In September Amazon announced that the Echo was coming to the UK, and that Prime members could preorder one for £99.99, rather than the usual price of £149.99. Over the last couple of years I have heard great things about the Echo (mainly from Podcasts with US hosts), and I was in the market for a new Bluetooth speaker anyway, so I knew that it wouldn’t a completely wasted purchase. So I went ahead and purchased the black model at the discounted price, in addition to the remote for £19.99.
I received the Amazon Echo on launch day, the packaging was nice but without the wow factor you get when unboxing an Apple product. The size of the Echo is what I expected from the various reviews and promo shots online, but a lot of the photos do a suspiciously good job of hiding the power cord coming out of it. The Echo itself has 2 buttons on the top, one for disabling the mic and another to trigger the setup process. Around the top of the Echo there is a light ring which is used to indicate activity. You can also twist the top of the Echo, which rather satisfyingly adjusts the volume.
I decided to put the Echo in my lounge as it is where I spend the majority of my time when I’m at home. The setup of the Echo using an iPhone was easy, you download the Alexa app from the AppStore and follow the on screen instructions. These involve connecting your iPhone to the Echo’s WiFi network and configuring it with your network’s WiFi credentials and Amazon account.
The Alexa app on iOS is clearly a hybrid app, in fact I would say it is predominately web based. There are a few strange behaviours with navigation (sometimes you press back and it appears to pop an entire web view from the navigation stack, thus you actually go back multiple steps) and it doesn’t use native controls which can be quite jarring at times. The app works, but I’m pleased that besides the initial configuration you don’t have to use it. It does have a nice feature where it shows you all the events you have triggered, and also (rather creepily) allows you to playback the audio from any of your requests that triggered Alexa, which is good for when you ask yourself “Why did it do that?”.
After configuring my Echo, i then proceeded to set up my Smart Home Devices. I have a Hive Thermostat and Smart Bulbs, and it was trivial to add these to my Echo. The Echo also allows you to to create groups of devices e.g. downstairs lights, which was a nice touch. My one issue with the integration (but I am not sure where the issue is), but simply saying “Alexa, Turn the hall light on” means that it sets the brightness to 100%, not the last brightness setting that was used.
I don’t use Spotify, but I have access to Amazon Music with my Prime Subscription, so I set this as my default music service and have used it to listen to music numerous times over the course of the last few months. In addition to music it also plays internet Radio, which I have used more than I thought I would. In my opinion the Echo sounds really good when compared to other Bluetooth Portable Speakers that I have heard, and has a loud enough speaker to fill a room although you lose some of the depth at full volume. In addition to streaming Audio from the internet, once paired you can say “Alexa connect” and it connects via bluetooth to your last paired device, in my case my iPhone, and then it works as a normal bluetooth speaker with support for voice commands to play, pause, next/previous track and volume up/down.
The Echo does a good job of listening to voice commands even when it’s outputting audio at a high volume (ducking the audio after it hears the trigger command), however this is the one scenario where by I would recommend the remote, as saying next track, adjusting the volume etc by voice can get a bit tedious. The remote is what you expect, it also has a mic button that you hold down to talk into it, but if you are not going to listen to audio I probably wouldn’t bother purchasing it.
One reason to use the Echo in the Kitchen/Bedroom is that it offers Timers and Alarms, you simple say “Alexa, set a timer for 7 minutes” and it will remind you. Obviously being in my Lounge means I don’t really make use of this feature, but when I tested it they both worked as you would expect.
Another major built in feature of the Echo is its ability to add items to both shopping and todo lists. Unfortunately these both require you to use the Alexa app, so I gave them a miss. Other than that, you can ask Alexa questions about the news, weather and more general questions such as unit conversions etc
Additional capabilities can be added to the Echo using Skills, which are in essence apps for your Echo. Once enabled you can then trigger a skill by saying “Alexa, ask SKILL QUESTION” e.g. “Alexa, ask TubeStatus are there any delays” (TubeStatus being the first Skill I downloaded to find out about delays on the London Underground). The Skills (if you can find any that you want) work fine, but they feel a bit robotic and you are conscious that you have to learn the syntax, whereas the built in features seem a bit more forgiving in wording and phrasing.
