In terms of priority, Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is second to the autumn iPhone launch. This year, though, with iPhone sales down for the first time in a decade and the smartphone market seemingly plateauing, WWDC 2019 took on whole new meaning when Apple home automation, along with system and product updates, became a topic of discussion.
More developers than ever before descended upon the San Jose Emery Convention Center in San Francisco, hungry to see what Tim Cook would unveil. Despite those stagnating iPhone revenues, a 33% growth in the company’s services business means there are exciting times ahead for the Cupertino giant. Cook proclaimed that “Today, we moved all our software platforms forward.”
So, whether you’re wondering if Apple will fully commit to smart homes or if you're just hungry for a curated look at the highlights of WWDC 2019, you’re in for a treat today.
We’ll break down the contents of the keynote and other updates across the following areas:
- Single Sign-On: Privacy Uppermost
- HomeKit Lowdown
- Major Software Updates Across All Platforms
- HomePod Smartens Up
- Siri Rebooted
- All-New Powerhouse Mac Pro
- Pro Display XDR
1) Single Sign-On: Privacy Uppermost
Privacy continues to be a vast and divisive issue within the smart home space.
The more devices and appliances you allow into your home, the more pressing worries present themselves.
How will the data collected be used?
Is the tech safe, or does it expose you to security vulnerabilities?
It’s no secret Apple often contrasts itself with Facebook and Google. It typically assumes a slightly superior stance having not faced quite the same scrutiny over data handling as its competitors have.
So, upping the ante once more, Apple announced a single sign-on feature at WWDC 2019 known as Sign In With Apple.
The key benefit of this single sign-on is the ability it gives you to securely access third-party websites using your Apple ID.
In some ways, Apple is following the lead set by Google and Facebook, who have both paved the way to make this possible, but what’s the difference?
In Apple’s own words, it’s broadly similar but “without all the tracking.”
Meaning, you can generate an anonymized and randomized email address for use with your application of choice. Apple then forwards this to your actual email address reducing your exposure.
We consider this a powerful move by Apple, especially considering the potential antitrust investigation within the company. The announcement regarding this investigation inconveniently dropped just as WWDC kicked off on Monday morning and in turn, caused shares to tumble temporarily.
However, we’re wagering that with the shower of positive announcements that follow, their stock will rise again soon.
With privacy covered, let's start the discussion of Apple home automation with HomeKit.
2) HomeKit Lowdown
HomeKit is one of the most user-friendly smart home systems in a glutted market. This is due to its full-blooded integration with Apple devices.
For homes full of iPhone users, control over Apple home automation products is seamless, whether it's through the handsets, Siri or in-app via the Home hub.
At WWDC, we saw this ecosystem get even stronger and better, and we're going to explain precisely how.
i) Security Camera Support
At long last, Apple has rolled out support for smart security cameras on the HomeKit platform.
The differentiating factor from other companies offering home automation, once again, is privacy and the protection of your data.
The norm with smart security cameras is for footage to upload to the camera manufacturer’s server. Here, it’s automatically and algorithmically analyzed. You’ll be alerted in-app if there’s anything abnormal in the footage. Whether that’s an unfamiliar face or an unexpected movement, Apple will notify you.
Sidestepping this approach, Apple will analyze your footage locally. Rather than footage uploading to the cloud, the analysis takes place within your home. This takes place through your HomePod, Apple TV or iPad.
Don’t worry, though. This all happens in the background with no need for user input. The apparent strength is that data doesn’t leave your home WiFi network, which eliminates an obvious weak point.
Despite the change in procedure, alerts will still come straight to your iPhone as usual.
What happens once this is taken care of?
Well, video footage is encrypted. If you take Apple at their word, you are the only person that can view this footage once it’s uploaded to your iCloud account.
We can hear you questioning how this will impact your limited iCloud storage, and there’s good news on that front too. Logitech and Arlo will offer you ten days of free video recording and this doesn’t affect your storage limit. For more storage, you’ll be able to choose from 200GB if you’ve got a single camera or 2TB for homes with up to 5 cameras. Pricing was not confirmed or even hinted at.
Along with the brands above, Eufy and Netatmo will also offer HomeKit Secure Video support.
ii) Home-Kit Secured WiFi Routers
Another announcement at the start of WWDC on Monday was regarding routers.
Routers can be problematic in terms of smart home security. Malware can enter your system where you least expect it and Apple has seen fit to address this hotspot head-on.
