I really had a blast watching the WWDC keynote this year. The NosillaCast Live chatroom (podfeet.com/chat on Discord) was positively hopping. We had people from across the globe, where some even got up in the middle of the night to watch to see what Apple would have to say. It was a real party.
After the announcements were over, I started thinking about each thing they announced, and whether I was excited, bored, or annoyed. I thought it might be fun to walk through not every bit of the announcements, but the things on which I had a strong opinion.
Performance on iOS 12 – Interesting and That’s Nice
Apple talked about how they’re really doubling down on performance in iOS 12. The performance they talked about wasn’t in high-end gaming or video production. They talked about making the experience better on older phones. You can look at this one of two ways:
- Apple had to do this because everybody knows, or at least has been accusing them of slowing down older phones. Or …
- Apple did this because they’ll make more money. While they make really high margins on high-end phones, it’s no secret that their fastest growth is now in services. If they can sell you iCloud storage on an iPhone 5s because it’s only got 16GB of local storage, that’s a win for Apple, right? If they can get an Apple Music subscription out of you because you can’t fit any music locally either, it’s the highest margin money they can make.
You can choose to be cynical either way if you like. I think it’s awesome for people who have a phone they like and nothing is wrong with it to be able to get all the new features and more importantly get security updates. Now they’re also going to get speed improvements. No matter Apple’s motivations, I put this in the Interesting and That’s Nice categories.
Augmented Reality – Yawn
You’ve heard me say pretty often that I don’t believe in Virtual Reality. I think Tom Merritt answered that best when he said, “It DOES exist, Allison…” I guess I should come up with a new way of talking about it. When I say that, I mean I don’t believe VR is a game changer or will be a big advancement to the way we use our devices. It’s clearly very fun for games but beyond that, I’m not seeing where it will change the world.
However, I do think that augmented reality (putting virtual things into a view of reality) could make a difference. I think I started to believe in it when two years ago a vendor at CES described a scenario where a miner underground needed to repair some equipment. She straps on some goggles (or not) and can see how the part she’s working on should look and she can see how to pull it apart, and that view is superimposed over the physical equipment in front of her. That starts to make sense to me as a game changer.
But when Apple talked about AR on stage at WWDC, I couldn’t help but yawn. Talking with breathless excitement about being able to use your iPhone to measure something was a waste of our time. I’m not saying it’s not a useful tool, but it’s also the first thing developers created after ARKit was introduced. What was new in that? Maybe it will work better than the available measuring apps out there today, but it was like watching them announce their own flashlight app.
Playing two-person games in AR was kind of nifty, but if this is all for games, then it’s hard to get very excited. While I don’t play many games, that’s not why I’m bored with this. I’m bored because it could be so much more.
I do hope that by Apple building these frameworks, people will create much more interesting uses. Imagine a relatively unskilled surgeon in a war zone being able to perform brain surgery because they had someone directing them in VR from thousands of miles away. Now that’s what I can get excited about.
Listener and contributor Terry Austin is an anatomy professor, and he sent me a really cool AR tool he uses to allow people view a skull in 3D in space in front of them. He can pull it apart, and dive inside it to explain the different parts and what function they provide. Now that’s good stuff.
I’m going to give Apple a yawn on their presentation, but AR gets a mild excitement rating from me.
Photos Enhancements – Really Disappointed
There was one area in the announcements that I found really disappointing, and that was in the enhancements for Photos on iOS. I’m really weary of services telling me what I should care about with my photos. Facebook is always showing me memories to share. Google Photos sends me “on this day” notifications as though February 3rd was some magic day. Apple Photos on iOS has the same sort of memories and pre-created events, but they simply get in my way. They flip up from below when I bump a photo while trying to show it to someone. I have absolutely never wanted it to do that. And Apple announced more of the same kind of features.
What I wanted was the ability to add metadata via iOS. I like to name my photos and I know others like to tag their images (I’m looking at Allister here), but for some reason Apple doesn’t see fit to give us that access on iOS. You can search by names you created over on the Mac, but you can’t edit or work on them in iOS. Maybe Allister and I are in the minority but it disappointed me that there was still no progress in this area.