Obvious I couldn’t review Alexa without making the comparison to the other assistant in my life, Siri. After living with the Echo for a few months, the detection and transcription capabilities of Alexa on the Echo is leaps and bounds ahead of Siri on the iPhone 7. Alexa is also better at answering general questions, like the weather, unit conversion etc. However I feel that Siri’s intents API implementation means that for the few supported domains (8 as of iOS 10), your interactions feel a lot more natural compared to when interacting with a Skill. In short they are both coming at the problem from different directions, Alexa is currently winning but in my opinion that has a lot to do with the hardware.
So to conclude, would I recommend buying an Echo? Yes, if you want to make use of it as a Bluetooth speaker, whether than be with Spotify, Amazon Music or Internet Radio. I would also whole heartedly recommend it If you are interested in using it for interacting with your Smart Home Devices, but it is probably worth considering the cheaper (£49.99) Echo Dot device…. but I actually ended up buying a second Echo for my bedroom, so it is safe to say I recommend it.
So it is finally happening, Apple has called a second holiday Keynote to announce some major updates to the Mac lineup (sent with lasers). The question is what Macs will get a major redesign and which ones will just be getting a minor speed bump?
The MacBook Pro is set to be the headline product announcement at this keynote and receive its biggest overhaul since it was updated to a unibody enclosure in 2008. Although the MacBook Pro will feature a slightly thinner designer than its current incarnation, the major change will be the multitouch function bar with Touch ID, called the Magic Toolbar. This will allow developers to display contextual virtual keys and information on the function row, while Touch ID would reduce the friction of using Apple pay on the web, as well as giving you a convenient way to unlock your Mac.
The MacBook Pro will also make the transition to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. It will be sad to see the MagSafe port go away (unless Apple have come up with a USB-C complient MagSafe cable since the introduction of the MacBook), but the bigger question is whether Apple will ditch the headphone port in favour of a Lightning port…
The MacBook Air is an interesting product for Apple as it still sells in huge quantities (due to its price, number of ports, size and performance), but it is looking outdated with its huge bezel and lack of Retina Display. I expect it to remain (relatively untouched) in the Apple lineup until the MacBook hits the magical $999 price point, but a minor speed bump an inclusion of USB-C is on the cards for this event.
The MacBook is the only Mac that has been updated this year, and already has a single USB-C Port, so it is unlikely to get an update at this event.
When the current generation Mac Pro was unveiled at WWDC 2013 (yes it was unveiled 3 years ago!), Phil Schiller followed up the product film with the remark “can’t innovate my ass”. While Apple have been innovating else where (they have announced and released 2 generations the Apple Watch since then), the Mac Pro has remained untouched in both spec and price since it shipped at the end of 2013. Logic would suggest a spec bump at this Keynote, but there are rumours of this not happening till next year alongside the new Xeon processors.
The iMac is set to get its annual speed bump and support for USB-C, but nothing out of the ordinary having received major updates (to the display inpaticular) for the last 2 years.
The Mac mini aka The Home Server or The Build Machine, hasn’t had an update for over 2 years and with that “update” they dropped the option to have a quad core CPU, which has led to some people continuously checking the refurb section of Apple Store to grab a quad core Mac mini as soon as the come back in stock. If the Mac mini does get an update, it will just be a CPU bump and USB-C.
Apple discontinued the Thunderbolt Cinema display earlier this year, so the question is wether Apple are out of the external display market altogether or just waiting until the Mac lineup can drive a 5k external display. If it is the latter, this will be the Keynote to do it.
iOS 10.1 has been in beta for over a month now, the main feature being the portrait camera mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. iOS 10.1 will get a release date during the keynote, which will probably be later on in the day.
macOS didn’t get any stage time at the last keynote, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small recap of some of the new features in macOS Sierra in addition SDK support for the Magic Toolbar.