With routers from Eero, Spectrum, and Linksys, you can protect your WiFi network with all your HomeKit-compatible smart devices firewalled. This will prevent devices from accessing your whole system.
Apple hasn't begun revealing much else, aside from this teaser. There was no announcement about how these routers will work or about how you’ll be alerted to security breaches, but things look promising for home automation routers.
Routers will hit the shelves later this year.
iii) General HomeKit Security Protocol Overhaul
Continuing the theme of privacy and security in Apple home automation products, HomeKit protocols are now tweaked to mitigate weaknesses from third-party apps.
You can force third-party apps to ask your permission for location information every time. iOS will otherwise cut off these privileges unless the app needs it to function.
With HomeKit going from strength to strength, how did Tim Cook deliver on that promise of pushing all software platforms forward?
We have to say, in very fine style indeed! We’ll look now at the five major software updates heralded at WWDC 2019…
3) Major Software Updates Across All Platforms
iOS 13 brings about significant performance tweaks and it is arguably the biggest crowd-pleaser from WWDC 2019 so far. FaceID unlock is almost one-third swifter and apps will now launch twice as quickly as before. These are small but powerful improvements. Along with these enhancements, app download sizes will dramatically reduce as well.
Are you a power user who keeps beavering away into the late evening after a long day in front of the screen? If so, you’ll appreciate Dark Mode which received literal whoops of pleasure from the crowd. Apple has been hinting at this for a while, but finally formalized at WWDC 2019. All that remains is for third-party apps to adapt Dark Mode compatibility.
As mentioned, there’s the new single sign-in that developers can now build into apps.
Swipe typing is now possible in Messages and Mail boasts support for rich fonts.
If you’re a music fiend, you can call up lyrics in real time when you’re using the Music app – more on that below.
For Memoji, you’ll be able to get even more creative with accessories and various new hair and makeup options.
A refreshed Reminders alerts you when you’re messaging someone you recently tagged.
Photos make organizing your images easier and more intuitive with a chronological photo sorting mode. A highlight reel of your top images sits on top for easy access.
The Maps update is impressive. Maps are more detailed and shortcuts are improved. Street View photos are displayed and it only takes one simple tap to explore further. When you’re visiting someone, a designated mode allows you to keep them notified of your estimated arrival time.
The beta version is now available with the first roll-out proper in July. The final consumer version is slated to release late fall.
The unexpected news of an updated iPad OS was leaked just before WWDC and was a surprise to all.
iPadOS gives iPads their own operating system for the first time. This is largely based on iOS 13 and features both photo editing and the all-new Dark Mode.
Despite sharing the same underpinnings, you’ll notice a different interface, specialized workflow enhancements and some iPad-only features.
As you’d fully expect, swipe gestures are the primary method of powering this touchscreen OS.
If you want to use multiple windows from a single app, you can embrace Split-Screen.
When you’re using Safari, you’ll be able to access desktop-only sites and each site is optimized for a touchscreen.
Downloads have always been difficult to navigate on iPads, but now there’s an onboard Download Manager.
macOS 10.15 was announced June 3.
The replacement for Mojave, Catalina, will power Macs and MacBooks. This is the oldest of Apple’s operating systems and features some intelligent upgrades.
Notably, the iconic iTunes is history. You’ll get a new app separated into three areas:
You’ll be able to browse content by both genre and recommendation. Icons look refreshed and more vibrant. Podcast lets you search based on content.
You can now search for your device even if it’s offline thanks to the Find My app.
Voice control is incoming although not yet fully operational. It does not require cloud interaction, which is another great feature in terms of privacy.
As a secondary display, Mac will not support the iPad, which is a great bonus. This function will be known as Sidecar. You can make the connection wirelessly or using a wire.
Have you been enjoying Screen Time on your iPad and iPhone? It’s great for productivity freaks to see exactly how much time you’re spending online and how you’re spending it. This feature rolls over to the Mac, along with the ability to impose stricter cross-device limitations.
Project Catalyst, given the codename Marzipan, allows developers to easily import apps from iPad to Mac. This is great news for you, as it should lead to more frequent updates for Mac apps.
tvOS13 updates the operating system used by 4K and fourth-generation Apple TVs.
The Home screen gets a new look with more Apple TV apps, which are represented by icons and a robust preview feature, which appears on the demo version.
Both X-Box One and PS DualShock 4 controllers will be supported, which is great news for savvy gamers.
Lyric display in real time comes to the fore in the new Music app.
Apple has made no secret of its looking TV-based services and, it goes unsaid that the new tvOS will support these.
