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Apple just announced a ton of software features at WWDC. Here’s everything new

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Apple just wrapped up the opening keynote of its annual WWDC developer conference and it did not disappoint. During the event, Apple announced several new hardware products including a 15-inch MacBook Air, an updated Mac Studio, an Apple Silicon-powered Mac Pro — and the iPhone maker finally unveiled its mixed-reality headset, Apple Vision Pro. 

And while Apple Vision Pro stole the show, Apple announced several new software features while it previewed iOS 17, iPadOS 17, WatchOS 10, and MacOS 14 Sonoma. New features include a revamped Wallet app, support for hardware accessories like webcams on the iPad, widgets on the desktop of the Mac, and a completely new way of viewing information on the Apple Watch. 

Also: Every hardware product announced at WWDC

As is usually the case, Apple won’t officially release the updates until later this year — typically in September and October. In the meantime, you can sign up for the public beta that will launch in July, or if you’re a developer you can download and install the updates starting today. 

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What’s new in iOS 17

One area iOS 17 focuses on is communication. In that theme, Apple is adding new features to the Phone app. You’ll get to create new contact posters that show up on other iPhone users’ phones when you call them as well as your contact card. And when trying to decide if you should answer a call from a number you don’t know, you can watch a live transcription of the voicemail they’re leaving — and if you decide, you can answer it as they’re leaving the message. 

Also: Here’s every iPhone model that will get Apple’s iOS 17

FaceTime now has the option to leave a message when you call someone and they don’t answer. 

Messages is also getting a healthy update. Apple updated the search field in Messages, letting you add terms to your search. There’s also a new catch-up arrow that takes you to the last message you read in a conversation. Replies are getting easier to do, and voice memos will also be transcribed if you can’t listen to them. 

There’s a new check-in feature that you can use to let someone know when you’re leaving a location and then automatically alert that contact when you arrive at your final destination. 

Apple is also moving where you access your iMessage apps behind a new + button menu, which is also home to the new iMessage Stickers apps. Every emoji can be used as a sticker now, which looks like a ton of fun. 

There’s a new live stickers feature that lets you use your own photos or Live Photos to create stickers for use in the Messages app or system-wide, such as third-party apps.  

Also: The best iPhone models right now

AirDrop is also getting an update. A new feature called Name Drop will let you use NFC to share your contact information, including your new poster, with fellow iPhone and Apple Watch users. You’ll also be able to use AirDrop and its new NFC feature to share photos or start SharePlays sessions. And if someone is sending a lot of videos and photos, you can leave AirPlay range and the content will continue to sync. Apple didn’t say how, but I assume it’s via Apple’s servers. 

Your iPhone’s keyboard is getting a big update, particularly when it comes to Autocorrect. That’s right, the one feature that surely has left all of us embarrassed by entering the wrong word. Autocorrect is supposed to be more accurate and have better predictions on what you want to say and when. 

A new Journal app will make its debut with iOS 17. It uses information on your phone from apps like Photos, Workouts, and your location to make suggestions about what to write about or reflect upon. You can also schedule notifications to remind you to write in your Journal. 

Also: How to preorder Apple’s new MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro

Another new feature coming to iOS 17 is called StandBy. It basically turns your iPhone into a smart display whenever it’s charging and turned sideways. The main screen has a clock on it, but you can swipe across the screen to view a slideshow of your photos, and view widgets such as weather, Home controls, or a calendar. 

StandBy also supports Live Activities, a feature that debuted with the iPhone 14, for keeping you up to date with sports scores. 

Other features to note include the fact that “Hey Siri” is no more. Instead, you can just say “Siri” to trigger the personal assistant, and then combine commands without using the wake phrase over and over. 

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What’s new in iPadOS 17

The iPad is getting its fair share of updates as well. Finally, Apple is making widgets to the iPad’s Home Screen interactive. For example, you can mark Reminders as complete without launching the app, or control a smart home item directly from the home screen. 