Its that time of the of year again where Apple updates its products in time for the holiday shopping season, but with Apple’s ever expanding product line what should we expect to see updated?
The iPhone has already been updated this year … well the 4 inch model has anyway, with the introduction of the iPhone SE in the spring. Even though the iPhone SE has been a great success for Apple, this event will only see the 4.7 inch (iPhone 6S) and 5.5 inch (iPhone 6S Plus) models being updated.
Unfortunately this year’s iPhones seem to be destined to be remembered as the one where Apple got rid of the headphone jack. It will be interesting to see how Apple puts a positive spin on this (water resistance, sound quality etc), but whatever the reasoning I would expect the Keynote to mention the benefits of both Wireless and Lighting Cable headphones. This will also mean that Lightning EarPods will be bundled with the this years iPhone’s, in addition to Apple’s offering its own premium wireless headphones called AirPods alongside the new iPhone.
One less noticeable physical change will be an update to the iPhone’s Home button, so that it has no moving parts and use Taptic feedback, much like the Magic Trackpad.
To ease the pain of the missing headphone jack, Apple will bump the capacities of the iPhone so base model comes with 32GB of storage and introduce a new colour to the lineup.
The iPhones will also be updated to have a True Tone display, that was introduced with the 9.7 inch iPad Pro earlier this year, so those 3x Emojis will look even better.
One of this years major hardware updates will be exclusive to 5.5 inch Plus models, and will be a dual camera system allowing for better depth of field and performance in low light conditions.
Unsurprisingly both the 4.7 and 5.5 inch will be updated to Apple’s A10 processor, which is set to be 50% faster than the current A9.
The new iPhones will be available on either Friday the 16th or 23rd of September.
Apple Watch was unveiled 2 years ago and has been available for purchase for a year and a half, so it is set to get its first update, focusing on the health aspects of the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch will gain a GPS chip of its own, meaning that it can accurately track your run without having to take your iPhone with you. The Apple Watch won’t gain any cellular capabilities this year, so what it can do untethered from your iPhone will be limited, but with the extra capabilities made available to apps in both watchOS 2 and watchOS 3, the Apple Watch is now more than capable of undertaking tasks while untethered from its iPhone.
In addition to the GPS the Apple Watch will get a Barometer to help monitor your fitness such all those flights of stairs you go up and down over the course off the day.
The new Apple Watch will be faster, lighter and have better battery life, but I think so insignificantly that the majority of users won’t even notice. The existing sensors such as the heart rate monitor will be updated for increased accuracy and have extra capabilities such as measuring blood oxygen levels.
In addition to updating the Apple Watch, Apple will also take this opportunity to release a new set of seasonal bands that will be compatible with both the 1st and 2nd Generation Watches.
The MacBook Pro is set to get its biggest overhaul since it was updated with the unibody enclosure in 2008. Although it will feature a slightly thinner designer than its current incarnation, the major change will be the multitouch function bar including Touch ID. This will allow developers to display contextual virtual keys and information on the function row, while the Touch ID would reduce the friction of using Apple pay on the web as well as giving you a convenient way to unlock your Mac.
The rumours point to this not being announced until later in the year, but anyone who is expecting this to be as thin as the MacBook Air will be disappointed. The updated MacBook Pro will be available in both 13 and 15 inch sizes, and include USB C and Thunderbolt 3 Ports.
iOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS
All of Apple’s OSs had an update unveiled at WWDC in June, so the only updates you should expect to see (other than the refinements made during the betas) are those related to the new iPhone and Apple Watch hardware. Naturally we will get a run through of all the key features again during the Keynote, but it will be a similar presentation to what we saw at WWDC.
Apple’s second keynote of 2016 takes place on the 13th of June. Apple’s first keynote of the year focused on hardware but as this is WWDC, this keynote is going to focus heavily on software but what exactly should we expect to see?
