Chief executive Tim Cook said that Apple had six big announcements Monday at its annual developers conference. Cook promised updates to each of Apple’s operating systems – for the Apple TV, the Apple Watch, mobile devices and computers – plus some additional announcements that he promises will be “major.”
Here’s what we found out about each of them:
1) Apple’s home hub is here.
The HomePod is Apple’s smart speaker – the answer to Google Home and Amazon’s Echo line. The speaker will respond to voice commands using Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, and is closely integrated with Apple’s Music services. The speaker will also be able to sense the size of the room using acoustics. It will also work with Apple services such as Messages and its smart home appliance platform, HomeKit. And just like its competitors, the HomePod will provide information on news, general knowledge, weather and sports scores.
While its features appear very similar to what’s available on the Echo or Google Home, Apple said that its distinguishing feature is sound quality.
The HomePod is designed with privacy in mind, said Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of worldwide marketing. All communications are encrypted.
The HomePod will cost $349 – more expensive than Google’s and Amazon’s smart speakers – and will start shipping in December.
2) Amazon is coming to Apple TV.
It’s a been a long road for Apple TV customers who like to watch Amazon Video. A feud between the two companies has kept Amazon’s library off the Apple set-top box. But the firms appear to have buried the hatchet a little. That’s good for consumers, who have been caught in the middle of a battle between two titans that has made the streaming world needlessly complicated. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)
3) Apple Watch is getting an update.
Siri is getting smarter on the Apple Watch, with a new watch face that uses the assistant to set up a feed of your day on your wrist. The watch face, which seems like a mash-up between Google Now and your Facebook feed, will show you photos of old memories from previous years and make recommendations. For example, if you’re close to hitting your activity goals for the day, the watch face will tell you exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.
The workout app is also getting an update, with features that give users more automatic measurements and track multiple workouts in a single session.
Apple Music is also going to be more closely integrated with the watch, with automatic syncing for playlists. The developer preview is open now and will roll out to all customers this fall.
4) Apple’s reveals new Mac operating system – High Sierra – and Macs get a refresh.
Apple’s next operating system is called High Sierra and will be a free update to the current Sierra system.
Mac lineup: Apple also announced a slew of updates to the Mac lineup, which has been overdue for an update. The new desktops now have higher memory capacity and stronger graphics performance. The 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1,099; a 21.5-inch, 4K-capable iMac Retina will cost $1,299; and a 25-inch iMac Retina 5K goes for $1,799.
Notebooks: Apple said it’s refreshing its notebooks, with the MacBook and MacBook Pro moving to faster processors and faster solid-state hard drives. The 15″ MacBook Pro is also getting faster graphics. Apple is also cutting the basic price for the MacBook’s 13-inch model by $300. All are shipping now.
Desktop: Apple also announced a new iMac Pro, which will cost $4,999 and will be available in December. Apple is clearly trying to position its desktop and laptop computers to appeal more to creative professionals, including game developers. Apple officials talked a lot about support for virtual reality, something it hasn’t spoken that much about before.
5) iOS 11 gets some redesigns.
Control center: Apple is revamping the control center on iOS – the panel that pops up to let you control volume, brightness, etc. – by enlarging it and spacing out some of the functions.
Apple Pay: The company also introduced a person-to-person payment feature to Apple Pay. For example, a message that says “You owe me $20” will automatically pull up a suggestion to tap into Apple Pay, which will suggest $20 as your basic payment.
Voice assistant: Siri will speak (a little) more naturally in female and male voices and use some sort of machine learning to suggest apps that you may want to use.
GPS: Maps has a couple of updates, including indoor maps for places such as shopping malls – a cultural icon that’s apparently dying, but, hey, at least it’s a start.
The Maps app will now display the speed limit of the road you’re driving on and let you know what lane you should be in. Using Bluetooth and WiFi, it will also be able to track when you’re moving in a car and give you the option to turn on a “do not disturb” mode while driving. Those who send you a message will now see an automatic reply that you’re driving, and you will see their message later. If they reply “urgent” to that message, that message will be marked as such and go through.
App Store: The store is getting a makeover, too, with tabs for games, apps that are notable that day, and a tab just for nongaming apps.
AR: Apple is also bringing more machine learning and augmented reality capabilities to the iPhone, which will help developers create apps with these features. In a keynote demo, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, placed a digital cup, vase and lamp on a table and showed how the objects’ shadows were able to interact with each other. A representative from Wingnut AR, a studio owned by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, demoed a more elaborate AR battle onstage. These new capabilities, Federighi said, make iOS the largest AR platform in the world.
6) New iPad Pro models and new productivity features
Apple has updated its iPad Pro line, upping the basic screen size of the higher-end tablet to 10.5 inches, rather than the 9.7-inch screen that has been the basic iPad’s screen size since it was introduced.
The 10.5-inch model will start at $649, with the bigger 12.9-inch model starting at $799. Apple is also doubling the storage space on these models, and the larger model will have a version with 512 GB of storage. Users will be able to order the tablets now; they ship next week.
The iPad Pro also gains some productivity features for iOS 11, which more closely mimics the Mac. Users will be able to easily multitask, drag and drop images between apps and put far more Mac-like features at users’ fingertips. Apple has also bumped up the features on the Pencil stylus, and the iPad Pro should now be able to read your handwriting.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Hayley Tsukayama