Now the week has ended and all the technology news can relax for a bit, we can all digest the week as a whole. Before we continue, yes we’ll be doing a run-through of our thoughts on Computex too, but for now we’re going to talk WWDC 2014. We have covered the main announcements from WWDC 2014, which you can find here, but instead of simply repeating or elaborating essentially what Apple said themselves, we thought it’d be great to give you our opinion on Apple as a whole after WWDC 2014.
A new Apple
FOCUSING ON DEVELOPERS FIRST, JUST LIKE THE OLD DAYS
The first thing that grabbed our attention throughout WWDC 2014, was something we said in our recap was incredibly refreshing, was that Apple was completely focused on the Developers in the community.
Previous WWDCs had lost their roots, Apple’s keynotes were becoming all end-user focused, which let’s be fair there’s nothing wrong with that, but when you’ve ‘Developer’ plastered over the entire event, it does leave yourself with a bitter taste in the mouth. But at this years WWDC keynote, Apple finally seemed to be recognising the Development community out there, but not only acknowledging them, but completely embracing them, which is exactly what they need to do. Instead of just lobbing a slide on stage saying, we’ve paid you this much well done, Apple are taking Developers seriously once again, bringing back that geek community Apple used to have back in the old days of Steve Wozniak.
OPENING UP, THE BEGINNING OF TIM’S APPLE?
Something commonly associated with Apple, especially when focused on the Apple v Android, was that Android was the open platform letting anyone try anything they wished, whereas Apple was the closed environment of rules set by Apple alone, whilst most of that remains true in certain areas, Apple are definitely on a road no one would’ve expected them to travel on … the doors are opening up!
It’s a rather ironic story when you think about it, Android is slowly but surely being closed up and censored by Google, whilst here we are talking about Apple opening up, I know what you’re thinking … what’s this world coming to? But, as ironic and as funny as it is, that’s actually what’s going on, and it’s really great to see on Apple’s part.
The ‘opening up’ of Apple’s platforms, many believe, is the true beginning of Apple under Tim Cook’s management finally taking shape. It’s common knowledge that, when Apple’s late CEO and Co-Founder Steve Jobs died, he left behind a good few years of Apple already in the pipeline, the true control of a Tim Cook’s Apple, may only just be starting to become apparent!
One thing to note about Apple opening up of course, is that it is just baby steps after all. But, at the same time, any feature you look at from iOS 8, or even some from OS X Yosemite, which you can see visible on another platform(s), the way Apple have implemented the majority are either equal in a better way, or surprisingly exceed in many areas, and it’s only going to get better.
Whilst the talk of those features that were on other platforms, such as Android, before iOS, will always be up for discussion, the fact remains it really doesn’t matter! The average consumer, i.e everyone else, couldn’t give a rats ass when ‘Widgets’ arrived, for example, all they care about, is whether it’s on their device and it’s compelling enough to use, something way too many people forget in the tech world!
OS X Yosemite
You know you’ve a problem when mock ups look better than the actual thing right? Well, the essence of OS X Yosemite is a slight change in the user interface of OS X. Whilst Apple’s Craig Federighi mentioned the original ‘Aqua’ name for Apple’s UI, he didn’t specify whether Yosemite builds on Aqua, but considering the level of changes are, to us at least, rather minimal we’d bet it to still be Aqua.
The main problem we’ve got with OS X Yosemite remains, it’s a tiny little coat of paint on top of more or less the same Mac experience. We’re not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something which does need to be mentioned.
The lead highlighting features of OS X Yosemite aren’t even OS X features as such, as the main focus of Yosemite is the interoperability between both the Mac and iOS devices, something Apple have branded Continuity, something which we’ll talk more on with our iOS impressions. But Apple have definitely delivered on that in ways we’d of never imagined, thanks to features such as Hands Off and more.
