fifth- and sixth-generation iPads, and iPad Mini 2 and later tablets.
This contrasts with the recent news that while the new Android P will be available to Google’s own devices, it will be a while, if ever, before some models will be able to upgrade.
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Beyond the generic Improvements of a doubling in app launch speed, and new imaging and functions for News and iBooks, there were some major new initiatives to spur iOS device sales, including items related to augmented reality (AR). The new version of ARKit 2 will make possible the participation of up to four players in the same AR experience, expanding the field of play.
Another new tool is an app called Measure, which allows the user/developer to easily look at a real object, measure it, and then properly place it in an AR experience. In addition to being useful for developers, it will facilitate specialize content creation for those using AR as a sales or demo tool. A new file format, known as Universal Optimized Scene Description, or USDZ, will be analogous to a pdf, making it easier to combine physical and digital worlds.
In voice control, Apple reported that Siri receives over 10 billion requests each month. New additions to Siri’s skill set will be location-aware suggestions that will learn your routines and make suggestions and offer reminders based on your activity pattern.
A Shortcuts feature, meanwhile, will function along the lines of an old-fashioned remote macro in that it will allow Siri to integrate with and provide cues to other apps. For example, it will tie to the Tile app and its devices so that you can ask Siri to “Find my keys,” and the device will locate them and report back.
Much was made of apps and functions around privacy, security, “Downtime” and usage restrictions for children and while driving. Curiously, one might turn that around when you realize the new Suggestions feature will offer prompts based on daily activities and patterns. (While it’s convenient to be reminded of a scheduled meeting, it a bit more off-putting to be reminded to stop for coffee at a specific time.)
Additional iOS features to be added will be a Group Calling feature for FaceTime that will allow up to 32 participants in the same conversation. Users will also be able to build and animate their own Memoji avatar to better display appearances.
On the Watch front, along with a variety of additions that will assist in meeting health and exercise goals, perhaps the most interesting addition that will come with Watch OS5 will be a Walkie Talkie feature. This “watch-to-watch” communication takes messaging one step further by enabling direct communication between Watch users. (Anyone remember Nextel’s Push to Talk?)
Other key advancements for Apple Watch when the new OS arrives will be the ability to view web content and third-party apps, as well as interactive notifications.
Of certain interest to readers here will be the advancements that will come with tvOS 12. A recent update to tvOS 11.4 brought AirPlay 2 for stereo pairs of HomePods and multi-room audio, but perhaps the most important new feature will be Dolby Atmos capability. While Apple claimed the Apple TV 4K will be the only streaming product to offer both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, it won’t launch until the fall, leaving the door open for other manufacturers to follow suit. Just as Apple updated existing content purchased through Apple from HD to 4K, the same no-charge upgrade will be offered for Atmos-enabled titles.
For custom installation professionals, a major advancement will be that the Apple TV remote app will be available through Creston, Savant and Control4 systems. Also to come will be more live sports and news.
To date, only Roku has offered apps that allow authorized cable subscribers to replace the set top with a streaming product. That will soon change as Spectrum will be the first to offer IP delivery of cable lineups via Apple TV with Single Sign-On. That means that if a subscriber is using Spectrum’s broadband service, the Apple TV will automatically recognize this and unlock the appropriate channels without further authentication. This in turn should help boost Apple TV sales, enabling it to better compete with OTT apps from Sling, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and the like.
One final note for Mac aficionados: The new Mac OS Mojave will include the addition of HomeKit.