Image credits: Apple
The announcements from this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference can be summed in three words: efficiency, consistency, and control. As software and app developers, Quantilus is keenly interested in Apple’s vision as it determines what we are able to create and build for clients on Macs, iPhones, and iPads. New features and capabilities mean new possibilities. The news with the most impact relates to the Mac but has broader implications across iPhone and iPad in the future.
Custom-built Apple CPU: A Monumental Shift
The significant announcement—and certainly the one with the most buzz—is Apple’s plan to transition Mac products from Intel processors to its homegrown ARM-based chips called Apple Silicon. The new silicon chips are similar to the processors Apple uses for iPhones and iPads. Apple plans to release the first silicon–powered Mac by the end of 2020, with the full transition of the entire Mac product line occurring over the next two years. But not to worry, Apple will continue to support and release new Intel-powered Macs for years to come, so it’s not exclusive (at least for now). It does send a clear message that Apply will not rely on Intel moving forward. The move will end Apple’s dependence on a third-party CPU, which tended to dictate what, when, and how of its product lineup. Apple will now have complete control and will reap efficiencies with the integration of hardware, software, and services across its entire family of products. As a result, Apple can build better products across the board.
So, what does this all mean for developers, clients, and end-users? The fact that iOS and iPadOS apps can run natively on silicon-powered Macs is a key benefit because an app can now work across all devices. One common and scalable architecture across all the Apple devices makes it easier for developers to create software across Mac laptops/desktops (MacOS), iPhones (iOS), and iPads (iPadOS), which equates to reduced time and costs. Additionally, the new processors are faster and offer higher performance at lower power consumption, which means better processing, improved graphics performance, and longer battery life—all valuable features for end-users.
MacOS Big Sur: Bridging the Gap
Touted by Apple as the biggest design update since MacOS X, the release of Big Sur (MacOS 11) offers refreshed designs for all apps on the system, including calendar, notes, podcasts, and music. The new operating system also boasts a revamped Safari browser with improved tab management capabilities, new privacy features, browser extensions, and built-in language translation. Other notables include updates to Messages that offer better conversation management and group messaging options and a redesigned Maps app featuring Guides from trusted sources and 360-degree views of destinations.
More so than the new visual look, Big Sur represents Apple’s vision of a consistent experience across its family of products. It is a look that Apple describes as “entirely new but instantly familiar.” While the modern user interface and user experience are new to the Mac, one can’t help to notice that it looks like iOS on a computer. Additionally, the unique experience of Big Sur includes some features, such as widgets, messages, and guides, touted in the next release in the fall for iOS and iPadOS. The underlying theme is a cohesive experience across devices for Apple customers. The average American household owns 2.6 Apple products, and that number jumps to 4.7 products for affluent households. Consequently, the familiarity here is a positive takeaway because of the universal apps and features means that the user experience is consistent. Users will not need to learn how to do the same task a different way on a different device.
iOS14 and iPadOS 14: Improved usability and access
The news for iPhones and iPads focused on updates to system software. Apple’s next iOS and iPadOS release in the fall will offer users new and improved usability, features, and experiences with their phones and tablets. All great news for the 193 million iPhone users in the United States.
Apple has wholly rethought apps management and organization on the iPhone. Common user frustrations are addressed, and app content will be served and customized to the user thanks to on-device machine learning. Consequently, developers, clients, and end-users will have better access and visibility for installed and/or frequently used apps.
The new capabilities to look forward to with iOS14 include:
- Widgets: Widgets—offering timely content at a glance—can be added to the home screen based on your interests. Additionally, smartstack will surface the widget you’ll want to use next based on the user’s behavioral patterns of activity, time, and location.
- App Library: The new App Library will put an end to the endless sifting and search for apps across multiple screens. App Library will organize all the apps into smart folders and in an easier-to-navigate view. And, like the widgets, the App Library will organize and predictively serve up the apps when you need it.
- Compact Call User Interface: No more full-screen takeovers while on a call or using Siri. A new compact design for these interactions allows simultaneous access and use of your screen. Additionally, picture-in-picture comes to the iPhone, allowing for multitasking while on a Facetime call or watching a video. Users now will be able to Facetime chat with a friend about where to go for dinner while searching for restaurants on Google.
- App Clips: Looking to pay for your parking or coffee with an app? App Clips allow users access to certain parts of product or service apps without downloading the full app through scan of App Clip code, QR code, or NFC tags. To leverage this capability, developers need only to create a clip under 10MB in size and ideally use sign-in with Apple and Apple Pay to ensure the user won’t need to login or create an account.
- Updated Messages: The new features for Messages offer better management, control, and communications. With the new release, users will be able to pin messages, seamlessly keep up with group threads, and further customize images, emojis, and Memojis.
Most of the new capabilities in iOS14 apply to iPadOS 14, so best to focus on what’s going to make the iPad experience even better and users more productive and creative. These include:
- A New Search Tool: With a new streamlined user interface, search on the iPad will look and perform much like that on a Mac. Additionally, search on iPad will be more comprehensive and capable of finding anything on your device or on the internet. This indicates further convergence between the iPad and the Mac.
- Scribble: Apple Pencil users will be thrilled to know that their handwritten text will now automatically convert to typed text when scribed in any text field. Write a response with Apple Pencil to a text in Messages or a keyword search in Safari. Additionally, on-device machine learning will enable the iPad to distinguish between handwriting and drawing. Notetakers can now easily select, cut, and paste handwritten notes as typed text in documents.
- Enhance Augmented Reality: A new ARKit will allow developers to create augmented reality apps with such depth and precision that experiences will seem even more real. The capability will impact the ability to accurately depict virtual try-on experiences, interior design, and more. And the introduction of Location Anchors will allow developers to pin their AR experiences to a specific location anywhere in the world.
The Bottom Line
Picture a line representing user experience with Mac at one endpoint and iPhone/iPad at the other endpoint. Now, picture each endpoint moving toward one another, inching closer and closer together. The implications point to complete convergence in the future across Mac, iPad, and iPhone experiences. And while these will continue to be separate products with different use cases, it signals a warm welcome for those users who have use for two or all three products.
For Apple, getting consumers to buy into the ecosystem is what it’s all about. Luckily, the experience will be seamless for the consumers who do.