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Apple Announces Major macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS Updates at WWDC 2016


Apple Announces Major macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS Updates at WWDC 2016
Posted June 13th, 2016

At Apple's annual Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) this year, although there were no new hardware announcements, developers and consumers alike who viewed the Keynote presentation seemed mostly riveted about the new features coming to all of Apple's four platforms (watchOS, tvOS, iOS, and OS X - now called macOS to fit in with the naming scheme of the other operating systems). Whether you are learning about the new updates for the first time, or have watched the Keynote but are still trying to absorb all of the information, we have a detailed walkthrough of the new features announced across all four OSes.

We'll go in the same order as they were discussed in Apple's presentation, starting with watchOS. For starters, watchOS 3 has a big focus on speed improvements - apps should launch a split second after you open them, and instantly have up-to-date information. Apps will also be more fluid and responsive. This is accomplished by keeping your favorite (most used) apps in memory, and allowing background updates. It is also now easier than ever to switch between your favorite apps. Currently, you can double press the Digital Crown to switch between the two most recently used apps. In watchOS 3, however, you can press the side button (below the crown) once to see the "Dock." This is like the app switcher you see on iOS currently when you double press the home button. You can swipe left or right to see all the apps that are open, and you are able to choose which apps appear there. Another feature is the ability to swipe up on the screen when on the watch face to view Control Center, just like on iOS, which now has more information. Messages for the watch has some new features as well. When you get a new message, you no longer need to press "Reply" and then choose how you want to reply, as the options to reply are shown right below the message. There is also a new way to reply called "Scribble," which lets you write with your finger and has it translated into text (anyone remember the Apple Newton from the 90's?). This is ideal if none of the smart replies fit what you want to say, and you are not in an environment where you can use dictation. It works in English and Chinese currently. Now, back to the watch face. There are some new faces. In addition to Mickey Mouse, you can now get a Minnie Mouse face, with outfit colors to match the color of your watch band. There is also a new "activity" face for users who want their activity goal progress to be shown prominently on the watch face. Lastly, there's one called "numerals" which just displays the analog clock hand, as well as the numeral for the hour in large print, whose position moves depending on the time of day. Can't decide which watch face you want? No problem. You can now switch between your favorite watch faces just by swiping! Also, some faces now support (more) complications, so you can have information such as weather displayed on the watch face. Next up, some new apps that iOS users may be familiar with. There is now a dedicated Reminders app for the watch, as well as a Find my Friends app. There are even some great new health features. Press and hold the side button to display your Medical ID, or activate "SOS" which has a countdown timer after which you will automatically be put in touch with Emergency Services (911 dispatch in the U.S.). After you end the call (just force touch the screen), your emergency contacts listed on your Medical ID will be automatically notified with a message, and a map of your current location. The Activity app now lets you share your goals with your friends, if you like to turn it into a competition or just want to check their progress. The app is now also more wheelchair-friendly. The hourly "Time to stand" notification will instead say "Time to roll" for wheelchair users, there are a couple of workouts specifically for them, and the activity rings are better at keeping track of activity for them. There is another new app, and it's called "Breathe." It helps you practice breathing habits in an effort to reduce stress. Other minor new watchOS features include a "quick start" option for the Workout app to bypass setting up a goal, one-tap timers with commonly-used times in the Timer app, and support for Apple Pay within apps (just like on iOS).

Various Apple watches displaying (left to right) the dock, Breathe app, Activity face, Minnie Mouse face, message backgrounds, and activity sharing

