WWDC20: The Good, the Good, and the Good

Yael Garten talks about how in iOS 14 Siri can handle more complex questions and automate tasks, and introduces the new Translate app for translating conversations privately.

If we’re honest, we were a little worried that the very first, virtual WWDC would lose something of the excitement we’ve come to expect from years past. The steady hum of anticipatory chatter through the crowd; the warm glow of a thousand laptop screens a half-brightness in readiness for the first speaker — we thought it might feel flat without the energy of a live crowd. 

We are happy to admit how wrong we were. 

It was well-paced, smooth, and didn’t suffer from any of the painful-waiting-for-applause that plagues even the best of live events. Of course, Apple has spent the past decade perfecting the art of the large-scale press conference. Everything they do has that slick, cinematic, sountracked, Jony Ive quality we both love and lovingly make fun of. 

It was like being at a movie. About products. And you’d be forgiven for thinking this should be the way all conferences should be from now until the end of time, except then we’d remind you about the utter, awkward catastrophe of Microsoft’s Build conference. Not everyone can pull something like this off.

But Apple sure did, and they did it beautifully, setting the standard for virtual keynote addresses.

 

What’s New, Pussycat?

 

So let’s talk about a few new things they announced for iOS 14.

  • Widgets! Cool! Now lots of people were pointing out that Android has had this capability for years now, but iOS hasn’t, so we can dig it.
  • Picture-in-Picture is finally coming to iPhone on iOS 14, having been available on iPad since iOS 9. So, we’ll level with you: This is a great idea for a feature, but in practice for us leads to a lot of stressful, FOMO situations in which we’re watching the movie/game/election returns while checking Slack and catching up on email and honestly it can be too much. But maybe you love it, in which case, you’ll love it on the iPhone, too. 

In iOS 14, favorite conversations can be pinned to the top of a Messages list, with recent messages, Tapbacks, and typing indicators featured right above the pin.

  • Siri will now help you translate, real-time, into 11 different languages. To be fair, nobody is traveling right now, but once we do, this seems like a handy feature. The translation will work via the Neural Engine, meaning it’ll work offline, so you don’t have to worry about your conversations being uploaded to Apple servers. 
  • You can now pin important Messages to the top of your messages list in iOS 14, meaning critical texts won’t get lost in the avalanche of silly messages from your pals. Not that we’ve done that literally dozens and dozens of times. OH! Also now your Memoji can wear a mask.

App Clips

 

By far the most interesting new feature, though, are App Clips. App Clips are kinda radical and we think they represent a vision of the future of iOS app development

Rather than having to download, install, and register an entire app to complete a single task like, say, paying for a spot in a parking garage or complete a drink order, a customer can simply download just the part of the app where they complete the transaction.

iOS 14's App Clips are fast and easy to discover and allow users to get a part of an app the moment they need it.

All images courtesy of Apple

App Clips cap at 10MB (which used to be the max size for entire apps) and can be launched via a visual code, NFC, or shared through email or text message. Over time, if a user continues to use App Clips they can become smarter, caching suggestions or prompting the user to download the full app. 

When you’re finished with the App Clip, it’s gone. Poof. No clutter; nothing to remind yourself to delete later. 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Android has had a similar feature — Instant Apps — but they never really took off.

We suspect App Clips will.

 


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