The 12 coolest things we learnt from WWDC 2017

All of Apple’s new treats in one handy candy jar…

06 June 2017
by Stuff Staff

We were expecting a few refreshing droplets of Apple news from WWDC 2017, but Tim Cook and co opened up a firehose and drenched us with new tech treats.

Pretty much every Apple product was treated to some added sparkle, with software updates for iPhones, Macs and the Apple Watch.

It wasn’t all just under the hood tweaks either – shiny new products arrived in the form of a new iMac Pro, some iPad Pros and a smart speaker to take on the Amazon Echo.

In other words, you’ve got a lot to catch up on, but luckily we’ve mulched it down into this perfectly blended Apple smoothie. Down it, down it…

1) APPLE’S MADE AN AMAZON ECHO

Having launched Siri way before anyone felt comfortable talking to an inanimate piece of tech Apple’s had to watch on while Amazon’s Echo and Google Home stole its AI limelight. Well, that era is over with the grand unveiling of its HomePod: a speaker with voice assistant smarts.

A Sonos-Echo hybrid, the HomePod stands at little under 7in tall and is meant to be the centerpiece of your living room’s home audio setup with the sound quality to match that status. To that end its seven beam-forming tweeters and real-time sound modelling should see it outperform its smart speaker rivals, albeit at a considerable cost. The HomePod is set to cost a $350 when it arrives in December, which is about $100 more than it costs you to buy both a Sonos Play:1 and Amazon Echo right now.

For that kind of cash, Siri’s going to have to work with a whole lot more than just Apple Music. We’ll presumably find out whether that’s the case later this year at another Apple event.

At present, the HomePod looks delightful, promises much and is all set to burn a great big hole in your bank account.

2) IOS 11 HAS LOADS OF GOOD NEW STUFF

Ok. This is the biggie for existing iPhone and iPad users. While iOS 11 doesn’t offer up any game-changing new additions, it does have a load of small tweaks and additions that amount to something big indeed.

Siri, Apple Maps and the App Store have all gotten a whole lot smarter whether that’s in terms more natural speech, fresh lane guidance and speed information or a slick redesign. Yep, similarly to Apple Music and News the App Store is going big on curation so that it’ll be easier than ever to find apps that you’ll use more than once.

To that end, Apple is splitting out the games and apps categories, and providing in-house features on the essential downloads for your iPhone or iPad. On top of these big new changes iOS 11 is also set to arrive with a whole load of smart extras, such as smaller file sizes for photos, multi-room AirPlay for your home speaker setup and the ability to send money to friends using Apple Pay and iMessage.

All in all, there’s plenty to look forward to when the iOS 11 launches later this year. For now, it’s only available to developers.

3) THERE’S A NEW MONUMENT VALLEY OUT NOW

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but there are a lot of shoddy apps kicking around. That’s why Monument Valley made such a big splash way back in 2014 with its M. C. Escher-inspired visuals and just-tricky-enough puzzles.

It was the kind of game that left you wanting for more, which is just as well since its sequel just got announced as part of WWDC 17. Monument Valley 2 is out now for iPhone and iPad and costs a thoroughly reasonable US$4.99. We can’t wait to give it a download.

4) THERE ARE TWO NEW IPADS PROS

While the new HomePod and iMac Pro will doubtless steal the headlines from WWDC 17, Apple’s refreshed iPad Pros were the hidden gems of the event.

Killing off the old 9.7in Pro in favour of a new 10.5in model and an updated 12.9in one, Apple brought a host of improvements to both devices. Principally, they’ve been treated to the a new True Tone display that’s 50% brighter than the old one at 600 nits, which means more dazzling colours and altogether easier to read screen in bright light.

Due to the ample proportions of both screens, they can also both accommodate a full-sized keyboard. Elsewhere, these iPads are powered by the even faster 10X processor, can support video playback with a whopping great refresh of 120hz, and are backed up by a brand new Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. They’re also supremely pricey, retailing from US$680 for the 64GB 10.5in Pro.

5) …AND THEY WORK MORE LIKE LAPTOPS THAN EVER BEFORE

Whereas the old Pros felt more like jazzed up tablets than fully-fledged hybrids, a new Mac-like customisable dock for your most-used apps, slicker multitasking skills and added drag and drop functionality means they may well earn that ‘laptop replacement’ tag this time around. Although the internals of those new iPad Pros are none too shabby, it’s iOS 11 extras they’re getting that really elevates them to ‘thoroughly tempting’ status.

6) THE MACOS SOFTWARE IS HIGH SIERRA

The new operating system for your iMac or MacBook is called High Sierra.