The key thing to note about OS X Yosemite, is that every single feature delivered in the release, is a good one, a step forward for the OS, as well as actually focusing on drawing people in to the Apple ecosystem, something Apple seemed to have lost focus off with their previous releases. Now with Yosemite, if you have a Mac as well as an iOS device, you will gain features and functionality from whether you didn’t, something which wasn’t previously evident.
Our favourite feature of the OS X Yosemite UI changes though, isn’t necessarily the UI changes themselves, it’s the subtle ways in which they’ve done it. When Apple introduces iOS 7, the initial reaction was ‘woahh’, as the changes effected everything around the OS, but with OS X Yosemite they’ve made the changes gradually. The advantage of making changes gradually is it doesn’t hamper, or turn away user adoption moving forward, something admittedly Windows 8 is having a problem with for that reason.
OS X Yosemite will of course be free when it’s finally available, and whilst it’s not a big upgrade, what it is though, is a decent upgrade that will generally improve your Mac moving forward, and overall, we can’t wait to check it out come, either the public release in the Summer or, the fall release.
The highlight of Apple’s keynote was all related to iOS, which whilst we can always quote what Tim Cook says during his keynote and criticise, we actually can’t when it called it a massive end user release, and an even bigger release for developers, as that actually is very true.
Whilst you can obviously look at iOS 8 two ways, the way that Apple are just using features from everyone else, or the way you should look at it, in which that iOS 8 is literally a massive step forward for iOS as a platform, and it’s that way we’re going to look at now! Whether it’s the general end user features, such as the refinement to the design, to the incredible opening up features for developers, you can’t deny that iOS 8 is a massive step forward.
Our favourite end user features of iOS 8 is actually quite a list, so let’s get to those now.
Our favourite iOS 8 features
Say what you like about Apple’s mobile features, one thing you can’t deny is the incredible reliability and undeniable integration Apple have made with iMessage.
iMessage, according to Apple, is the most used app on iOS, and it’s not hard to see why, it literally just works. We’ve used Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and more, but one thing none of them compete to is iMessage. iMessage is easily the most seamless and reliable messaging platform their is, mainly due to the fact that you almost don’t realise you’re using it, send a message to another iOS user, it becomes an iMessage and synchronises naturally between all your devices. It’s the seamless reliability and unparalleled implementation that makes iMessage what it is.
In iOS 8, Apple have taken iMessage to the next level, generally introducing the last remaining features, services like WhatsApp had over iMessage before, such as tighter Group control, much better messaging management as well as the new gesture voice and Camera features.
PHONE CALLS AND SMS INTEGRATED WITH MAC/iPAD ETC
One of the best features involved in Continuity, another being Hand Off which we’re waiting to see how it is in person until including it, involved Messages and communication. It’s hard not to forget what Apple have done with SMS and phone calls! Apple have not only integrated SMS naturally in to the natural iMessage system, meaning you can send/receive SMS text messages on your iPad, iPod touch or even your Mac, but incredibly they’ve done the same with Phone calls.
Since the keynote round up we did, we’ve worked out that Apple are using Bluetooth 4.0LE connectivity alongside Apple technology iBeacon to allow Phone calls to be sent and delivered on iOS and Mac devices, and Apple ID syncing for SMS.
WIDGETS IN NOTIFICATION CENTRE
Notification Centre in iOS 8 now sees the final introduction of third party Widgets over to the iOS platform. Whilst many are wrongly saying OS X now had Widgets, just remember OS X has had Widgets ever since Dashboard was introduced in OS X 10.4 Tiger, it’s just that now in Yosemite, those Widgets will live in the Today view of Notification Centre, just like where they’re placed on iOS 8.
The big things that we love about Widgets on iOS 8 is once again that typical Apple implementation. One thing we never thought we’d say before this event, is we actually favour the way Apple handles Widgets over Android, which can result in a cluttered experience, hence the multiple Home screens Android requires.
