Apple WWDC 2015 Recap: Apple Music, Apple Watch Apps, Open Source Swift And More


The keynote for Apple’s WWDC 2015 opened with some star power as Bill Hader took us through an imaginary dress rehearsal for Monday’s event, complete with a drone serving coffee, “Tim Cook-alikes” and guest spots from comedic actors Matt Walsh and Danny Pudi. WWDC may have opened up with a bang, but did Apple’s new announcements live up to to this hype?

Apple saved its most-anticipated announcement for the end, the launch of its new music streaming service Apple Music, which not only comes with unlimited access to millions of songs on iTunes but also a 24/7 radio station and social network for artists.

The long-rumored reveal wasn’t mind blowing by any means, but considering how much of the digital music market Apple has already owned during the past decade since the launch of the iPod, it seems like Apple Music could be a formidable opponent to current major music streaming services like Spotify, especially since iPhone users may be tempted to use an app native to their main music-listening devices already.

But that was just the grand finale. There were plenty more updates to OS X, iOS, the Apple Watch and other Apple products announced during the two-and-a-half-hour event Monday. Here are the highlights.

OS X

At the top of the keynote, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi introduced the new OS X El Capitan, which includes easier functionality on your desktop and Safari.

El Capitan will bring a bigger, more intelligent Spotlight search that allows you to get results for more specific queries, such as pulling up “documents I worked on last June.” There’s also a new two-window feature, new swipe controls on your trackpad to mark emails as read or delete them, new swipe functionality and interface for Mission Control and the ability to move windows into their own smaller desktop by dragging and dropping windows at the top of your screen.

Split View in Apple's OS X El Capitan.
(Photo : Apple) Split View in Apple’s OS X El Capitan.

Federighi also introduced improvements to Safari with OS X, such as pinning sites at the top of the browser that look like little tabs to access later, the ability to tap to mute and an easier way to find and shut down audio.

Though Metal was announced at last year’s WWDC, the big news Monday was that it will now be coming to Mac. The core graphics technology helps bring faster, more detailed renderings to games. Metal is already integrated into Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, which was demonstrated on stage at WWDC in a new title, Fortnight.

The developer beta for El Capitan is available today, the public beta will be available in July and the free upgrade will arrive this fall.

iOS 9

Updates to reminders, search and Siri in iOS 9.
(Photo : Apple) Updates to reminders, search and Siri in iOS 9.

Though 83 percent of iPhone users are using the current iOS 8, some major improvements will soon be coming with Siri is one of those major areas of improvement. In addition to the software’s new interface, Siri will be able to recognize more exact commands, including showing more specific photos for the library and giving you reminders in certain locations, like your car.

iOS 9 will also create better synergy between the various parts of your device, such as automatically bringing up the “Now Playing” screen right when you plug in your headphones, putting events from your email directly into your calendar and suggesting who a caller not in your contacts might be based on detecting it in your email. This new OS will also include an improved search with suggestions based on the time of day and news.

 

And in case this is all sounding a little too 1984 for your liking, Federighi emphasized that all of this information used by iOS 9 will come from and stay on your device and won’t be out and about in the cloud or shared with third parties, something that famously caused a panic among Apple users less than a year ago.

iOS Apps

iOS 9 adds a new Transit feature to apps
(Photo : Apple) iOS 9 adds a new Transit feature to apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that 100 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store since its launch seven years ago, but updates to several already existing apps announced during WWDC Monday might have you revisiting these oldies but goodies. Notes has been upgraded to include a toolbar with better formatting options, easier access to photos and drawing tools. Maps will now better cater to urban dwellers with Transit, featuring information about mass transit lines, departure times and directions.

Apple also announced updates to what your phone can do outside the palm of your hand, namely in your home and your car. HomeKit’s functionality has been expanded to control a bunch of new smart home products, including home security systems and mechanical blinds. You’ll even be able to control your home from outside of your home. CarPlay will also soon work with other parts of your vehicle, and it now lets you connect wirelessly.

