Technology Conference Coverage
The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2016: What's Coming This Fall
The 27th Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was held June 13-17, 2016, in San Francisco, California. Prior to the conference there was a lot of speculation regarding what Apple would present. There were rumors about a new Apple Watch, the iPhone 7, a bar that would replace function keys on the Mac, a new Mac, improved Siri, improved Apple Music, eye beacons, and more. Some of the rumors were true while others were not. In the conference keynote address, Apple announced upgrades to all of its operating systems, but no new products were unveiled.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, opened the address by talking about the shootings in Orlando the previous day. He said, "We offer our deepest sympathies to everyone whose lives were touched by this violence. It was senseless, unconscionable act of terrorism and hate aimed at dividing and destroying. The Apple community is made up of people from all around the world, of different backgrounds and different points of view. We celebrate our diversity. We know that it makes us stronger, it moves everyone forward." Cook then asked everyone to stand for a moment of silence.
Cook said that Apple now had 13 million developers registered with Apple and two million of them were added in the past year. There are more than two million apps in the App Store. The conference had over 5,000 attendees with millions watching online. More than 74 countries were represented. Over 100 attendees are under 18, with the youngest being a nine-year-old girl.
Many new features were described for each operating system and all the new operating systems will be available in the fall. Specific VoiceOver commands for each new feature were not described, but Apple's excellent commitment to accessibility is well known.
The new operating system for the Apple Watch is called watchOS3. An issue with the watch has been that it takes a long time for apps to load. The new operating system will load seven times faster, since apps will be able to refresh in the background. The watch will now have a Dock, similar to the Mac and iOS devices, that can be launched by pressing the side button (formerly the Friends button). Third-party apps can also be added to the Dock.
It appears that Glances will be retired and replaced by a Control Center, similar to iOS. Swiping up will open the Control Center. The Reminders and Find My Friends apps will also be standard on watchOS3.
In watchOS3, Apple is adding an innovative feature called SOS, which allows you to contact emergency assistance directly from your watch. Press and hold the side button and you will hear a countdown. At the end of the countdown, the watch will contact emergency services, wherever you are. Once the call is ended, the watch will automatically send a message to your pre-determined emergency contacts giving them your location. Your emergency medical information will be displayed on the screen for emergency responders.
The process for replying to a message has been streamlined. It will no longer be necessary to activate the Reply button to begin the process. Quick replies will be on the first screen; just scroll down to read them. Activate the reply you want.
A new feature, Scribble, will also be included with watchOS3. This feature lets you write a reply using your finger. At this point Apple has not indicated whether the feature will be accessible with VoiceOver.
Some new watch faces, such as Mini Mouse, have been added. The process for changing a watch face has been simplified, According to Apple's research, watch users like to change their watch face depending on what they are doing. Favorite Faces can be arranged in the watch so that they are next to each other, making them easier to locate and change.
Activity and Health Improvements
The Activity app will let you be in competition with friends and family through Activity Sharing. Once you set up the app, you can know how others are progressing on their daily activity goals. You can also message them through the app. Another feature, designed for wheelchair users, replaces Time to Stand with Time to Roll. The Workout app will include two workouts specifically designed for people who use wheelchairs.
A new Breathe app will be part of watchOS3. This app is designed to guide the user through deep breathing sessions, to help relax the body, quiet the mind, and deal with everyday stress. You can set reminders for this app. With the digital crown, choose from one to five minute sessions. Both sighted and blind users can use haptic feedback (vibrations) for their reminders.
The 4th generation Apple TV was launched last fall. This fall will bring new features to tvOS, the Apple TV operating system.
New and Improved Apps
At the WWDC, Eddie Cue, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services said, "We now have over 1,300 video channels and we have over 6,000 native apps in just seven months. And I've got some great new apps to tell you about. First, Sling, which offers a great selection of live cable channels, is coming to the Apple TV today." He then named several additional apps.
The iOS Remote app for Apple TV has been improved allowing an iOS device to function like an actual remote that comes with a TV.
Siri for Apple TV has been improved. Siri can now search by subject and searches over 650,000 movies and TV shows. Siri can also search YouTube.
A new, convenient feature is single sign-on. At present, the first time a video channel app is launched, you need to enter your user name and password and you need to do this for each new app. Single sign-on means that the information only needs to be entered once and it will carry over to other video apps. Cue said, "You sign in once on your Apple TV and you get access to all of your network apps." He added, "A page on the App Store will show you all the apps you have access to, and of course we're bringing this to iOS as well." If an app is available on your iOS device and on the Apple TV, downloading it to the iOS device will also cause the app to download onto your Apple TV.
Live Tune-In is another new feature for tvOS. Tell Siri which live channel you want to watch and the channel will start playing within a couple of seconds.
The first change that will occur with Mac computers is the new operating system's name, macOS. The new Mac operating system is called macOS Sierra.
Apple will be adding some new continuity features for Mac and iOS devices. Craig Federighi, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering explained, "Continuity is like magic: your devices are able to sense themselves around you and use secure, peer-to-peer wireless protocols to enable you to move from one task to another across your devices seamlessly."
