Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2021
Screenshot image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

At the WWDC 2021 keynote on Monday, Apple gave a first peek of MacOS Monterey and announced iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and WatchOS 8. These software updates include a host of improvements to FaceTime, Wallet, Maps, Health, Weather, Music and more.

“Our OS releases will be available as developer betas today, and each of them will have a public beta next month, and all of this incredible software will be available to all of our users this fall,” said Tim Cook, CEO, at the keynote.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering for Apple, said during the Worldwide Developers Conference that MacOS Monterey will replace MacOS Big Sur, which came out last year.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic)

FaceTime to compete with Zoom

As part of iOS 15, FaceTime is going head-to-head with Zoom and other video conference apps through SharePlay. With SharePlay, users get a link to share for a FaceTime call that they can share and use at any time for a group call. The link can be used on non-Apple devices. FaceTime is also getting spatial audio and a grid view, as well as a portrait mode option so that backgrounds can be blurred (just like Zoom) and people can opt for a softer appearance if they choose.

New options for Notifications are being added, to personalize when notifications are given, with Personal, Work, Shop and Do Not Disturb as four options shown during the keynote. Users will see if someone has set Do Not Disturb and they’ll have the option to ring through if it’s truly urgent.

iPadOS 15 updates

One of the new features for iPadOS includes the new Translate feature coming to iPad, which allows the user to practice writing languages on their iPad. It also offers Auto Translate, which detects which language is being spoken and automatically translates it with no need to tap a button. It even translates text in a photo.

Advanced privacy features

There are advanced privacy features across all devices, with Mail Privacy Protection hiding your IP address, hiding if you open an email and hiding your IP address from trackers. There’s also an App Privacy Report that gives an overview of how apps are treating your privacy. It shows how often they access your information and who they are sharing it with.

Siri is getting a major overhaul on privacy. Audio never leaves the device now, and having on-device processing will speed up overall processing, whether it’s opening photos, sending a text message, or requesting to set an alarm.

New search features for Photos

Photos will be more useful with Live Text, using a deep neural network, so that text in the background of photos can be searched, even from old photos on an iPhone, and phone numbers in photos can be called. This text can also be cut and pasted. There’s also the ability to take a photo of, say, a white board, and cut and pasting that text into an email. There’s also a visual look up option called Spotlight that allows the user to look up a dog breed, flower, artwork, books, a landmark or other such item on a photo and find out more about it.

Apple Wallet gets richer

Car Keys in the Apple Wallet are being improved with Ultra-wideband support for an Unlock and Drive experience. BMW and other auto manufacturers will ship cars with UWB starting later this year, and Wallet will hold those keys, said Jennifer Bailey, senior vice president of hardware technology for Apple, during the keynote.

“We’re creating the fastest, most secure way to unlock your house, apartment or flat, and where you work. Just add your corporate badge and tap to enter their building or office. And where you travel, with hotel keys, you’ll automatically receive your key when your room is ready even before you arrive at the hotel. Starting this fall, Hyatt hotels will start rolling this out to over a thousand properties worldwide creating a faster and safer experience for their guests,” Bailey said.

Beginning this fall, identity cards will be added to Apple Wallet, and the TSA is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place where digital IDs can be used, Bailey said.

Weather and Maps get a boost

The Weather App and Maps are being updated as well. The Weather App will show new backgrounds and layouts based on the air quality and weather conditions. And Maps has new, more detailed maps and navigation whether people are walking, driving, or working on their laptop.

No more losing AirPods

AirPods are now easier to find with advanced Find My features. There’s a separation alert in iOS 15 that allows the user to receive a notification if their AirPods Pro or AirPods Max are left behind. And there’s also a new Conversation Boost feature in AirPods to help people with mild hearing challenges stay more connected in conversations.

WatchOS 8 updates

Apple Watch has WatchOS 8 on the way, with new features for health, updates to the Breathe app, and a new Reflect feature. The Reflect and Breath features will be part of the new Mindfulness app. A new features for the Sleep app is measuring the user’s respiratory rate and now many breaths a person takes per minute while sleeping.

Apple Health gets three new features

Three new features to identify, measure and understand health changes are coming to Apple Health. Walking Steadiness will give insight through mobility data on a user’s iPhone and help measure their mobility and their fall risk. The user’s step length, walking speed and how evenly they walk are assessed, giving data on their balance, stability and coordination. Apple used real world data from the Apple Heart and Movement Study with over 100,000 participants across all ages to study fall risk.

There’s also Trends, that shows your test results and changes over time. There are detailed descriptions to help users better understand lab data and if they’re within normal ranges. There’s also Health Sharing, which is a private and secure way to view health data, trends and alerts for the user and their family members that wish to share their data, such as a partner, children and perhaps aging parents.