Apple WWDC Event Highlights: Apple Watch Walkie-Talkies, Screen Time, and Privacy Features

Apple WWDC is where exciting new hardware or software updates for iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch devices get announced. Read on to find out what’s new.

Did you know Apple had their first day of the WWDC event today? Honestly, it sort of snuck up on me. Usually, Apple events like WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) are heralded by high anticipation and great expectations of groundbreaking new features and innovations from Apple.  WWDC is where the likes of the HomePod, Apple Music, the Retina Display, and new iPhone and Mac hardware have been unveiled to much fanfare.

This year, there hasn’t been anything particularly earth-shattering so far. The announcements at Monday’s WWDC covered the usual—new features coming to iOS 12, WatchOS 5, and macOS. Still, that’s not to say that there aren’t some new big developments in store for Apple users.  For your convenience, I’ve wrangled up a few of the highlights.

What’s New from the Apple WWDC Event?

Other outlets have given a blow-by-blow live account of what happened at WWDC, but here’s what stuck out to me:

  • Few huge tech breakthroughs, but plenty of company posturing. There are two major themes for iOS 12 that ring more like company posturing than technological development. Namely, Apple is rolling out features that take aim at two trending topics: addiction to screens and privacy concerns.
    • The Screen Time dashboard gives you an overview of how much time you spend using certain apps and lets you create self-imposed limits for apps.  Sounds great, but this isn’t exactly an innovation. Google has launched a similar effort to promote “Digital Wellbeing” by helping you understand your habits, and Amazon has long has the FreeTime parental controls for its Kindle devices. To me (personal opinion incoming), all of this feels like a token response to the growing (and valid) concern that we are unnaturally distracted by the screens in our pockets. To put the most cynical spin on it possible, this is the tech industry equivalent of a “light cigarette.”
    • iOS 12 also touts its new security and privacy features. They say that they are building anti-tracking technology into the software that will hobble the ability of companies like Facebook and Google from tracking you for marketing purposes. Apple also said it’ll be restricting third-party access to data on devices, in a not-so-subtle reference to the recent Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. The position that Apple is taking is that they make their money by selling hardware devices, thus they don’t need to make a buck by selling your personal information. Again, not really a tech innovation, but more of an effort to define the type of company it is and respond to the concerns of the times.
  • Apple watchOS5 will be released in Fall 2018 and will include a Walkie-Talkie feature and other updates. Fans of the push-to-talk feature on old cell phones or sci-fi wrist communicators will enjoy the new Walkie-Talkie feature. For pre-approved contacts, you’ll be able to transmit voice messages back and forth straight from your Apple Watch. It’s a bit like Amazon’s Drop In on Alexa, but for the Apple Watch.
    • Lots of fitness upgrades are coming, too. Seven-day competitions for friends, coaching reminders, and automatic exercise detection are some of the highlights. There are also new stats, such as cadence for runners, rolling mile pace. Welcome updates for existing Apple Watch users, but these are features that other wearable technologies have had for awhile.
    • The Podcasts app is also coming to WatchOS.
  • iOS 12 is also expected to be released in Fall 2018. Customizable emojis in your likeness (“Memojis”), group FaceTime calls, the aforementioned Screen Time and privacy features, and enhanced speed and performance are a few of the highlights. iOS 12 also gets some big augmented reality updates that may prove exciting to gamers. Also, good news: iOS 12 will work on device as old as the iOS 5s.
  • macOS Mojave announced, expected to launch Fall 2018. The next macOS naming scheme goes from mountains to deserts, and Mojave is the first one. The privacy features mentioned for iOS 12 are getting rolled into macOS, as well as a few native iOS apps like Stocks, Voice Memos, Apple News, and Home. macOS also gets a dark mode for native apps and a nifty desktop feature called “Stacks” that groups together similar icons.

Those are the big things that stuck out to me. There was plenty more discussed at WWDC today and there are more topcs on the docket in the coming days. If you’re intereted, you can watch live here.


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