Apple‘s Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off today in San Jose, and the conference starts with a keynote by CEO Tim Cook and other execs. My colleague Jon Swartz has previewed the show in this week’s magazine. You can follow along with the proceedings with Apple’s watch the live-stream of the keynote. Also have a look at 11 things we’d like to see at the conference but won’t.
We begin with a humorous, cinematic trailer about the “Bay Area.” Shots of mammalian species “the developer” proceeding to the conference, “nocturnal, cave-dwelling creatures,” as the voice-over says. Apple’s software lead Craig Federighi is the “silver-crested king developer.” Apple engineers are “enlightened shaman.” And CEO Tim Cook takes to the stage. Cook says Apple now has over 20 million developers. The App Store has 500 million weekly visitors.
And this week, another milestone, the money developers have earned will top $100 billion from the App Store, says Cook. “This is beyond remarkable.” He says Apple’s Swift programming language is the “fastest growing programming language out there.” There are over 350,000 apps written in Swift on the App Store. “Today is all about software,” says Cook.
iOS Version 12
Craig Federighi is up on stage. iOS 12 is the new free, software update to developers this week. He notes iOS 11 supports devices back to 2013. We love the way customers race to update to the latest release,” says Federighi. Comparing iOS’s 81% adoption rate to Android‘s 6%, “it’s hard to say they really have a a software update model,” he says. iOS has the fastest adoption, but more important is customer satisfaction. Customer sat is at 95%. “We are doubling down on performance,” he says. Version 12 will support devices all the way back to 2013, like version 11 did.
On the iPhone 6-Plus, for example, apps will launch up to 40% faster. The keyboard comes up 50% faster. “Our deepest focus this year is optimizing the system when it is under heavy load,” says Federighi. “We worked in tight collaboration with our chip team.” “CPUs tend to slowly ramp up their clock speed,” notes Federighi. “In iOS 12, we are much smarter: when you begin scrolling or opening an app, we ramp up the CPU to its top clock speed.”
Augmented Reality with Measure App
Next up, augmented reality. Big excitement for that from the crowd. Federighi says Apple has developed a standard file format for sharing AR data, called “USDZ.” He invites up Adobe‘s CTO, Abhey Parasnis, who says the company will be building the USDZ into the company’s apps such as Photoshop. iOS 12 has a new app, “Measure.” Federighi demonstrates drawing a measuring tape along a suitcase — a familiar AR demo for years now.
He shows a picture of himself as a baby, and he’s able to measure the dimensions of the photo. ARkit 2.0 has support for new abilities such as “persistence,” to have a continued interactions with virtual objects, and “multi-user augmented reality.” One of the developers selected to work with the new code is Lego. Using 3-D object detection, the physical Lego model is able to be extended on the screen of an iPad. Two individuals with iPads, looking at the physical model, are seeing the same “augmented” view of it on their iPad, complete with characters and vehicles that move around the physical building.
Stock check: Apple shares are up $2.70, or 1.4%, at $192.94.
Enhancements to Photos
Next, Photos. “Over a trillion photos are captured on iPhone each year,” says Federighi. New features in search such as searching on multiple terms at once. “We have an all new tab, for you,” in the Photos app, called “For You.” “It includes ‘featured photos,’ featuring a photo you took on a day in past years.” Or applying a new “portrait effect” to one of your photos. Our focus is on sharing great photos with the people you care about most.
Sharing sugestsions: Imagine you’ve gone to a great dinner with friends. You’ll see a suggestion to share those photos. Photos is recommending a set of photos you might want to share, and who you might want to share them with based on who’s in those photos.
Siri Opens Up
Next up, the Siri assistant. “Over 10 billion requests are processed per month,” says Federighi. A new app opens up Siri to other apps, “Shortcuts.” “Any app can expose quick actions to Siri,” says Federighi. “If you order a coffee every morning, an alert on the iPhone screen will pop up and you can place your coffee order from the shop.
Users will be able to create their own shortcuts, via its own dedicated app. You can create a shortcut for “surf time,” which will fetch info about surfing weather conditions. Things such as a hotel booking can be added to Siri with a key phrase such as “travel plans,” and then recalled by saying back the phrase to Siri.
The Stocks App Becomes Financial News
Next, Apps! Federighi brings up Apple exec “Susan,” who goes through some app updates. There’s a big push for the financial news: Apple has “completely re-built the Stocks app.” Apple’s “Apple News” app has been added to stocks, so you see “the top stories in stocks, featuring business news curated by the Apple News editors.” “Tap on any stock to see an interactive chart with after-hours pricing.”
Fighting Distraction, Setting Limits
Next, Federighi wants to talk about distraction. A humorous photo of a woman fixated on her phone while her child is flying of the swings in the background. “It’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds lately.” “Some apps demand more of our attention than we might even realize,” says Federighi. “They beg us to use our phone when we should be focusing on something else.”
“For some of us, it’s become such a habit we might not recognize how distracted we’ve become.” The solution? One is a new app called “Screen Time.” It shows charts of all your use of the phone. “It empowers you with insight and control over how you spend your time,” says Federighi. “You get a full activity report, including how your use breaks down during the day.”
You can set limits for your usage. “If you see an app where you might want to be spending a little less time, you can set your own limit. You’ll receive a helpful notification letting you know time is almost up.” The screen shows a reminder, “It’s time to move on.” Big applause for that. Parents get a copy on their device, and can create allowances. You have many options. One is “downtime,” and you can also limit individual app use by kids.