We will say, Widgets on iOS 8 are indeed baby steps, but they also actually just as functional as they on Android, and actually more in some ways. The things we love about Widgets on iOS 8 is that they are excluded from the main experience on iOS, just like they are on Android with multiple Home screens. The other scenario of filling your Home screen with Widgets besides the icons, let’s be honest, would look hideous, so we’re definitely favours of them being in Notification Centre alone.
Plus, the same pointers we mentioned in our WWDC 2014 remain;
- Items in Today view can be hidden = If you tap the title bar on any of the Widgets, this even counts to the Weather and Stocks on iOS 7, they will collapse leaving just the bar with the icon and title of that Widget. Using that, you can have Widgets, but still be able to hide them when you don’t need them saving up space for ones you probably care about most.
- Re-organisation = iOS 8, again since iOS 7, allows you to reorganise the order of which you see Widgets on your Today View, in this example Sports Center is in between the Stocks Widget at the bottom, and an available Calendar Widget above it.
- Optional = All Widgets on iOS 8 are of course optional and are not set by default. When you install a new application which has it’s own Widget, you will see a menu at the bottom of Today View, listing ‘new Widget available’, at which you can them manage your collection of Widgets, including turning them on/off, and organising order etc.
- Don’t interfere with Notifications = The biggest criticism we’ve seen about Widgets on iOS 8, is that they will be in the way of Notifications, wrong! As you can see on the same image, there’s two, previously three, options at the top of the Notification Centre for “Today”, and “Notifications”, your Notifications will only show up in the right section, and Widgets will only show up in the Today View along with the usual day in review feature.
SYSTEM WIDE DEVELOPER ACCESS BEGINS
Opening up iOS to developers, you can’t deny is the best and biggest step forward Apple announced for iOS, with iOS 8. One of the easiest favourite features of this to us, is third party keyboard support.
Let’s not forget, Apple did introduce their own improved keyboard with iOS 8, codenamed QuickType. The keyboard introduces a suggestion list at the top of the text field, but the problem is that’s kind of it!
If we’re perfectly honest with you, before Apple kicked off to the Developer features of iOS 8, we did admittedly have a very low feeling, thinking are we seriously going to have to continue putting up with this keyboard, but thankfully that’s not the case entirely!
But, developers being able to customise the keyboard isn’t the only thing Apple have opened up with iOS 8, which let’s be honest, we were not expecting at all from Apple!
Custom Sharing Sheets, in app editing powered by third party integration, extensions, as well as Apps finally being able to communicate with each other, but in the most secure way possible, this is another one of those iOS equalling Android moments we’re very happy about!
Share Sheets - Thanks to Custom Share Sheets, any app can now finally integrate itself in to the native iOS Sharing System, previously only Facebook, Twitter and Flickr were allowed to use Apple’s Share Sheets. How many apps will integrate this we don’t know, but we do know a massive collection of Developers have been waiting for this a long time, and with the incredible Apple development community, we expect a lot to use straight away!
Extensions – Along side the custom Share Sheets, Apple have also taken steps even further than Android in Extensions. On Android, applications can provide extended features alongside apps themselves, but when you do, for example request a third party app to edit a Photo, it will simply launch the app and allow you to use it’s features, in the same way as manually opening the app and importing, but on iOS its natively built in to the app itself, meaning saving an edit brings things back to where you began, which is a big step up over Android.
App Communications – Apps on iOS have always been protected by a secure Sandbox technology, and have been locked down for inter-app communication, until now! But, instead of opening up everything, like on Android, Apple have managed to allow apps to provide features for other apps, whilst retaining Sandbox protection.
Actionable Notifications is an example of a feature from another platform, Android in this case, that Apple have taken, and not only evened out the Notification features of Android, by the notification side, but when it comes to Actionable Notifications, we think Apple have actually taken the features further. Messages for example, there’s no messaging client on Android which allows in Notification responding, like what Apple have done, although we do expect they will be very shortly after iOS 8 comes to the masses.
iOS finally pushing the industry forward!
