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Everything Apple touted at WWDC – step inside our no-hype-zone™

iOS 9, 'El Capitan' OS X, Watch apps ... and One More Thing

WWDC 2015 Apple kicked off the 2015 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on Monday by revealing three new OS releases due out by the end of 2015.

Here are some of the key points from the introductions of OS X El Capitan, iOS 9 and WatchOS 2 – without all the usual dreadful hype that surrounds these sorts of PR events.

OS X El Capitan: Yes, OS X 10.11 is really called that. The successor to Yosemite will be released to developers today, with a free beta hitting the public in July, and general availability in the Fall. It will be a free update for Yosemite users. Key features include

  • Performance updates: El Capitan will integrate iOS's Metal graphics-acceleration API to speed up performance in games and graphics-intensive apps such as Adobe Illustrator. Apple reckons El Capitan will also bring 1.4x faster app load times, 2x faster app switching, 2x faster mail message deliver, 4x faster PDF loading.
  • Spotlight updates: Better desktop search integration within apps, and the ability to resize search result windows.
  • Safari: Sites can be pinned to the tab bar, and audio coming from a webpage can be muted by clicking on an icon in its tab.
  • Notes: Drag-and-drop compatibility with Safari and Maps to automatically add page summaries or locations to notes, as well as drag-and-drop support for PDFs, photos and videos. Users can automatically convert their lists to checklists via a formatting option.
  • Mail: The "Smart Suggestions" tool to add people to your address book from their contact information in received messages. Multi-gesture controls for scrolling and labeling messages.
  • Split View and Mission Control: A "split view" mode allowing two apps to be displayed side by side in a full screen view, just like Windows. Mission Control will add a bar to manage and add multiple Spaces screens.
  • Swift: Improved performance and error-handling as well as a move to open source. Read more about Swift 2.0 here.
  • Xcode 7: Apple's developer studio has a gauge alerting you if your iOS app is using up too much battery power, a tool for pinpointing where in your source code a crash happened, and other bits and pieces. Apple has also rolled its developer programs together: you can now subscribe to OS X and iOS programming resources for $99 a year, rather than $99 for each operating system. You can also now test your iOS app on your iOS device without having to buy a subscription.

iOS 9: Like El Capitan, iOS 9 will be made available immediately to Apple Developer account holders with a public beta in July and general release in the Fall (likely alongside a new iPhone). For all devices running iOS 8 it will be a free update and will not carry any additional hardware requirements. It will bring a laundry list of new features, including:

  • Performance: The addition of Core Animation and Core Graphics APIs to the Metal developer tool. A 1.6x improvement in animation and scrolling, 50 per cent less CPU usage and improved battery performance Apple claims will add 1 hour of battery life typical use on an iPhone and 3 hours of additional use in low power mode. iOS 9 will also have a smaller footprint, requiring 1.3GB of free storage space compared to 4.6GB for iOS 8.
  • Built by Apple: Apple will prefer you to build your iOS apps to bitcode, an intermediate language that can be optimized and rebuilt by Cupertino's engineers and made available to users without third-party developer intervention. It means Apple can build separate versions of your software optimized for particular devices transparently to programmers and users. Bitcode is mandatory for standalone Watch apps.
  • Siri: The voice-controlled personal assistant tool will gain new features to better predict what you want or need to do based on previous daily routines and information in from other apps. Appointments will factor in traffic conditions when sending reminders and suggesting routes. The OS can also identify unknown phone numbers by looking into your Mail messages and looking up contact details.
  • Search: An API will allow developers to add content from within their own apps to device search results. Users can search for this material, and also receive suggestions based on entries in one or more apps.
  • Apple Pay: Brits will be pleased to know that wireless pay-by-tap Apple Pay will be arriving in the UK next month. Apple says the Pay launch will support 70 per cent of bank cards in Blighty, and will be supported by 250,000 merchants, including Boots, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Transport for London. Back in the States, Square will be adding support for Apple Pay to a new payment reader this Fall, allowing small businesses to support iPhone pay-by-bonk. Pay will also add support for customer loyalty cards to be read and credited when paying.
  • Multitasking: For iPads, the iOS 9 update will bring the ability to use gestures to swipe between apps, pull up an app switching menu, or run two apps alongside each other on screen, like a Windows 8 split-screen. iPad users will also be able to watch videos while using another app by pulling the video into a corner, resizing it down to a picture-in-picture box.
  • Security: The App Transport Security feature will allow developers to add a list of approved domains to an app's Info.plist file. Any attempt to access a server outside of that list will be blocked by the operating system, hopefully preventing miscreants from tricking an app into redirecting sensitive information to malicious servers. Apple will also require developers to use HTTPS for all network traffic on iOS 9 apps, and iCloud will add support for two-factor authentication. Also iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, and iPad Mini 3 devices running the new iOS will require a six-digit passcode to unlock them, not a four-digit code.
  • Maps: The addition of transit information, including schedules, arrival times, and estimated walking times from a user's location to the requested transit stop.
  • HealthKit: Support for collection of new types of health information, including hydration level, UV exposure and reproductive data (such as menstrual cycles in women).
  • HomeKit: User control of devices via iCloud. Support for carbon monoxide detectors and motion sensors.

WatchOS 2: The main addition on the new Apple Watch firmware will be support for native apps. Like the others, it won't make its way to end users until the Fall, but developers can start building for it today.

  • Native apps: Developers will be given the ability to run standalone software on the Watch without requiring an iOS device to do all the hard work. Developers will have access to the Watch microphone, speaker and Wi-Fi hardware as well as HealthKit and HomeKit APIs.
  • Watch face options: Users can set their default display to a watch face, a rotating photo album or a "time lapse" face based on a series of 24-hour lapse photos taken from various cities around the globe.
  • Custom "complication" data: Users can customize the information that appears on the default watch face, including sports scores, appointments and flight information.
  • Time Travel: Rotating the Watch's crown dial will advance the screen to show upcoming events and appointments.
  • Apple Pay and Transit: Watch will support both the new payment system and transit information introduced for iOS apps.
  • Nightstand mode: When charging the Watch at night, a new display mode will show the time and offer the option to set an alarm.

And finally, there was the usual "one more thing"™ from Tim Cook, the Cupertino answer to Spotify: Apple Music. The service mixes iTunes streaming with a 24-hour online radio network branded "Beats 1." More on that right here. ®

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