WWDC 2016: thoughts on the keynote

June is the highlight of the year for any Apple fan, with WWDC being the focal point of all eyes on Apple. Having recently left Apple it was interesting to view the event as an outsider for the first time in a while, with no prior knowledge of anything that was announced.

This year I also had the company of a nice a cold drink in my hand as it’s a warm evening in London, UK, the day is winding down just as the conference is ramping up.

If you missed it you can watch a recording of the keynote at http://www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2016/

Fast and fun

For me that was a markedly better keynote than last year. More focussed, more features, more new faces. Some really great presenters appeared on stage — other than Craig Federighi, of course — I remember at least five that really made an impression. I hope that trend continues as the old guard make way for the new.


This had to go first, in my mind, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the platform in need of the most change. And second, it’s the hardware the most users need convincing of. That said, if it heralds the performance increases that were demonstrated on stage it could finally be time the watch fulfils expectations.

The system software changes that bring these speedups will no doubt require apps to be updated to use the new APIs, or at least be changed to cope with the new view hierarchies. I am interested in how many of these improvements will come for free, from the perspective of an app developer and user.

It’s great to see the OS become simpler and more iPhone-like, much needed. This is for me the type of watchOS that the device should have shipped with: familiar, fluid and fast.


A bit odd that Remote.app was mentioned as it’s been out for a while, but the changes it is receiving are quite substantial. Single Sign-On is a really nice time saving feature that acknowledges the inherent issues with TV and related input mechanisms, and helps things become easier. More frameworks arrive from iOS, all very welcome. APIs and features to make the Cable companies happy. Lots of changes, too many to mention here. Feels like a catch-up update to me.


Name change! But for those of us who have been around the block a few times, everything old is new again as we return to a variation of the classic Mac OS name that saw us through the 1990s.

Universal Clipboard, for me as a heavy user of a clipboard management app (Alfred) is a real killer feature that only the OS can provide at the level of integration it needs to be done. I thought the demo of this was great. Craig was excellent once again. Apple Pay in Safari, huge news that didn’t raise many eyebrows. A tool to help people free up space on their Mac, I suspect a reaction to the glut of mediocre apps that proclaim to do similar tasks filling up the Mac App Store charts.

Tabs everywhere — done at an OS-level so multi-window apps get the feature for free — my hunch is that this, along with PiP, is the start of a push to get more users using full screen mode. But why might that be? Hmm.

Siri! Very impressive demos. Let’s see if I’m ready to talk to my machine.


Less than half way into the keynote and we are already at iOS. This reaffirmed the sheer amount of new stuff in iOS — let’s not forget that it’s the most important platform by far for Apple.

The new lock screen and associated integration looks exactly what it should have been all along. Sliding to the right to get to Camera might take a bit of getting used to, but I appreciate the issue that TouchID now being so fast that something had to change with the lock screen UI.

Developers now get API hooks into more of iOS, which can only be a good thing to herald in new types of apps. I’m excited to see what might come of an API that can search through the objects found in photos.

Apple Music — what a demo! I loved Boz’s style. Interesting new design language being used in Music and News, perhaps trying to adjust the target audience to a younger demographic? Certainly made both apps feel less stuffy to me. Big changes after only a year.

The demo of Messages was another favourite, despite the technical hiccups half way through. Cupertino looking firmly and squarely at Menlo Park. Integration with extensions mean stock apps like Maps and Messages stand a good chance at becoming real competition to Facebook’s Messenger and Snapchat apps.

Swift Playgrounds for iPad for me is a real killer app. It will sell iPads into schools at an astonishing rate. Another great demo, too. I hope the programmers keyboard can be used outside of the app, as some of the features like swiping to quickly get numbers and punctuation are lifted straight out of the popular TouchPal keyboard, which I currently use. Though of course I’d rather use a stock keyboard if at all possible.

All-in-all some amazing integration of apps into pretty much every asect of iOS from Maps through Photos to Messages. Users should be ecstatic.


Other things I spotted that weren’t called out in the keynote but that I’ll be looking into over the course of the week:

  • Apple File System — a Next-Generation File System for Apple Products, replaces HFS and optimised for current and future technologies.
  • Removal of stock apps — more control for the user, and more frequent updates from Apple.
  • Safari Extensions on the Mac App Store — very cool new avenue for developers to make money.
  • I’m sure more new features will come to light this week.

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