They did say that they were adding search refinements where you could string searches together, which sounds nice.
Siri Shortcuts – Intrigued
Apple showed off what they called Siri Shortcuts, which appear to be what they’ve been doing with the Workflow team they bought recently. The demo was clearly the Workflow software rebranded. I love the idea of Workflow and IFTTT, but every time I think about using these kinds of tools, I can’t for the life of me think of a problem I have that it solves.
I know there are others who are fanatical about these tools and seem to solve a lot of problems with them. I want to be excited about this, so if anyone listening is excited and has ideas for what this could mean, I’d sure love to hear from you about it.
The example many people gave with Workflow is the ability to send a notification to their family that they’re on the way home and to have them sent an updating ETA. I set that up with Workflow a long time ago and used it once. Instead, I use an app called Glympse that does that in a button push already. I’m sure I’m just being short-sighted here and just don’t have vision, but I found myself yawning yet again.
Do Not Disturb Refinements – Cautiously Optimistic
I was excited to hear that Apple was going to give Do Not Disturb some love. Steve and I have been plagued by apps that don’t obey DND, and wake us up in the middle of the night. My Mac and my iPhone X live on the desk in our bedroom and every few nights one of them will light up to alert us to some amazing notification they think I need to view.
Both devices are on a scheduled DND at night. In theory, only a notification from someone in our VIP list should get through but they sure aren’t obeying that rule. I’m not sure the advances Apple is planning will address my problems but if they’re in there poking into the code, maybe they’ll accidentally fix it.
Screentime – Won’t Help
In the category of things Apple did because of public pressure, I would add their new Screentime feature. This is the service that allows you to see how much time you’re spending on your device and in which apps. You can also put in controls to try to stop yourself from overdoing it. They suggested as an example, setting a limit on Instagram to a specific number of hours per day and then you’d have to override it if you wanted to still use it.
While the whole idea is laudable, people who are addicted to anything either won’t enable Screentime or won’t obey it when it does nag them. You know those people who are always late, so they set their clocks ahead by 5 minutes? Are those people now on time to everything? Same kind of thing. I think for data nerds like me, though, it will be awesome! I can see gamifying this: seeing if you can beat yesterday’s record (fewer or more hours on the device depending on how you want to play), and competing with your friends.
On the other hand, maybe there is a segment of the population who would benefit from Screentime. Maybe it will have an effect like the Apple Watch exercise tracking did. Most people who don’t exercise simply turn off the reminders to stand and notifications about their activity level. But there are the Bart Busschots and the Chris Ashleys of the world who finally found in the Apple Watch the tool to help them regain their health and well being, so maybe Screentime will help those who really do want to help themselves.
Memoji – Squeeee!
The most exciting thing in the WWDC keynote to me was tongue detection in Animoji. Ok, not really but I did squeal with delight! I am always sticking my tongue out when I make them and always disappointed when the unicorn doesn’t stick its tongue out too.
Then when they announced Memoji I was even more excited. Being able to create essentially moving Bitmoji that look like you sounds really fun. After the keynote, Kaylee from Japan immediately put all of her devices on the beta (she’s crazy that way) and sent me a hilarious Memoji video. Oh, and she stuck her tongue out at the end – it was hilarious!
By the way, I hardly ever use iMessage because I got so weary of the tangled group threads, but when I do have a desperate need to be silly, I’m thrilled about Memoji and tongue detection. We’ll see if it’s enough to bring me back.
Group FaceTime – Yay!
Who amongst us didn’t see the Modern Family episode where Clare and Phil and the kids were having constant FaceTime calls in their search for their daughter, and yell at the TV, “You can’t do multiple people in video FaceTime!!!” Finally we, too, will be able to have group FaceTime.
I love FaceTime and we do it all the time in our family. Being able to talk to my grandson every few days is awesome. But then Steve wants to see Forbes too, and we have to awkwardly get our faces close together to fit on screen – it’s generally annoying. Being able to have the three of us on separate devices is going to be awesome! I really liked the fluid way the person talking’s video image flowed in and became bigger. Beautifully done.
