Yesterday kick started the Worldwide Developers’ Conference which is a highlight of Apple’s yearly calendar. It is a big annual get-together for the company’s software partners as well as the rest of the world’s media to see Apple unveil a range of new products.
Traditionally, Apple announces new versions of iOS and OS X, in addition to new hardware such as new Macs and maybe new iPads. The importance of WWDC should not be underestimated as WWDC 2014 was when Apple’s year got back on track after a quiet start and the QQDC 2015 announcements have got everybody excited.
What are the new things to look forward to?
Apple finally announced the much anticipated music streaming service called “Apple Music”. It will be available for iTunes on OS X and Windows, iOS and even Android in the autumn. The service enables you to stream everything available on iTunes and will also offer many human curated playlists as well as song and playlist recommendations. It is not just regulated to signed artists either, unsigned artists will also be able to share their music using the service. There is also a Connect area where artists can post anything from their latest tracks to video clips of them recording in the studio.
With access to every song available on iTunes, some users may need help deciding what to listen to. That is where Beats 1 comes in, a 24 hour radio station that broadcasts worldwide and boasts popular radio figures including Zane Lowe. It will be based in LA, New York and London and will automatically switch between them throughout the day for a 24/7 experience.
The Music app has had a slight redesign too, a new MiniPlayer that appears above the tabs at the bottom of the app. You can tell Apple Music what kind of music and artists you enjoy and it will suggest songs and playlists, similar to the iTunes Genius feature.
It is due to launch on 30th June alongside the iOS 8.4 update. The price tag for UK has yet to be announced although it could be similar to the US pricing. It will come with a $9.99 US price tag or $14.99 for a family sharing plan. For those of you that are not convinced, Apple are offering a free three month trial.
The iOS 9 enhances existing features rather than introducing new ones. Take Siri for example, Apple said that Siri has become 40% faster over the last year and handles over a billion requests per week. In iOS 9, Siri is more contextually aware and learns your habits to try and make your iOS experience a bit easier. Listen to music on the commute to work? Siri will detect this and whenever you plug your headphones in at around that time of day, it will automatically open the Music app for you.
It will also improve the battery life on your iPhone, with the iPhone 6 running for an extra hour on iOS 9. If that is not enough, Apple are including a battery saving mode that can shut down non-essential features and make your iPhone last an extra three hours.
iOS9 also introduces true multitasking for the iPad. It enables you to split screen apps on the iPad, similar to features available on Windows and some Android tablets. It also introduces trackpad built into the on-screen keyboard, accessible by putting two fingers on the keyboard and enabling fine control over the cursor. It also adds quick app switching similar to OS X when using physical keyboards.
Apple Pay is also coming to the UK in July with many banks supported from day one. Apple Pay will work with nearly 70% of all UK credit and debit cards and will also be compatible with Transport for London, so you can use your iPhone or Watch to travel around London. You will also be able to use it at Nando’s, Boots, Costa Coffe, M&S, Waitrose, the Post Office, Starbucks, KFC, McDonald’s, Lidl, Wagamamas, JD Sports and many more.
Apple Maps comes with much needed transit directions for 10 cities around the world and give you step by step info for commuting via public transport. It will even give you walking times and will tell you which station entrance to enter and exit from.
News is a new iOS app to replace Apple’s Newsstand app which some are coining as a “Flipboard killer”. Like Flipboard, articles are presented in a clean manner and offers gorgeous animations, photo galleries and videos. You can pick your favourite publications and you will get a personalised feed. The initial rollout is limited to three countries: US, UK and Australia.
There was not much in the way of information on HomeKit apart from the fact that it will have the power to control home automation devices including lights, locks, blinds and thermostats. It can also be controlled via Siri on both your iPhone and Apple Watch.
The newly announced WatchOS 2 is the new version of the Apple Watch software, which is faster, less bugy and will be available in Autumn. Apps will be able to access the microphone and accelerometer, play audio via the built-in speakers and even utilise the Digital Crown. HomeKit will also be available on the Apple Watch via Siri.
TimeTravel is a new feature that allows you to see upcoming events or weather on your watch face widgets by using the Digital Crown. WatchOS 2 also lets developers add custom widgets to watch faces and run apps natively on the Watch, a massive plus for developers and consumers.
You can also customise watch faces with a photo. If a single photo is not enough, you can add a photo album and have a different photo displayed every time you check your Apple Watch. Apple is also adding time-lapse watch faces of famous locations worldwide and will display a time lapse of the current time of day.0