If we were to continue the above and talk about our most favourite feature we love mostly about iOS 8, you’d quickly realise that it actually isn’t an iOS feature, but it’s what iOS 8 is finally doing for the mobile industry, and that’s responding to the industry in a way that, let’s be honest, will wake Google and Microsoft up. When companies get themselves out there, and actually introduce a list of features to the world, it causes the competition to heat up, and what we can’t wait for now, is Google and Microsoft’s responce to this. In fact let’s just take a brief look at the way this will effect rival platforms, well two of them.
Microsoft - Microsoft are hot on the heels of just releasing Windows Phone 8.1 to the world, and already Apple have just made them look like the underdog all over again! Before iOS 8 got previewed, Windows Phone 8.1 caught up with the majority of features of iOS, but now with iOS 8, they’ve been put right back where they started, which is a shame as we do have a soft spot for Windows Phone, but that’s the way things go.
Google - Will Google be worried about iOS 8 with Android? Probably not, but you can’t deny iOS 8 has put iOS closer to the world of Android. In fact the most popular customisations people make on Android, is third party keyboards and app integration, all of which iOS has finally!
iOS continues its lead with Apps thanks to iOS 8
Something many people seem to forget more often than not, is that iOS is the only mobile platform capable of accessing, not only the 1.2M apps in the App Store, but part of those are apps from the entire list of iPhone competitors!
What do you we mean by that? Well, iOS in the mobile field is obviously competing against Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry in the mobile space, yet despite all of this, the majority of apps created by Google, Microsoft and Blackberry, which let’s not forget, are used to feature and promote their own platforms, are also actually available on the iPhone!
So let’s put this in to perspective. More or less every app and service Google promotes on Android, Microsoft promote on Windows Phone and even Blackberry promote for Blackberry 10, are actually ironically available for the iPhone too? To add insult to injury, iOS is also the only platform which can boast this, apps from all its competitors. Here’s 10 (except Blackberry) of the most popular examples of each;
Google: YouTube and YouTube Capture, Google Search (inc Google Now), Google Maps and Earth, Gmail, Chrome Browser, Google+, Hangouts, Play Music/Books/, Drive. As well as more.
Microsoft: Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint 365 on iPad), OneDrive, Bing, OneNote, Xbox Music, Xbox, Kinectimals, Wordament, Azure, Socl, SharePoint. As well as more.
Blackberry: BBM, BES10 iPhone/iPad Client, Word Connect for BES10, Work Browser for BES10
iOS 8 TAKES IT EVEN FURTHER
But with iOS 8, this is taken literally to the next level! One of the biggest features of iOS 8 is iCloud Drive. Whilst iCloud Drive is great for synchronising, natively, files across your iOS and OS X machines, which yes is a big step forward for iCloud, it’s not actually such a big competitive feature moving forward.
One of the biggest features of iCloud Drive which is however, along with CloudKit, is the ability to not only have an online File Picker on iOS devices using iCloud, but you can also use third party apps to do the same thing, Apple even demoed the File Picker allowing Microsoft OneDrive, Box and DropBox doing exactly the same functionality as iCloud natively. This is a massive step forward for iOS, and puts iOS not only towards Android, but continues its lead specifically as a competitive advantage led mobile OS.
For example, Microsoft promotes Windows Phone for having tight integration with OneDrive, from the backing up of files, to the integration of Office, Xbox and more. Problem is, Office and Xbox apps are available on iOS, and now with iOS 8, OneDrive can actually be integrated in to iOS as an optional File Picker. Same goes to Google, although Drive wasn’t announced as an integrated service at the keynote.
We must quickly mention these are only ‘our’ favourite features from Apple’s WWDC 2014, if your list is different do let us know below. One thing we will say, is everything Apple announced, whether it’s within OS X Yosemite, or iOS 8, really is a step forward for Apple moving forward, which really is awesome to see, as let’s face it, Apple were becoming quite a boring company to follow, here’s to the future!
For our full coverage of WWDC 2014, check out our massive post on it right here!