Highlights from Apple’s WWDC 2014

Apple fans have become used to a “Christmas in June” from the company– as its annual developer’s conference, WWDC, typically provides substantial updates to their software suites. WWDC 2014 was no different; Apple CEO Tim Cook and new-found Twitter superstar Craig Federighi (Senior VP of Software Engineering) took to the stage to unveil some shiny new updates that iOS, OS X, and developers will be talking about for months before there release this Fall.

Likely, many of you have read all about this by now; however, as I use this site for my own personal reference, I feel compelled to compile a recap for you all (and me) here.

OS X “Yosemite”

Mac users will get much of the same treatment iOS 7 brought  to the iPhone & iPad, as Apple prepares a cleaner, flatter interface to the new version of OS X. One of the coolest updates, in my opinion, will be an improved Notification Center, including a “day view”, which allows users to add custom widgets from the App Store (this same addition will be included in iOS 8 as well).

Image Courtesy of Gizmodo

Spotlight Search got a lot of stage time (a feature I rarely use myself), and seemed to go after Google in an indirect manner (autocomplete being one of those). Safari will get a redesigned menu bar, which automatically hides your favorites, making them visible via the URL field. Another major announcement was the syncing of AirDrop between Mac and iOS products, which personally I’ve felt was a huge oversight from the start.

Another major sync function displayed at WWDC 2014 is the ability to make & receive iPhone calls directly from the Mac itself. In addition, Macs will finally be able to receive SMS messages through iMessage.

The best thing about Yosemite? It’ll be free. The latest version of OS X will be available sometime in the Fall.

iOS 8

Predictive typing, a feature of flip phones since the dawn of the 21st century, will finally be available on iPhones & iPads with the next version of iOS. Word is that the keyboard will also be able to help you complete sentences based on whom you’re texting with (though, if it’s anything like AutoComplete…..good luck).

Notifications will get an upgrade– namely, they’ll become useful in real-time. Instead of stopping what you’re doing to respond to a text or meeting invite when a notification arrives, you’ll be able to answer them right from the alert itself. A major time-saver, and natural progression for the Notification Center, as Apple works to make users’ lives easier with the things they do the most.

Speaking of “what people use the most”, Messages (which Apple claims is the most-used app on iOS) will receive a WhatsApp-style overhaul in iOS 8. Group messages will be threaded, and recipients will have the option of muting or opting out of a thread all-together. A “Tap to Talk” feature will allow you to send voice snippets via text, location sharing will be available, and there’s talk of a Snapchat-esque ability built into the app itself, which will automatically destroy video & picture messages that aren’t saved by the end user.

The Mail app will also be updated, featuring new gestures to quickly respond to or delete emails in your Inbox. Also, on the iPad, users will have the ability to swipe down on an email being composed to hide it while they go through their Inbox for info they’d like to include.

Siri will get the “OK, Google” treatment (instead, “Hey Siri” will activate the helper tool), and will include song identification built-in with the help of Shazam.

iCloud Drive

In a move that is obviously attacking Microsoft and Google’s cloud products, Mac and iOS users will have the ability to store, edit, and transfer documents cross-device. In a rather surprising move, Windows users will also have access to iCloud Drive, for those of us that own both iOS and PC devices.

The new Photos apps will also utilize iCloud to sync all pictures across a user’s numerous devices. Apple announced two new paid iCloud storage plans today as well: 20GB for$.99 and 200GB for $3.99 (both per month pricing).

Health and HealthKit

Though many in the industry speculated that Apple’s health app would be called HealthBook, Apple instead revealed “Health”, which will be run by the “HealthKit” in the background. Apple’s Health will pull in data from third-party fitness and health-related apps, and is rumored to keep track of such things as exercise, blood pressure, heart rate, and vital medical info.

HomeKit

Image Courtesy of Mashable

Another announcement at WWDC 2014 was the much-anticipated foray by Apple into the home automation market. Though Apple is, in the near-term at least, not planning on necessarily developing its own products and apps for people’s homes, it is enabling developers to utilize a singular SDK to integrate their products with iOS and OS X.

Swift & App Store Improvements

One of the most significant announcements at WWDC 2014 was the introduction of “Swift”, Apple’s newly-developed programming language, that marks the company’s first new developing format in decades. Swift works side-by-side with Objective-C (the code that iOS and OS X are based upon), but supposedly, doesn’t come with any of the “baggage” that Objective-C brings with it. The official “Swift Programming Language” eBook is available in the iBooks store now.

Along with its new programming language, Apple is offering more incentives for developers in the App Store– beginning with the ability post videos on app description pages, allowing for single-price download bundles, and giving devs the chance to offer apps as public betas before their official release, allowing them the opportunity to get feedback and squash bugs before an app hits the general marketplace.

As Fall approaches, and I have the chance to test out these new Apple features myself, there will definitely be some follow-up posts to this WWDC announcement. While new hardware was not unveiled today (as it rarely is at WWDC), new software typically means new hardware, and, as many are suspecting, we should have an estimated date of the iPhone 6 fairly soon.

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