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WWDC 2023 roundup

Posted in Apple

As I did last year and the three years before that, my wife put the kids to bed while I sat down with a pizza and a cold beer to watch Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC).

The undisputed star of this year’s WWDC was Apple Vision Pro but I don’t really have any insights for you as I know very little about Virtual/Augmented reality. Don’t get me wrong, it looks very exciting indeed, but I’ll leave commentary on that to the experts.

Strangely, what I enjoyed most about WWDC this year was precisely that the Apple Vision Pro announcement overshadowed the software. It gave Apple an opportunity to double down on software features they already have; they were never going to do a Snow Leopard, where they announced “0 New Features”, but I think this is the closest they could get.

Safari

Safari is getting some nice upgrades; improvements to HTML, ARIA, CSS, and the web Inspector are great, but the less technical features look good too:

  • Private browsing windows that can be locked
  • Profiles! I can finally just use Safari for everything (except running axe DevTools and general cross-browser testing)
  • Web Apps! Looks like Apple have finally Sherlocked my make-a-website-open-like-an-app-would app, Fluid

Passwords

I was hoping Apple would make Passwords its own app since:

  • passwords aren’t a setting, so they shouldn’t live in Settings
  • it’s really annoying when I have to enter a password inside Settings; when I have to re-enter a password or one-time code for a connected service in Internet Accounts the work around is to use my phone and type the password out manually

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like this is happening, but we are getting the other thing on my wish list: shared passwords. No more AirDropping to my family and having to go round each of their devices in turn when a password changes.

watchOS 10 redesign

There are some nice updates to Watch OS, covered in lots of detail on Six Colors. I like the move away from swiping and scrolling, towards hardware buttons and turning the Digital Crown. As Dan Moren from Six Colors says:

Fundamentally, Watch interactions are measured in seconds, not minutes. The design language that Apple is encouraging in watchOS 10 seems like it will help make those interactions much more efficient when it comes to helping users see the information they want at a glance and then go back to their day.

I also really like the look of the new Palette watch face.

Communications improvements

FaceTime, Messages, and the Phone app got some real attention this year. Check In is my favourite feature here, which will be great as my children get older and I can make sure they’re getting about safely.

The rest of the features are just sensible enhancements to an experience that was feeling pretty tired; NameDrop being a good example of modernising things, making it easy to share contact details with someone else.

Live Voicemail is a nice addition too, bringing the phone experience more line with a real-life answering machine (remember those!?) where you can listen to (or in this case read) a message as it’s coming in, then decide whether to pick up or not.

And the rest

There were a few miscellaneous features that caught my eye too:

  • Improved AirPods automatic device switching
  • StandBy is a nice way to make your iPhone more useful whilst charging, like a clock or a desk photo
  • Widgets on the Desktop for macOS
  • The increased focus on mental health in the Health app:
    • State of mind logging
    • Daylight exposure
  • Screen Distance, which will stop me having to tell my kids to move their iPads further away from their faces; thanks Apple!
  • Inter-linking notes in the Notes app (finally!)

I’m pretty pleased with the lack of huge changes in this years’ software. Lots of nice improvements, and using existing features/technology in other places that make sense. Now let’s sit back an see how Vision Pro evolves over the next couple of years!

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