Apple just wrapped up the first day of its annual WWDC event, giving consumers and developers alike tons of new features, software, and updates to think about. Here’s everything you need to know about the iOS 15 beta, macOS Monterey, improvements to AirPods and Apple Watch, and much more.
Keep in mind that there are still several days left of Apple’s developer event, which runs through June 11th. It doesn’t look like we’re getting any new hardware products, but the company will continue to announce software, new features, and ideas as it pushes technology forward. That said, the biggest news came on day one, so here’s everything Apple announced.
iOS 15 Improves Notifications, Brings Android Users to FaceTime
First off, Apple announced iOS 15, and it was nearly as big as the iOS 14 release last year. The upcoming iPhone update introduces FaceTime call links for Android users, spatial audio in Facetime, music sharing in FaceTime, new Messages controls, a much-less-annoying Notifications system, a Focus mode that lets you hide unwanted apps, and so much more.
Apple has also introduced the so-called “Notification Summary,” which can be scheduled for any time during the day and will show users an overview of their notifications. It looks like a good way to keep distracting notifications at bay, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Apple also improved the Weather app, Photos, Apple Wallet, added more details and better navigation in Apple Maps, and more. Judging from the announcement, Apple wants us to store everything in Apple Wallet, including a picture of your ID or license that eventually we’ll be able to use at Airports and such. There’s a lot that’s new so read our full coverage here.
AirPods Can Now Double as Hearing Aids
Since everyone uses AirPods these days, Apple decided to make them better, too. The biggest update is more of a quality-of-life thing, and it essentially turns AirPods into a hearing aid. Yes, on iOS 15, AirPods will have a new “Conversation Boost” feature that can pick up nearby sounds, and it will even try to isolate the voice of who’s in front of you using machine learning.
Then, just like how Siri can audibly read your messages and texts aloud into your AirPods, with iOS 15, it’ll do the same with notifications. That way, Siri can tell you a package arrived or your Uber is ready, without you looking at the phone. Plus, AirPods are getting Spatial audio features, better Find My support, and a new alert if you leave a bud behind.
iPadOS 15 Promises Better Multitasking and Widgets
As expected, Apple took a minute today to talk about the iPad and how it’s improving the overall experience for everyone. With the new iPadOS 15 update coming soon, there are several new features like more robust widgets, Quick Notes, split-screen, and a highly improved multitasking experience.
Now, you can place a widget anywhere among your apps on your iPad home screen, not just off to the side. The iPhone gained this feature last year with iOS 14, and now it’s on the Pad.
However, multitasking and split-view is the best part. A new control panel is available with the tap of a finger at the top of any app, which will reveal the Multitasking menu. You can use an app on full screen or two apps simultaneously in Split View. There’s also an awesome “slide over” feature that lets you scoot an app to the edge of the display. That way, you can easily pick a second app to use from the home screen.
macOS Monterey Gets Fancy with Universal Control
We can’t forget about computers, which is why Apple announced the new macOS Monterey release. You’ll be happy to hear about new shortcuts, AirPlay to Mac, SharePlay, FaceTime, a Safari redesign, and more. However, it’s the “Universal Control” that has everyone excited.
For starters, macOS Monterey gets many of the features that were announced for iOS 15, including Focus, SharePlay, and Quick Notes.
We want to focus on the new Universal Control feature. This allows you to use a single mouse and keyboard between multiple devices like a Mac and your iPad for a seamless experience with no setup required. Furthermore, you can easily drag and drop content, images, text, and more between either device, instantly. You can literally draw something with the Apple Pencil and an iPad, then add it to a presentation on your Mac.
Then, there’s a ton that’s new with Safari, Focus-mode, AirPlay, and the Notes program. Here’s a full rundown on macOS Monterey.
watchOS 8 Will Help You Be Mindful While Sharing Photos
watchOS 8 is the newest update for almost all Apple Watch devices series 3 and above. The update includes several new health and “mindfulness” features, improvements to the Apple Watch Photos app, and some cool home controls using Siri, HomePods, and HomeKit.
The “Breathe App” a lot of watch owners are familiar with is now the Mindfulness app. It’ll remind you when to breathe, be more mindful of your digital wellbeing and physical health, and there’s even a Reflect feature which prompts users to reflect on different aspects of their life.
Then, you’ll notice some new fitness workouts with custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms for more accurate stats. On watchOS 8, portrait photos can be your watch wallpaper, which you can tap a button and animate. Then, everything from the iOS 15 Focus mode, new weather app, improvements to the Find My app and network, and more apps support the Always-on display on Apple Watch, too.
Our favorite aspect is the ability to broadcast a message to the entire house through HomePod, all from talking into your watch. It’s a great way to tell the family to get up in the morning.
Apple Health Lets You Share Info With the Doc or Family Members
Coming this fall with the iOS 15 and watchOS 8 updates, the Apple Health update adds new health-tracking features and lets you share data with family and doctors. We already mentioned some of the health and mindfulness stuff with Apple Watch, but that’s not where the health improvements end.
A new Sharing tab lets you privately share your health data with friends, family, caretakers, or doctors. Someone recovering from a leg injury, for example, could share that data with a physical therapist.
There’s even a new “Trends” area in iOS 15 and the Health app. This gives users a glance at their cardio, sleep, and other stats. These trends are included in Health Sharing and can even alert you (or your doctor) to long-term health changes, helping you control your health and reach new goals.
More Privacy Stuff
These days privacy is a growing concern, and Apple knows it, which is why at WWDC 2021, they debuted some big changes. Your email will be more secure, iCloud will get a privacy expansion, and soon, you can help a relative recover their forgotten password.
Apple introduced a new App Privacy Report feature that you’ll eventually find in iOS settings. This report will detail what data each app is accessing, like location, camera, and microphones. It’ll even show what third parties those apps are sharing data with and how often.
Then, Apple announced a new feature that will help family members out. Soon you’ll be able to mark a family member as a recovery contact for passwords. And when the relative forgets their password (again), they can choose to send you a recovery code you can send back so they can access the account. That’s pretty neat and something my dad needs ASAP.
A Few Other Things
Obviously, Apple went over a lot during its long WWDC 2021 keynote. We got HomePod and HomeKit updates, Siri arriving on third-party devices like ecobee, WatchOS will get the ability to stream video doorbell footage, and you can even access video feeds from security cameras on Apple TV. Yes, there are little changes all over the place.
In closing, this is a developer event after all, so Apple had a few updates to dev tools. For starters, the Mac now supports Testflight, which helps make the development process more like that on the iPhone. Then, developers can use a new Object Capture tool, Swift now supports Concurrency, which helps make for cleaner code, Siri works without an internet connection, and we expect to hear a lot more over the next few days.
Several betas are available today for developers, with public betas becoming available next month. Next, expect major updates to all of your favorite Apple products soon or later this fall.