Apple opened its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday with a bevy of new features for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch users. And by the end of the two-hour presentation, the company also announced its long-rumored shift from Intel microprocessors in favor of homegrown chips for its Mac line of computers.
As WWDC is a conference for software developers, the people who write apps for the iPhone, Mac, and other Apple devices, the emphasis was on software. Apple unveiled new versions of the operating systems running on all its devices, including iOS 14 for iPhones and a new version of its MacOS software for laptops and desktops, called Big Sur.
Here are some key developments from WWDC 2020:
Meet your new iPhone home screen
Apple is revamping the software that runs on iPhones to make it easier to find app icons, with a new app library that automatically sorts programs by categories like fitness or social. Widgets, small displays of information like the weather or sports scores, which were previously shunted off to the side on the iPhone’s display, can now be intermingled with app icons on the home screen. And users can pick their own default apps for email and web browsing in case they have favorites other than Apple’s built-in apps.
Siri will be more discreet
Siri is getting a new look across all of Apple’s devices that will be less intrusive. Currently, when a user invokes Apple’s digital assistant, Siri covers the entire screen. In Apple’s new software, Siri will appear as just a small circle on top of whatever screen the user is already seeing.
Open says me
The iPhone will have the ability to act as a car key. Users just tap the phone near a sensor in the car’s door handle to unlock their vehicles and place the phone on a charging pad inside to allow the vehicle to be started. The feature will only work with the upcoming BMW 2021 5 Series this year and more cars next year, Apple said. The car key feature will be added to the current version of iOS as well as the new iOS 14, so users can access it sooner.
For the first time, Apple executives talked at WWDC about upgrading the software that runs on its Airpod line of earbuds. The upgrade will allow Airpods to automatically shift the source of sounds from one device to another, say, from music playing on a laptop to answer a call on a phone, without the user having to switch the connection manually using Bluetooth controls. Apple’s Airpod Pro model will also get the ability to make sounds seem to come from different physical places, like a TV with surround sound. That can make movies and other material seem more lifelike.
Apple Watch takes a nap
Apple Watch is finally offering sleep tracking, or the ability to measure how long and how deeply a user is asleep, a feature that competitors have had for years. The watch will also try to automatically detect when users wash their hands and provide a prompt for people to wash their hands for the correct length of time.
Let the chips fall
Finally, as expected, Apple announced that it would shift from using Intel microprocessors to its own homegrown chips for its Mac lineup of laptop and desktop computers.
Apple said its new chips would be faster and use less power than the Intel chips it currently uses, but it didn’t give many specifics. The company said developers would be able to easily modify apps to run on the new chips and that it would include a software translator so even unmodified apps would be able to run in some fashion. Apple said Adobe and Microsoft had already created modified versions of their popular apps to run on the new chips. The company did not say when it would release its first devices for consumers and businesses that feature the new chips.
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