Next up, Apple announced the future of the Apple TV with a new tvOS version. There will be an all-new version of the Remote app for iOS, which can now replicate all functions of the Siri remote that comes with your Apple TV. It's been redesigned with bigger, beautiful playback controls, the ability to talk to Siri on the TV through the iPhone, and you can even enter text in a field on the TV using your iPhone's keyboard. So, the Siri remote can be used as a game controller, and can use the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to sense things like tilts or shakes, but what about the iPhone? It has the same sensors, and the remote app can now tap into those, so you can use your iPhone as a game controller. There are also some improvements to Siri: you can now search movies by topic, and it can even search YouTube. There are a number of apps that offer live footage, but you typically have to navigate through some menus in the app before you can get to it. With the new Live Tune-in feature (also available on iPad), just tell Siri, "Watch [app name]," and it will not only open the app, but take you right to the live footage. One other features that users who use apps with subscription service will love is Single sign-on (another feature that will also be available on iOS). No more signing up for each app separately, entering in a code, and then finally viewing your content. With Single sign-on, just sign in once, and it works across all apps. There is now a dark mode for Apple TV, just like on the Mac, which changes some of the light user interface elements to a dark gray. Lastly, if you download an app on iOS that also offers a tvOS app with video playback, it can automatically download to your Apple TV.

Siri can now search movies by category on your Apple TV

Now, the focus turns to OS X - which is very likely the last time that name will ever be used in an Apple Keynote. It will now be called macOS, which Apple says is a more "elegant" name. The version numbering (10.x) will stay the same. We had OS X Yosemite 10.10, OS X El Capitan 10.11, and now macOS Sierra 10.12, also keeping with the California-themed names. So, what's new, aside from the name? There is a big focus on new Continuity features in this release. For one thing, you no longer even have to type in your password to log into or wake up your Mac! Apple Watch owners can optionally unlock their Mac when they are in close proximity to it. Another new Continuity feature is called Universal Clipboard, meaning whenever you copy text images, or anything else, it's ready to paste somewhere else not only on your Mac, but on your other connected devices as well. The same works in reverse - iOS to Mac. Next up, some improvements to iCloud Drive. Now, you no longer need to actually move documents to the iCloud Drive menu in Finder's sidebar to have them sync across your Macs. You can now do it for any folder! Add a file to the desktop on your iMac, and it will appear on the desktop of your MacBook Pro for when you're on the go. Save a file to your Documents folder on your MacBook Air, and then find it in the Documents folder on your Mac Pro when you're ready to work on the big screen. They will even appear in iCloud Drive on the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You can also choose to have iCloud move old files that you haven't used in a while to cloud storage automatically, and even delete files you no longer use at all (such as outdated caches, or even the trash you keep forgetting to empty) if you want, which is likely to free up a tremendous amount of storage space on your Mac. We suggest users make frequent Time Machine backups under any circumstances, but it's especially a good idea in case a file you want to keep accidentally gets deleted. Next, another big feature is Apple Pay, now available on the Mac. It's available on the web through Safari. Just tap the "Buy with  Pay" button on your favorite websites, and then authenticate the purchase with your iPhone using Touch ID (or your passcode), or on your Apple Watch. Speaking of Apple Pay, it will soon be available in more regions than ever - in the next few months, users in Switzerland, France and Hong Kong can pay with Apple Pay. Another nice new feature is tabs. Safari has had tabs more ages, allowing you to have multiple websites open in the same window, and quickly switch between them. In OS X Mavericks 10.9, Finder got the tab treatment as well. Now, in macOS Sierra, many apps have tabs, including some third-party ones. Safari now has a picture-in-picture button, moving the video you're watching to a movable window in the corner of your screen, so you can look at a webpage, go to another app, or even another desktop space and keep an eye on the video. Now, there's one more thing. It's a pretty big deal. As rumors suggested, the ever-popular voice assistant, Siri, as made her way from your iPhone over to your Mac! Just click on the Siri icon in the dock or the upper right of the menu bar, and ask away. You can ask all of the same queries you can on the iPhone, such as "will it rain today?' but also more. You can ask, "how much storage is left on my Mac?" or "show me documents that I worked on last week." You can click the "+" button in the Siri window, and you can even pin the results to the Today view in Notification Center if you need to get to them later.

