WWDC 2021: My Favourite Announcements

7th June, 2021

With the Apple WWDC keynote over, there was a lot of information to unpack. The first thing that sprung to mind is: how the hell am I going to remember all these features and how they work. Then: do I really need any of it? I can't really answer the first part to that other than maybe watch lots of YouTube videos when the final releases of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, WatchOS 8, tvOS 15 and macOS Monterey are let loose. The second part also stumps me a bit - there are things that I would probably find useful, but I don't know whether they would form part of my everyday life with these devices.

What I liked:

Facetime Spatial Audio. Except I don't currently Facetime with anyone. Old fashioned mobile or landline calls are generally good for me. Video conferencing for work is a different matter, but even then a standard audio call via Zoom or Google Meet is generally good enough for short meetings. But if I did do a lot of group Facetime video calls (I may drag my Dad kicking and screaming into the 21st Century when I get a chance to give him my 2018 11" iPad Pro), having the audio coming from the direction the current person speaking is a damn good idea.

Facetime via a web browser. Good news for Android, Windows and Linux users: the Holy Order of Apple has decided that you lot can join in on Facetime video calls.

Spatial Audio for tvOS and MacOS. FINALLY. I've just bought some Apple Beats Studio 3 headphones (on the cheap) with the W1 chip so I can listen and watch TV shows and music via my Apple 4K TV with Dolby Atmos content. And using a pair of HomePod minis will also provide spatial audio too.

Watch Together/Listen Together. Use Factime to watch TV shows on Mac, iPad, iPhone together. You may think this is somewhat of a strange idea. Not so. Similar concepts have worked well during this pandemic where groups of people watch particular episodes of TV shows and react live. From my perspective of somebody who has worked in the film and TV industry - this is a super cheap, rough and ready approval/dailies system (assuming you can play any content not restricted to AppleTV+ or Apple Music).

Focus mode. This could be really useful when you're really busy on a work project and don't want anybody to disturb you - and you can let people know that you don't want to be disturbed. It's a bit like the Slack status notification system, but for the Apple ecosystem.

Live Text. Being able to extract and work with text taken from a photo would be extremely useful. Easily get a phone number, or an address, or translate something in a foreign language.

Visual Lookup. One of my bad habits when taking photographs is that I never label them properly. I almost entirely rely on the metadata recorded by the GPS unit in my iPhone (or Galaxy S21 Ultra) to label where the photos were taken. But I have plenty that aren't labelled properly, and I haven't a clue where I was at the time. Back when I was keeping copies of my photos on Google Photos, I recall that it helped me identify some of the places that had no GPS data - all thanks to Google's AI and machine learning algorithms. Until now Apple hasn't been able to do that. Now it should be able to.

Apple ID Legacy Contacts. If I were to die (though I'm not intending to do so anytime soon - I have so much to do, much of it annoying, but so much to do) I'd be leaving behind over 10,000+ photos and videos and over 600 movies, along with whatever other data I have stored in iCloud. Apple will now make it easier for my next of kin to access my Apple ID and access everything contained within it.

iPadOS Multitasking. We now get a button to help us easily arrange apps on a single iPad screen without having to remember gestures to do so. This was my biggest complaint about the iPad. The gestures - to me at least - aren't as obvious as they should be. This should go some way to fixing that.

Universal Control. This is the ability for a single keyboard or mouse to operate multiple Macs and iPads. The demo given was very impressive - and even more so is the ability to drag and drop documents and data between the different devices.

Build Swift apps on an iPad. Again, it's about time something like this was to happen - especially as Xcode is going into the cloud so that apps can be built remotely. Now you don't need a Mac to develop iOS and iPadOS apps. It also makes me wonder if Xcode Cloud will eventually bring an iOS/iPadOS IDE to Windows and Linux.

What's still missing:

External camera support for Apple TV 4K. I'd REALLY like to be able to connect my Logitech Brio 4K webcam to to my Apple TV 4K (which in turn is connected to a 60" LG 4K TV) and use it for Zoom, Google Meet and Facetime calls. Would be great for company meetings and events where it'd nicer to sit on the sofa than at a desk. This would work extremely well with Apple's new Watch Together and Listen Together features in iOS 15.

Give iPhones and iPads the ability to record Dolby Atmos (Spatial Audio) audio: Since Apple is going all-in with Spatial Audio, so it would make sense to me that in addition to iPhones being able to record Dolby Vision HDR content, that they also record Dolby Atmos sound too. That way, your home movies will be that more incredibly immersive.

Exporting all Apple Notes (for backup). Or to import into other note-taking software such as Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. But primarily I'd like not being locked in and want the ability to take backups with the ability to export to different formats.