Now that Swift is being developed in the public eye, you shouldn’t expect to see any Swift revelations at WWDC this year, but obviously it will dominate all of the sample code and have numerous sessions dedicated to it. One thing that Apple could have been kept under wraps is improved support in Xcode support such as refactor tools, and the rumoured Swift IDE for the iPad.
Siri is destined to become the focal point at this years conference, with it receiving a major update and making its way to the Mac. More importantly for the WWDC crowd, Apple is also set to (finally) unveil a developer API.
There is also an outside chance that Apple may launch a speaker akin to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but with iOS having Hey Siri I’m not sure that it’s needed.
iOS is unlikely to get an equivalent to Android’s Instant Apps feature this year due to Swift 3.0 not being ABI compatible, thus meaning that the (30MB) runtime and standard library has to be bundled into every app that uses it.
iOS has been destined to gain the ability to pick the default apps (e.g. email, web browser, calendar and reminders) for the last few years, so this would be an obvious feature to debut alongside Siri.
A lot of iOS apps have started to include a Dark Mode recently and OS X gained an official Dark Mode last year. One thing that Apple could introduce is a system wide Dark Mode that apps could detect, and be automatically enabled alongside Night Shift.
iOS 9.3 introduced Multiuser iPad support for education, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this rolled out to all users allowing families to share an iPad. Moreover following on from iOS 9 I expect to see improved Multitasking support on the iPad, such as drag and drop between apps.
tvOS is the youngest of all Apple’s OS’s even though it shares its major version number with iOS.
It’s hard to predict what changes will be made to tvOS, as the biggest improvements will simply be access to more content (Amazon Prime app anyone?). One thing we may see unveiled at the event is an official Apple Game Controller, which will prove that Apple are serious about making Apple TV a gaming platform.
watchOS still being young has lots of room for improvement, so I would expect watchOS to see some substantial changes in terms of both usability and APIs. I expect Apple to abandon the honeycomb springboard and address the functionally of the Apple Watch’s only button.
OS X 10.12
OS X, Mac OS, MacOS or macOS, who knows what it will be called after this event (bets are on macOS)! but it will certainly receive its annual update.
As mentioned OS X will finally get Siri support, the most interesting thing will be to see if Siri and Spotlight are unified allowing you to either talk or text Siri.
iOS Developers can hope for UIKit or at least UXKit be announced for the Mac, but this is probably unlikely.
The MacBook Pro is set to get a major update this year having a thinner and lighter design, OLED function row, Touch ID support and the migration to USB C/Thunderbolt 3.
The OLED function row will allow the (virtual) keys to be context aware e.g. Showing volume and playback controls when in iTunes. This is the exact same pitch that Steve Jobs made with the iPhone’s virtual keyboard in 2007.
Although the unveiling of the new MacBook Pro is imminent it looks like WWDC has come a couple of months too early, but we me see it unveiled for shipments at a later date.
iPhone will stick to its pre holiday schedule and won’t get an update at WWDC, even then it’s looking increasingly likely it will be the 3rd revision of the iPhone 6’s design and not a true iPhone 7.
The only iPad that is due an update this year is the iPad Air, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the iPad Pro 12.7 updated to have a True Tone display, but these won’t see an update until the fall.
The Apple Watch has been available for a little over a year now so for any other Apple product you would assume that it is destined for an update soon, but not at this event.
Apple’s first Keynote of 2016 is set to be a tale of evolution not revolution, setting the stage before the more significant WWDC Keynote in the summer, but what can we expect to see announced…
FBI and Security
The biggest story surrounding Apple this year has unfortunately been to do with FBI and the the proposal of ‘GovtOS". I don’t expect this to be addressed head on during the keynote but I would expect a passing reference to it and Apple’s continued commitment to privacy and security.
It has been nearly 2 years since Apple last updated the 4 inch iPhone (the iPhone 5s), and since then the iPhone has seen major improvements in terms of performance, camera and the inclusion of NFC to enable Apple Pay.