Making Custom Emojis
Next up: Animojis! “I’m trilled today to announce the arrival of the era of Memoji. Create your own personalized Animoji!” Showing a demo of the app to create your Memoji. This looks both like Bitmoji from Snap (SNAP), and also like Samsung Electronics‘s (005930KS) software on the Galaxy S9, released in March.
Next up, Apple’s conferencing app, FaceTime, takes “a big leap forward,” says Federighi: Group FaceTime! Up to 32 people can participate in a video chat. Tiles floating in the screen for each participant change size as someone becomes the speaker.
Apple Watch Enhancements
And now, Tim Cook is back up for Apple Watch. A moving story of a woman who was swimming with her husband who used her Apple Watch to call 911 to save her drowning husband. Cook introduces WatchOS 5. Kevin Lynch is on stage to discuss the details. Apple Watch: Lynch talks fist about health and fitness uses. Apple has studied over 6 terabyte of data from tests subjects doing over 60,000 hours of use of the watch, which Lynch says is the largest data study of its kind.
Among new features are a special workout for yoga, and for hiking, and “Awards” for people who are competitive about their workouts. Workouts can now track your “rolling miles” and your “cadence.” Based on your vitals, the watch can start and stop tracking workouts automatically. Lynch said Apple is adding “Walkie Talkie,” a new app on the watch. You choose who to communicate with, and the person receives a one-time request to accept a communication. You press to talk and your friend hears your voice, “just like a walkie talkie.”
Lynch says Apple watch is adding “social cues” for Siri: You no longer need to say, “Hey, Siri,” you just raise your wrist and Siri is engaged listening for your command. Apple Watch can now stream podcasts, and can show you snippets of Web content that show up in mail or messages. You no longer need to pull out your phone to see a glance of the content.
The Watch now lets apps do more without your having to open the app, from a notification, say, says Lynch. Through a partnership with Duke University and other schools, the Watch will add student ID cards, so you can pay for “snacks, laundry or dinners” with the watch. For pride month, , Apple’s offering new rainbow straps and rainbow watch face.
Craig Federighi is back on stage to discuss the next version of MacOS for the Mac computer line, “Mojave. One of the key features is “Dark Mode.” All the screen window elements turn a dark grey. Federighi points out it’s great for photos, but also for reading email or browsing album art in the iTunes program. And for developers! A screen shot of the inverted code text draws big cheers from the crowd.
Another new feature: “desktop stacks,” which scoops up all the documents sitting on the desktop and separating them into groups that sit under one icon. To see things in Finder now, there’s a new form of visualization: “Gallery View.” This looks rather like the “Coverflow” view, only different…
Federighi demonstrates how the “Continuity” capability has been extended. You can use your iPhone to capture a photo and have it linked into a document in an app on the Mac. It works with both photo and video capture. A few new apps are coming over from iPhone and iPad to the Mac: Apple’s News app is now a Mac App, as is the Stocks app, and the Voice Recorder for taping audio. And the “Home” app for controlling home devices.
Fighting Data Companies’ ‘Fingerprinting’
Next, Federighi wants to talk about privacy and security. “We think you should be in control of who sees it,” he says of personal data. Federighi says the Apple is “shutting down” various “Sharing” and “like” hooks into apps, because “they can be use to track you whether you lick on them or not.” The company is also combatting “Fingerprinting,” how advertisers track you. “Data acompanies are clever and relentless,” says Federighi. “They use a method called fingerprinting.”
“It turns out, when you browse the Web, your device can be identified by a unique set of characteristics, like fonts you’ve installed, or the plug-ins you have.” “These data companies can track your activity from site to site.” “We are making it much harder,” says Federighi. “We are going to be showing a simplified profile for your device, such as showing only built-in fonts.” As a result, “Your Mac will look more like every other Mac.” Again, big applause for that.
Next up is Apple’s graphics rendering technology, “Metal.” There are one billion devices running the technology, says Federighi. Combined with multiple GPU chips, Metal lets a computer dramatically speed up tasks by as much as 8.5 times, he notes.
This leads to a discussion of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and a new programming tool, “CreateML.”
Using the code, one can use one’s own Mac computer to “train” machine learning models, says Federighi. “You can do training on the Mac you already have,” says Federighi.
“You can accelerate learning up to 20 times with,” he says, on common industry “frameworks” such as “Turi” and “TensorFlow” and “ONNX.”
“You no longer have to be an expert in machine learning to build those techniques into your app,” says Federighi.”
Not Merging the Mac and the iPhone
For the last portion of his presentation, Federighi tells the audience that “Every year, people keep asking, Are you merging iOS and MacOS?” “No!” he says, to much laughter. But, he offers a “sneak peek” of a coming set of technologies to unify aspects of development on the Mac and the i-devices. One will be able to develop an application across two “frameworks” user interface, the Mac’s “AppKit” and the iPhone/Ipad “UIKit.”
Coming next year, developers will be able to use the new technology to group development for the two kinds of devices. Tim Cook is back on stage to cue up the video testimonial of developers, an interesting array of people who have built code for a variety of situations, solving diseases, helping global good, etc.
And that’s a wrap! Apple shares are up $1.69, or 0.9%, at $191.93.