A Different WWDC
Every year we look forward to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) because it gives us the opportunity to learn about new technology and to interact with like-minded people. When it became apparent that the conference would not happen in person due to COVID-19, we were both disappointed and curious to see how Apple would respond. Many other conferences we attend, like Google I/O and SXSW, did not have time to modify plans and were forced to cancel completely. But Apple had the benefit of extra time since WWDC is held in June. They were able to pull off the conference as scheduled by moving to a fully remote format.
And pull it off they did! All of the sessions were prerecorded on Apple’s campus which resulted in polished presentations with higher production quality than live sessions. There were no AV snafus or technical problems to cause delay. Without the limitation of scheduling around physical space, sessions could be as long or as short as they needed to be. While some sessions were still close to an hour as they are during the live event, others shared what was needed in 10 minutes or less. The planning and preparation for the online format resulted in a week of focused and nearly flawless sessions.
All session content is made available to developers, whether the conference is held in person or virtually. Therefore, one of the unique benefits of attending in person is time spent with Apple engineers and designers to work on questions and issues specific to our projects. Apple still found a way to accommodate participants remotely. They allowed us to schedule one-on-one remote sessions with their talented staff.
What We’re Excited About
Apple uses the WWDC keynote address to announce new software improvements to each of their 5 operating systems: iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Enthusiasts of Apple products are excited about a number of announcements including the next version of watchOS with a long-awaited sleep-tracking function, as well as a way to automatically detect hand washing and encourage you to do it for the medically-recommended length of time. Also exciting to Apple product users are the improvements made to allow the iPad to function more like a laptop with better support for a keyboard and trackpad and the use of multiple windows at a time.
While the announcements for Apple product users were exciting, the internal upgrades to the processors really intrigued us as developers. It is clear that Apple has been focused on updating the processors in their Mac hardware and refining many of the frameworks that already exist on the OS. When new Macs are released starting this fall, all of Apple’s hardware products will use the same kind of processors designed by Apple, eliminating its dependence on Intel. That change will allow Apple, and by extension, developers like us, to innovate more quickly across all of Apple’s platforms in the future.
As developers, we were keen to the announcements about improvements to augmented reality and machine learning allowing for impressive enhancements for fitness apps. We now have tools to detect different types of activity, which means that apps we build can tell the difference between burpees, lunges, jumping jacks, and a variety of dance moves.
We are also captivated by the widgets coming to the iPhone, iPad and Mac that will allow users to get a quick glance of an app’s data from the home screen of their device without having to launch the app. The widgets give users more flexibility in customizing their home screen in a manner most useful to them. For example, Apple’s weather app will present today’s weather forecast in a widget so that you don’t have to launch the weather app to see whether you’ll need your umbrella.
Last year, Apple introduced SwiftUI, a new tool for building interfaces quickly across all of Apple’s platforms. That framework got even better this year in a variety of ways. The improvement that interests us the most and will most help our clients is around accessibility. Accessibility improvements are always welcome because they make the apps that we build easier to use for people of different abilities. The new SwiftUI framework makes it easier to build apps that are accessible by default, so we won’t have to spend extra time building accessible features. The Swift language continues to improve, making it harder to build apps that crash. We will use both of these features as we develop accessible, crash-free apps for our customers.
All in all, the content from WWDC was still incredibly valuable this year, and we have many more sessions we’ll be watching. But, we definitely prefer the in-person format. We truly missed the personal interactions with other developers, designers, and Apple staff, not to mention the cool annual T-shirt to prove we were there!
As always, it’s important to us to create apps that support and delight users on a daily basis and Apple is making it easier for us to do that. Please contact us to learn more about how our team can turn your app idea into reality.