Although the 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch screen size iPhones have proved to be extremely popular and profitable for Apple, especially in Asia, it has become apparent that there is still a significant section of the market that wish to have a smaller and lighter phone. A lot of these customers are iPhone 5/5s owners that are now due an upgrade, so this is what the iPhone SE is attempting to address.
The iPhone SE will gain the physical appearance of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus and be available in the same 4 colours as the iPhone 6s/6s Plus and start at $549 with 16GB of storage. The iPhone SE will include a slower version of the A9 Processor that’s found in the 6s and 6s Plus and Apple Pay, but not 3D Touch.
iPad Pro 9.7"
The next update to the iPad 9.7" is set to see it rebranded to the iPad Pro. Like with its existing larger sibling it is set to gain a smart connector for accessories, four speakers and support for the Apple Pencil. I would expect it to have same storage and connectivity options as the existing iPad Pro (32 GB + WiFi, 128 GB + WiFi and 128GB + WiFi/Cellular), with the 9.7” Model starting at $599, sitting above the iPad Air in lineup which will remain at $499.
Apple Watch Bands
Following in the footsteps of Apple’s last keynote, Apple are set to an announce a new set of Apple Watch Bands including the previously leaked space black Milanese loop. This should keep the the Apple Watch Lineup fresh heading through the summer, before it sees a major update later this year.
iOS 9.3 is now at Beta 7, and comes with some significant improvements for a point updated including night mode, secure notes and multiple users on iPad. This will likely be released after the event alongside the less significant Mac OS (10.11.4) and Watch OS (2.2) updates.
Just as predictably as night follows day, Apple is set to refresh its iOS lineup in time for the holiday season, but what should we expect to see and what fails to make the cut?
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (as the names suggest) will be an incremental update to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In addition to the usual speed bump, this year’s iPhone will get Force Touch which will offer developers the opportunity of a “Contextual Tap”, rather the Apple Watch’s 1 Menu Per Screen. As Force Touch will be limited to only the 6S and 6S Plus, these features will be limited to shortcuts in the near term.
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus will be available for preorder on Friday, with a release date of the following Friday at the existing price and 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB storage capacities.
An Apple TV hardware refresh and SDK is an almost certainty, since it made its appearance on the iOS Dev portal at WWDC. Apple dropped the price of the current generation Apple TV to $69 in January, leaving the $99 price point vacated for the next generation Apple TV. With the Apple TV set to include Siri support in a Motion Detecting Remote, a $99 price might be something that Apple struggles to meet while maintaining their healthy profit margins. I expect the Apple TV to start at $149 with 16GB of Storage, with Third Party Bluetooth Controllers being available for more traditional console like games.
Last years iPad Air 2 update left us with an overpowered iPad without any major apps to take advantage of it. The iPad Pro is set to rectify this by having a larger 13” styli compatible screen. This alongside iOS 9’s Adaptivity APIs, might see the iPad finally break through and become a serious creation device.
Expecting to see the iPad Pro ship in October at around $799, but it is possible that it will not be unveiled until next month.
The iPad Air (as mentioned previously) is already overpowered, so Apple might take the opportunity to not update the iPad Air this year.
Last years iPad mini only received Touch ID and new colours, so it is a generation behind the current iPad Air. It is more likely than the iPad Air to receive an update, but that it is by no means guaranteed.
Inline with tradition we are going to see a round up of iOS 9s new features … basically the same presentation we saw at WWDC in June. Other than support for new hardware features I wouldn’t expect to see anything new added.
iOS 9 will be available to download next Wednesday for the iPhone 4S/iPad 2 and above.
In conjunction with iOS 9, watchOS 2 will also be available to download next Wednesday alongside a plethora of watchOS 2 apps. I wouldn’t expect to see anything revolutionary, but apps running entirely on the Watch will improve the experience immensely, and custom complications add an interesting twist.
OS X El Capitan
OS X is also due to be released this fall, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pushed backed to an October Keynote, as there is nothing significant tying it to this event.
There are lots of things to look forward too over the next couple of months and indeed lots of things to develop for, but the Apple TV is set to steal the show a this Keynote.
