Everything Apple announced at WWDC 2021: iOS 15, MacOS Monterey, and more

The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is one of the biggest events of the year for Apple developers, and this year’s show is no different. Apple announced key updates across its entire ecosystem, with new releases for iOS on the iPhone, MacOS on the Mac, iPadOS for its line of tablets, WatchOS on Apple Watch, and so much more.

“We’re excited to share our latest technologies with you and with the incredible community of millions of Apple developers around the world,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said as he kicked off WWDC 2021 to an audience of developers represented by Memoji. “Your creativity and groundbreaking apps continue to deliver new and meaningful ways to enrich people’s lives,”  “We’ve continued to look for ways to cultivate the next generation of developers, with an emphasis on those underrepresented in technology.”

Cook continued to push Apple’s social responsibility programs, noting that Apple will “continue to be a force for change.”

iOS 15

“For many of us, our iPhones have become indispensable,” Apple’s Craig Federighi said. The newest release of the operating system for the iPhone is iOS 15. “Our new release is iOS 15. It’s packed with features that make the iOS experience adapt to and complement the way you use iPhone, whether it’s staying connected with those who matter to you most, finding the space to focus without distraction, using intelligence to discover the information you need, or exploring the world around you.”

A big part of the iOS 15 release is FaceTime, an important feature for users looking to stay connected during the global pandemic. A new FaceTime experience is coming with iOS 15 to make calls feel more “natural, comfortable, and lifelike,” he said, noting that Apple is bringing spatial audio to FaceTime to make it more like you’re face-to-face for a more natural meeting experience.

Federighi also noted Apple’s focus on privacy, highlighting that FaceTime calls are still end-to-end encrypted.

There are two new microphone features, including voice isolation to block out ambient background noises and prioritizes your voice to make it more natural.  The second feature is wide spectrum, which picks up “a wide symphony of sound.”

For video, there’s a grid view to see all your callers. And to help you focus on the calls and eliminate distractions, Apple also announced a new FaceTime video mode called Portrait Mode. Like Portrait Mode for the camera when taking photos, this FaceTime feature isolates the subject and blurs the background to help callers focus on the faces of their friends and colleagues.

One of the more exciting features for iOS is that FaceTime is expanding beyond Apple’s ecosystem. True to Apple, this expansion will be happening in a limited manner, but it will bring cross-platform video calls to users on iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, the web, and even Android!

With FaceTime Scheduling, you can now schedule a FaceTime call in advance and create a link and calendar reminder. Through the link, friends on Android and the web will be able to join your video call.

“You can send the FaceTime link in places like Messages, email, WhatsApp, or jump into Calendar and make an event for your FaceTime call so everyone will know exactly where need and when,” Federighi said of the feature. “And it’s not just Apple devices that can use a FaceTime link to join your call your — friends with Android and Windows devices can use your FaceTime link to join the call right from their browser.”

Apple is making FaceTime an even more social experience with SharePlay, allowing you to listen and watch content together or listen to music as if you’re in the same room.

“We love enjoying shared experiences,” Federighi said. “And so we built, share play share play is a powerful new set of features for sharing experiences that you can enjoy when you’re on a FaceTime call.”

Press play in Apple Music, and you can choose to listen together to songs on the calls on FaceTime, he added. With watch together, you can jump to a streaming app and watch the content together with others on the FaceTime call. And screen sharing is also coming to FaceTime calls as well.

SharePlay is designed to work with third-party apps as well through the SharePlay API. Apple announced that partners thus far include Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, TikTok, Masterclass, Paramount Plus, and many more.

Additionally, Apple is making screen sharing available through FaceTime, so you can view the same content together, whether that’s in an app or on the browser. Screen sharing will, for example, allow users to browse Zillow home listings together on FaceTime, or it could allow you to help troubleshoot your grandma’s iPhone remotely and walk her through the necessary settings.

In addition to FaceTime, Messages is also getting a big overhaul on iOS 15, making it easier to view and surface shared content.

For example, in Messages, multiple photos that are shared can now be stacked together or viewed in a collage to make sharing more dynamic and reduce wasted screen space. Apple is also integrating the Messages experience to other apps as well. If your friends shared a News article with you in Messages, you don’t have to read it right away. Rather than scroll and search for that shared article, you can open the News app later and the relevant article will be surfaced in the Shared with You section of that app. The integration is coming to Music, Photos, and other apps, making it easy for you to share, find, and surface content.

With photo sharing in the Messages app, this new integration will allow you to view shared images in the Photos app alongside your existing photo library, Apple noted.

“Over in the Photos app, the new Shared with You section makes it super easy to get back to that,” Apple said in a demo of the integration. “They’ll also appear in my featured photos and memories. And what’s really cool is they’re automatically brought over to my library. So if I scroll back to that Joshua Tree trip and drill in, you can see all the great photos my cousin sent are right here.”

