Apple WWDC 2017 Recap: Apple announces iOS 11, New iPad, HomePod and much more
In a packed auditorium today at its annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference Keynote, Apple announced a slew of updates to its varying operating systems while also unveiling onstage in one of the rare instances, hardware upgrades to its existing iPad and iMac line of products. And to top it all, all those Siri Speaker rumors turned out to be true except, that’s not what it’ll be called. The keynote began with an Apple video showcasing a hypothetical bleak scenario where Apps are no more, dubbed by Apple as the Appocalypse. Here’s a recap of the most important announcements.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the show, Apple announced lots of new features for the iOS 11 including several improvements to its Messaging, Camera and Photos app. Of notable interest is the fact that the new iOS supports recording videos in the new H265 HEVC codec which could be a major game changer along with support for a newer image format named HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) which Apple promises, is compatible with existing services that use JPEG. Upgrades were also announced for its Maps service and Apple Music and Apple also released its new Apple Music Kit for developers to take advantage of. The App Store also underwent a redesign, it’s first in a decade, and how has dedicated tabs to highlight new apps and games for the day.
Like all other major players, Apple too made the plunge to Machine Learning, announcing how it’s already using advances in AI for such basic tasks as allowing the phone to intelligently control battery usage. And much like Facebook’s F8, it also showcased several AR and VR demoes, the most impressive of which was one from Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films. Likewise, it also announced updates to its smart assistant Siri (which has been left quite behind compared to the competition) with support for different voice patterns and real time text translation from English to a limited languages for now. The Photos app also received an upgrade to make better use of Machine Learning to organize photos and group them into relevant events such as sporting or anniversary albums (Google Photos anyone?).
Apple finally refreshed its iPad lineup 18 months after the last iteration was launched. The 9.7 inch version has been replaced by a 10.5 inch one which, together with the 12.9-inch model will constitute Apple’s iPad lineup moving forward. The new iPads use Apple’s custom A10 Fusion chip and, in an industry first, come with screens that support a refresh rate of 120Hz making motion applications such as scrolling that much more smoother. The display is also capable of dynamically lowering its refresh rate depending on the content on screen to preserve battery. Apple promises a 30% faster CPU and 40% graphics improvement in the new iPads.
iOS 11 for iPad also had some improvements to offer, the most notable among these being the Drag & Drop feature which allows users to drag different kinds of content from one application to another and preserving screen spaces which saves your different split-screen views comprising of varying app combinations that you can come back to later. Finally the base storage has been bumped up to 64 GB and the new iPads will start from $649 for the 10.7 inch version and $799 for the 12.9 inch version with prices going up $100 for storage bumps.
The star of the show, and the revelation kept for the end was the oft-rumored Siri Speaker which turned out to be the Homepod. Apple Vice President Phil Schiller introduced the product as fulfilling a need for a home speaker that combines an effective music speaker with a smart assistant, calling out on competitors for being unable to fill this gap. He claimed the HomePod will do for Home Music what the iPod did for Music on-the-go. The HomePod features Apple’s custom A8 chip (yes the same one used on iPhones) that allows it to be spatially aware of its surroundings and adjust the audio to take advantage of its environment wisely. And with Siri built in, you can ask it to play stuff in a variety of different ways since Siri now supports context-sensitivity.
That said, the HomePod’s smart assistant features were downplayed (possibly in a bid to avoid comparisons with the Amazon Echo and Google Home) although Apple did say that it will support interactions on a host of different topics ranging from News, Sports, Reminders, Weather, General Knowledge and even Messaging. The HomePod is expected to be available sometime during fall this year. We’ve covered the HomePod separately here.
Apple also announced upgrades to the iMacs & Macbooks to support Intel’s new line of Kaby-Lake Processors. With the 5K iMac, Apple is aiming for workstation level performance and announced to thunderous applause, support for 10-Core, 12-Core and even 18-Core Xeon Processors with up to 11 Teraflops of processing power. They also support half-precision computing which effectively doubles this to 22 Teraflops (think of it in layman’s terms as something akin to HyperThreading). The new 5K iMacs will also support up to 128 GB of ECC Memory and up to 4 TB of SSDs operating at 3 GB/s and will set you back a jaw-dropping $4999. The new iMacs start at $1099 for the 21.5 inch version going up to $1299 for the 4K version with the 5K one setting you back $1799.
The Macbook lineup was similarly refreshed with support for Kaby-Lake CPUs along with the newly announced MacOS named High Sierra which promises a tremendous increase in performance. The basic Macbook will be available starting $1299 for the 13-inch version with the one with touch bar costing $1799. The 15-inch touchbar version will entail for $2399. All versions are available for order starting today. You can read our coverage of the iMac Pro here.
Finally, updates to tvOS and watch OS were also announced with watchOS now supporting the ability to play music along with tracking your walking simultaneously, all through the watch interface itself. Apple also announced in partnership with Amazon that Amazon Prime Video is coming to Apple TV.
To end the note on a high, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a fireside chat at the very hall where the keynote was being held tomorrow with Michelle Obama also delivering a keynote on empowering people from all walks of life to change the world. The CEO also encouraged developer attendees to interact with over a 1000 Apple engineers present on site over the next few days. The press are also invite to have a hands-on with the new products between 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM PT today. With so much material there to cover, we’ll be digging into the finer details of some of these announcements in the upcoming few posts.