Apple proved at WWDC yesterday that its credentials in software are every bit as potent as its prowess at hardware. But there were very obvious hints in the keynote that suggest Apple’s future direction.
The big news from the first day of Apple’s WWDC was undoubtedly the arrival of Apple Music, amazing new features and capabilities in OS X El Capitan, Siri’s maturing capabilities and new multi-tasking, split-screen modes for iOS 9.
But when we think about Apple, we often think about hardware and not software.
Apple – and its developer community – deserves credit where it’s due. Apple’s prowess at software is astonishing.
Think about it – eight years ago it launched the App Store with just 500 apps. An entirely new way of distributing and consuming apps was born, a new way of making money for developers was established and software was transformed forever.
Yesterday, Apple revealed that there are now more than 1.5m apps on App Store and apps have been downloaded 100bn times.
The numbers are mesmerising:
- US$30bn paid to developers
- 83pc of iPhone users are running iOS 8
- There are more than 1m locations accepting Apple Pay
- More than 2,500 banks are now working with Apple Pay
- 55pc of Mac users are running OS X Yosemite, the fastest adoption rate ever for PCs
- Siri receives 1bn requests per week
But while you might have been blinded by the big news, here are the key things you need to notice about where Apple is going next:
Apple’s Proactive will take on Google Now
Apple yesterday revealed Proactive, its competitor to Siri, which will launch with iOS 9. Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craigh Federighi demonstrated how Proactivity is designed to learn all about the user and will offer suggestions based on where you are, who might be ringing you, connects to apps and more. He said that Siri is now serving 1bn requests per week, there is a 40pc reduction in word-error rate to 5pc and Siri is now 40pc faster at responding. Take that Cortana!
Native apps for Apple Watch
Apple Watch has only been on the market about five weeks and already Apple is enabling developers to create thousands of native apps that can run on the new watch without depending on the iPhone. Last night, as well as a whole slew of new watch faces and features like Photos Face and Time-lapse Face, Apple’s Kevin Lynch revealed how app developers with the new version of WatchKit can go even further. For example, as well as new functionality like a Time Travel feature using the device’s crown, app developers can make their own Complications (a nod to a historical horologists’ term) that allow them to serve data like flight times or stock info in a variety of ways. Users can also reply to email and take calls directly through the Watch, and Siri on Apple Watch can be your new fitness companion. Not only that, store cards and reward cards can be redeemed through Wallet on the Apple Watch. Remember, Apple Watch has only been on the market five weeks, so things are moving fast.
Apple enters the news business, aims to take on Flipboard
It’s perhaps bittersweet that it was apps like Flipboard that demonstrated the real power of devices like the iPad for consuming content in a magazine-friendly way. But in true tech industry fashion, Apple could kill one of its darlings with the arrival of its own publishing app called News. “It’s beautiful content from the world’s greatest sources, personalised for you,” said Apple’s Susan Prescott, pointing to the fact that the new app draws its content from more then 1m topics and is working with premium content creators like The New York Times, BuzzFeed and ESPN. The tantalising opportunity for publishers is that via Apple News Format you can just author once and News will optimise your content for all iOS devices.
Apple Pay comes to UK, but not Ireland
Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, revealed that Apple Pay is launching in the UK next month, where it will address about 70pc of the market for credit and debit cards and can be used in more than 250,000 locations across the UK, including paying fares on London Transport. She also revealed that Passbook is being renamed to Wallet on iOS 9, indicating Apple’s greater ambitions to eradicate the use of cash. However, while iPhone users in Northern Ireland will be able to use Apple Pay to buy goods, their Republic of Ireland counterparts will not, since Apple Pay has yet to be activated by banks in the Republic. That said, if you are a UK Apple Pay account holder you will be able to use Apple Pay in the Republic at certain stores, such as KFC, to buy chicken nuggets and bargain buckets
Apple Music is coming to Android
The key ingredient in iTunes’ initial success in the early 2000s was Steve Jobs’ uncharacteristically generous decision to ensure that the iPod and iTunes would work with PCs as well as Macs. There were echoes of this sentiment last night when Apple launched its Spotify-killer, Apple Music. Apple Music will go live on 30 June across 100 countries on Mac and iOS devices. But later this year it will be available on Apple TV and Android phones. That is actually quite a big deal and signals that reports of Apple’s ambitions to amass potentially 100m music subscriptions might be on the money.
Apple creates an app to make it easier to switch to iOS from Android
This was one of the novel announcements that almost slipped beneath the radar. But it’s true. As part of the slew of new iOS features, Apple revealed a new app called Move to iOS that makes the transition from Android to iPhone more seamless. The app allows Android users to wirelessly transfer contacts, message history, camera photos, videos, web bookmarks, email accounts and DRM-free media over to their new iOS device.
CarPlay to go completely wireless
“In the near future you will be able to get into your car without taking your iPhone out of your pocket,” Federighi said in relation to some of the new features in CarPlay. While this does not mean you can use your iPhone to unlock and start your car – yet – it does mean you can probably continue consuming music and keep your settings once you get into the car without having to plug in.
Swift goes open source
Swift is Apple’s software language that allows developers to use a single language to create apps for OS X and iOS. Describing it as one of the world’s fastest-growing software languages, Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped a welcome bombshell when he announced Swift is going open source, creating an endless array of possibilities for app developers. Apple last night revealed that the Swift 2 compiler and the standard library will be made available as open source later this year.
Four hours’ more battery power for iPhone
One of the most welcome developments at WWDC last night was a new set of features in iOS 9 that will give your iPhone potentially three to four extra hours of battery life. Federighi revealed that, firstly, iOS 9 will extend battery life by one hour. But on top of that a new low power mode will extend battery life up to three more hours on top of that by cleverly shutting down things inside your device you didn’t even know existed.
Apple finally adds reproductive health to HealthKit
Federighi also announced a slew of updates for HealthKit, including how it will track how much water you drink, how often you are sitting down, and UV exposure. He also said that HealthKit will finally start offering reproductive health information, which wasn’t included in the original HealthKit. This will bring Apple into the realm of players like Bellabeat and its Leaf device, which monitors personal health, including menstruation.