This year, due to coronavirus the conference was moved to be entirely online. For most people the WWDC was already online but this year was different. This year, without the constraints of a live physical audience, everything was pre-recorded. Overall this was a huge success and I would say that all of the sessions were tighter and easier to follow as a result.
My one criticism is that the keynote felt relentless. Compared to normal, everything felt compressed. Gaps in time where the audience is cheering, or speakers are alternating, which allowed the viewer to absorb an announcement or talk / tweet with others were almost entirely gone. I think Apple were aware of this problem as later on they had quite a few fun/gaudy transitions which I enjoyed, but I think there needed to be more.
macOS certainly had the spotlight for most of the show. Everything has been redesigned to be more evocative of iOS design, but with a twist of macOS dimensionality. The biggest announcement was of course the transition to Apple Silicon. There has been much speculation as to the eventual performance of these systems, but Apple themselves have said very little. Their strongest statement was perhaps in the below image, which would seem to indicate that they occupy the power consumption range of a notebook processor, but with the performance covering the range of low-high end desktops. It remains to be seen how accurate this will be, but if it is then I will be at the front of the line to buy a new system.
Catalyst has received a lot of polish this year too, and I now believe it’s 100% possible to build great Mac apps using UIKit (which I fully intend to do). If developers don’t want to make a Mac app, that’s fine, the new Apple Silicon devices will allow people to run iPhone apps. I imagine many services, in particular banks, will not wish to release their apps for Mac. They should reconsider, I would relish having access to my Monzo or Natwest bank account from the place I am most productive.
Honestly, I barely remember the announcements for iOS the gravity around macOS was so consuming this year. There are a few notable improvements though.
The home screen now has widgets. These are not the today view widgets we already have, which are tiny, but real, apps. These new widgets are a SwiftUI view hierarchy, combined with a date and a relevance. For now there is no deep interactivity, and the view hierarchy is static. The exception to the static rule is dates / times, which are the only things that can update dynamically. The way I have chosen to look at it is that an app can choose to provide a series of images, with the times that these images become relevant. These should use almost not additional battery power, which is pretty cool.
Another home screen update: you can turn off some pages of your home screen. All apps will then appear in a searchable app library. The app library search is entirely separate from spotlight, and spotlight seems to now de-emphasise app results. I’m hoping that latter behaviour will change before release as Spotlight was my primary method of launching apps that languished on page 3+, and significant muscle memory has been accrued for that method.
Picture in picture has made the jump from iPad to iPhone. I can’t wait for Youtube to continue to not implement this, and ruin the video watching experience for everyone.
App Clips look super cool, I really want to work with them. Unfortunately I don’t think I have any viable use for them right now.
What will have the most impact to developers of many apps is the change to permissions around IDFA usage. IDFA is the identifier for advertisers that can be used by marketings to track the effectiveness of their advertisements across apps. Using the IDFA will now require an up-front system alert, similar to those used for location. As an end-user there is simply no incentive for you to ever accept this. The IDFA is dead, move on, switch to fingerprinting if you want to stalk your customers.
This has been a good year. Every Apple platform has taken steps forward, and it truly feels like everything has progressed, and nothing has been left behind.