Apple might not have released any new hardware at WWDC, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on display. The software updates it showed off all point to big changes on the horizon for Apple as it revs up for a huge slate of releases. And there are quite a few things we can learn from what Apple showed us.
The Apple Pencil is more important than the Magic Keyboard
Perhaps most surprising about iPadOS 14 is what it doesn’t have: new trackpad gestures or multitasking improvements. When the Magic Keyboard arrived for the iPad Pro earlier this year, we thought for sure that a large part of iPadOS 14 would build on the new cursor and trackpad. But from what we’ve seen so far, iPadOS 14 does no such thing.
Apple Pencil was mainly geared to illustrators, but Apple has elevated it to a full-on input device. In iPad OS 14, Apple Pencil will be used for way more than just drawing, as Apple enhanced iPadOS to recognize handwriting in any text field, so you won’t need to bring up the keyboard at all while using one. And more importantly, you won’t need to put the Apple Pencil down to start typing.
All iPads already support Apple Pencil, but as it takes on more prominence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it bundled with future models. Apple Pencil is sold as an accessory now, but with the changes coming to iPadOS, it could quickly become an indispensable tool for Apple’s tablet.
We’re never getting an Apple Car
Apple surprisingly had a lot to say about automobiles at WWDC this year. There’s Car Key, which turns your iPhone into a wireless remote for your vehicle (as long as you own an expensive BMW), new app categories for CarPlay, and electric vehicle routing so you’ll never run out of juice, and well as speed cameras and Siri ETA sharing. But the underlying message we heard was that an Apple Car is off the table.
To be fair, we’re skeptical that Apple was ever serious about building a car, but after exploring the features in iOS 14, we’re confident in saying Apple is never going to sell a car. Rather, Apple will take over the parts of the car that matter through CarPlay, Car Keys, Siri, and Maps, using your iPhone and Apple Watch as the, er, key.
Apple Glasses are totally a thing
If you didn’t believe Apple Glasses were a real thing before, WWDC should totally convince you. There are important under-the-hood enhancements in ARKit 4 that bring precise depth measurements, extended face tracking, and improved object occlusion for seamlessly integrating the real and virtual worlds. More importantly, many of the new features are geared toward quick, on-the-go interactions.
Imagine a world where you can slide on a pair of Apple Glasses and get cycling directions, browse city guides, scan QR codes to get an App Clip, even unlock your car with a gesture. Apple might not have shown off anything as radical as a set of lenses, but it’s never been clearer that Apple is thinking of a mobile world beyond the limitations of the iPhone.
Apple Watch 6 will have better battery life
It might have been overshadowed by all of the cool iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur announcements, but Apple Watch picked up a most sought-after feature: sleep tracking. In watchOS 7, your Apple Watch will track how long you’ve slept during your “bedtime,” which can be set in the app. That’s a big improvement over watchOS 6, which needed a third-party app to track sleep, but it’s still a far cry from what more advanced trackers from Fitbit can do.
The issue is likely battery life. The Apple Watch has stuck with 18-hour battery life through every iteration, which is just short enough so it won’t last all day and night. The Fitbit Versa, on the other hand, has four-day battery life, making sleep tracking a worry-free endeavor. We’re not sure Apple Watch will quite reach that high, but it’s possible that it could double in battery life, which would also enable more advanced tracking functions.
AirPods are the next always-on wearable
Apple took a few moments out of its WWDC keynote to talk about some cool new AirPods enhancements, including spatial audio and automatic device switching, but it was the things Apple didn’t talk about that were most intriguing.
During the demo of the Translate app, I kept waiting for Apple to talk about how it would integrate with AirPods to allow for hands-free translation and conversations, but it never came. But I have no doubt that it’s in the works, as Apple continues to transform AirPods into something we wear as often as we do an Apple Watch.
The next iPhone will have a faster screen
We didn’t expect Apple to tell us anything about the upcoming iPhone 12 at WWDC, but we did get some clues as to what the highly anticipated handset will bring. Ben Geskin spotted an interesting new toggle in the iOS 14 Accessibility settings called Limit Frame Rate. As its name suggests, turning it on will set the maximum frame rate of the display to 60fps, which would only be necessary if the iPhone could be set to a higher frame rate, which it can’t. At least not yet. We’ve heard rumors that the iPhone 12 Pro will have a 120Hz screen, and this toggle appears to confirm that.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.