But 32 people on a FaceTime call, though? No no no. Just no.
watchOS 5 Exercise – Woohoo!
While Memoji and group FaceTime on iOS 12 is thrilling, the updates to watchOS exercise will be actually useful. If you don’t yet wear an Apple Watch or aren’t yet obsessed with tracking your exercise with one, you don’t know the agony of going on a four-mile run and halfway through realizing you forgot to start a workout. It’s all about credit, you see. It does not matter that you really did burn those calories, if the watch doesn’t show it, you don’t get credit.
In watchOS 5, if the watch notices that you might be exercising and haven’t yet turned on a workout, it will politely ask you if you’re exercising and want to turn one on. That will be so awesome! It will even give you retroactive credit if you forget to turn on a workout.
The second most aggravating thing about tracking exercise on the Apple Watch is when you forget to turn it off after exercising. If you’re a person of integrity, it really bothers you to get 200 calories of credit for a third of a mile walk. In watchOS 5, the watch will notice if you’re taking a nap but still supposedly working out and gently suggest you might have forgotten to stop it. I am soooo happy about this!
watchOS Walkie Talkie and Hey Siri – Bad Ideas
I can’t decide whether the new Walkie Talkie feature on watchOS will be amazing, or the worst idea they’ve ever come up with. While I would love to purposely interrupt Joe Dugandzic while he’s recording a video with a silly walkie-talkie message, I’m not sure I’d enjoy the reciprocal behavior. There has been speculation that you’ll have a mode you can toggle on whether to receive them. But if they do let us do that, we’ll probably all just shut it off and forget about the feature.
They also announced that with watchOS 5 you won’t have to say “Hey Siri” when you raise your wrist to talk to her. At first I thought that was great, but then realized it can’t possibly be a good idea. If you raise your wrist to say, check the time, or read a notification, and you happen to be talking, won’t Siri think you’re talking to her? What if someone else is talking, won’t it listen to them too? Or the TV? Doesn’t that also mean your watch will always be listening when you raise your wrist? I’m pretty sure that’s not what we want, is it?
Let’s switch gears and talk about the next version of macOS: Mojave. Before we get into it, it’s pronounced, moh-hah-vee, not moh-hah-vay like Craig Federighi kept saying it on stage. After living through the nightmare years of listening to Dave Hamilton mispronounce El Capitan (he called it El Capitahn), I’m afraid we might be descending into a similar dark year. Please don’t pronounce it like Craig?
Dark Mode – Yay
I’m old, so my close vision is completely shot. Because of that, the brighter a screen, the better I can see. This is because when the screen is bright, your pupils contract. Just like in photography, the smaller the aperture, the deeper the depth of focus. However, for many other people, having a bright screen is annoying and may even make it harder for them to see. For those folks, Apple giving us a dark mode in Mojave will be a huge improvement.
I think that Apple’s plan is to have a single toggle for dark mode and all apps that enable it will go dark. I think it would be even cooler to be able to enable the feature by app. You might want a photography app in dark mode but a text editing app in light mode. Maybe we’ll get that in the OS after Mojave.
Desktop Stacks – dumbest idea ever
Remember how I said Screentime won’t stop the truly addicted from using their phones? There’s another enhancement Apple introduced that’s equally laudable but will never help those who really need it. Apple introduced a feature called Desktop Stacks in Mojave. If you litter your desktop with files and turn this feature on, it will tidy up your desktop into piles by file type. All of your images will be in a stack, all of your text documents piled together, etc.
Now I’d like you to close your eyes and visualize two different desks. In both cases, you’ve seen these desks before. The one on the left is covered in papers. It’s messy and disorganized. The one on the right has paper stacked on every available part of the desk, but they are stacked, not messy.
The people who have these two kinds of desks are never going to become truly organized. They might have different personalities, but they have similarities. The messy one might believe that they will someday clean up, but the stacker truly believes that this is a good method in which to work. On a virtual desktop, the messy person would never be able to find something if they stacked all of their stuff because they actually believe scanning around on their desktop for that icon is efficient. The stacker might want to stack things their own way, not the way Apple decides they should be stacked. They like their methods and nothing can help them.
