Apple WWDC21 | Top 10 takeaways from the keynote

The roughly 90-minute virtual WWDC 2021 keynote produced many updates so we make it easy to digest; from FaceTime going universal to granular privacy controls for users

Updated - June 08, 2021 02:40 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2021 11:22 am IST

Top takeaways from Apple's Developer's Conference.

Top takeaways from Apple's Developer's Conference.

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As expected, despite the active rumour mill , Apple’s WWDC announced a groundswell of software-related updates, with no new gadgets in queue. (We will wait for those in the coming months)

Affectionately known as ‘Dub-Dub’ to the devs community, Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off from Apple Park on June 7, 2021. The annual tech meet started in 1987 in Santa Clara and eventually moved to Silicon Valley years down the line.

Read More | Live updates from WWDC21 keynote June 7, 2021

This year, we saw the usual faces – CEO Tim Cook, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, Vice President of Technology Kevin Lynch – and we saw some of the company’s younger executives delving into the finer details.

The roughly 90-minute virtual event produced umpteen updates so we have decided to make it easy to digest and to mark your iCal with some special dates.

1. iOS 15: improved notification system with Focus

Android for the longest time has had a one-up when it comes to notification systems. But Apple has listened to its users and has introduced Notification Summary to collect non-time-critical notifications for delivery at a more opportune time, such as in the morning and evening. Using on-device intelligence, notifications are arranged by priority, with the most relevant notifications rising to the top, and based on a user’s interactions with apps.

To facilitate better digital wellbeing, Focus filters notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on, whether it is ‘Work’, ‘Personal’ or if they want to create a custom Focus. This feature uses on-device intelligence, marking Apple’s newer methods of Deep Learning, to suggest which people and apps are allowed to notify them.

This update is ecosystem-wide, in that when Focus is set on one Apple device, it automatically applies to their other Apple devices. Users can create Home Screen pages with apps and widgets that apply to moments of focus to only display relevant apps and reduce temptation.

2. iOS 15: FaceTime comes with joining links, enables group-media streaming

Looks like Apple has been taking notes from video-meet apps and Netflix Party; Federighi also announces FaceTime links for easy joining and scheduling. It will also be compatible with Android and Windows devices.

SharePlay on FaceTime, lets users listening to songs together with Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync, or sharing their screen to view apps together. SharePlay works across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and with shared playback controls, anyone in a SharePlay session can play, pause, or scrub ahead.

SharePlay even extends to Apple TV, so users can watch shows or movies on a big screen while connecting over FaceTime, and SharePlay will keep everyone’s playback in sync. Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, Twitch, and many others are integrating SharePlay into their apps using SharedAPI.

3. Health app enables Sharing and Trends

A new Sharing tab in the Health app will let users securely share their data with a trusted partner or caregiver. Users have full control over which data they share and with whom, whether they’re an aging parent who shares their activity or heart health data with a family member.

Ideal for users looking to keep an eye on their data over time, Trends will be a new way to intelligently and proactively highlight important changes, and will surface the information in a way that’s easy to understand. Trends can highlight long-term changes in health, so a user can celebrate progress toward a goal, or discuss with a doctor or care team.

4. A new PC-like experience with iPadOS 15

More tablet users want a PC experience. Multitasking is even more intuitive, with improved responsiveness from Split View and Slide Over.

A new facility called Shelf finally allows users to ‘minimise’ applications for better productivity and transitioning between apps.

5. Swift Playground 4 lets iPad users develop apps on the tablet

Thanks to Swift Playgrounds 4 , users will have the tools to build iPhone and iPad apps right on their iPad and submit them directly to the App Store. Code is, in real-time, reflected in the live preview while building apps, and users can run their apps full screen to test them out.

A new ‘open project’ format based on Swift packages can open and be edited in Swift Playgrounds for iPad as well as within Xcode on Mac, offering users even more versatility to develop apps across iPad and Mac.

6. macOS Monterey ushers in Universal Control

In a futuristic move for Continuity features, macOS Monterey users will have the ability to use the same mouse and keyboard across Mac and iPad, with no setup required. Users can even drag and drop content back and forth between devices — great for sketching a drawing with Apple Pencil on iPad and placing it into a Keynote slide on the Mac.

7. macOS Montery: Safari, overhauled

Safari’s browsing experience comes with a new tab design that lets users see more of the page as they scroll. A new tab bar takes on the colour of the webpage and combines tabs, the tool bar, and the search field into a single compact design.

Tab Groups offer a new way to easily save and manage tabs, too. These Tab Groups also sync across Mac, iPhone, and iPad, so users can continue their project from anywhere and easily share and access tabs.

8. New storage subscription: iCloud+

The iCloud+ subscription service comes with ‘Hide My Email’ , a new feature built into Mail, Safari, and other services and allowing users to randomise unique emails that forward to one’s main account. This means one can hide their email from services for increased privacy. iCloud+ also includes unlimited HomeKit Secure Video cameras.

There is also tentpole feature: Private Relay tech that helps obscure a user’s web browsing – much like a VPN. Apple has confirmed that this feature will not be available in select countries, including China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and the Philippines, due to regulatory reasons.

Currently, iCloud users are limited to five cameras per account, but this limit has been removed for iCloud+.

9. WWDC21 special: Xcode Cloud, RealityKit, Testflight for developers

Apple announced that it will let developers use TestFlight to test their apps on the Mac.

The company also announced Xcode Cloud , which lets you test your apps across all Apple devices in the cloud. This tool brings together multiple tasks and tools required to build, test, and deliver apps using powerful cloud services, enabling individual developers and teams to be more productive. Meanwhile, Testflight will let developers test their apps on the Mac.

Devs using Augmented Reality can look forward to RealityKit’s Object Capture , a simple and powerful API on macOS Monterey that enables developers to create high-quality, photo-realistic 3D models of real-world objects in minutes by taking photos shot on iPhone, iPad, or DSLR and transforming them into 3D models optimised for AR.

10. Updated privacy protocols across iOS 15, macOS Monterey, iPad OS 15, watchOS 8

With on-device speech recognition, the audio of Siri requests is now processed entirely on iPhone by default, without relying on an Internet connection.

Health data is also under a user’s control, with granular control over which data types they choose to share and with whom. Data is encrypted when in transit and while at rest on a user’s device when locked behind a passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID. Apple does not have access to this information when a user chooses to share it with a loved one or doctor.

Digital advertisers sneak invisible tracking pixels into emails to detect user activity, but now users can select whether Mail allows these pixels or not. In a VPN-like move, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from learning whether an email has been opened, and even hides IP addresses so senders cannot learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them.

Users can access their App Privacy Report that offers an overview of how apps use the access that has been granted to location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts in the last seven days, and which other domains are contacted.

Safari will hide your IP address from trackers to prevent them from passing along activity and location data across sites you visit. Users can see which trackers are trying to monitor activity with the Safari Privacy Report .

The abovementioned Privacy Reports will give users a sense of how leaky given apps may be.

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