Apple CEO Tim Cook kicking off the WWDC 2020 keynote at Apple Park.
Image: Screenshot

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicked off on Monday, June 22 in a new all-digital format. Rather than being hosted in its usual location of San Jose, the conference is one of many moved online due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of greeting a crowd from the main stage, Apple CEO Tim Cook welcomed viewers via the small screen during the opening keynote Monday morning at 10 am PT.

The five-day event will be entirely online from June 22-26, increasing the typical limit of around 5,000 developer attendees and allowing for millions of developers to engage virtually. Best of all, techies experience the entire conference free of charge, lifting the hefty $1,599 price tag usually required to attend.

The conference will feature two big events, the keynote and the Platforms State of the Union, as well as more than 100 engineering sessions, developer forums, and 1-on-1 developer labs by appointment.

SEE: Apple iPadOS: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

WWDC typically focuses on software updates, with some new hardware versions. This year was no different, with Apple executives announcing new editions of iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS, along with the revolutionary Apple Silicon chips for Macs. New devices such as iPhones and iPads are typically left for Apple’s annual Special Event hosted in the fall.

Here are all of the announcements made at WWDC 2020, and what businesses need to know about them:

1. iOS

Cook invited Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, to introduce iOS 14.

“iOS is central to how we navigate our life and remain connected,” Federighi said.

Currently, apps can take up pages and pages of your home screen, but the App Library automatically organizes apps for you. Users can even hide pages of apps they don’t use often, Federighi said.

With widgets, they still help you get info at a glance, but they are now completely reimagined and data rich. All widgets can be different sizes and seen in “Today View” shows all your widgets in one place, but the new iOS also allows you to drag a widget out of Today View and onto your home screen.

Picture in Picture was the other foundational update in iOS 14. With this feature, users can continue viewing videos when navigating to other apps. The video simply turns into a small window at the bottom of the screen. Users can even just keep the audio up on the side, Federighi said.

Other updates to iOS 14 include:

  • Messages: Pin favorite messages at top of message list.
  • Group messages: Reply inline to specific messages, and mention specific people in the group.
  • Memoji: Adds face masks and more than 20 new hairstyles and head coverings.
  • Maps: Rebuilt maps added cycling and EV routing for electric cars.
  • Carplay: In most new cars, allows users to add new wallpapers. Apple is also developing tech to unlock your car from iPhone, which will first be featured in the new 2020 BMW 5 series. Users an also digitally share their key with others.
  • App store: App clips lets you access features in apps without downloading the full app.
  • Siri: The digital assistant will no longer take up the whole screen when activated, but appear as a small circle over the regular UI. Siri will also be able to translate with the Translate app, even when offline.

2. iPadOS

Josh Shaffer, Apple engineering director, took the screen to introduce iPadOS 14. The new operating system has the same redesigned widgets as iOS, as well as the updated Siri.

iPadOS is unique, however, in its revamped sidebar, which users will see the benefit of in Photos, Notes, and Apple Music. In Photos, for example, allows users to drag and drop photos, similar to the functionality on a Mac. The OS also has universal search, which allow users to search within apps, find contacts, start web searches, or locate documents.

With the new call experiences, phone calls won’t take up your entire screen, instead allowing you to view who is calling with a small phone symbol, limiting disruption, Shaffer said.

Major updates to iPad’s Apple Pencil were also announced. Scribble completely revolutionizes how Apple Pencil is used. With on-device machine learning, users can write words into any text field with the Apple Pencil, and it will be converted directly into text.

3. AirPods

Mary-Ann Ionascu, senior firmware engineer at Apple, was brought onscreen to briefly address a couple updates to AirPods.

Ionascu introduced automatic switching between devices, eliminating the need for manual configuration when moving from an iPhone to an iPad or Mac.

For AirPods Pro, users can enjoy spatial audio, which senses the motion of your head and makes the listening experience sound more cinematic, even if you are only wearing one AirPod.

4. watchOS

One of the most exciting and prolific announcements at WWDC 2020 was watchOS 7, which has a bevy of new features.

“Apple Watch has been an intelligent guardian of your health,” said Kevin Lynch, vice president of technology at Apple. And the updates are taking it to the next level.

In watchOS 7, complications are richer, allowing for more detailed watch faces. Developers can build rich complications with Swift UI, and all users can easily share watch faces. With Face Sharing, users can look through various watch faces made by third parties, click “Add Apple Watch face” to the desired design, and immediately have it.

