On the agenda: iOS 6, OS X Mountain Lion and new MacBooks, along with some updates on the momentum of Apple’s two OS lines.
CEO Tim Cook kicked off the company’s 23rd WWDC – ”the longest running developer conference that we’re aware of anywhere” – with some updates on the company’s App Store.
“The App Store is the most vibrant app ecosystem on the planet, and the size and momentum are just phenomenal,” he said. There are now more than 400m user accounts on the App Store, all with credit card details stored.
There are more than 650,000 apps in the App Store now, with 225,000 of them available in native iPad versions. “This compares to just a few hundred for our competition,” said Cook, getting in an early dig at Android.
He revealed a new milestone: 30bn downloads from the App Store, with a payoff for developers: “We’ve written cheques for over $5bn to you guys. It’s become an econonomy in and of itself.”
By the end of this month, Apple will have the store available in 155 countries, adding 32 new ones to its existing footprint.
Cook introduced some “heartwarming stories” of developers working on iOS, shown in a video. Case studies included Ariadne GPS, a GPS-guided app for blind people; an anatomy app by 3D4Medical being used to teach schoolchildren in India; accomodation bookings app Airbnb; and Toca Boca’s kid-apps being used for a child with communication difficulties.
“It’s a great reminder of what it’s all about, and why all of us do what we do,” said Cook, before getting into the nitty-gritty of today’s announcements.
Note, the first hour was all MacBooks and OS X, so if you’re anxious to get to the iOS stuff, scroll down to the relevant heading.
MacBooks and OS X
First – relevant to The Appside readers as potential purchases, naturally – came new MacBooks. There’s a third-generation MacBook Air, with beefed-up specs including up to 512MB of RAM and a zippier hard drive. It’s shipping today.
There’s also a MacBook Pro refresh, again with specs improvements across the board, and a brand new next-generation model: “The most beautiful computer we’ve ever made,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller, showing it off.
“There has never been a notebook that is this gorgeous.” Think extremely light and thin – about as thin as a MacBook Air – but still for professional use, with a sharper Retina display. Apple’s apps including Mail, iPhoto, Aperture and Final Cut Pro have been updated accordingly.
Schiller also praised Adobe and AutoDesk for their work on Retina-enabled versions of Photoshop and AutoCAD, as well as Blizzard’s Diablo III. It’ll start at $2,199 for the 15.4-inch model. Which, if you need persuading, is only 3,173 sales of a 99-cent iOS app… It starts shipping today.
Next came OS X, with 66m Mac users now – ”triple what we had just five years ago,” noted Craig Federighi, Apple’s OS X software boss. 26m copies of the latest variant Lion have shipped to date. “40% of OS X users are running Lion, and that’s a level we achieved in just nine months,” he continued, noting that it took Microsoft 27 months to achieve this with Windows 7.
There are 125m registered users of iCloud, Federighi added, stressing its tight integration in the latest version of OS X, Mountain Lion. There’s a new Reminders app for OS X that uses iCloud, but Federighi also talked up the existing Messages desktop app.
Apps running across iOS and OS X were a key focus for this section of the presentation – Messages and iMessages being one, but also the Pages app. Mountain Lion’s new notifications bar is also very iOS-y, as its its Dictation feature.
Federighi also showed Apple’s newest version of its Safari browser; the AirPlay Mirroring feature to stream whatever’s happening on the Mac to the nearest big screen (via an Apple TV); and the launch of Apple’s Game Center community for Mac apps – at least, those distributed through the Mac App Store.
There was a demo of a Mac using AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center, using NaturalMotion’s upcoming game CSR Racing, which will be released simultaneously on iOS and Mac, and will be playable across these devices with head-to-head races.
Mountain Lion will be released in July for $19.99, through the Mac App Store – a single purchase to upgrade every Mac that the buyer owns.
Apple’s Scott Forstall took to the stage next to announce iOS 6, starting with a stat: more than 365m iOS devices sold through 30 March 2012, with more than 80% of Apple’s customers running the latest version, iOS 5.
“If you compare that to the competition…” grinned Forstall, showing a pie chart of Google’s stats for its Android OS. He went on to give a blizzard of stats to show iOS’ momentum.
Forstall noted that 84 of the top 100 social apps are now using push notifications, with 7bn push notifications a day, and more than 1.5 trillion sent in total so far.
There are more than 140m iMessage users, who’ve sent more than 150bn messages, with more than 1bn sent every day at the moment.
Also Twitter stats: the company has seen its number of iOS users triple as a result, with those people sending 10bn tweets from iOS 5, while 47% of photos being shared on Twitter come from iOS 5.
More stats? Game Center now has more than 130m accounts, who submit 5bn scores a week, and 67 of the top 100 games are integrating with the community.
Siri in iOS 6
So what’s new in iOS 6? Forstall started with Siri, which has been out for eight months now. It can now do sports: “What was the score of the last Giants game” being Forstall’s question – Siri returned a scoreboard from the last match involving San Francisco’s baseball team. Siri can serve up individual player stats and league standings too – including the English Premier League for football.
Also new: restaurants, with Siri finding restaurants near a user, and sorting them by rating while showing category and average price. Apple has partnered with Yelp to integrate its reviews, and Opentable for bookings.
Siri now also knows more about films, integrating Rotten Tomatoes for ratings and reviews, and streaming trailers in response to users’ queries.
