8 big reveals from Apple’s WWDC 2019

4 Jun 2019

The macOS Catalina in action with a Sidecar feature that combines a MacBook with an iPad. Image: Apple

At its annual WWDC shindig, Apple revealed that its innovation engine is firing on all cylinders.

The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2019 really indicated just how finessed but equally complex the Apple software ecosystem has become and how it really boils down to a delicate and intricate balance of hardware innovation and coding genius.

None of these things on their own – neither the software nor the hardware – are easy, but Apple is Apple because it manages that blend with grace, executes ruthlessly and guards it jealously.

Here are the top things we learned from WWDC that you should know.

1. The new Mac Pro is a 6K and 8K beast

The all-new Mac Pro features workstation-class Xeon processors of up to 28 cores, a high-performance memory system with 1.5TB capacity and eight PCIe expansion slots. It comes with Apple Afterburner, an accelerator card that enables playback of three streams of 8K ProRes RAW video simultaneously.

The company also introduced its new Pro Display XDR, which features a massive 32in Retina 6K display with P3 wide and 10-bit colour, an extreme 1,600 nits of peak brightness, a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and a super-wide viewing angle.

“We designed Mac Pro for users who require a modular system with extreme performance, expansion and configurability,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing. “With its powerful Xeon processors, massive memory capacity, groundbreaking GPU architecture, PCIe expansion, Afterburner accelerator card and jaw-dropping design, the new Mac Pro is a monster that will enable pros to do their life’s best work.”

2. Apple previews macOS Catalina

Every year at WWDC Apple reveals a new desktop operating system that pushes the boundaries, and macOS Catalina is a statement of intent.

A crucial new feature that could be game-changing for productivity-oriented folk is a new Sidecar feature that enables users to extend their Mac desktop by using their iPad as a second display or as a high-precision input device across creative Mac apps.

Predictably, the company has sent iTunes to the digital catacombs and has replaced it with three new apps for consuming content. These include a new Music app for Mac that has access to 50m songs, a new Apple TV app that can recommend 100,000 movies and TV shows, and a new Apple Podcasts app that can connect users to more than 700,000 shows in its catalogue.

3. New ‘Sign in with Apple’ option

Instead of juggling different sign-in options from Facebook or Google, Apple has entered the fray with a new way to sign in to apps, email and websites using Apple ID. Apple will also protect users’ privacy by providing developers with a unique random ID, carrying on the tradition of Apple Pay and using the power of Secure Enclave on devices.

‘Sign in with Apple’ makes it easy for users to authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID, and has two-factor authentication built in for an added layer of security. This could prove to be very handy in Europe when Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) regulations become law.

4. iOS 13 gets Dark Mode

Preview of the new Dark Mode feature in iOS 13 on an iPhone.

Image: Apple

Apple senior vice-president for software engineering, Craig Federighi, revealed a new-look iOS that comes with Dark Mode. This is a new dark colour scheme that will work across the entire iPhone system and is ideal for low-light environments. The company said that Dark Mode is available to third-party app developers to integrate into their own apps. Dark Mode can be scheduled to turn on automatically at sunset or at a certain time.

5. New editing tools for Photos

The Californian software giant also revealed new organisation and photo-editing capabilities powered by on-device machine learning to bring photos to life based on context.

The company revealed that most existing photo-editing tools will now be available for video editing, making it possible to rotate, crop or apply filters within the Photos app.

Portrait Lighting Adjustments can be made within the Camera app to move the light closer to sharpen eyes, brighten and smooth facial features, or push the light away.

A new High-Key Mono effect has also been added to create a monochromatic look for Portrait mode photos.

6. Maps gets 3D photography

The new 3D street level view on the Maps app in an iPhone.

Image: Apple

The Maps app on iOS devices now gets a new Look Around feature that delivers street-level imagery of a city, boasting smooth and seamless transitions. This feature comes after Apple engineers drove 4m miles to rebuild the base map from the ground up.

The new Maps will be available in select cities and states, and will roll out across the US by the end of 2019 and to more countries in 2020.

7. Now hear this: AirPods get slicker

A new feature in AirPods allows Siri to read incoming messages as soon as they arrive, from Messages or any SiriKit-enabled messaging app.

A new audio-sharing feature also makes it easy to watch a movie or share a song with a friend by simply bringing a second pair close to iPhone or iPad.

8. tvOS now supports Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers

Apple showed how deeply tvOS is ingrained in its central nervous system by revealing a slew of new capabilities, including a new Apple TV 4K home screen with full-screen video previews.

An indication of how much Apple is investing in its tvOS platform can be seen in how it now integrates with Apple Music to broadcast onscreen lyrics from favourite songs in sync, with new 4K HDR screensavers filmed in collaboration with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, the team behind Blue Planet.

The news that sparked rousing cheers, however, was the addition of support for Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers.

The company also revealed that Apple Arcade will come to Apple TV 4K, providing a family of up to six with unlimited access to more than 10 new and exclusive games, as well as the ability to play them across iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac and Apple TV devices.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years