Message integration is also built into the Safari, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV app.

Apple also introduced a new Focus feature to help keep distractions to a minimum.

Focus happens in notifications too with a Notification summary that can be scheduled to be delivered at any time you choose.

“We want to free up space to focus and help you be in the moment,” Cook’s team said. “And that starts with notifications. They have a fresh new look, contact photos for people, and larger icons for apps, making them even easier to identify.”

You can view all your notifications in a summary that’s arranged by priority. Notifications from people won’t get summarized, so you’ll always get your important chat and conversations as they come in. These notifications will follow your Do Not Disturb settings.

With iMessage, you can now set your status automatically with Focus when you turn on Do Not Disturb. This way, others can see that you’re not available to chat. For important contacts, you can adjust the settings to ensure that important contacts always get through.

With Focus, you can carve out time for work or your personal life, so you can choose what apps and people to get notifications from. You can dedicate a page on your home screen to match your focus. This is the closest that we’re getting profiles on iOS, and Apple claimed that it is leaning on A.I. to help build your focus spaces to help you separate your work life from your personal life. With work and personal spaces, you can choose to have different home screens and focus settings.

“Focus is a new way to match your device to your current mindset with focus,” Apple said. “All you have to do is choose what you want to focus on. You can carve out time in your day for work or your personal life. When setting up a focus, we use on-device intelligence about your past activity to suggest, apps, and people to allow notifications from. So, if your work, you can choose to only be notified by coworkers for apps like Mail, Calendar, or Slack.”

With machine learning, Apple is also bringing its artificial intelligence to the Photos app by integrating Apple Music with the Photos app for the first time. In Photos, Memories that are curated can now be synced with an Apple Music song. When you hold down on the photo or video, the visual portion of your Memories reel can be paused, but the music can continue to play in the background, making it more fun, interactive, and alive, Apple said. Once you remove your finger, the photos will continue to play in a slideshow and match the beat of the tune.

Apple is also introducing a new feature called Live Text. With this feature, if you take a picture of a whiteboard with the camera, the camera uses OCR to detect text and allows you to select text from your photos to look things up, search, or copy and paste into a message or email. Phone numbers are recognized with a link, and you can automatically tap on phone numbers to make a call. It works with screenshots too and works across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

This extends beyond text too. It works with pets — identify a breed of dog, for example — landmarks, and more.

Spotlight gets deeper integration with the Photos app to help you find photos by people and places.

Apple is also updating the Contacts app with rich information, including location and the contact status.

Apple also updated Apple Wallet, highlighting Apple Pay, Transit Cards, and recently added features like Walt Disney World Park Pass. In addition to CarKey for unlocking your cars, Apple will also allow you to add your house key, corporate badge, and even hotel room key so you can tap your phone or watch to unlock even more doors.

“With iOS 15, we’re bringing keys for your everyday places to Wallet, starting with where you live,” Apple said. “We’re creating the fastest, most secure way to unlock your house, apartment, or flat, and where you work. Just add your corporate badge and tap to enter your building or office, and where you travel with hotel keys, you’ll automatically receive your key when your room is ready, even before you arrive at the hotel.

Hyatt Hotel will roll this out starting this fall for hotel keys at more than 1,000 properties worldwide.

Apple also announced the addition of identity cards to Wallet. Your state driver’s license or ID can be scanned and stored in Wallet for participating states, and the IDs can be used for TSA checkpoints as well! With more keys and IDs coming to Apple Wallet, the company is making a huge push for users to leave behind their physical wallets.

Weather is also getting a huge update with a new design based on current weather information, updated graphics, and new animated backgrounds that more accurately represent the sun’s position, clouds, and precipitation. Weather maps are also updated as well with full-screen graphics.

Apple Maps is also updated, and Apple is highlighting how Maps is focused on privacy. Redesigned imagery, a focus on business districts with views of landmarks, and more details with crosswalks and bike lanes help with navigation. With complex junctions, Maps gets a 3D view that helps drivers understand which lane they need to be in. With transit, Maps will now notify you when to get off the train. 3D Apple Maps will be launching in select cities by the end of 2021, and more will be added next year, Apple said.

iPadOS 15

iPadOS 15 is getting a big home screen update with widgets. As on iPhones, you can place widgets anywhere on your Home Screen. Apple is highlighting that widgets have been redesigned for the iPad’s larger screen.

On iPad, you also have access to the App Library, and access can be quickly obtained through the dock. You can hide apps you no longer need from your Home Screen, according to Apple, similar to the iPhone.

Multitasking is getting a big overhaul. A new multitasking control can be accessed from the top of the screen. You can also swipe down to minimize apps on a Shelf on the lower portion of the screen. It’s a feature that mimics minimized windows on desktop platforms.

