WWDC21

I want to point out the parts of this year’s WWDC keynote that I found most exciting. This post is essentially my notes, taken while watching it for the second time.

Intro

The intro video is always fun, and I really like this one. It was quirky and cool and funny. I know it was funny because it made my eight year old laugh during my rewatch.

FaceTime

There were several cool FaceTime improvements:

  • Voice isolation seems really cool and useful allowing you to focus on a person’s voice and reduce background noise.
  • I love the idea of Portrait mode in FaceTime. For photos, this feature is often criticized for being imprecise. For FaceTime, however, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Facetime links will be useful for scheduling online tutoring and regular meetings with friends.
  • SharePlay sounds so cool. I just hope it actually works as advertised. I frequently share songs with friends, and I can remember specific times when I’ve waited for them to listen and comment. I love the idea of being able to listen to Apple Music songs together.

Before WWDC, if I could have had only one FaceTime wish, I would have asked for the ability to share my screen. Boom! We got it. This will allow me to move all my online tutoring and friend meetings from Zoom to FaceTime, and it will allow me to better help family members with their devices.

Messages

It is not quite my most used app (that would probably be Safari) and not quite my most beloved app (that would probably would be Accordance or Carrot or Ulysses), but it might be my most used+loved app, if we could combine its score in both categories.

Having recently moved, Messages is the primary way I stay in touch with friends. The collage grouping of pictures shared within messages looks great, and I love how you can flip through them in a sort of digital stack.

Focus

The idea of a dedicated iOS homescreen for work and personal is interesting, but on the whole I keep almost all notifications turned off.

Live Text (iOS)

If this works well, it will be super useful to be able to take a picture of a whiteboard and they easily search, highlight, copy, and paste.

Photo Search in Spotlight

I love this because I have over 30,000 pictures on my phone and throughout the week I frequently refer back to them and interact with them in various ways.

Apple Music & Memories

I regularly enjoy the auto-currated photo memories, and I love using Apple Music. Using them together? That’s a win. I’m happy to see Apple continue to make memories better.

Apple Wallet (iOS)

I use Apple Wallet every day, along with Apple Pay Cash and the Apple Card. I love the idea of having an officially recognized version of my lisence within the app.

Weather

I’m a huge fan of Carrott Weather. If you have spent any time with me over the past few years, you have no doubt heard me praise it and recommend it, probably to the point of annoyance. So, because I love using Carrott and like keeping up with the weather in general, I’m glad to see some significant visual improvements to the default weather app. I didn’t hear it mentioned, but I’m sure there will also be some significant under-the-hood improvements in light of Apple’s acquisition of Dark Sky.

App Library on iPad

I’ve always been a one home screen person. I used to take the time on each iOS device to put the apps I do not use every day into folders. App library on the iPhone meant I never had to do that any more. Sure, the categories aren’t exactly what I would have chosen, but it’s automatic. I’ve enjoyed it on the iPhone, and it’s great to see it come to the iPad.

iPad Multitasking

This looks like the major redesign that everyone wanted but no one really thought they would do this year. For iPad primary users, this is huge.

  • The way in which you enable split-view is more Mac-like and easy to discover and use.

When you select an app to be in split view it slides all the way to the right side of the screen. It stays barely visible and lets you use your home screen to select another app.

  • The way you take one app out of split-view — by simply swiping down — and grab another looks much better.
  • I love the way they are using the center of the screen for apps that can have multiple windows. It is nice that this third window gives you access to the multitasking controls, as well.
  • I like how you can create a split-view from the app switcher by dragging one app over another.

The real cherry on top of this multitasking overhaul: At the very end of this part of the presentation, Craig Federighi said that all of these multitasking features can be enacted using new keyboard shortcuts. That’s awesome.

Swift Playgrounds on iPad

My son is really into learning Python right now. I was super excited to see that Swift Playgrounds is growing from a learn-to-code exploration type app to a place you can actually build an app and preview your work as you go. Interesting.

Notes

I like the activity view added to shared notes. I love Quick Note, but during the demonstration on the iPad it looked a little complicated. At the end of this section, however, Craig Federighi said Quick Note can be used on any device. I’ve been using Tot for a few months and really like it. Is Quick Note as good or better than Tot? We’ll see.

Privacy

I appreciate that Apple regularly speaks of privacy as a company value. I don’t understand the ins and outs of these issues, but it matters to me that Apple regularly says they care about privacy and they invest time in new privacy features.

  • In Mail, hiding your IP address and location sounds good.
  • The app privacy report is cool.
  • Account Recovery is a great feature. I want to setup my grandparents’ accounts with this so that I can help them if they lose their passwords.

I’m most excited to see the rollout of iCloud+. The main new feature, called Private Relay, seems to function essentially as a VPN, making your identity and browsing history anonymous. I’ve wanted a good VPN for years, but most of them cost around $100/year. To have this built in to my iCloud subscription for no extra expense is fantastic.

Universal Control

This was the single most jaw-dropping feature. Every day, I use two Macs side-by-side as I teach. One Mac controls the Zoom-DTEN and the digital portion of my classroom, the other allows me to access dictionaries, documents, attendance, and various other things online while teaching. It is amazing to think that I could control both devices with one Macbook keyboard — moving my cursor across both screens, typing on both with one keyboard, dragging and dropping files from one iPad or Mac to another as though they are two screens connected to the same computer, I couldn’t believe it.

AirPlay to Mac

Over the years, there have been multiple times I have wanted to share something from my iPad or iPhone to a Mac, like it’s a TV, and that is exactly what this makes possible. Love it.

Shortcuts on the Mac

I have never really been a Shortcuts user. The only one I’ve ever used is Federico Viticci’s Frames, which allows me to put an iPad or iPhone frame around a screenshot. Nevertheless, I know that many avid Shortcut users have been wanting Shortcuts on the Mac for years. I’ve heard some say that this is the one thing that would be a significant road block from switching from an iPad-primary workflow to Mac-primary. It’s interesting to hear Craig Federighi say,

Shortcuts is the future of automation on the Mac, and this is just the start of multi-year transition.

I hope I can find a way to use Shortcuts more in the near future.

Safari

The Safari updates updates look great. I LOVE the new compact design.

Tab groups sound VERY useful in light of how I talked about using Safari in this post.

I like the way Safari’s color shifts based on the website you are viewing.

It is really cool to see how they have adapted the way you access tabs and tab groups on the iPhone.

Conclusion

I loved the polished, sophisticated online WWDC presentation. I liked how Craig magically zipped around. It was fun to watch, and from (almost) start to finish I was interested in the new features. The only portions I didn’t rewatch were the Health-WatchOS-Home sections right in the middle and the developer focused announcements at the end.

My first thought and tweet right afterward: “That was the most jam packed WWDC I’ve ever seen.” Hopefully this post gives you a better idea of what I was getting at.

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