Apple also announced a new app called News, which creates a more personalized news experience, presenting you with stories based on what kind of content you want to look at. The content comes from a variety of news outlets, including The New York Times, ESPN and People magazine, and it is presented in a unique Apple News format. News will be available in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay in iOS 9.
(Photo : Apple) Apple Pay in iOS 9.

Apple Pay’s reach seems to be ever-expanding, which the announcements about the company’s mobile payment tool at WWDC 2015 only serve to underscore. There are now more than 2,500 banks that support Apple Pay with more than 1 million merchants accepting the service by next month. Discover will be the next major credit card coming to Apple Pay, launching in the fall. An Apple Pay option will also be available in the Pinterest app later this month.

Apple’s Vice President of Internet Services Jennifer Bailey also announced that Apple Pay will be launching in the U.K. in July with eight of the country’s most popular banks and more than 250,000 merchant locations supporting it. Commuters will also be able to use Apple Pay on the London Transport System, which, as one of the world’s largest metro systems, is kind of a big deal.

iOS 9 will also get rid of Passbook and replace it with the much more aptly named Wallet, which will serve pretty much the same purpose of holding all of your debit, credit and rewards cards in the same place.

iPad
Split View on the iPad in iOS 9.

(Photo : Apple) Split View on the iPad in iOS 9.

iOS 9 will bring a lot of fun and convenient features to the iPad, including Multitasking, which will allow you to have split screens on the tablet, a multiapp/multitouch function for the first time ever, a QuickType keyboard for faster and easier editing of text and a picture-in-picture display for video.

Swift

The audience of developers at WWDC 2015.
(Photo : Apple) The audience of developers at WWDC 2015.

Apple launched Swift during last year’s WWDC, which might have been a tough act to follow if it weren’t for the fact that the company announced that the programming language for iOS would be open source, which unsurprisingly got the biggest applause from the audience full of developers at WWDC 2015. Swift will work in iOS, OS X and Linux. The developer beta was released Monday, which will be followed by a public beta in July and rolled out as a free upgrade in the fall.

watchOS

The Nightstand Mode on the Apple Watch.
(Photo : Apple) The Nightstand Mode on the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch was only released about six weeks ago, but the company has already announced improvements to the OS at this year’s WWDC.

Many of these include updates to the watch’s aesthetic, such as new watch faces featuring photos, customized information from third-party apps or a nightstand mode for when you’re sleeping. WatchOS will also have a new Time Travel function that allows you to rotate the device’s crown and see what’s coming up in the future within 72 hours, such as events in your calendar or changes in the weather. You’ll soon be able to reply to emails and FaceTime with your Apple Watch as well.

You’ll be better able to control apps using your Apple Watch, just as you would with your phone, such as using Siri to control smart home objects and using Apple Pay features like Wallet. Health and fitness apps will also be more comprehensive.

The new watchOS is now available in beta for developers and will be available to everyone for free in the fall.

Apple Music

Drake helps introduce Apple Music at WWDC 2015.
(Photo : Apple) Drake helps introduce Apple Music at WWDC 2015.

The final announcement during WWDC was for the aforementioned Apple Music, Apple’s new music streaming service that will try to rival Spotify when it officially launches June 30. A $9.99 per month subscription gets you access to stream the millions of songs on iTunes, the 24/7 worldwide radio station Beats 1 and the social network for artists to connect with fans, Connect. This will live as one single app whose interface is sleeker and has a greater resemblance to the desktop version of iTunes. Unsigned artists can share their music in Apple Music as well.

Apple Music purports to be a more personalized music experience, with music experts curating suggestions for you based on your preferences and what you’ve listened to in the past. Siri can also be used to play specific tracks or playlists from Apple Music.

Apple Music’s competitive price and wide selection of music along with its emphasis on personalization and curation seems like it’s almost a combination of two of the biggest names in music streaming services right now, Spotify and Tidal. Will this best-of-both-worlds approach allow Apple Music to emerge victorious in the battle for digital music supremacy? Stay tuned.

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