While it’s not quite the great leap forward last year’s macOS was, this update does introduce several handy new features including blocking autoplay video, iCloud file sharing and a Mail app that uses 35 percent less of your computer’s storage.

Streaming a lot of 4K content? Apple has also added support for the latest video codec, H.265/HVEC Due to the incremental nature of these additions, it won’t be long until you can install High Sierra on your Mac. The new OS is available to developers today and will be free for public download later this month.

7) YOU’LL SOON BE ABLE TO HOOK UP AN HTC VIVE TO YOUR IMAC

Until now, virtual reality headsets and iMacs played as well together as the Gallagher brothers.

While the Oculus Rift won’t be changing this relationship status anytime soon, both HTC’s Vive and Steam VR are arriving on Mac around the launch of macOS High Sierra.

Seeing as it’s our favourite VR headset out there, this is kind of a big deal.

8) A TONNE OF MACS JUST GOT UPDATED

Apple fans have been moaning about the iMac line-up for what seems like an age now. Finally, all those complaints about an underpowered performance and screens that aren’t fit for 4K video editing have been given a right old heave ho.

While old classic iMac design remains very much in place, these refreshed machines have been treated to all-new internals in a big way. As well benefiting from Intel’s faster, more efficient Kaby Lake processors, Apple’s latest iMacs have a luminous new display that’s 43% brighter than previous models and are capable of 10-bit colour depth, both of which will help greatly when editing High Dynamic Range content.

On top of all this, the 21.5in iMac can be bolstered with up to 32GB RAM, and the 27in model can now get 64GB. Both are getting two Thunderbolt USC-C ports. All in all, it’s a good day for video buffs. Especially if they’ve got the cash for a fancy new iMac Pro.

9) …AND A NEW IMAC PRO WAS REVEALED TOO

Yes, not content with polishing up its old iMacs, Apple also revealed the most powerful computer it’s ever made: the iMac Pro.

An absolute behemoth of a machine, the iMac Pro is meant for actual editing pros who make TV and movies for a living. These jammy sorts really have been crying out for an alternative to the much maligned Mac Pro, and now that dustbin-shaped disappointment has been kicked to the kerb in favour of a ludicrously buff all-in-one.

Packing a 5K display, all-new AMD Radeon Vega graphics GPU, up to an 18-core Xeon processor and pretty much every top-of-the-range spec you can imagine, the iMac Pro delivers on a ridiculously high-end level. That’s why it’ll retail from US$4999 come December when it’s set to launch.

That price got you gnashing your teeth in agony? Apple has offered one feature to sweeten the deal: the Pro is its only iMac to come in Space Gray.

10) MACBOOKS, MEET KABY LAKE

Just like its iMacs, a swathe of Apple’s MacBook line-up has also been treated to new Intel Kaby Lake processors. Every MacBook, plus the latest 13in and 15in MacBook Pros will benefit from the faster, more efficient chips.

Unsurprisingly, both the MacBook Air and Apple’s legacy MacBook Pro miss out on the new internals. If you were holding out on on getting a new MacBook, now is very much the time to buy. Especially since these Kaby Lake-powered models are available now.

11) YOUR APPLE WATCH IS ABOUT TO GET MUCH MORE USEFUL

The Apple Watch might be the smartest of the smartwatches, but it’s still not as proactive as we’d like it to be. That’s going to improve in watchOS 4 though, thanks to a new Siri watch face. This will serve up Google Now-esque contextual cards based on your routine, using machine learning (Apple’s favourite new phrase). For example, it’ll automatically serve up traffic info based on an appointment in your calendar, or a shortcut to your cinema ticket just before the film’s due to start.

The other main theme of watchOS 4 are its new fitness tricks. The Workout app now has a clearer UI, there’s a new HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout option, and you can pick a playlist to automatically start with a particular workout. The Apple Watch is also going to sync with gym equipment via NFC, letting you share stats like incline and speed. Apple claims that it’s worked with 80% of gym manufacturers for this feature, but we’ll have to see exactly which machines it works with when watchOS 4 launches in autumn 2017.

12) AMAZON PRIME VIDEO IS COMING TO APPLE TV

Remember Apple TV? We wouldn’t have blamed you for having forgotten about the two year-old streamer that launched without support for 4K, YouTube and Amazon Prime.

Well, now Amazon has finally joined up to the tvOS platform, although a Ultra HD box remains a long way off and we still don’t yet have last year’s new Apple TV controller app here in the Middle East. If you do have an Apple TV gathering dust, the arrival of Prime Video might just convince you to turn it on again.

 

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