Users and Analysts have finally got what they wanted this year, as both iOS and OS X are receiving a “Snow Leopard” like update. This will allow developers (including Apple’s) to iron out the rough edges in their apps but still add a sprinkling of new features.
My original reaction to the Keynote was that I found it somewhat underwhelming, but in hindsight after watching the sessions, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot of small and useful improvements that I can’t wait to make use of in my own apps.
I personally didn’t attend WWDC or any of the alternative conferences in San Francisco this year, but found the live streaming of sessions great for keeping up to date. It also increased the level of discussion and sense of community between fellow developers.
From watching the sessions and the keynote, its safe to say the following 3 points are going to be important things to think about going forward:
Swift is the language that you should now be using to develop apps for Apple’s platforms going forward. Personally I am not planning to rewrite any of my apps using Swift, but will be using it for any new apps that I create going forward. Swift 2 is a great update to an already great language (although there is still a long way for the tools to go). I also noticed that when Apple pointed out problems during the sessions they were often written in Objective-C, while the solutions were in Swift. I don’t think that these subtle hints were by accident. Developers may take time to adjust to Swift’s “Protocol Oriented” approach, but I feel it will be worth it it.
Apple have introduced numerous APIs over the last few years such as AutoLayout and Size Classes to support designing your UI for multiple window sizes. I say window sizes, as screen sizes don’t matter anymore and you shouldn’t — can’t — make any assumptions based upon screen sizes, device model or orientation. This unfortunately may mean we see a reduction of bespoke iPad UIs, but maybe this is the price we have to pay for adaptability.
Search and Deep Linking
Apple made a big deal about search in the Keynote and iOS 9 will allow developers to index their data so it appears in search. Apple has also introduced universal links, which allows apps to intercept and handle HTTP(s) URLs for their website with their app. Both of these changes mean that apps will also need to support “Deep Linking”. This will probably end up being one of the more complex features for developers to implement this year, as apps must be able to present linked content regardless of the apps current view hierarchy.
Apple’s common theme at the moment is privacy and this is reflected in iOS 9s API changes. NSURLSession now requires a secure connection by default and apps can no longer use URL Schemes to see what apps are installed on a device. We as developers should take note of this, and continue to keep user’s information secure e.g making sure user data is encrypted, storing passwords using Apple’s Keychain APIs etc.
Those were my major takeaways from the conference and with iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 scheduled to be released in just a few months time, I better start coding …
Details regarding what Apple might announce at WWDC have been few and far between this year, but here is my thoughts and predictions:
Apple are set to launch a “new” music streaming service alongside iOS 8.4 this month, based on the technology that they acquired from Beats last year. The service will cost $10 per month and will also likely spell the end of iTunes Radio, as curated Playlists will be part of Apple’s service and would form the core of any free plan.
iOS 9 is set to be a “Snow Leopard” release, focusing on cleaning up the ruff edges that have been there for a couple of years now. A variant of the San Francisco font is expected to be adopted as the System Font (as seen on the Apple Watch and on the MacBook Keyboard) but this is set to be the most significant, albeit minor UI change.
Since the introduction of the Apple Watch it has become even more apparent that Apple needs to improve its notification handling and filtering, possibly based on the notification categories that are already supplied by apps. The Push Notification API could also be updated alongside OS X 10.11 to allow synchronisation (predominantly read status) across all Apple Devices e.g. allowing a developer to supply a globally unique id with a notification, which uniquely identifies it across all apps from developer.
Transit Directions are also set to make an appearance in the Maps app for capital cities, but I doubt Google or City Mapper have anything to worry about.
iOS 9 also provides the opportunity for Apple to open up more extension points and hopefully default apps. I would also expect Apple to hint at live resizable apps allowing for split screen on the iPad. Force Touch APIs (if they are coming) are likely to be held back until their is hardware to support it.
