WWDC 2017 – Everything You Need to Know
As expected from Apple, the WWDC 2017 keynote has introduced the world to a new batch of cool stuff from the company, ranging from hardware like the new iMac to software such as iOS 11.
Seeing as there is quite a number of things to go through, I’ll being this article by looking at Apple’s hardware offerings, before moving on to the software side of things. Without further ado, let’s begin.
New iMac Pro and updated iMacs
We start off this hardware roundup with a look at one of Apple’s older products: the iMac. At WWDC 2017, Apple has introduced a new top-of-the-line iMac that the company has unsurprisingly dubbed the iMac Pro.
Sporting a Space Gray (dark gray) chassis as opposed to the regular iMac’s silvery-gray one, Apple claims that the iMac Pro is the "most powerful Mac ever made", and the internals more or less proves just that.
The iMac Pro comes with:
- 27-inch 5K Retina display.
- Equipped with up to an 18-core Intel Xeon processor.
- AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 GPU with 16GB of HBM2 VRAM, up to 128GB of RAM.
- 4TB of SSD storage space.
- 10Gb Ethernet port, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
For cooling, the iMac Pro comes with a new thermal design that Apple claims could provide up to 80% more cooling capacity than the regular iMac. The iMac Pro will come with a keyboard and mouse of the same Space Gray color, which according to Apple, is exclusive to the iMac Pro itself.
Pricing for the iMac Pro begins at USD4,999, with the product expected to ship out sometime in December. So yes, you won’t be able to get your hands on it for quite a while.
If you’re looking to replace your aging iMac sooner, you might want to take a look at the newly refreshed iMac line. While all new iMacs are now powered by Intel’s Kaby Lake processor, the 21.5-inch Retina 4K iMac and the 27-inch Retina 5K iMac gets some additional upgrades.
For both Retina 4K and 5K iMacs, the machines have been equipped with a new monitor that Apple claims is 43% brighter than its predecessor and supports one billion colors. On top of that, both machines sport a AMD Radeon Pro 500 series GPU. All iMac models will have two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The newly refreshed iMacs are now available for purchase with the prices starting at USD1,099 for the standard iMac model.
MacBooks & MacBook Pros get refreshed
In terms of announcements, the MacBook and MacBook Pros aren’t getting any major upgrades from the pre-existing models. That being said, Apple’s series of laptops will be getting hardware refreshes, with the MacBook Pro lines getting an upgrade to Intel’s Kaby Lake processors as well as faster SSDs.
Speaking of MacBook Pros, Apple has also announced that a new 13-inch MacBook Pro will be making its way to the market. This particular laptop will be a base model, which means it doesn’t come with a Touch Bar. That aside, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro will sport a 500-nit Retina display and an Intel Core i7 processor. Prices for this variant of the MacBook Pro will begin at USD1,299.
Rounding up the MacBook session, we’ve finally learned that Apple is not abandoning the MacBook Air after all. While the MacBook Air isn’t getting any large scale updates, Apple has decided to bump up the laptop’s performance by equipping it with a 1.8GHz processor.
New 10.5" iPad Pro & refreshed 12.9" iPad Pro
Are you a fan of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro? If you’ve answered yes to the question, I have some bad news for you – the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has been discontinued. To replace the 9.7-inch model, Apple has announced a new iPad Pro model that sports a bigger screen, 10.5-inches to be exactly.
Alongside the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, Apple has also announced a refresh of the existing 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
So what’s new with the 2017 batch of iPad Pros? For starters, the new iPad Pros now sport a new display technology dubbed as "ProMotion". With it, the 120Hz panels on the iPad Pros can now be scaled according to the apps’ needs in order to conserve battery power. On top of that, this new technology can also help improve the Apple Pencil’s latency.
Specifications-wise, the new iPad Pros now come equipped with the A10X Fusion processor, Apple’s newest processor that features a 6-core CPU and a 12-core GPU. The iPad Pros also sport the same 12MP camera found on the iPhone 7, complete with optical image stabilization technology, and a 7MP FaceTime HD camera.
Despite the upgrade, the new iPad Pros will still be able to last up to 10 hours on a single charge. Prices for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro begins at USD649, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at USD799.
HomePod – Apple’s very own smart speaker
Rumors were going around for months that Apple is busy working on a smart speaker. At WWDC 2017, those rumors were proven true as the company debuted the HomePod at the event’s Keynote speech.
Measuring at seven feet tall and covered in a mesh fabric cover, the HomePod is more or less Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. Powered by an A8 processor, the HomePod revolves around Apple’s Siri assistant.
Operating the speaker is pretty standard fare as all the user needs to do is say "Hey Siri" and the speaker will spring to life, allowing the user to give it commands.
Much like other smart speakers, the HomePod is capable of giving the user information like news, traffic conditions, reminders and more. In addition to assistant-like features, the HomePod can also be used to control your HomeKit-powered smart devices as the speaker comes with HomeKit integration.
Seeing as the device is a speaker, the HomePod comes integrated with Apple Music. Apple did not mention if the HomePod will play nice with other music streaming services (Spotify etc), although I wouldn’t hold my breath over that happening anytime soon.
