Apple WWDC 2018: Are iOS and macOS on a collision course?

5 Jun 2018236 Views

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Apple CEO Tim Cook kicks off WWDC 2018. Image: Apple

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The merging of iOS and macOS is becoming increasingly obvious, even if it is not official.

While Apple appears tight-lipped on the matter, the cross-fertilisation of apps that run on both iOS and macOS is becoming hard to ignore.

At Apple’s WWDC 2018 developer shindig in California, software chief Craig Federighi announced the latest Apple desktop operating system, macOS Mojave, which will include four apps from the iOS mobile platform, including Home, Stocks, News and Voice Memo.

“There are millions of iOS apps out there. We think some of them would look great on the Mac,” said Federighi.

Tellingly, that’s as far as Apple will go on the matter, but it confirms something that we have suspected for years: that iOS has been influencing the shape of macOS and it is only a matter time before the two become one.

WWDC is an annual reminder of just how Apple really gets software. Yes, it is known for its innovative hardware like the Mac, the iPhone or iPad, but the company does dig deep when it comes to authentic coding and app creation.

This was abundantly clear when Federighi showed off a new app called Measure, a kind of augmented reality ruler that uses all the sensors in the iPhone, along with the in-built camera, to accurately measure the size of real-world objects. He said that this represents the closed hardware-software loop enshrined by Apple in full throttle.

So here were the top announcements from WWDC:

iOS 12

Craig Federighi introduces iOS 12. Image: Apple

Craig Federighi introduces iOS 12. Image: Apple

“With iOS 12, we’re enabling new experiences that weren’t possible before,” said Federighi. “We’re using advanced algorithms to make AR even more engaging and on-device intelligence to deliver faster ways to get things done using Siri.”

The key new developments in Apple’s mobile operating system will include shared AR experiences, new Memoji and Animoji characters, group FaceTime and Siri Shortcuts.

The main difference users are expected to notice will be in terms of performance, with Apple promising camera launches that will be 70pc faster as well as speed improvements to keyboard and responsive typing.

As well as the new camera effects, like comic book and watercolour, iOS 12 will come with a new Group FaceTime feature that allows participants to join the conversation anytime whether they are using an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch.

A new Siri Shortcuts app allows users to create a simple voice command to suggest an action from different apps. (Think of it as modern spell-writing.)

Screen Time

Apple revealed vital new parental controls in its new Screen Time feature. An account-based service that works across all of a family’s iOS devices, it allows parents to set screen time settings for their child within a family sharing group.

Using the new feature, parents can access their child’s activity report, see how there are spending their online time and then set app limits for them.

For example, parents can schedule a time when a child’s iOS device cannot be used, such as during the school day or homework time, or at dinner time or bedtime.

macOS Mojave

Image: Apple

The next version of macOS will be called macOS Mojave, meaning Apple is moving from mountains to deserts in its etymology.

The key differences will include a new dark mode setting that inverts the colours of the display to make everything easier to read. Similar to iOS, the wallpaper, apps and desktop will adapt depending on the time of day.

Another neat addition (no pun intended) is a new Stacks feature that helps free users up from clutter by stacking all desktop documents in neat groups by format or file type.

“MacOS Mojave is a major update that introduces powerful new features for a wide range of Mac users, from consumers to pros,” said Federighi.

“Dark Mode brings a dramatic new look to macOS that puts your content front and centre, familiar iOS apps come to the Mac for the first time and the redesigned Mac App Store makes finding new apps easier and more enjoyable than ever.”

ARKit

You get the sense that Apple wants to dominate the AR world but is going about it in a clever, nuanced way.

At WWDC, the company unveiled ARKit 2, its development platform for AR apps.

This includes new tools to integrate shared experiences, persistent AR experiences tied to a specific location, object recognition and image tracking, and making AR apps even more dynamic. Designed in collaboration with Pixar, a new open file format (USDZ) makes it easy to experience AR nearly anywhere in iOS – including apps like Messages, Safari, Mail, Files and News – delivering powerful graphics and animation features.

Privacy

Apple also intends to be a leader in the new GDPR-defined privacy world. New privacy features in Safari include enhanced Intelligent Tracking Prevention which helps block social media ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons and comment widgets from tracking users without permission.

Safari now also presents simplified system information when users browse the web, preventing them from being tracked based on their system configuration.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com