I thought Apple’s 2018 WWDC was a bit of a damp squib and little of it interested me. I was similarly nonplussed by their announcements of September 2018 and the ‘services’ stuff from March 2019.

Apple’s June 2019 WWDC couldn’t be more different, though, and there were a number of announcements that really interested me. I’ve picked my favourites for a brief overview here.

The biggie for me is iPadOS.

iPadOS

iPadOS image from WWDC 2019.
Credit: Apple

The iPad is going to get its own operating system, separate from the iOS that drives iPhones. The feature list is extensive and it goes a long way towards satisfying the things I wanted to see.

Files app

The Files app is getting a complete overhaul and it’s about time too. I can perhaps see why it was simplified to begin with. The iPad wasn’t specifically designed as a powerful productivity tool, it was originally a touch-based device that was meant to be easy for anyone to use. Giving inexperienced users direct access to files just increases the chances of them screwing something up, so it was better to lock things firmly down.

Maybe it was always in Apple’s plans that the iPad would become a serious productivity device, I don’t know, but that’s how it evolved anyway, particularly with the iPad Pro. And power users need more direct access to files, they just do.

As a result the new Files app counts the following amongst its features:

  • a new Downloads folder to support files you grab from Safari or email attachments,
  • the ability to create your own folders on local storage via the iPad (at last!),
  • zip/unzip access,
  • the ability to connect to SMB file servers across a network,
  • an in-built document scanner,
  • iCloud Drive folder sharing,
  • external drive support for USB drives, SD cards and external hard drives (hurray!).

This is all good stuff in my opinion and it will greatly enhance the iPad’s power user credentials.

Reminders

It seems like Apple have been reading my mind because back in October I did a mini-review of Reminders and suggested two features I’d like to see: multi-level lists and a way to duplicate lists.

Apple will certainly address the first of those two things as grouped lists are part of the feature spec for the new Reminders app. I’m not sure whether duplicating lists, without having to copy and paste, will be part of it but I live in hope.

Safari

Safari on the iPad will now show the desktop version of websites rather than the mobile one. The larger iPads certainly have enough screen real estate to do so and this is a welcome addition.

You’ll also be able to set per-site settings for things like the camera, microphone and content blockers and there’ll be a download manager as part of Safari on iPadOS too.

Mouse Support

Apple will be adding mouse support to iPadOS (and iOS 13, it seems), and it’s about time too. However, it isn’t mentioned on Apple’s iPadOS preview page and the company itself seems as if it’s not entirely happy about adding mouse support to iPads, preferring to tuck it away under Accessibility rather than trumpet it from the rooftops.

In an interview with Apple, freelance tech reporter Steve Aquino said:

Apple likes the idea accessibility features are getting mainstream looks.

But they strongly emphasised this was designed and developed expressly for a certain segment of user.

And Apple themselves said:

This is not your old desktop cursor as the primary input method.

Apple seem strangely resistant to the chameleonic nature of the iPad in this respect, preferring to maintain a clear segregation between mouse-driven laptop/desktop devices and finger-driven iPads.

My message to Apple is simply to embrace it and I certainly welcome the addition of mouse capabilities to the iPad. Nobody is forcing anyone to use a mouse after all.

Sidecar

Sidecar is a feature that allows your iPad to be connected to your Mac whereupon it can be used as a second screen.

This isn’t something I do but I can see how it would be particularly useful for people who want to use the Apple Pencil to draw things on an iPad and then insert them directly into a document on the Mac.

Dark Mode

Many folk wet themselves over Dark Modes these days and I’m a bit bemused by the fascination. I tend to just select app and screen colours that suit me and then stick with them, no matter what time of day or night it is.

But for those who do like this sort of thing, you can expect enhancements in iPadOS. There’ll be a new “beautiful dark colour scheme”, to quote Apple, and you’ll be able to schedule it to switch on and off at certain times.

Others

There are a whole host of other features too, including:

  • improved performance,
  • enhanced Apple Pencil support,
  • new Home Screen features,
  • enhanced text editing,
  • enhanced keyboards,
  • custom fonts,
  • privacy and security enhancements,
  • Home and HomeKit enhancements,
  • a huge overhaul of the Photos app,
  • smarter Share Sheets,
  • a completely rebuilt Maps app and
  • improvements to the Messages, Mail and Notes apps.

This is certainly an extensive update.

So when can we expect this update? Apple says it’ll be out in “fall 2019”, which means autumn 2019 for those of us who speak English.

Apple ID

Tim Cook introduces WWDC 2019.
Credit: Apple

Apple are going to launch their own authentication service to compete with the similar services offered by Facebook and Google.

This means you’ll be able to log into third-party websites, apps and services with your Apple ID. If you don’t entirely trust said services not to spam you there will be a facility to hide your email address and Apple will supply the service with a dummy email address and forward any mail it receives.

Apple doesn’t detail it but presumably you can somehow disconnect that dummy email address if you start getting spam, otherwise I can’t see the point of it.

Apple plan to kick start this service by strong-arming users of some of its current facilities into using it.

Personally, I’m not a big user of such sign-on facilities, but the offering from Apple looks tidy as far as these things go.

macOS 10.15 “Catalina”

macOS Catalina image from WWDC 2019.
Credit: Apple

Apple announced a new version of macOS codenamed Catalina, which will be a free upgrade on the following platforms:

  • 12-inch MacBook (2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (2012 and later)
  • iMac (2012 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and later)

So I’ll just squeeze in with an Early 2013 MacBook Pro.

iTunes

The bloated iTunes will die and will be replaced with separate applications for music, podcasts, books and TV. iTunes had grown a bit unwieldy in trying to be all things to many functions but I suspect the transfer to separate apps will be tricky. Based on nothing more than instinct I can see this having a lot of people up in arms, but we’ll see.

Screen Time

Another iOS feature people seem to wet themselves about is Screen Time, which tracks your app and device usage and produces all sorts of stats as a result. It’s not something I ever concern myself with but it’s coming to macOS as part of Catalina.

Marzipan/Catalyst

Marzipan is what people (including Apple, I believe) have been calling the facility that allows “bastard apps” (if you like) from iOS to run on macOS. Presently this amounts to News, Home, Voice Memos and Stocks as far as I’m aware but, now renamed Catalyst, it looks like we can expect more of these things in the future.

Most of the enhancements in this area are for developers, who will be able to get their iOS and iPadOS apps running on macOS just by ticking a few boxes during the compile. Allegedly, anyway. In my experience things are rarely that simple.

I think they should have called it Apple Bastard, though.

Others

Mail, Reminders and Safari will also receive updates, presumably in line with the ones detailed for iPadOS.

I believe Catalina is scheduled for release in autumn 2019 alongside iPadOS.

Conclusion

There’s an awful lot going on here and that’s without touching on the announcements Apple made about their Mac hardware and their watches. It should allay any fears people may have had that Apple’s future might lie in services rather than their hardware and software offerings.

The sheer number of enhancements we can expect means Apple must have been working on them for quite some time and I look forward to taking advantage of them.