The first continuity feature he described was the ability to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. The next continuity feature described was Universal Clipboard. This lets the user copy text, images, video, etc. to a clipboard and then paste the clipboard contents into a project on the Mac.
iCloud Drive on the Mac will now have the Documents folder and Desktop items available across your iPhone and all your other Macs. Another new iCloud Mac feature is Optimized Storage. With this feature enabled, on your Mac, older files can be stored in the Cloud instead of on the Mac's hard drive. These files include documents, photos, and old email attachments. Files that are no longer needed, such as those in the Safari web cache, in trash, and old e-mail data, can be deleted automatically. The choice of deleted file types is customizable.
With the launch of Sierra, Apple Pay will become available on the web. Federighi explained, "When you're shopping online, you'll have a 'Pay with Apple Pay' button available to you. When you click it, a sheet comes down and actually prompts you to authenticate your purchase using continuity right on your iPhone with Touch ID." He continued, "Of course this works with your Apple Watch as well, so you can authenticate with just a tap on your wrist." Federighi added that many online merchants have already signed up to begin accepting Apple Pay. It is already available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, and Singapore. Within the next few months, it will be available in Switzerland, France, and Hong Kong.
Tabs will be available in more apps including Maps and third-party apps.The Mac will now support picture in picture. This may be an important and useful feature for low vision users.
Siri for Mac
The final new Mac feature is that Siri will be coming to the Mac. Siri can be accessed directly from the Dock. Siri can do advanced file searches, web searches, play music, and all the other Siri features on iOS devices.
Lock Screen Improvements
According to Federighi, iOS10 "is the biggest iOS release for our users." The lock screen experience has been revised. The Raise to Wake feature displays what is on the lock screen without having to press any buttons. Activate the feature by holding the phone in your hand and raise your wrist. With an iPhone 6s, 3D Touch can be used to interact in many ways with items on the screen.
Control Center Redesign
The Control Center has been redesigned. New music controls are accessed by swiping right. Sliding from right to left will open the camera from the lock screen. Sliding left to right way will bring up widgets.
Improvements to Siri
Previously, Siri was not open to developers. That will change with iOS 10. Many apps will now be useable with Siri including Uber, WeChat, Runkeeper, and Skype. Siri's comprehension and abilities will also be improved.
The QuickType feature will offer suggestions based on the context of the message or email you are typing. It can also switch languages without switching keyboards.
The Photos app has undergone a significant change. Facial recognition will be supported in iOS10. The app can put all the people who are important to you into people albums. The Photo app can also recognize objects and scenes. Another new feature is Memories. Photos can be grouped together based on different variables such as people, places, and subject. The iOS device adds music to the memories show, but music can be changed and the show can be edited.
The Maps app will be open to third-party developers. More features for the Maps app will be available such as searching for restaurants and getting traffic information.
Apple Music Redesign
Apple Music has been redesigned. The first tab will be Library. Here, music can be sorted in several different ways: Playlists, Songs, Artists, and Albums. Recently Added and Downloaded Music sections will be added. When a song is playing, its lyrics can be displayed.
The next tab is For You--This used to be the first tab in Apple Music. There will be a Discovery Mix in this section with music specifically chosen based on your Apple Music preferences. The next section in For You is Recently Played, followed by Daily Curated Playlists. The next tab, Connect, is where you can follow artists.
The next tab is Browse. Apple Music staff selects music that is new and important. The Radio tab has Apple's Beats 1 station and continuous music stations based on genre and artists.
The Apple News app now has over 2,000 publications. The For You section has been broken down into several sections including Top Stories and Trending. You can now subscribe to newspapers and magazines directly from the News app. There will be an option to have breaking news stories delivered straight to the locked screen.
HomeKit has been expanded. Federighi said, "Essentially every major maker of home accessories is shipping or has announced support for HomeKit." There will also be a new app called Home.
The Phone app will introduce the ability to get voicemail transcription. Anti-spam technology will also be available.
The Message app offers the ability to use emojis for words. When the emoji button is tapped, all words that can be replaced with emojis will be displayed. Choose from the list of offerings for each word. Additional content such as photos, links, and videos can be added easily. Handwritten messages are now supported. The bubble size of your message can be changed. Apple has opened Messages to developers.
Some additional features of iOS10 are the ability to collaborate with others in Notes, split view in Safari on the iPad, and conversation view in Mail (where you can scroll through the conversation.)
Apple's commitment to privacy and security was reiterated.
Tim Cook introduced Swift Playgrounds, an iPad app to teach people how to write code. He said, Swift Playgrounds will revolutionize the way people learn to code. They'll be able to do it right on their iPad, which instantly makes it accessible to hundreds of millions of people around the world. There has never been anything like this. We believe it's the absolute best way to teach everyone to code." Later in the discussion Cook added, "We believe coding should be a language in all schools, so to make this the case, we're going to make Swift Playgrounds free."
I look forward to exploring the many new features and apps that were introduced at WWDC 2016. To learn about Apple's new accessibility offerings and to learn about making apps accessible, go to Apple's What's New in Accessibility video. This video is geared to sighted developers but there is a lot of interesting content.
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