The dumbest part was when they said that you could tag your files and then have Stacks by tag. Do they really think that the kind of people who leave junk all over their desktops are the same kind of people who meticulously tag their files?
Again it is admirable that Apple is trying to save these people from themselves but I guarantee it won’t change their evil ways.
Quick Actions in Finder – Yay!
I don’t know if there’s a single name for this next category but I’m going to call it quick actions in Finder. Apple showed off contextual menus you could access right from the Finder to edit certain kinds of documents. For example, you’ll be able to rotate images right from Quicklook. Why open Preview just to do that?
It really is annoying to me that when I simply want to trim a video, I have to open it in QuickTime, do the trim, and then for no apparent reason create a second version of the file when I save because it wants to re-encode the file. In Mojave, we’ll be able to do the edit right in Quicklook. You’ll even be able to invoke Markup in a PDF without opening it in Preview.
I literally squealed with delight when they mentioned Automator not once, but twice during this part of the keynote. Being able to write your own actions could be really cool. A lot of us were worried when they let Sal Saghoian go from Apple that Automator would be lost, but this sure made Automator sound alive and well.
And I do get the irony that I’m excited about Automator but bored by Workflow.
Security & Privacy – Woohoo!
We’ve been having a lively discussion in the NosillaCast Facebook group about whether Apple is truly innovating these days. Shockingly, I’m defending Apple here. One of the areas I believe they’ve been truly innovative has been in the area of security and privacy.
In the keynote, they announced that they are shutting down the ability for those Facebook and Google “like buttons” to track you around the Internet. Safari simply won’t let them. I think that’s glorious.
Bart has explained to us that we’re being digitally fingerprinted on the Internet. In order to track us, they combine information like our IP address, the user agent of our browser (Firefox vs. Safari vs. Chrome), the machine type we’re using (desktop vs. mobile), plugins you have installed, and even the fonts you use. When all of these things are combined, they can actually tell where you’ve been on the internet and what you’ve viewed, presumably to better serve you ads. The information could also be used to tell things about your health. If you’re looking at flu symptoms or AIDS studies or cancer treatments, that should be no one’s information but yours.
In Mojave, Apple is simply shutting this down. I haven’t read up on exactly how they’re accomplishing this, but if you use Safari on Mojave, you will look to the Internet like every other Mac running Safari. I love this and it is truly innovative. I also hope that Microsoft and Google copy the daylights out of this privacy feature, but they probably won’t.
Free Trials in the App Stores – Would have been nice
I’m going to close with one more thing that truly excited me, until I found out it was pretty much smoke and mirrors. Apple announced that they were finally going to let us have free trials in the App Stores. It’s not just users who want this, it’s the developers too. I was clapping with glee during this announcement.
But then I read a blog post by Daniel Jalkut, developer of the awesome blogging app MarsEdit on which I depend. I’ll link to the article (bitsplitting.org/…) so you can read his full explanation, but here’s the gist of the problem.
A true free trial is where you get to use an app in its full, unencumbered glory for a short period of time, say for 2 weeks or 10 days. Today we have a weird workaround that the Omni Group actually figured out, where developers give us a free app with only partial capabilities, and then if you pay, you get more or all of the features. That creates a lot of problems for developers and users because people get mad at the developers when a free app costs $50 to actually use.
Unfortunately, Apple didn’t actually do anything to truly give us free, unencumbered use of apps for a period of time. The only thing they did was change the App Store guidelines to explicitly allow the current workaround that everyone has been using.
That’s really disappointing to me. I sincerely hope Daniel is wrong but he sure sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. I encourage you to read his full explanation because he delves into the problems that exist today much more articulately and completely than what I’ve described.
Bottom line is that there was a lot to like about what came out of the WWDC keynote and even more cool stuff has come out during other events during the week. I’m excited about most of it and even the stuff that bored or annoyed me will probably be more fun than I thought.
I’m itching to get to watchOS 5, iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, but I’m afraid to load the betas so I’ll probably wait for the real deal!