Highlights from Apple’s WWDC 2020

Posted Jun 22, 2020

This year Apple hosted its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) online instead of its usual spot in San Jose. Thanks to the continued health and safety concerns around COVID-19, Apple made the call earlier this year to host the entire event digitally. From privacy to new versions of iOS, we’ve got a quick recap.

Developers may have a whole week of online learning and workshops to dive into, but the first day brought major Apple news from CEO Tim Cook, SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, and others from the WWDC Keynote.

Examples from Apple of the opt-in process and information disclosure for apps

Privacy Disclosure and IDFAs
Going into this week, many in the adtech world expected Apple to announce the demise of the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) mobile advertising ID (MAID). That did not happen.

Instead, Apple is putting the onus on developers to disclose the kinds of permissions that their apps ask for when they submit apps for approval, allowing the user to know what kind of data they may have to give over in order to use the app. It will also explain how that collected data could be tracked outside of the app.

The opt-in/out examples given by Apple follow the same format users will be used to from their location, microphone, and camera (which are also getting their own indicators). Apple is also requiring developers to have a “nutrition label” of exactly what apps are tracking and sharing.

It remains to be seen how many users will opt to restrict their information shared via the IDFA prompts (though that terminology isn’t in the user-facing prompts) who aren’t already taking advantage of Apple’s OS-level Limit Ad Tracking feature.

This doubling down on the transparency required for an open and honest ecosystem should come as no surprise to those who have been following Apple’s stance on privacy over the past few years — distancing itself from Google and Amazon as much as possible. It also makes it clear that Apple understands the value that MAIDs bring to developers and the ad-supported mobile system.

Developers can prepare for these changes with documentation available on Apple’s developer website.

iOS 14
It wouldn’t be a WWDC without a new version of iOS being released. This year marks some of the biggest visual changes to Apple’s flagship phone operating system since they ditched skeuomorphic design in 2013.

Most notably, Apple is reorganizing the iOS home screen, with Apple’s new App Libary automatically organizing all your apps into a number of large groups and lists, situated at the far right of your home screens. Users can also hide apps from appearing on the main home screen with an Android app-drawer-like feature.

Apple is also bringing a much wider range of widgets over to iOS 14. Users will be able to add widgets to the home screen and customize size and shape allowing users to choose how much information they want and where. There’s also a smart stack that shows relevant information to users throughout the day, and is swipeable.

A big addition to iOS this year is the addition of App Clips. Instead of downloading an entire app, users download a small part of it to do things like pay for parking or make payments in-store, all backed up with Sign In with Apple and Apple Pay.

Apple is also bringing improvements to Messages (including threaded conversations and a clearer user interface), Maps, Siri translations (look out Google Translate!) and even introduced its new CarKey API for automakers, with BMW being the first to adopt this Tesla-like phone-as-key system from Apple.

You can check out more of the new features of iOS 14 on Apple’s website. It is scheduled to be released to consumers this fall, with the developer beta available now.

iPad OS 14 & WatchOS 7
The iPad occupies an interesting space. What was once clearly a mobile device is now so close to a computer that it’s tough to tell the difference sometimes.

iPad OS 14 isn’t quite the sea-change that iPad OS 13 was, but it’s still fixing some of the main hangups users have with the OS that still has its roots in the phone ecosystem. Calls and call notification are no longer full-screen, making multitasking easier, for starters.

Apple Pencil users will also notice their iPads converting scribbles to text as they write, and Search has been overhauled. It’s nothing crazy, but it keeps the iPad just ahead of its portable Windows and Google competitor devices in many respects.

WatchOS now boasts customizable and sharable watch faces, native sleep tracking, and hand washing indicators.

More for the Mac
For our desktop developer friends and users, the biggest change is the announcement of Apple’s internal silicon processors and Apple transitioning its computers away from Intel-supplied processors. While a lot of the changes behind the scenes won’t mean much to users, the ability to play iPhone and iPad apps natively on Macs will be the biggest change consumers will see in the near term.

Apple said they plan on supporting both Intel and their own chips for “years to come.” The transition from PowerPC to Intel in 2005 took about 4 years before OS X Snow Leopard dropped support for PowerPC machines.

Apple also announced MacOS Big Sur, the next version of the Mac operating system, built from the ground up for Apple’s upcoming Apple-Silicon-based machines. The next MacOS will continue to streamline Apple’s user interface language and unify things across the full Apple ecosystem.

You can view the entire keynote on Apple’s site.

About WWDC
WWDC is Apple’s annual developer-focused event and features developer workshops, training, parties, and networking events. Every year the event starts with a keynote speech announcing major updates to the software running on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV and other devices.

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