OS X 10.11
Like iOS 9, OS X 10.11 is going to be an opportunity for Apple to fix any outstanding issues, rather than focus on any major new features. Furthermore, after last years UI overhaul I wouldn’t expect any UI changes other than also adopting the San Francisco font.
An iOS Style Control Center (that was pulled from Yosemite) is set to be introduced, although this could simple be an improvement to Notification Center.
OS X is also set to take a security feature known as “Rootless” from iOS, preventing even Root users from modifying certain system files, in an attempt to prevent viruses an malware.
The most exciting feature (if it comes to fruition) is UXKit. UXKit is UI Compatibility Framework used by Apple in the Photos app, giving them a common API for both iOS and OS X UIs. If UXKit gets publicly released, I would expect a lot of apps to get ported back to the Mac, and a greater uniformity across iOS and OS X apps.
Although we might finally get some sales numbers for the Apple Watch during the Keynote, you are not going to see any Apple Watch related hardware announcements during, but we will see introduction of the Native Apple Watch SDK. The Native Watch SDK will allow apps to run directly on the watch (so hopefully no more spinners) giving developers access to the sensors. With the limited storage, screen space and clock speed it will be interesting to see how much of change there will be when comparing these to the third party apps we have today.
The Apple TV is set to get a substantial upgrade, both in terms of specs and its role in the home. With the introduction of HomeKit peripherals last week, the Apple TV has become the Hub for HomeKit devices, allowing you to control them while you are away. It is also set to get a developer SDK which is set to turn it into a media center and capable games console, in addition to premium subscriptions services to complement HBO NOW. While the introduction of an Apple TV SDK is logical at WWDC, I think the hardware update and subscription services will not be available until later in the year.
Swift & Xcode
Currently the Swift runtime is embedded in all apps that use it, which increases their binary size by around 8mb each. If Swift’s binary interface is now considered stable, the Swift Runtime could now be included with the OS, allowing apps linking against it rather than embedding.
The majority of my Swift issues are more with the tooling than the language, mainly:
- Lack of Refactoring Support
- Long Compilation Times
In addition to this I would like to have a language feature akin to Ruby’s mixins (or something that would allow me to supply default implementations for protocols) which will encourage code reuse while maintaining Swifts strict type checking.
Native WatchKit apps may also see the reintroduction of Wireless Debugging directly for Xcode.
Apple are bucking the trend of the last 2 years, and are holding a Keynote before WWDC (which usually takes place in June) but
watch what should we expect to see?
The Apple Watch was announced over 6 months ago and although Apple have released a unprecedented amount of information for a prerelease product, there is still lots we don’t know. Most significantly a release date and the price for anything but the base model.
Price and Availability
Tim Cook has already stated that the Apple Watch will be released sometime in April, but that would be nearly an entire month after this Keynote. The smart money would be on a US release on Friday the 20th of March, with the usual staggered rollout across the globe. One reason for the long wait between the Apple Watch’s announcement an shipping date could be down to Apple having to relayout the Apple Stores, with dedicated areas to try on the Apple Watch (maybe even by appointment).
The assumption is that the 38mm Sport is the Base Model, meaning it will be available for the previous stated starting price of $349. I would expect the 42mm model to cost a little more at around $379. The Sport Collection won’t be sold with anything other than the sports band, with a replacement sport band costing around $30.
The other 2 collections is were it gets interesting. The Apple Watch Collection (Stainless Steel) will cost anything between $499-$999 depending on the band you choose.
Then there is the Apple Watch Edition. Make no mistake, this thing is not going to be cheap. I’m guessing that this Collection will start at $4999, but Apple might not even mention it at his event to avoid “Apple’s new $5K Smart Watch” headlines and delay its release or at least its announcement.
The Keynote will recap the features we saw is September’s Keynote, along with some new ones such as the companion app, notification centre ,transferring music etc. Naturally the Keynote will also feature demos from developers, showing off there WatchKit apps, most likely focusing on social network notifications and health apps.
There has been rumours of the watch only showing notifications when it is being worn, but it would be just as useful if it suppressed notifications on the rest of your Apple devices.
