12 amazing things we learned from Apple’s WWDC 2016 keynote

14 Jun 2016

Here are the 12 developments that impressed us the most from the 2016 Apple WWDC keynote in San Francisco

As usual, 2016’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote contained a mix of the expected and unexpected, with a whole new MacOS Sierra and a massive iOS 10 update coming our way.

As the big reveal wound down, you could sense a shake in Apple CEO Tim Cook’s voice: “I couldn’t be more proud and excited about the incredible advances across all our platforms.”

While there were no hardware reveals, you get the sense that Apple is working to get the most out of the advanced silicon that exists in devices from the Apple TV to the iPhone 6s smartphone.

‘We believe coding should be a required language in all schools’

Apple revealed updates across all of its four key software domains: TvOS, MacOS, iOS and WatchOS.

Here are the key things we learned.

1. Apple wants to teach the whole world to code

If you looked closely at the audience, there was a huge contingent of schoolkids and it’s clear that Apple is on a coding mission. Among the big reveals was a new app called Swift Playgrounds, which is designed to teach people – kids and adults alike – how to code using the Swift programming language. Apple will launch a public beta next month with a full release when iOS 10 ships in the autumn. “We believe coding should be a required language in all schools – we are going to make Swift Playgrounds free,” Cook promised.

2. You will soon control your house with your voice


Apple last night announced refinements to HomeKit in iOS 10, making it less cluttered but also capable of interacting with most internet of things (IoT) devices for the home. When iOS 10 debuts in the autumn, it will come with a new app called Home, which is pretty much a dashboard for controlling the devices in your home. As Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi revealed, integrated with the power of Siri, you can use your voice to automate everything from unlocking the front door to turning off and on lights. For example, by saying “goodnight” Siri and Home will start turning off thermostats, lights, locking doors and more, and by saying “good morning” or “I’m home” it will start turning on your favourite things, perhaps warming the shower or brewing the coffee via your favourite IoT gadgets.

3. iOS is really the leading OS in the Apple camp

In all, there were around 10 vital features revealed in iOS 10, ranging from new capabilities in the lock screen, a new QuickType keyboard, new capabilities in Photos, Intelligent Suggestions, new driving features in Maps and with CarKit and a whole lot more. What was clear about last night, in terms of how services like Apple Pay and Siri eventually filtered to the desktop, is that Apple is fundamentally a mobile-first organisation and iOS is the incubation engine for all new products and services to emerge from Apple.

4. AI looms large at Apple


While Apple doesn’t really shout a lot about artificial intelligence or machine learning, it is probably the most zealous advocate of these technologies. For example, in the new Photos app that will arrive in iOS 10, the company said it will take advantage of advanced computer vision, deep-learning techniques and facial recognition, as well as the advanced silicon in iOS devices to come up with incredible new capabilities. Apple’s internet services chief Eddy Cue explained that, for example, when a photo is taken, some 11bn computations per photo will take place to detect objects and features in the photo to lead to more powerful searching on the device.

5. Siri is coming to the Mac

Yes, you read right. In MacOS Sierra, you will be able to talk to Siri in the same way you can on your iPhone, but perhaps do a lot more “computing” stuff, such as search through your files, save searches to the Mac’s notifications centre, schedule reminders, open apps, and a whole lot more. Another nifty feature will be new features in Continuity, where if you are wearing an Apple Watch your Mac will automatically unlock when you step up to it.

6. Apple Pay is coming to Mac and the web


Like most things Apple does, the obvious and inevitable developments somehow appear magical. It was a no-brainer that Apple Pay would wind its way onto the Mac or the web, but the way Apple has done it is quite interesting. A Safari update will let users use Apple Pay to buy goods. Where this gets interesting is you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to authenticate payments. Now that is snazzy.

7. There are 10.1bn documents on iCloud Drive and soon you will be able to share desktop documents across all iOS, Mac and even Windows devices

Yes, that’s right. Apple is adding a new feature to make file management much easier over iCloud, enabling users to sync their desktop and documents folders between multiple devices, such as other Macs, iPads, iPhones and even Windows PCs via the iCloud app for Windows.

8. Apple Music has been rebuilt from the ground up

Eddy Cue revealed that Apple Music has in its first year amassed 15m paying subscribers, making it the fastest-growing music service of all time. Not willing to rest on its laurels, he said that Apple has rebuilt the app from the ground up with a new Music app interface and a new design. The “For You” interface has been revamped to show a lot more information and a new design language that lets music be the hero. For You features a new discovery mix, recently played and daily curated playlists and there’s even support for lyrics to accompany tunes. The Radio tab has also been refreshed to make it easier to view on-demand Beats 1 content.

9. Apple News gets redesigned

Apple is settling into its stride as a major news vendor and there are now more than 2,000 separate publications on Apple News and over 60m users reading their news. Apple last night launched a new design for Apple News that includes stories picked by editors, as well as a new subscriptions feature that lets users access every article from their favourite magazine, such as National Geographic or TIME.

10. Apple is opening Siri and Maps up to developers

WWDC is a developers event, after all, and developers are only too eager to get their hands on the newest capabilities. Apple last night revealed that it is opening up its voice AI agent Siri to developers to enable them to integrate with apps, so users can order pizzas by talking to their phones for example, or check the status of a delivery from an online fashion retailer. On a similar vein, Federighi revealed that, as well as new driving features in Maps in iOS 10, Apple is opening up Maps to developers so within maps users can find a restaurant, book a reservation and find a car through services like Uber without leaving Maps.

11. We get the message, Apple loves emojis

One of the biggest reveals from last night was the major overhaul that is coming to iMessage, all enabled by the new QuickType interface. As well as emojis being made larger, people will be able to share songs directly from Apple Music and even send messages to each other in their own handwriting. If anything, Apple is turning iMessage into a competitor to Facebook Messenger, with snazzy new features such as the ability to add animated effects and even hide messages behind invisible ink effects that won’t reveal themselves until rubbed over.

12. Apple’s app economy is enormous

Tim Cook announced that Apple now has 2m apps in the App Store. Apps have been downloaded some 130bn times since the launch of the App Store in 2008 and Apple has paid out nearly $50bn in revenue to developers.

San Francisco bridge image via Shutterstock

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