All the important bits from Apple’s WWDC 2017

“Dub-Dub” is upon us and in case you weren’t awake at 3am this morning Apple kicked it off with a bevy of announcements. It was a long one too, clocking in at just over 2 hours, not even The Verge’s speciality editing team could crunch it down to their customary two minutes, blowing out to a whopping nineteen.

The worst kept secret – HomePod

It’s a speaker, it’s a voice assistant, it’s the worst possible name a group of highly paid creatives could’ve possibly come up with. Seriously “Speaker-McSpeak-Face” would’ve been better.

The HomePod is Apple’s entrance in not just the smart-speaker market but is also an attack the heavily dominated Sonos market of connected, multi-room, music devices. Announced alongside the upcoming Airplay2 standard the HomePod will allow you to play music on either one, a group or all HomePods within your network. It will also allow you to play different streams on different devices at the same time.

Sonos competitor aside the HomePod has Siri. Yay? Now you can call across the room and have Siri do all the things she’s supposed to do but will probably misinterpret and deliver you the weather in Guatemala instead of turning off your HomeKit device.

Available in December, HomePod launches, astonishingly with Australian, UK & US voice support! There is sadly, no word on pricing.

The expected hardware – iPad Pro 10.5″

The new 10.5″ iPad Pro was no big surprise but with it comes new updates to both it and it’s bigger brother with a new panel capable of HDR video playback and more impressive a – 120Hz refresh rate, a first for mobile displays.

Why’s that important? Well it means the pencil is even more responsive (down to 20ms) and content is displayed on the screen 120 times a second for more fluid viewing and gameplay.

Inside the iPad Pros is Apple’s custom built A10x chip with a 6 core CPU and 12 core GPU. It delivers a solid 30% performance update with the same battery life as todays.

In conjunction with the iOS11 the new iPad Pros become a much more attractive option. The ability to pick one up and tap on it with a pencil to immediately write a note is extremely smart. Add to that OCR for handwritten notes to make your scribblings (potentially) searchable and the new Pro/iOS11 combo is very special.

The new iPad Pro is available to order today and ships next week. The base 10.5″ 64GB iPad Pro starts from A$979.

The unexpected hardware – iMac Pro

The iMac and MacBook lines both got CPU bumps with new Kaby Lake processors, hell even the MacBook Air staved off death for another few months with one! But the unexpected announcement came in the form of Apple’s new “iMac Pro“.

The new Pro version looks to be nothing more than a Apple’s space-grey colouring applied to a regular old iMac’s metal finish but under the hood lies up to 18 cores of Intel Xeon grunt, a Radeon Pro Vega GPU, and up to 128GB of RAM all for the low, low price starting at US$4999.

Apple were pretty excited by the price point, stating the new machine’s PC equivalent would set you back US$7k. Maybe true, maybe not. It’s still all shoved inside the guts of an iMac however meaning it’s pretty locked down for good unlike a PC. It’s definitely impressive but it screams more a pro stop-gap to potentially stop the bleed of high end pros jumping ship from Apple hand over fist the past few years.

The new iMac Pro also includes Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and a big deal made of the introduction of Metal2 and it’s VR use alongside with the support engine makers like Unreal.

No word on official pricing in Australia yet but expect it to have a nice added Aussie-Apple-Tax and put the machine out of most of our reach.

The softer side of things – iOS11 & High Sierra

iOS11 is largely iOS “The iPad Edition” with many of its lauded features related to better multi-tasking and the ability to use your flashy new iPad Pro more like you would a regular Mac. The introduction of a dock, actual drag & drop functionality and a File system (albeit through a weird app) are the first signs of iOS transitioning to more than just a dumbed down smartphone interface. This could be a major turning point in the direction of iOS evolving into macOS’ replacement.

Other key elements to the shiny new iOS11 include a new voice for Siri manufactured through “deep learning” – whoopie. Just make her work better thanks! More exciting is the introduction of Siri’s translation features, heavily reinforced with the “beta” moniker but an exciting feature none-the-less. Siri will now store information it generates about you and your use habits on the device and synced between all your devices. It can tailor your iOS experience just for you and will then sync that across just your devices, not share it amongst the cloud.

Peer to peer (P2P) Apple Pay is included in iOS11, integrated into Messages along with a new dock to better integrate your sticker collection that most people barely know about since its introduction.

The rumoured Apple glasses weren’t anywhere to be seen but a new Augmented Reality SDK called ARKit was shown off. It’s pretty obvious Apple have a vested interest in the space so the idea of glasses couldn’t be too crazy because lets be honest no one wants to hold up their iPad and use AR. Unless you’re my mother taking photos with your iPad too.

iOS11’s control centre gets a nice face-lift, cramming everything into the one tab instead of two. Improvement or not it still appears to be limited to the functions Apple allow you have with zero some customisation – the main feature people seem to want.

Lastly iOS11 will know when you’re in your car driving through a combination of metrics and will suggest you put your phone in “Do not disturb” mode. There was a lawsuit against Apple (and others) for not taking responsibility for crashes whilst idiots use their phones driving. This seems like a reaction to it and essentially just turns your phone’s screen off automatically and if you have CarPlay keeping it connected for you.

iOS11 will release later this year in Spring.

High Sierra is a like that upgrade you have that doesn’t have enough front-facing features to really make a huge song and dance about but enough under the hood it’s pretty impressive. The file system will be completely replaced for a start. Something most people wont even notice but is a huge deal.

Metal2 is baked in, Apple’s graphics framework, along with H.265 support for video – HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding.

More interesting for me was Safari’s upgrades. Built in will be the auto-disabling of Auto-playing videos as well as the retarding of tracking pixels and cookies that throw that one product you looked at by mistake back in your face on every website you visit.

macOS High Sierra will release later this year in Spring.


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