The multitasking menu also brings access to Split View, Slide Over, and launching apps in full screen. And with multitasking, you can now switch between apps, or drag one app on top of another in the open apps view to launch two apps together side-by-side in Split View.

Notes is getting a big update with mentions, a summary of changes while you’re away, and tags. There is a system-wide note with Quick Notes. You can swipe up for a pop-up note from the corner of the screen so you can jot a quick note. The feature is contextually aware, so it knows where the note was originated. From Safari, the Quick Note will also add a link from the web page you were looking at when the note was created.

Apple is bringing the Translate app to iPad, and auto-translation will help bring conversations to iPad owners. Live Text helps bring translations to photos, and system-wide translate will work across the entire platform.

MacOS Monterey

Following the launch of Big Sur last year, Apple is introducing a new version of MacOS for the desktop called Monterey. With Monterey, key features like Focus, Notes, and Quick Notes from iOS and iPadOS introduced today are also landing on the Mac.

Apple is expanding its Continuity efforts with Universal Control, allowing you to share your mouse and keyboard across your ecosystem of devices. This means you can share your mouse and keyboard from your MacBook to your iPad!

Universal Control allows you to drag and drop files from one device and share it with a second device. And it can work on more than two devices, Apple said. You can share files to and from multiple devices as well.

“Universal Control makes it effortless to move between devices,” Federighi said, making it easier for you to stay productive and focused on the task at hand.

Apple is also introducing AirPlay to Mac, making it easy to play, present, and share content to your Mac. You can also share audio by using your Mac’s speaker.

Apple is making it easier to automate your life by bringing Shortcuts to the Mac. Now, you can automate the everyday stuff to achieve peak productivity, Federighi said, and you can create shortcuts for your specific workflow all in one click.

Shortcuts is part of a multi-year transition on the Mac away from Automator. Apple claimed that Automator scripts can be imported into Shortcuts on the Mac from day one.

Safari is getting a big update on the Mac, gaining some of the key privacy features that were introduced, such as a privacy report.

Apple is reimagining the browsing experience with a more modern UI and creating Tab Groups to manage and save tabs without cluttering the Tab bar.

Tab Groups is also coming to iPad and iPhone, and tabs will sync across devices. On the smaller iPhone screen, the Tab bar can be swiped to access, and it disappears when you don’t need it. iPhone is getting more swipe gestures to surface new tabs.

Apple is also bringing an overhauled Extensions to Safari. Extensions will be coming to mobile Safari just like on the Mac, so iPhone and iPad users will get access to Mac extensions.

For developers, Apple is making it easier to create 3D models with a new Object Capture API. This allows developers to stitch multiple photos to create a 3D model in minutes! For consumers, Apple is hoping that Object Capture will enable more augmented reality experiences. The company highlighted how the Wayfair shopping app uses Object Capture to allow customers to place furniture in their homes using AR with the iPhone’s camera.

WatchOS 8

Apple is making some key changes to help improve your health using Apple Watch. The Breathe app is getting an enhancement with different reflection modes.

With the Sleep mode, respiratory rate is now tracked to show how effectively you’re sleeping.

With WatchOS 8, Tai Chi and Pilates can now be tracked. Alongside new workouts in Fitness+, an artist spotlight series featuring music from Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, Apple is making it easier to get energized.

Apple also updated its Portrait watch face.

“Photos are a great way to relive your favorite moments in most precious memories on Apple Watch the photos face is the most popular watch face,” Apple’s Kevin Lynch said. “That’s why WatchOS 8 is bringing another great way to enjoy your favorite photos with the new Portraits watch face. It takes the great portrait photos from your iPhone and uses the segmentation data to create a multi-layered face with depth, you can make this watch face your own by adjusting the photo’s composition and time placement to really make the subject stand out.”

Apple is also making it easier to communicate with others through Apple Watch. The Apple Watch crown can be used to move the cursor, and now you can add emoji icons right from the scribble view on your wrist.

Health

With Health, Apple is now focused on several key features by relying on the sensors on your phone.

With Mobility, Apple is making it easier to assess your risk of falling with Walking Steadiness by using your phone’s motion sensor to measure how fast or evenly you walk. The metric provides powerful insights to your balance, coordination, and stability, Apple said, to help to determine your risk for fall. Traditionally, this has been done in a clinic with a questionnaire.

Apple will also provide tools within the apps such as movement exercises to help reduce your risk of falling.

The Health app will also give you more context for lab results, with what terms mean and what acceptable ranges are.

Apple is introducing trends as well, giving you a long-term view of your heart rate, steps taken, and more. It will help you give you more insight into your overall health, Apple said.

You to choose which data you want to share with your provider in a private way. Providers can view the data in their electronic records system, and it will give doctors a more complete view of what happens to patients outside of the office.