Siri can now also launch apps – ”Play Temple Run” – tweet and do something called ‘Eyes Free’. Apple is working with carmakers to put a button in their steering wheel to bring up Siri on the iPhone without illuminating its screen.
BMW, GM, Land Rover, Mercedes and other manufacturers have all signed on for this – a big coup for Apple, although the long lead times for new cars mean it will be a while before the first models go on sale.
Siri is also getting Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese support in iOS 6. The local search feature will now be global, rather than US-only. Siri will also be made available for the new iPad as well as the iPhone 4S.
Next came Facebook integration – ”the best Facebook experience ever on a mobile device” according to Forstall, with Facebook integrated in the same way Twitter is under iOS 5. Users log in once in their settings, and that’s it.
Users can post to Facebook from within most of Apple’s own apps, including the App Store, iTunes Store and Game Center. Facebook is also built in to iOS 6′s notifications app. And Facebook plays nice with Siri too, for posting updates by voice.
Apple has also built an API to make it easy for developers to integrate Facebook into their apps. “Now you can Like apps and see which apps your friends Like, and you can also do that for the iTunes Store with music, TV shows and movies,” said Forstall.
Facebook contacts, events and birthdays will now appear in iOS 6′s contacts and calendar apps, too.
Phone / FaceTime / Safari / Photo Stream / Mail
There are some tweaks to the iOS phone feature in iOS 6 too – a little option to reject calls by replying with a message – triggered via buttons including “I’ll call you later”, “I’m on my way” and “What’s up”.
There’s a new Do Not Disturb switch in the Settings menu, with push notifications and texts still arriving, but not lighting up the screen or triggering a sound. It can also set for only phone calls to be taken from specific groups of contacts.
Apple’s FaceTime video-calling app will now work over cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi. Both FaceTime and iMessage are now merging the user’s phone number and iTunes address too – whatever device they’re using, they can take incoming calls and see messages.
Next up: beefed-up Safari, with iCloud tabs to let an iPad or iPhone user see what browser window tabs are open on their Mac(s). The Reading List feature now works offline, cacheing stories for reading offline later.
Safari can now upload photos to websites, and there’s now a feature called ‘Smart app banners’ – a banner that pops up when people visit websites letting them know about any related app, with a button to tap through to buy/download it, or fire it up if they already have it.
The Photo Stream iCloud feature now includes ‘Shared Photo Streams’ – ”a really easy way for you to share photos with your friends” according to Forstall. It works by selecting photos to share and specific friends, then pressing a button – they’ll then be available in a specific folder in their Photo Stream.
Apple’s Mail feature is getting a new VIP feature – the ability to set specific contacts as ‘VIP’s to get their emails pop up like message notifications. Photos and videos can be inserted from the Mail composition window.
And the app now has a ‘pull-to-refresh’ feature, which raised a knowing laugh from the developer audience – the UI feature was originally developed for the Tweetie app by developer Loren Brichter, who patented it, but was since acquired by Twitter.
Passbook / Guided Access
There’s a new app: Passbook. “The simplest ways to get all of your passes in one place,” said Forstall. Think airline apps with boarding passes, or Starbucks with its pay-for-coffee app, or movie ticket apps.
Apple has made a QR codes app, in short, collecting together codes from all an iOS user’s apps. Complete with a nifty location feature: “When you get to the movie theatre, your pass pops up here on the lock screen.”
Another new app: Guided Access, an accessibility app made by Apple. “We’ve been surprised by the number of children with autism who’ve been flocking to our devices, especially iPads, and we want to make that experience better,” said Forstall.
It’s a way for parents and carers to circle specific controls in an app to lock them from the child, and there’s also a single-app mode so children can’t exit the app. This isn’t just about autism, of course: Forstall noted that teachers can use single-app mode when doing tests on an iPad – ”so children can’t go and look the answer up on Safari”.
Next came Maps, with Apple having been strongly rumoured to ditch Google Maps in favour of its own system built in-house. And lo, it has. “We’re doing all the cartography ourselves… This is a worldwide effort, we’re covering the world,” said Forstall. “Beautiful, beautiful maps.”
Local search is built in – Apple has ingested 100m local business listings worldwide – including that Yelp integration for reviews and ratings.
Apple has also built a traffic service to show congestion, and overlay icons showing the incidents that might be causing it. “We’re using anonymous, real-time crowdsourced data right from our iOS users,” he said – something RIM has been working on with BlackBerry for some time, as well as third-party apps like Waze – and it includes turn-by-turn navigation.
There’s also a feature called Flyover – 3D photographic models of cities and landmarks, a lot like what Google is doing with its new features in the Google Earth apps. The feature was a big hit with the WWDC audience of developers: lots of oohs, aahs and applause.
He did run through some more of the 200 new user features in iOS 6, including Game Center challenges – challenging friends to match an achievement – and improved privacy controls to match Android, allowing users to set which elements of the OS apps have access to.
Also new: in-app content purchases: if an app links out to iTunes to buy music, the app can now sell music right within the app. iOS 6 is released in beta today for developers, with the consumer release coming in the Autumn.
Cook wrapped up with an upbeat message for developers – but no ‘one more thing’ announcement of an apps SDK for the Apple TV set-top box, as had been strongly rumoured.
“The products we make, combined with the apps that you create can fundamentally change the world,” he says. “And really, I can’t think of a better reason of getting up in the morning.”