An example Siri search showing documents saved on the Mac. Click to enlarge

Last, but certainly not least, is iOS. Probably one of the first things you'll notice in iOS 10 is the completely resigned lock screen. Notifications have an all-new look. Also, rather than waking up the display by pressing the home button, you can also use "raise to wake." Just raise your iPhone up to see the notifications on your lock screen. 3D Touch can now also be used on the lock screen for a number of purposes. 3D Touch a notification to see an expanded view, and interact with various apps. Swipe down to access Notification Center, and then 3D Touch the "x" to quickly clear all notifications. You can also access more information from the lock screen. Swipe up to reveal Control Center, and you will see quick access to popular settings, as before. However, you can swipe to the right within Control Center, and you'll see that all music-related controls have a separate screen! You can now also swipe towards the left to quickly open the camera (rather then swiping up on the camera icon in the lower right of the lock screen), or swipe towards the right to access widgets, where you can see weather, top news stories, and more, all from the lock screen (and 3D Touch them to see more). 3D Touch also allows users to do more when pressing an app icon on the home screen, and widgets can now populate there as well upon being firmly pressed. Next up, Siri is also making breakthroughs on iOS. Because third-party developers can now utilize Siri, you can now ask Siri to perform requests relating to apps you've downloaded. Use Siri to summon a ride-hailing service, make a VoIP call, send a message via a third-party app, and more. Next up, Siri is also integrated into the QuickType predictive keyboard. For example, if someone asks "Where are you?" and you want to compose a reply, QuickType is aware of the context thanks to Siri, and the suggestions would include your current location. This also works with contact information, calendar availability, movies, and so much more. Also, it has multi-language support, so you can type in another language without switching keyboards, and it won't try to autocorrect it. Photos is also getting some major updates. It is so much easier to sort your photos thanks to face detection, and object and scene recognition. This means, if there is an iPhone in your picture, you can search your photos for "iPhone," and it would come up. There is also a "Memories" tab, which is a compilation of photos that you took while on a trip, which can be automatically be detected. There are also topics, such as "at the beach," where photos with a common theme are grouped. Photos can now automatically create short video clips complete with music for each of these memories. You can, of course, change which clips are used, as well as the theme and music. Many of these new Photos features are also coming to the Mac and Apple TV. Next up is Maps. Swipe up from near the bottom of the screen to see suggestions for places you often travel to. When using turn-by-turn directions, the map will zoom in or out based on how fast you're going, and how long until the next turn. You can also see traffic conditions while in turn-by-turn mode in the overview, and you can now search along the route - meaning you can see nearby gas stations, restaurants and more with respect to your current route. If there's a lot of traffic, Maps can now suggest an alternate route in real time, and will tell you how much time it will save. Also, in an effort to cut down on distracted driving, drivers with CarPlay-compatible cars can now see the turn-by-turn directions on their instrument panel if the car supports it, instead of having to look over or down at the in-car entertainment system. Also, Maps is now open to third-party developers, meaning that developers can create extensions that can be used within the Maps app. That means if you are looking at a restaurant, you can make a reservation right from the Maps app if you have a third-party extension for it. 

