The iWatch did not make an appearance during WWDC 2014, but the annual developers’ conference organized by Apple had its fair share of major announcements. In the following piece, readers will be acquainted with the news bytes from WWDC that have made the headlines.
It’s the final day of the 2014 edition of the World Wide Developers’ Conference, at San Francisco. Right from the keynote session, Apple has used this platform to unveil a slew of new programs and concepts – although no major product launches have featured during this event. Professional developers, however, have particular reasons to feel pleased with how this year’s WWDC has panned out. We here provide a quick recap of all the important announcements from Apple WWDC 2014:
- Handoff and Airdrop – Apple has focused in a big way on offering ‘continuity’ of service to users of iOS devices. The newly announced ‘Handoff’ feature would allow people to create, edit and sync their emails and other documents between their iPhones and iMacs. Files will be shareable from now on across Macs and mobile handsets – a functionality which had not been present earlier.
- Siri – A newer and better virtual assistant – that’s what Siri promises to be, on the next line of Apple phones and tablets. At the WWDC, it was announced that Siri would boast of complete voice-control features (hands-free) from now on. The activation command would be ‘Hey Siri’ – somewhat similar to the ‘Ok Google’ command for Google Now on Android devices.
- iOS 8 – According to most professional mobile app experts as well as general Apple-enthusiasts, this was the biggie of the 5-day annual conference. The much-anticipated new mobile platform was finally launched – and what immediately stood out were the robust (much more user-friendly than iOS 7) message support and management features on it. Apple has made improvements in the notifications area as well – something that used to remain cluttered in earlier versions. External widgets can be installed on devices powered by iOS 8 devices too. The platform is still not a patch on Android in terms of customization – but Apple is surely moving in the right direction.
- Xcode 6 – This was one of the more unexpected announcements at the WWDC, although iOS app developers won’t mind it one bit. In this Xcode update, programmers would have the option to check out bits of codes, without having to create entire projects. Animated SceneKit and SpriteKit are present in the sidebar section (where the coding results are also displayed). The built-in UI inspector tool is expected to offer some extra help to app testers.
- HealthKit – Confirming all pre-release rumors, Apple iOS 8 has arrived with a dedicated HealthKit application. It has been created to help users monitor all important fitness and health metrics, at home as well as while on the move. There is a special hub section, to study overall personal fitness trends over time. Apple has entered into tie-ups with several noted clinics and fitness centers for HealthKit, including Mayo Clinic and Nike.
- OS X Yosemite – Apple’s well-hyped OS X Mavericks, in its initial form (launched during WWDC 2013) was not entirely free of glitches. This year, the company has unveiled the first look of its ‘sequel’ – the OS X Yosemite, and this one does look truly impressive. The overall look and feel of Yosemite is evidently inspired from the latest iOS platform (in particular, the attractive layout of the Notifications Sidebar). iCloud Drive is probably the biggest talking point on the new desktop platform – since it will make every document stored on iCloud easily searchable via Finder. A beta version of OS X Yosemite is expected to roll out this summer, before the free full version hits the markets towards the end of the year.
- Instant Hotspot – A relatively minor announcement, but a very interesting one in its own right. With the Instant Hotspot feature, iMacs will be able to share the cellular properties of iPhones automatically. That, in turn, will let people to place calls right from their computer. Till date, there have been no software that offer similar services, from any web or mobile app development company in the world.
- Photos App – In a further indication that Apple is finally realizing the value of personalized features, the company announced the launch of Photos App, for iPhones and iPads. All pictures taken by users would now have easy sharing options across different mobile devices. The iCloud accounts of people would serve as the picture storehouse, with Apple providing 5GB space for free (more space can be bought at specified rates). The shared pictures would have editing options as well.
- HomeKit – Another much-in-vogue Apple rumor that was substantiated at the WWDC. Apple launched HomeKit – an innovative mobile-operated program for making ‘smarter homes’. The program would be controllable via Siri – and it would let users manage practically everything about their homes, simply by issuing voice commands. Irrespective of whether you want the garage doors opened, the bedlight turned on, or the lamps switched off when you leave a room – talking to your iPhone will be all you will have to do.
- Swift – What Apple has lacked in terms of major product launches during this year’s conference (the iPhone 6, in particular, was not even expected to debut during the event), it has more than made up with newer, better facilities for iPhone/iPad app developers. The new Swift language has been reported to be significantly faster and more secure than both ‘C’ and ‘Objective C’. However, to ensure that professionals working on mobile app projects are not inconvenienced, Swift would have easy integration features with the earlier coding languages.
- Predictive keyboards – For those who have been complaining for long about the ho-hum nature of iPhone virtual keyboards, this is a great piece of news. The revamped Apple keypads have ‘auto-learning’ features – enabling them to study and learn from users’ previous typing behavior. A special query-resolving feature, named QuickType, has also been embedded in the keyboards. Oh, and iOS 8 will allow users to install third-party keyboards too. Finally!
- Maildrop and Markup – These are the two major updates in the email system of the latest OS X platform. Via Maildrop, ‘heavy’ mail attachments (upto a maximum size of 5GB) can be uploaded on iCloud, and the link shared with the intended recipient(s). Markup, on the other hand, has been designed as an image editor – right inside the mailbox. With text and shape-editors, magnifying features and enhanced drawing help, Markup adds a fresh feel to the email setup of iMacs.
- Spotlight updates – On both computers as well as on iOS mobile devices, Apple has decided to add new features to Spotlight. On iPhones, Spotlight can now be used to look up various forms of local information (e.g., movie listings) and iTunes content, in addition to the contacts and iPhone apps stored inside the handset. On Macs, Spotlight has got a new launcher tool. Users can now even go through Apple Maps and other web content, directly from Spotlight.
- Family Sharing – A maximum of 6 family members will be able to share the same downloaded content from iTunes – provided that the same credit card is used to link all the accounts. Pictures and other documents can, hence, be seamlessly be shared across family networks. The Family Sharing feature also rules out accidental downloads of apps from iTunes.
- Better app collaboration – To enhance the app-experience of users, Apple has got rid of the ‘sandbox’ feature that used to be a trademark of all iOS applications. Users can now share app details in a third-party application, so that the functionality of two or more apps can be combined. From now on, iPhone/iPad apps will be able to ‘communicate’ with each other – a welcome change from what used to be case till now.
The announcement of iMessage now offering audio and video support was a high point of the WWDC 2014 too. The new OS X will also have customized storyboards – another welcome update for iPhone app development experts. Interestingly, Apple’s stock prices fell significantly on June 2nd – when it became clear that iWatch won’t be making its debut during the event. The WWDC this year has seen Apple make several major announcements to further improve its products (both computers and mobiles), as well as extend loads of support for developers. It’ll be interesting to see if the major product releases that the company has in pipeline turn out to be successful too.
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