The Apple Watch will last all day for all but the heaviest of users … which will be probably be everyone on day one (prepare for the trolls and batterygate), but it will be another device that we will have to introduce to our daily charging ritual.
WatchKit has been stable throughout its beta so I wouldn’t expect any changes at this stage. Expect the GM of iOS 8.2 to be released after the Keynote alongside the ability to submit WatchKit apps
The iPad Pro with its 12.9" display is coming, but expect it to be introduced in the fall alongside the rest of the iPads.
MacBook Air Retina
The MacBook Air, Apple’s most popular laptop and therefore computer, finds itself in the awkward position of not having a Retina Display, even though it’s bigger sibling has had the option for nearly 3 years. With that in mind the MacBook Air lineup is set to receive its first update in nearly a year, including a premium 12 inch version that has a Retina Display. I currently use a MacBook Air so hopefully the rumours about this model only having one port are false, and if so I might be making a couple of purchases come Monday…
Apple appear to be sticking to their now regular format of having 2 pre Holiday Keynotes, but what should we expect to see announced this time?
This event will see the unveiling of the iPad Air 2, which will see it catch up with the iPhone 6 by including Touch ID and NFC for Apple Pay. I can’t personally imagine paying for goods by touching my iPad on a payment terminal, but maybe it can also be used as a payment terminal itself?
The iPad Air will also see its RAM doubled to 2GB, in addition to using a slightly faster version of the A8 processor that is currently found in the iPhone 6.
In terms of aesthetics the iPad Air will have minimal external changes, it will be slightly slimmer compared to its predecessor and be available in gold for the first time.
Expect prices to remain the same, with storage matching the iPhone 6’s 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB capacities.
The the iPad mini (Retina) will be also be updated to get Touch ID and NFC across the line, but even then it might not see its RAM doubled due to the iPad mini’s smaller margins.
Rumours about a 12.9" iPad have been going on for sometime now. The introduction of compact and regular size class APIs in iOS 8, seems to indicate there will be a large … spacious … well something bigger, size class in the future.
The iPad Pro will need to do more than just offer a bigger display. Obviously it will have a greater resolution, but maybe it needs a pressure sensitive display too? Something that makes it a serious device for content creation … dare I say a laptop replacement?
This could be the one more thing of this keynote, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
iOS 8.1 with numerous bug fixes and support for Apple Pay will get a mention in the keynote, and will be made available before the iPad launch.
The Keynote invite alludes to Mac related product announcements, showing the top half of the Apple logo featured on Apple’s 30th Anniversary of the Mac marketing campaign. Moreover I think we would all agree its been way too long since the last major Mac hardware announcement.
The iMac (27 inch) is rumoured to be getting the Retina treatment by having its display resolution doubled from 2560 x 1440 to 5120 x 2880. A Retina screen at that size will come at quite a premium and will require a graphics card upgrade to boot. This will mean that the Retina Display will only be available as an option on the 27 inch model, and will probably be eye wateringly close to $3000.
I wouldn’t expect any significant external changes to the iMac, unless Apple have found a way to reduce the bump on the back.
The MacBook Air is certainly going to gain a Retina Display in the next few months, but I don’t think Apple would make the mistake of pre announcing it and putting off potential holiday buyers if it isn’t immediately available. I personally think that we will have to hold on for a Retina MacBook just a little longer.
The Mac mini hasn’t been updated in 2 years (October 2012), so it is certainly due an update even if it’s simply to keep the internals up to date. Due to its (lack of) popularity I wouldn’t expect the Mac mini to feature in the Keynote, regardless of wether it gets a spec bump or not.
OS X Yosemite
OS X Yosemite was unveiled alongside iOS 8 at WWDC in June, and it will get one last demo before it is made available for free to consumers within next week.
I am expecting the demo to focus on handover inpoticular, thus linking it back to the iPad and iOS 8. The 3rd GM of Yosemite has already been made available to developers, so I wouldn’t expect any significant changes at this point.