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Op-Ed: Did Apple's WWDC 2015 keynote deliver?

Op-Ed: Did Apple's WWDC 2015 keynote deliver?

Apple Announces
June 8, 2015

It’s all over: Apple CEO Tim Cook left the stage at the Moscone Center not long ago, and Cupertino’s annual WWDC keynote came to a close. But did the presentation deliver? Let’s take a look back.

First, I thought Apple’s opening sketch was great: it set a fun, laid-back tone and served as the perfect launchpad for the keynote. Tim Cook seemed more relaxed than ever when he approached the stage, and I was really pleased to see the keynote begin almost immediately with a preview of OS X 10.11.

OS X El Capitan: What’s in a name?

As our own Karen Freeman pointed out in the AppAdvice Slack channel, El Capitan is a mountain in Yosemite National Park, and this is significant. The name tells us that we aren’t moving far away from OS X Yosemite at all, and that, as expected, the update will bring small features, improvements, and refinements to the Mac platform. I loved the revamped, iOS-inspired gestures and the enhanced Mail app. Optimized performance seems impressive, too, and Metal looks downright awesome. The bottom line, then, is that El Capitan seems like a desktop OS that’s going to complement iOS even more than OS X did before.

iOS 9: Intelligence throughout the system

The main event for us, however, was Apple’s introduction of iOS 9, and it was at this point that the keynote really took off. I think Cupertino’s approach to mobile OS is spot on: foundational improvements, like bug fixes and battery enhancements, are something iOS device owners like myself are really going to appreciate. However, Proactive Assistant looks particularly impressive: the feature means our iPhones (and iPads) are becoming more intelligent than ever before, and using the smartphones and tablets is set to become more convenient as a result. I love the idea of my iPhone being able to tell me what to do without me having to reductively program the command in first, and Proactive Assistant promises to deliver this.

Much like Apple’s “Day in the life of the Apple Watch,” an iOS 9-focused segment was included in the keynote, and this gave attendees a closer look at Proactive Assistant. I really do think this is going to change our relationship with iOS, and the privacy assurances Apple gave at the end of this segment was good to hear.

I also loved the improvements to Apple Pay. In fact, I really loved to hear about the changes – because Apple Pay is coming to my home country, the United Kingdom. I really can’t wait to try out the mobile payments service using my iPhone and Apple Watch. The huge number of partnership banks and retailers for the British launch is really impressive to see. In fact, it’s far, far more than I expected. Rewards cards should give folks a further reason to choose the convenience of Apple Pay, too.

News for iOS

I thought this looks really interesting. The UI is gorgeous, and the promise of curated news feeds is something that could fit into my life easily. Integrated images, animations, and video looks like they can really bring the reading experience alive, and I can’t wait to play around further with News for iOS. For now, there’s little more I can say except that I’m excited to try it out myself.

Elevated iPad experience

I’m not a fan (or user) of the Quick Type keyboard. The recommendations it offers didn’t work for me in a productive way, even after weeks of use. Despite this, the iOS keyboard’s formatting options look like they’ll be useful for some users, and the two-finger trackpad gesture seems like it’ll be handy.

As someone who does a serious amount of work from an iPad Air 2 using a mixture of plain text and Microsoft’s Microsoft Word app, however, side-by-side multitasking is going to have a hugely positive impact on my workflow. I’ve long wished for a more fully featured multitasking experience for iOS, and I’m thrilled this is coming to the iPad with iOS 9. Working on the iPad is soon going to be easier than ever thanks to the changes Apple is set to make to the mobile OS.

Apple’s watchOS 2

One of the announcements I was most looking forward to involved the Apple Watch’s support for native apps. I was thrilled, though, to learn that this wasn’t all Cupertino had in store for the smart watch. Third-party complications look great, and Time Travel (which allows users to see upcoming information through twisting the Digital Crown) is a really smart feature, and something Watch owners will surely appreciate. Third-party apps can communicate with the smart watch’s sensors and they can integrate with Activity, and this is something I’m really happy to see. For instance, if you use a third-party workout application (rather than Apple’s own), your activity recorded in this app will now appear in the built-in Activity application, meaning nothing is lost. Some of us have a history of workouts logged in apps like RunKeeper, and so this will be a feature many Watch owners will take advantage of.

Access to the microphone is going to open up the scope for communication applications, and because these apps are indeed native, they appeared remarkably responsive in Apple’s presentation. All of this means using the Apple Watch is going to even more of a pleasant experience, and I’m really pleased to see the smart watch-focused announcements Cupertino made at WWDC.

Tim Cook’s “one more thing …”

It was awesome to watch Tim Cook introduce Apple’s “one more thing …” today, and the announcement couldn’t have been better. Apple Music and Beats One – Apple’s own Internet radio station headed by hand-picked music experts and journalists – look set to transform the music space in the same way iTunes did, years ago. I love that Apple Music places such a great emphasis on on-demand, human-curated playlists. I love its 24–7, worldwide radio service, Beats One. I also love that idea that anything on iTunes can be streamed using the Apple Music app.

The $14.99 account sharing and three-month free trial are both generous additions to the service. Most of all, though, I loved the way Cook returned Apple’s “one more thing” at the end of WWDC, and Eddy Cue’s delivery of the feature was spot-on. The service all makes perfect sense, and I can’t wait to take a closer look at it later this month.

It was a great (but lengthy) keynote

Looking back over some of my own personal expectations for WWDC’s keynote, I think it’s fair to say Apple hit every significant one. It was a well-executed presentation (the livestream worked perfectly for me) and Apple’s executives delivered fun, well-paced segments. It was a long keynote, for sure, but Cupertino had a lot to share, and I think the company did it well (even if the presentation has had a negative impact on my Activity rings!). I also really enjoyed seeing some new faces (including Jimmy Iovine) take to the stage today. All round, I’m pleased and excited for fall.

OS X El Capitan, iOS 9, watchOS 2, and Apple Music. One thing’s for certain: it’s going to be a great few months.

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