Multi-user support will give you more refined and personalized recommendations.
watchOS has leaped forward with all previous updates and the sixth iteration announced at WWDC doesn’t disappoint.
Apple Watch now gets its own App Store. By using Siri or typing with Scribble, you can do everything from your wrist, including installation and payment. This eliminates the need to constantly be grasping for your iPhone.
A brand new Noise app tips you off when background noise is loud enough to damage your hearing.
Some existing apps enter Apple Watch with minor tweaks. Calculator comes with some restaurant-friendly additions, while Apple Books makes an entry under the new name of Audio Books. Voice Memos also makes its way onto Watch.
Perhaps the most significant change is that developers are now at liberty to develop watchOS-only apps without needing to build out a companion app for iPhone.
And so completes a full haul of operating system upgrades.
4) HomePod Smartens Up
Apple HomePod has come under fire since its launch for being less intelligent and less feature-rich than both Amazon and Google smart speakers.
A minor update revealed at WWDC this week is the introduction of Hand-Off. This feature will switch your audio playback from your HomePod to your iPhone when you’re heading out and then back again when you come home. All you need to do is grab your AirPods and hold your devices close to one another for the magic to kick in.
You’ll also find that HomePod can recognize you when you’re speaking, just like Google Assistant. This means music playback and suggestions will be much more personalized. You can also take advantage of this feature on other Apple apps.
Despite such a focus on security, there were no announcements about what safeguards you can expect in terms of potentially messaging the wrong contact, so we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.
5) Siri Rebooted
Siri now comes with a slightly different voice, thanks to neural text-to-speech tech. This replaces the familiar recording of a human voice.
You’ll now enjoy superior support for Siri on other devices such as AirPods. Your virtual butler can read your incoming messages to you which allows for a swifter response.
Among a handful of updates, CarPlay becomes compatible with more apps like Waze. Siri can step in to suggest shortcuts based on a range of metrics, including your activities and other connected apps.
To round out, we’ll glimpse at the news of Apple’s potent and expensive pro-grade desktop.
6) All-New Powerhouse Mac Pro
WWDC isn't known for being a hardware forum, but the ruthlessly powerful Mac Pro was announced this week and it’s a sea change from the 2013 version.
The first thing to make clear is that this desktop is not cheap. At all. Starting price for the base model is $5999 and, wait for it.
That does not include a monitor! The Pro Display XDR weighs in at $4999 – more on that below – and, as a crowning insult, you won't get a stand either. This is also militantly priced at $999 taking your total expenditure into five figures.
With that said, is it any good?
With 2013’s trash can Mac Pro almost universally reviled, the bar was set pretty low.
The Intel Xeon processor comes with 1.5TB of memory and up to 28 cores. Heavy-duty cooling allows you to run at full clip with three fans sitting behind the aluminum grille. Despite air blowing out at 300 cubic feet per minute, the Mac Pro is deceptively quiet.
You’ll get six memory expansion slots along with 8 PCI slots and 3 Thunderbolt ports. A pair of USB-C and a pair of USB-A ports completes a class-leading package. If that’s still not enough, an I/O module provides extra ports (2 x Thunderbolt and 2 x USB-A) and an audio jack.
Graphically, the module supports either the Radeon Pro Vega II or the AMD Radeon Pro 580X and you can further fine-tune things to add in more Vega IIs if required. Modularity and flexibility are uppermost throughout in an attempt to exorcise the demon of that much-maligned 2013 model.
The processing card serves up three streams of 8K or a whopping 12 streams of 4K.
If you’re looking for further customization, there’s an MPX module delivering even greater power and enhanced connectivity. This comes with an onboard heat sink.
The design might be contemporary, but it also unmistakably references the classic cheese grater look.
Now, how about that monitor?
7) Pro Display XDR
You’ll get a 32-inch LCD with 6K display of 6016 x 3384 x 218 ppi.
The XDR tag refers to Extreme Dynamic Range and you’ll be able to hook up as many as six displays totaling 120 million pixels.
Contrast ratio is a staggering 1,000,000:1 and the price is an equally staggering $4999, rising to $5999 if you opt for the screen with a nano-textured glass to inhibit reflection.
Screen real estate is up 40% on the 5K Apple displays.
Well, we hope you’re now fully informed of everything that’s gone down so far at WWDC 2019. From Apple home automation product updates to tons of operating system upgrades, it is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Apple events in recent memory. We’ll be sure to update you on any further developments.