Maps on watchOS 7 has also been optimized for cyclists, allowing cyclists to get directions on their wrists, Lynch said.

Julz Arney, senior project manager for fitness experiences at Apple, joined the screen to discuss the significant updates to fitness and health on Apple Watch.

WatchOS 7 is adding Dance to Apple workouts, with the ability to track hip hop, Bollywood, cardio dancing, and more. Core workouts are now accurately tracked, and functional training and cool down have been added as workouts.

The Apple Activity App also received a brand new name: Fitness. The summary tab in Fitness has been redesigned, allowing for an easy, seamless way to see all of your workout history.

Perhaps the biggest addition to watchOS 7 is sleep tracking, a feature competitor Fitbit has had for years. Users can choose when they would like to go to bed and when they would like to wake up. When it’s time to go to bed, a user’s phone will provide a Wind Down screen, helping to minimize distractions by enabling Do Not Disturb mode. At the same time, the user’s watch will also have a dimmed Wind Down screen, with Do Not Disturb enabled.

Using a machine learning model, the watch tracks micro movements based on the rise and fall of the user’s breath. When it’s time to wake up, users can chose between a sound alarm or haptic alert from the watch. The device will immediately show it’s battery level to remind the user when it’s time to recharge.

5. tvOS

Apple announced a variety of new capabilities to its tvOS platform, optimizing support for Apple’s HomeKit accessories and enabling Picture in Picture mode.

With Picture in Picture mode, users can keep watching the news while experiencing a work app, for example, keeping the news video as a small window on the screen. Apple is also bring multi-user support to Apple TV, making it easier to switch between household members.

6. MacOS

Another major announcement at WWDC was the unveiling of the latest MacOS: Big Sur.

“MacOS Big Sur introduces an entirely new design and major updates to some of the most essential apps on the platform. And just like its name, Big Sur brings you unmatched levels of power and beauty,” Federighi said.

The overall design of this MacOS includes more depth, translucency, and shading, creating a more cohesive look with the latest iOS. The dock has newly designed app icons, which look sleeker and more uniform.

Here are some of the main updates in Big Sur:

  • Control Center: Mac is getting a similar looking control center to that of.the iPhone, allowing users to more conveniently access controls like Bluetooth and brightness, along with the new widgets introduced in iOS 14.
  • Messages: Mac also received a similar Messages upgrade to that of iOS 14, with better search, updated Memoji, message effects, and pinned conversations.
  • Maps: Apple Maps got an upgraded design, Favorites, and the support for Look Around. Users can also see if their friends have progressed along a route if they have shared their ETA.
  • Safari: Developers receive more control over how their extensions can access their browsing data. Safari also has a new customizable start page, built-in translation tool, and better tab management.

7. Apple Silicon chip

Calling it a “truly historic day for Mac,” Cook announced the highly anticipated Apple Silicon chip, indicating that Mac is transitioning away from Intel processors.

The Arm-based Mac chips will help to maximize performance and battery life, creating a common architecture across all Apple devices and making it easier for developers to bring services and apps to gadgets, said Johny Srouji, senior vice president of hardware technologies at Apple.

All Apple apps are already configured for the new chips, and developers can already make their own projects compatible in Xcode. Federighi said that Microsoft is already working on an Office for Mac based on Apple Silicon.

Federighi demonstrated in the keynote how Microsoft apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel can already run on the new Macs. he also showed how Adobe Photoshop can run on Silicon.

Even if the apps haven’t been updated, they will still be able to via Rosetta 2, the program that automatically translates existing Apple apps to run on the new system. Federighi also displayed how iPhone apps can easily run on Macs powered by Apple chips, since the tech is so similar.

To help developers get started immediately, Apple is launching a quick start program that provides documentation, sample code, private forums, hands-on lab access, and more. The program includes the limited use of a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), which includes a Mac Mini with Apple’s A12Z Bionic SoC processor, 16GB of memory, 512GB SSD, and various Mac I/O ports. The device must be returned at the end of the program.

The total transition to Apple Silicon will take two years, Cook said, but the first Mac with Apple Silicon will ship this year. The company still plans to retain Intel-based Macs in its portfolio.

Availability to beta versions

As for the other announcements, developers will be able to access beta versions of all new Apple software beginning on June 22. Consumers will also be able to try out the public betas in July 2020. The finalized versions of the operating systems will be fully available this fall, Cook said.

For more, check out Apple’s online-only WWDC 2020: What to expect and how to watch on TechRepublic.

This article was updated during WWDC on June 22, 2020.

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