So what makes the HomePod different from other smart speakers? Well, Apple’s offering is spatially aware, allowing the speaker to adjust the quality of the audio to adapt to the room it is in. While the tech behind it remains a secret, Apple did manage to demo this feature during the presentation.
Much like the iMac Pro mentioned above, the HomePod isn’t available just yet. The smart speaker will retail for USD349, and is expected to ship to the U.S., U.K., and Australia in December. If you live outside these aforementioned countries, you’ll only be able to get your hands on a HomePod in 2018.
Now that we’ve gotten the hardware out of the way, let’s move on to the software side of things. For this year’s WWDC, Apple has decided to focus on three particular topics: iOS11, macOS High Sierra and watchOS 4.
It wouldn’t be a WWDC if Apple did not preview their latest version of iOS and WWDC 2017 is no different thanks to iOS 11.
A more intelligent Siri
With Apple’s latest version of iOS, the operating system is getting a few new tricks up its sleeve. We start of this part by talking about Siri, as Apple’s digital assistant is getting the machine learning treatment which would allow it to sound "more natural".
Besides sounding more natural, Siri will now be capable of performing live translations from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Apple has mentioned that more languages will be supported over time.
Taking a page out of Cortana and Google Assistant’s book, Apple is also implementing something called on-device learning to Siri. With this system in place, Siri can now give suggestions that are based on personal usage of Safari, News, Mail, Messages and more.
Furthermore, information that is used by on-device learning is synced across all of the user’s Apple devices, allowing Siri to work more efficiently. Finally, users who would like a change of tone in Siri will soon be able to do so as Apple is adding a male voice to the assistant.
Apple Pay Cash Card
The next feature that will be expanded upon with iOS 11 is Apple Pay. With iOS 11, Apple is introducing an Apple Pay Cash Card system that lets users store funds that were received via peer-to-peer transactions. Money held by the Cash Card system can then be transferred over to your personal bank account.
This system will be integrated into iMessage as well, which is great for those who want to send money to someone in their contacts list.
Do Not Disturb While Driving
Personal safety is yet another subject that Apple is seeking to tackle with iOS 11 and the company is doing so by way of a feature called Do Not Disturb While Driving. As the name of the feature might clue you in, Do Not Disturb While Driving will cause your iOS device to block all notifications and blank out the screen when you’re driving.
The system can also be configured to automatically send messages that read I’m driving if the user decides to do so.
App Store Redesigned
Apple’s App Store will also be undergoing a major visual overhaul with iOS 11. While a large portion of the changes are cosmetic, Apple has added a few new features to the new App Store such as a new Today tab, a dedicated Games tab, as well as editorial-based content such as how-tos and "making off" stories.
More other features
Other features that will be coming to iOS 11 includes a new camera app that utilises the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) for better image compression and a redesigned Control Center that can be squeezed into a single screen.
iOS 11 will also come with iPad-only features like a new Mac-like dock, a new drag-and-drop feature that lets you move information or media from one split-screen app to another, and a new file management app that is simply called "Files".
iOS 11 is now available in Developer Beta form starting from today. The full version of iOS 11 is expected to be ready in Fall.
macOS High Sierra
If you’re one of the few people who joked about how Windows 10’s next major update is called the unimaginative Fall Creators Update, then macOS High Sierra would be perfect joke material for you.
Boring choice of name aside, macOS High Sierra will see Apple continue to work on the macOS Sierra platform by introducing improvements to the operating system’s performance, security and storage efficiency.
Seeing as VR requires some serious horsepower from the machine attempting to run it, Apple is looking to produce an external graphics solution that can be used by MacBooks. For now, this external graphics solution is only available as a Developer Kit.
The Photos app is also getting a rework with macOS High Sierra as well. Currently used as a photo management app that sports some simplistic editing tools, Apple is looking to rework Photos into a proper photo editing workshop that can challenge the likes of Adobe Photoshop.
Finally, the macOS High Sierra update will see Apple introduce the Apple File System (APFS), which will be replacing the outdated Hierarchical File System. This change is expected to improve the security and safety of the files while performing faster than the previous system.
Much like iOS 11, the Developer Beta for macOS High Sierra is now available. macOS High Sierra will be made available to all Macs that are capable of supporting macOS Sierra in Fall.
Rounding up the list of WWDC 2017 reveals, we have watchOS 4, the next big update to the Apple Watch’s OS.
With this upcoming update, Apple will be introducing a Siri watchface that displays relevant information prominently on the screen. By using machine learning, the Siri watchface is able to display information that may prove useful at any given point in time.
For those who use Apple Watch for fitness purposes, the updates that are made to the Workout app will be a great boon.
For starters, the app now comes with new motion and heart rate algorithms for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts, and the new GymKit platform lets the Apple Watch communicate with fitness machines like treadmills, indoor bikes, and more.
Finally, watchOS 4 will come with a redesigned Music app that lets the Apple Watch automatically sync Apple Music playlists. The Music app will also be capable of supporting multiple playlists.
watchOS 4 is now available in Developer Preview form. The full version of watchOS 4 is expected to go live in Fall.