Apple WWDC Keynote and State of the Platform Highlights 2018

The WWDC keynote address, given by CEO Tim Cook, once again kickstarted Apple’s annual worldwide developer conference. In many ways, the upgrades announced in this year’s WWDC keynote felt like an extension of WWDC 2017, albeit with marked improvements and much welcomed additions. Let’s take a look at some of the most important bits of news across iOS and macOS.

Operating System Performance

Having been hit a bit hard in the media this year by reports of intentional system slowdowns on older devices in order to preserve battery life, Apple appears to have taken the frenzy as a catalyst for improving iOS 12 at its most basic level: performance. iOS 12 will run on all devices that can currently run iOS 11 and will tout—according to Apple—noticeable speed improvements across the system including to up to 2x app launch speeds. Now, while it wasn’t mentioned in the keynote about whether or not this will negatively affect battery life, we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment. We’ll wait and see how these claims ultimately pan out, but since they noted that many of these changes will find their greatest benefit on older devices, owners of the iPhone 5—rejoice!

Augmented Reality (AR)

Truly the new hotness, Augmented Reality made another showing in the WWDC keynote with general improvements to display quality, environment scanning, and experience sharing. For starters, with input from Pixar, Apple has released a new file format that is specific for AR. Dubbed usdz files, these animatable 3d models are sharable over the Apple ecosystem and can be placed by users into their own real-space environments. Furthermore, ARKit now supports users sharing a single augmented environment, allowing them to interact with both it as well as each other. Our team has noticed that an important component of AR seems to be a nice big, flat table. We officially predict the iTable coming in 2020.

Machine Learning (ML)

One of the major restrictions of machine learning in the first version of Apple’s CoreML framework was the fact that we, as developers, couldn’t build our learning models on the device while being used. What that means, really, is that the original machine learning implementation might better be called machine knowing. However, with the introduction of CoreML 2, Apple has provided very powerful tools for augmenting existing ML models for improved app performance as well as the ability to train your own models.

Running UIKit on macOS

In what is quite an exciting announcement for iOS developers, macOS will (eventually) support running iOS apps natively. Since iOS’s UIKit and macOS’s AppKit are both mostly built on the same low-level system libraries that have been around since the early days of Mac OS X, this transition into running UIKit apps on a desktop machine is a natural advancement of the technology. Unfortunately, however, Apple has only given us a taste of what is to come, and the tools to actually support this won’t be available until 2019.

Privacy and Passwords

With data leaks from major corporations becoming a seemingly daily occurrence, Apple highlighted some new features during the WWDC keynote that will help users manage the deluge of apps and websites that require passwords. The keychain continues to be improved, and can now create and automatically store your passwords across multiple devices. Furthermore, macOS apps will now follow suit with iOS apps and will require explicit permission from the user to access system resources like Contacts, Photos, the camera and the microphone. Additionally, for users of third-party password apps, Apple announced an extension toolkit allowing these apps to interface with their updated tools.

In Closing

Of course, Apple always includes a swath of fun and quirky updates across their various line of applications. Some of the most notable are group FaceTime chats, competitions between friends on watchOS’s Fitness app, creating custom Animojis (including “Memojis,” designed to look like the user), customized Siri shortcuts, reports on device usage (including parental controls for limiting screen time) and significant improvements to their development tools. All in all, while we don’t think anything from the 2018 WWDC keynote was overwhelmingly cutting edge, Apple has taken the year to return to what they’ve built their reputation on: providing innovative technology as well as unprecedented standards of quality and performance.

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