Apple WWDC19 Keynote, June 2018 - Key Themes
Don’t want to read? Watch the video below, or search in your podcast app: Gregory Schmidt
This is a LATE post. It was written in June 2018 right after the event, but ICU call got in the way of finishing it in June. Tomorrow is the September Apple Event. That only leaves today to post this piece if I want to be able to embarrass myself with old erroneous predictions.
Almost didn’t watch
There were no hardware updates, no major stories being retweeted on twitter, and a quick news search after the keynote returned more stories written before the event than anything from the live event itself. My expectations were pretty low about what happened at the Apple Spring 2018 WWDC19 Keynote this June. I almost didn’t watch the recorded version.
The full version is available here.
In the end, the keynote far exceeded expectations. I think it may be one of the most important software updates in years. It showed that Apple has a solid understanding of where consumers are shifting with regards to trying to reclaim control of their digital life and mitigate the negative effects of social media. There is a focus on improving direct person-to-person communications, and reduction in passive consumption of screen time and reduction in notifications.
Apple also is well positioned to stand alone as the major tech brand known for trust and security. Which will become increasingly valued as more personal information - and health information - is held by these companies.
Summary: 5 Major Themes
1. Privacy, Security:
Apple continues to position itself as the dominant company concerned with user privacy. In the past they aded features to require user’s permission to share one’s location with an app. They also added the ability to see when apps were secretly tracking your location when the app was closed ‘in the background’. New features were released this keynote to protect in addition to a user’s location also they’re contacts, photos, calendars, reminders from other APIs trying to access them without a user’s direct permission on the different Apple products.
This Keynote Apple takes a massive step forward in security and privacy. In fact it seems like a giant f-you to Facebook and Google. The new release will disable many of the spy/tracking tools that are used on most websites for to monetize a users’s behaviour for advertisers. For the big platforms that rely on advertisement to make money - this seems like a direct attack at them.
“We've all seen these: these like buttons and share buttons and comment buttons.
It turns out these can be used to track you - whether you click on them or not.
And so this year, we are shutting that down”
2. Wellbeing & the Digital Backlash:
There is a growing trend to ‘disconnect’ from social media and technology. Many people are now beginning to view believe social media as a negative force in their life (Which is what the research supports!) Apple announced new tools that will allow people to help re-gain command over their device.
To begin with, notifications have been reduced and new controls added. People often use their phone as an alarm clock. The problem is when one wakes up, they are greeted with a phone lock screen full of messages. Now, users will be able to disable seeing all messages until they explicitly turn them later in the morning. More ‘mute’ phone settings have been added to allow a user to disconnect from their phone for an hour, an evening, or until they leave a location or an event.
In order to know how much time you spend on the phone, a new app ‘Screen Time’ has been added. It will quantify screen time per app per day or as weekly summaries. Users can set a limit of time for each app, and the phone can then lock down that app when the timer exceeds it. Parents will also be able to manage these controls as well.
Read the Apple Press Release on Screen Time here
3. Improving Person-To-Person Communication:
Apple released multiple upgrades which try to position the iPhone as a major communication tool. Facetime was upgraded to have 32 multi-person video chats. New walki-talki functionality was introduced between iOS devices.
Last year 3D Emoji’s were introduced which many viewed as a gimic. The facial recognition features of the phone map to someone’s face and they can control a cartoon face. This Keynote the feature was expanded to include MeMoji. This allows users to create they’re own personalized 3D facial characters. The cartoon faces can also be added in real time onto someone’s head in a FaceTime video.
I think the new MeMjori features will play particularly well with the teenage crowd. It may help position the iPhone as a device that people ask for because of its unique messaging capabilities. This may help lock in users onto the Apple platform at a younger age.
Photo sharing now anticipates what photos you may want to share, and with whom. Reciprocal sharing was introduced, and will prompt users to share photos with someone who was also at the event and shared photos with you.
