Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference kicked off Monday (June 22) with Apple announcing new developments for its ever-expanding ecosystem.
New software is coming soon to iPhone, iPad, Mac Computers, Apple TVs and Apple Watches — and old partnerships are evaporating as Apple has announced that mature Macs will us chips made by Apple instead of Intel. Developers, too, will now have the ability to challenge App Store guidelines.
The new developments were announced via a pre-recorded keynote presentation by Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple’s Cupertino campus as WWDC as a live event was a casualty of COVI-19 this year and the conference was held remotely. In previous years as many as 6,000 developers would gather in California to hear about the latest and greatest advances coming to the Apple ecosystem. However, this year, Apple moved to distribute videos and set up calls instead of hosting its typical live event.
And with lots of new features and capabilities to announce across its entire line-up of products, Apple executives had plenty to say about the next software evolutions. But also standing out loudly to some watchers, what Apple didn’t have to say, specifically when it came to the optic of their app store policies.
The Attention-Grabbing Upgrades
Getting a lot of attention out of the WWDC keynote is the upcoming version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, which will now allow users to pin updating widgets on the home screen, including calendar and maps mini-programs. Currently, only apps can appear on the iPhone home screen, and the new feature will allow users to drag widgets to the home screen real estate, where it will persist. It will also come with an App Library feature designed to automatically organize apps and allow users to delete entire pages of apps in a single tap or browse similar apps to ones already downloaded.
The new OS version also comes with various upgrades to Apple’s message platform, and a redesign of the Siri interface to better show off what Apple referred to as Siri’s expanded knowledge set.
Also snagging a lot of interest are Apple’s announced updates coming soon to its CarPlay software package that enables an iPhone to pair with a supported head unit so users can control their iPhone while driving. Most notably, the latest version will add digital car keys in iOS 14 and iOS 13, to enable iPhone owners to use their phone as a car key that can unlock and start their car. The first car to support Apple’s digital car key will be the 2021 BMW 5-series, due to be released next month. Interestingly, iPhone owners can share their digital keys via the iMessage platform and use iCloud to deactivate shared digital keys. Apple noted it is working with industry groups to create a standard that would allow its digital key feature to be embedded into more cars — a standard it expects to be released sometime in 2021.
Also getting an upgrade is the software for the Apple Watch — which going forward will have the ability to track user sleep patterns using a machine learning model that senses motion at night. The phone will also level up its abilities as a sleep aid: It includes features for sleep and new alarm features.
Apple also announced the addition of new “complications” to its Apple Watch software, which enable features to be displayed directly on a watch’s interface. The Workout watch app will heretofore be known as the Fitness app and will now include dancing as a workout feature.
The newest version of Apple Watch software will enable users to share their watch face with other Apple Watch wearers.
The App Store Issues
Somewhat surprising to Apple fans, the firm offered no updates on AR technology despite many predictions such an update was coming on the software side. The speculation follows an uptick in rumors that Apple is planning the release of an AR device in the next few years.
What was widely considered the most “shocking” news of the day — Apple taking over making chips for its Mac computers from Intel — was also one of the more widely expected. However, the two-year timeline of transition announced did come as a surprise to many for its speed.
And yet, for all Apple had to say on its coming software changes — there were subjects watchers were left wanting to hear a bit more about. Apple stayed pretty far away from what MarketWatch called the “buzzworthy” subjects that have drawn regulatory interest in Europe, namely Apple’s practices around the App Store and Apple Pay and whether it is essentially forcing users of its operating system to rely on its apps, in the same kind of operating bundling system case that saw Microsoft dinged by a massive E.U. fine in the early days of the 21st century.
Apple did announce that developers would now have the power to challenge Apple’s guidelines its employees use to determine whether an app is appropriate for the App Store.
“Developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself,” Apple said in a statement. That change is expected to be implemented this summer.
Judging by some of the changes announced for OS14 (like allowing users to set a default email app other than apples), and reconfigurations of the apps on the iPad, those at least indicate that Apple is quietly modifying its ecosystem as it attempts to stay out of regulators’ crosshairs.