Highlights from the Apple WWDC Keynote

Apple’s 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off on Monday and will run until the 11th. The WWDC is an annual event held by Apple to formally announce new products and forthcoming developments in Apple software. This year’s conference, recorded at Apple Park in Cupertino, is to be broadcasted entirely virtually for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year’s conference started with a keynote introduced by Apple CEO Tim Cook and led by Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. In the keynote, Federighi and numerous other tech professionals at Apple demonstrated what new features to expect in future updates such as iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.

Here are the highlights from the keynote.

FaceTime Brings New Audio and Visual Features
iOS 15 and macOS Monterey users will be able to have an experience with FaceTime that is more lifelike and efficient than ever before. 

Visually, users can expect to see grid view, which organizes each face on screen into a neat array of squares. Additionally, a small border will now highlight whoever is speaking at any given moment so users can more easily track a conversation. Portrait mode, previously only available on the Camera app, will now be available on FaceTime as well, highlighting a user’s face and blurring their background.

Spatial audio, which has already made an appearance in Apple’s AirPods Pro, will now be implemented into FaceTime’s technology. Users can now feel as if they are in the same room as those they are chatting with by allowing the direction of people’s voices to correspond with their position on screen.

The new technology will also feature voice isolation, which cancels out background noise and highlights the voice, and wide spectrum, which will pick up all noises. FaceTime links will allow users to schedule their calls with more ease.

Finally, calls hosted over FaceTime will now accommodate those using Android or Windows products.

SharePlay Allows You to Stream Movies with Friends
Enjoying music, movies and television with friends and family no longer has to be an in-person activity.

SharePlay is a new feature that will allow multiple users to simultaneously consume media as a shared experience over FaceTime. While on a call, all a user has to do is press play in another app, and SharePlay will let other users on the call hear and/or see the media being shared in high quality form.

Playback controls can even be shared. On Apple Music, this will allow other users on the call to pause, skip, or even add their own songs to the queue.

This feature is not limited to Apple apps, however; multiple apps and services will support SharePlay, such as Hulu, TikTok, and MasterClass. Netflix and Spotify were notably absent from the list.

Introducing Shared with You
It can be easy to lose track of things received from family and friends over iMessage. Apple’s new feature, called Shared with You, organizes this content in other apps so there is no need to dig for it later.

For example, if a user receives a news article over iMessage, that article will be automatically added to a new “Shared with You” section on the user’s Apple News app so they can come back to it during their daily news read. 

This also works for photos shared over iMessage, which will be added to a Shared with You gallery in the Photos app. This aspect of the new feature is specifically designed to filter out less useful images like screenshots and memes.

Shared with You will also work with Apple Music, Apple TV, Safari, and Podcasts.

Focus: Customize Notifications and Maximize Productivity
Some apps are used only for work purposes, while others are used for leisure. Receiving notifications from both types of apps at all times may intrude on one’s work-life balance. 

Focus is a new feature that will grant users the ability to only receive certain notifications at any given time. If one wants to focus on work, they may only receive notifications from apps like Mail or Slack. Alternatively, they can block notifications from these same apps when they want to focus on personal matters. “Do Not Disturb” and “Sleep” are two other options.

New Features to Ensure Privacy
The keynote included a section on privacy, explaining the new ways Apple is ensuring privacy for their customers.

“At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Federighi. “We don’t think you should have to make a trade-off between great features and privacy.”

The Mail app will now include a feature allowing users to choose whether or not companies may track certain details about them using tracking pixels that are embedded in the email. These details include when/if an email was opened, location, and even IP address. 

Apple Settings will also have something called an App Privacy Report, where users can access information on which apps use their information and how often they do so.

These are just a few of the many announcements made during the two-hour-long keynote. Some other announcements made include:

  • Health updates, such as more advanced mobility tracking, workouts for watchOS users and the ability to share health data with doctors and loved ones.
  • New Wallet features, most notably the ability to scan a drivers’ license or ID for the Wallet app.
  • Improvements to Apple Maps, including road details to help drivers move through cities more efficiently. 
  • Universal control, which lets users click and drag content between multiple Apple products.
  • New organizational tools and a cleaner design for tabs on Safari.

Cook concluded the presentation by announcing that all of the mentioned updates will be available this upcoming fall.

“What a big day of announcements and innovations for our users and our developers,” Cook said. “We took giant steps forward with all of our software platforms, and they will enable our users and developers to do remarkable things.”

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Caitlin Cook

Caitlin Cook is a graduate student in the Mass Communication program at California State University, Northridge. Before getting into journalism, she got her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Filmmaking from University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She currently contributes her work to The Daily Sundial and Valley View News. When it comes to journalism, Cook is interested in producing multimedia content about entertainment and tech, seizing every opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. A fun fact about her is that she has lived in five different states: Nebraska, Ohio, North Carolina, South Dakota, and now, California.

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