Photos will now be indexed automatically to correlated to public events based on time and place. For instance, if you took a picture at a concert, when you search your photos by the band’s name, it will know that a photo was taken at a concert of that band, and show you the image.
Apple photos also made a few improvements to the photo sharing suggestions ‘for you’ page. Its now slowly catching up (but still very far behind) Google Photos.
The required machine learning for this will be apparently done ‘on-device’. Apple has adopted what I think may be a more secure long term ML strategy prefering local device ML rather than cloud based ML. It may prove to be more secure, and this could be of benefit when more personal healthcare data is handled..
4. AR Stuff:
Every tech presentation needs to drop some buzzwords like AR. New upgrades show Apple understanding of the commercial implications of AR (online shopping, sales) and the social implications (multi-player games in the same physical space).
Apple released with Adobe and Pixar a new AR format - USDz (Universal Scene Description). This single file contains all the AR assets required. The USDz file can be easily embedded in a website, sent in an email, or message. Its easy to move about as a photo. These files can be edited across the entire Adobe suite easily.
Apple also showed how the native AR features in iPhone are able to measure objects in the room accurately. This isn’t new - third party apps have been doing this since AR was introduced last year. I suspect the focus here, is to show the accuracy of this experience - which will be useful in trying to visualize products in your home before purchase.
Shared AR Experiences were introduced which allow multiple devices to view a common AR experience. This creates impressive live multi-person games. Lego had a great demo showing how 3D object detection and persistent experiences in AR Kit 2 allows developers to recognize the same physical object (a toy building), and overlay an AR experience around this
5. Respond to the Critics:
Every upgrade to iOS brings lamentation and articles about old iPhones slowing down. The keynote starts by showing how the new iOS will improve your old device’s speed and productivity. Apps will launch 40% faster, and slide for photos launching 70% faster.
Upgrades to the other platforms also bring welcome additions. The Mac now has a ‘Dark Mode’ UX. Images in viewed in ‘preview’ will include full meta data.
A huge, and quite improvement is that PDF documents can easily be signed and annotated within Preview! No more moving them into Adobe or other software to try and add a written signature or some text to a document.
On the watch, if you forget to start a workout, now the watch will prompt you. If you forget to stop a workout, you will also get a reminder.
On TV - people have often wondered where the areal photography comes from. They will now be able to view this info.
Users will be able to easily set up they’re own ‘automations’. This will give the other automation companies a good run as users can control native Apple functions to create automated ‘shortcuts’.
Some Other Stuff
The Apple Watch was discussed. More great stories of how it has saved people’s lives.
There was no discussion during the Keynote on some very exciting news that was released on Apple’s website the same day. A Press Release mentioned the Apple Health Records API will be opened to developers.
Continuing to move towards a massive payment system. Plans to introduce University student ID cards at more campsus
Opening Up the Platforms
Safari will allow progressive web apps. There will be support for 3rd party apps on the watchface, and to play background audio on the watch. Siri will continue to open up its capacity.
The Stage Production
These keynotes are a huge - 6000 people in the hall, and millions watching online.
Compared to the other major tech Keynotes such Google, Facebook, or Microsoft - Apple continues to put on the most highly polished stage production.
This year opened with a video, narrated by David Attenburough.
The stage appeared to be one of the widest I’ve seen. To additional smaller side stagers were set up for more intimate product demonstrations. The wide screen (as opposed to multiple smaller screens) I think made it easier to obtain a single screen feed to export to the recorded version of the Keynote
With the wide screen size, has also come with it the complete death of the slide deck. There was no reminiscence of past Apple slide deck styles.
The stage lighting had good attention to detail. The lights were perfectly shaped - in particular the stage was lit so that there was absolutely no light spilling backward onto the screen nor off the sides. This created the illusion of presenters disappearing instantly when walking off stage.
Lets see what tomorrow brings. I’ve learned my lesson that trying to predict these events is an unproductive activity.