Apple is gearing up to unleash a bundle of new apps, features and development tools at its annual software conference next month.
To improve its devices and strengthen its connection to customers, the consumer technology giant will continue to walk a fine line between wooing outside app makers while also competing against them.
The Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, starts on June 3. The company will reveal updates to the operating systems that run the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
Highlights include upgrades to core iPhone apps such as Maps, Reminders and Messages; new apps for the Apple Watch that make it more independent from the iPhone, and enhancements to the health tracking capabilities of Apple devices, according to people familiar with the plans.
Here are some of the software features Apple is planning to announce at WWDC 2019, according to people familiar with the plans.
They asked not to be identified discussing unreleased product details. Apple’s plans are fluid and could change between now and the event, people familiar with Apple’s development process said.
The company could also choose to push back some features until next year, like was done last year, they added. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
What’s coming for iOS 13:
The software, for the second year in a row, will speed up the devices and reduce bugs. There will be user interface tweaks, including a new animation when launching multitasking and closing apps. The widgets that appear to the left of the home screen will also have a cleaner look.
A Dark Mode, a black and grey-heavy interface optimised for viewing at night, that can be enabled in Control Centre, the panel for quickly accessing settings.
The company is testing a new keyboard option that allows users to swipe across letters on the keyboard in one motion to type out words (Apple could choose to keep this feature internal). This is similar to options on Android handsets and it would compete with third-party iPhone apps such SwiftKey.
A revamped health app with a new homepage that better outlines your daily activity from the day. There will be a section for hearing health, like how loud you play music on your headphones or the loudness of the external environment. It also includes more comprehensive menstrual cycle tracking, vying with period-tracking apps such as Clue, Flo and Ovia.
iMessage gets an upgrade with a WhatsApp-like enhancement that lets people set a profile picture and display name, and choose who sees it. There’s also a dedicated menu in the conversation view to send sticker versions of Animojis, the virtual characters that users can control with the latest iPhone and iPad cameras, and Memojis, which are virtual representations of users themselves.
The company is testing a downloads manager for its Safari web browser so users can access downloads in a single place like they can on a computer. An updated Files app will work better with third-party software.
The iPad is getting some unique features, including an updated interface for multi-tasking, tweaks to the home screen, and the ability to cycle through different versions of the same app.
What’s coming for macOS 10.15:
The biggest change coming to the Mac this year is the ability for iPad apps to run on laptops and desktops, as Bloomberg News previously reported.
For the first time, Apple will allow developers who write iPad apps to re-work their apps so the software can also run on the Mac.
This will be useful for developers who are looking to simplify their development process, but it will also brighten the macOS app ecosystem with several new applications.
Developers will still need to submit separate versions of the app to Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores, but the new software development kit will mean they don’t have to write the underlying code twice.
Beyond this year’s conference, Apple is planning to expand the feature so iPhone apps can run on the Mac by next year. The year after that, the company aims to merge iPhone, iPad, and Mac applications into single downloads that can run on any Apple device. Eventually, it could also merge the App Stores.
Apple is also planning bring over a couple of its own iPad apps to the Mac this year: a Podcasts app and the new merged Find My iPhone and Find My Friends app from iOS 13.
There will also be a new Apple Music app, which is being developed as a standard Mac program.
Other in-house software coming to the Mac includes: Screen Time; effects and stickers for the Messages app; integration with the Siri Shortcuts app (the company’s new service for writing your own Siri commands); the new Reminders app; and upgrades to Apple Books.
What’s coming for watchOS 6:
Apple is adding the App Store directly onto the Apple Watch so users can download apps on the go, making the device more independent. Users currently install new apps via the Watch companion application on their iPhone.
Apple is bringing the Voice Memos app from the iPhone, iPad, and Mac so users can record voice memos from their wrist.
Apple is also planning to add Animoji and Memojis stickers to the device that synchronise from an iPhone.
The Watch will also get an Apple Books app for listening to audiobooks from the wrist and a Calculator app.
Credit: Digital Street SA