Next up is a redesigned interface for Apple Music, which now has 15 million paid subscribers. The first tab you'll see is the Library section, which has a new menu where you can see just the music you've downloaded to your device. On the "Now Playing" screen, you can scroll down to see the lyrics for the song you're listening to. You can now flick the Now Playing screen down to have it sit at the bottom of the interface while you explore other music. There is a new "Discovery Mix" in the For You category, showing songs picked just for you based on your taste. Check out the new "Browse" tab to see popular music, new music, curated playlists, and even more. The News app also is getting some improvements, including a slightly changed icon. The "For You" section is now divided up into sections, such as Top Stories, Sports, and more. There is also a new Featured Stories, where you can see articles picked by the Apple News editor team. But wait, there's more. You can now sign up for subscriptions through the News app. Lastly, you can sign up to get notifications for breaking news stories, meaning you can see important stories right from a notification on your lock screen. This should make both the 60 million readers and 2,000 publishers happy. Next up, for users who are in on the connected home craze and have HomeKit enabled accessories, there is now a dedicated "Home" app. Now, you no longer need to go between many different apps to control various appliances in your home. They're all available in one place thanks to the Home app. You can turn on the air conditioning, turn off the lights, open the garage door, or activate the security system, all in one place. You can also now access HomeKit devices from Control Center. You can also set up "schemes," such as a nighttime scheme which will change the settings for various appliances all at once. You can even set up a geofence so, for example, you could have the garage door open as soon as you pull up to the house. The Phone app is also getting some new features. There is now a voicemail transcription feature, which translates people's voicemail into text, so you can read it without listening. There is also third-party extension support, so apps can do things like check the number to see if the caller is a spammer. There is also a new VoIP API. Lastly, there are myriad new improvements to the Messages app, which Apple says is the most-used iOS app. One new feature is rich links, which means that when someone sends you a link, a preview image of the page will appear. When you insert a photo, in addition to seeing your recent photos, you'll also see a live image from your camera, and you can take a picture right from the live thumbnail. As for emojis, they now appear three times bigger. There is also an emoji replacement option when you switch to the emoji keyboard, meaning you can tap on a word like "happy," and related emoticons will be offered to replace the word. There are also some bubble effects you can send, which means that recipients will see a little animation when you send them a message. You can have the text appear big and then slowly shrink down to normal size, for example. There is also an invisible ink option, meaning that users will just see a blur or some illegible white pixels until they swipe to reveal your message. There is also a new "tap back" feature, which lets you quickly send a reaction to someone's text, such as a thumbs-up icon (hopefully Facebook won't take that the wrong way). The icon for your reaction will appear in the corner of the sender's message. You can also send handwritten messages, which will animate on the recipient's screen. Digital Touch, which Apple Watch users are probably familiar with, is now available on iOS, so you can send sketches, symbols, or even your heart beat to your friends and family. There are also full-screen effects, so you can do things like having an image or short animation be the background of the conversation, filling up the screen. Whew, looks like it's jam-packed full of new features. But that's not all. Extensions are also available in the Messages app. You can do things like send songs via a message using Apple Music, or you can do a lot using a third party extension, like pay other users with Square via a message, collaborate on a restaurant reservation, or send an eCard with JibJab. Just tap on the app icon next to the text field in a conversation to see a list of apps that support Messages integration. A couple other new features are the ability to collaborate in the Notes app, and a conversation view in Mail which allows you to scroll on to the next or previous message within the same conversation without having to go back and select it, the ability to edit Live Photos, and for Safari on the iPad, a split view allows you to have two webpages open side-by-side at the same time.

New app extensions, photos features, and redesigned lock screen in iOS 10

Lastly, WWDC is an event centered around developers, but if you do not know much about programming yet, Apple is releasing a new iPad app called Swift Playgrounds. This app has goals and objectives designed to teach users how to code in Apple's Swift programming language. It also has a sandbox environment where you can code on the left-hand side, and watch it execute on the right-hand side on the screen.

So, that's it for the Keynote, but Apple left users one other surprise on their website, which we are now going to spoil. It was recently discovered that Apple is introducing an all-new file system across all of its platforms. This format is optimized for flash storage/SSDs, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, snapshots and more.

Now, after learning all about these incredible new features, you are probably wondering when and how you can download these new operating systems, so here you go:

tvOS 10
  • Apple TV (4th generation)
watchOS 3
  • Any Apple Watch model
iOS 10
  • iPhone 5 or later
  • iPad (4th generation), iPad mini 2 or later, any iPad Air or iPad Pro
  • iPod touch (6th generation)
macOS 10.12 (Sierra)
  • MacBook or iMac (Late 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, or Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or later)
This is the first Mac OS release since Mountain Lion (10.8) where the new release requires newer hardware than the previous major release. It also drops support for Apple's discontinued Xserve line.

Now, when you can try these out? Developers can try all four of them today, iOS and macOS as well as the Swift Playgrounds app will be available as a public beta in July, and all four operating systems will be released to the public in the Fall. Enjoy!

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