To make it easier for Apple fans to help take care of others, Apple is also making Health Sharing available, allowing you to view your family’s health stats, labs, and more. Caretakers can also get alerts for high heart rates as well.

Made for the home

Apple said that it designs its home experience to be easy to use, seamlessly used in an ecosystem, and made to be private and secure.

At the heart of Apple’s smart home is HomeKit, and it starts at the front door. With HomeKey, you can tap your Apple Watch or iPhone to unlock the door.

This fall, you can ask Siri on HomePod to play something on Apple TV — all hands-free!

And with SharePlay, you can now watch things together with friends so you can get the punchlines together at the same moment.

This fall, you can use the HomePod mini as a speaker for your Apple TV 4K for better audio.

Voice recognition will also be coming to HomePod mini. Siri is also coming to third-party devices as Apple is expanding its push into the home. In a demo, Apple showed Siri working on a smart home thermostat.

The company is creating a new standard called Matter, and all Matter-compatible accessories can be controlled on the Home app. Package detection is coming to smart doorbells allowing you to get alerted when packages arrive, Apple said.

Airpods

Apple AirPods Max Conversation mode
Apple

Apple is highlighting its computational audio to help people with mild hearing loss with conversation boost, thanks to the use of spatial audio.

“Conversation Boost is designed to help people with mild hearing challenges, stay more connected in conversations through computational audio and beamforming microphones,” Apple said. It focuses the microphones on the person talking in front of you and reduces ambient noise around you, making it easier to hear a face-to-face conversation.

Additionally, Apple will also allow AirPods Pro owners to adjust the amount of ambient noise that gets passed through to the earbuds when active noise cancellation is enabled.

iOS will also be able to announce notifications to AirPods. You can choose which apps to enable with this feature, and it works with Focus.

AirPods will now work with the FindMy app, making it easier to find misplaced earbuds.

Spatial Audio will be coming to tvOS and works with dynamic head tracking. The feature will also be coming to M1 Macs as well.

Apple also announced that the multidimensional sound experience of Dolby Atmos is landing today with select albums from some popular artists.

Privacy

“At Apple, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right,” Federighi said, highlighting privacy nutrition labels and app tracking transparency features that were recently launched.

Now, you’re getting more control of your data, Apple said. With Mail, Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection to hide your IP address.

“If you’re like me, you get a lot of marketing emails,” Apple said. “What you may not realize is that many of these emails use invisible pixels to collect information about your mail activity, like when you open a message, and even your IP address. We think you should be able to choose whether to allow this or not. So now in the Mail app, we’re introducing mail privacy protection. It hides your IP address, so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location, and it prevents senders from seeing if and when you’ve opened their email. So now you can catch up on Gmail, with greater peace of mind.”

With Safari, Apple is also hiding your IP address to help prevent tracking and linking your activity across different sites.

Apple also introduced an App Privacy Report that shows you a summary of what data apps are using or requesting.

“You can see how often apps use the permission you’ve granted to access your location, photos, camera, microphone, contacts, and more during the last seven days, and to find out who your data may be shared with you can see all the third party domains, the app is contacting,” Apple said of the feature.

Siri is now getting an update for on-device recognition, so you can make requests without an internet connection. The feature helps speed things up as well.

iCloud will also be getting a stronger focus on privacy. iCloud+ gives you access to a private relay service, a new ability to create alias email addresses, and the capability to connect more security cameras with HomeKit video that doesn’t count against your storage. It’s included with your iCloud subscription, Apple said.

For developers

Apple announced that $230 billion has been paid to developers since the launch of the App Store. Apple is making it easier for developers to customize their app’s product page to cater the message to different types of users.

The company is also introducing in-app events so events, launches, and premiers can be surfaced on the App Store and Apple’s home screen widget for the App Store.

Apple also introduced Xcode Cloud to developers so codes can be tested in parallel across multiple devices.

“It integrates the cloud with our developer tools in a powerful new way, and it’s called Xcode Cloud,” Apple said. “Today creating an app requires multiple steps — building, testing and delivery, and a number of different tools. Xcode Cloud simplifies the workflow by bringing everything together. When you commit a change to your code, Xcode Cloud can automatically build the app. Because it’s built in the cloud, your Mac is free for other tests. And for teams, everyone can save the change so everyone can find and fix issues faster. Finally, once the app passes all its tests, Xcode cloud can automatically distribute it to the testers on your team, and even external beta testers with Test Flight.”

Developer betas of the OS releases will be available today, and public betas are coming next month. Public releases will be arriving in the fall, Apple said. Be sure to check out our guides on downloading the betas for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Big Sur, and WatchOS 8.

“I am so excited for these new releases and how they will make our products even more powerful and more capable,” Cook said. “They will provide users new ways to enrich their lives and developers new tools to change the world.”

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