The lock screen on the iPad will now have the same type of lock screen options that the iPhone gained in iOS 16. You can customize the lock screen wallpaper by long pressing on the display, where you can then change the clock’s design and add widgets. Additionally, the Lock Screen on the iPad will now support live activities — such as support for multiple timers. 

The Health app is making its debut on the iPad. It’s a bigger version of the iPhone app, and honestly, it looks much easier to navigate and has a high-level view of your personal health information. 

Also: The best iPads models: The Pro, Air, and Mini compared

iPadOS 17 will include improvements to how you interact and deal with PDFs. Now you can fill out PDF fields directly on the iPad, add a signature and then share. Additionally, the Notes app is gaining full support for PDF files within a note. 

Stage Manager now supports webcams in external displays, but I’m not clear if that means only Apple’s external displays, all webcams, or what exactly. 

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What’s new in WatchOS 10

WatchOS 10 will bring a lot of new features to the Apple Watch lineup, including a new way of viewing information in widgets directly on the watch face. The new feature looks a lot like the Siri watch face, but better. You can access a stack of widgets from any watch face by turning the digital crown. There’s even a widget that has all of your favorite complications. 

WatchOS 10’s apps are redesigned to show more information or provide easier access to it. 

There are two new watch faces. One called palate uses a ton of different colors that change throughout the day, and then there’s a new interactive Snoopy watch face that looks like a ton of fun. 

For fitness enthusiasts, there are new workout features. Apple highlighted its cycling improvements, including support for third-party accessories for monitoring your cadence and power via a bike sensor. The watch connects directly to the sensor and displays the information fed to it on your watch and then calculates your current power zone. Furthermore, you can use your iPhone to view your cycling workout while you ride. 

Also: The best Apple Watches: Ultra, Series 8, and SE models compared

Hiking is another workout that’s getting new features. The compass app will create two waypoints — cellular and SOS — to help you find areas where your watch last connected to cellular networks when you’re on a hike. Topographic maps are also coming to the Apple Watch in the US. 

Developers will gain access to the sensors inside the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, which can be used to help users adjust their golf or tennis swings using third-party apps. 

With WatchOS 10, you can log your feelings and mood in the Mindfulness app, and it’ll even help you try to identify why you’re feeling the way you are. The same feature will be available on the iPhone for those who don’t have an Apple Watch. 

In order to help kids avoid myopia, the Apple Watch will monitor how much time they’ve spent inside using the light sensor and provide parents with a report detailing how much time they spend indoors and out. 

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

What’s new in Apple’s audio and video devices

New features coming to the AirPods got some stage time this year. The wireless earbuds will receive an update with Adaptive Audio that will blend active noise cancelation and transparency mode to drown out the noises you don’t want to hear, but also let through noises — like a honking car — that you need to hear. Adaptive Transparency on the new AirPods Pro is pure magic, so I can’t wait to try out Adaptive Audio. 

Also: This new AirPods Pro 2 feature will detect your conversations and adapt to them

Automatic switching has been a pain point for many AirPod users, and Apple says they’ve fixed it. So switching from your AirPods being connected to a Mac for a call to your iPhone to stream some music should be seamless now. Maybe? Hopefully? 

AirPlay is getting smarter and you’ll start to see prompts to play audio on nearby devices. AirPlay is also coming to hotel rooms that have AirPlay-compatible devices while you’re on the road. 

Apple wins again with its line of AirPods an

Apple Music and CarPlay are also getting AirPlay improvements that allow passengers to suggest music or control playback. Not sure how I feel about this one — my kids will run wild with it. 

The Apple TV has a new Control Center feature for controlling your devices or controlling audio. But more importantly, the Siri Remote can now be found by using your iPhone. That alone may be the biggest news of the day, I don’t care what anyone says. 

Also: Which AirPods are right for you? Top picks across generations

There’s a new FaceTime app for the Apple TV that you can use with your iPhone or iPad camera to take part in a call using your TV. It uses Continuity Camera, which debuted on the Mac last year, to stream your phone or tablet’s camera for the call. Zoom and Webex will support Apple TV by the end of the year. 

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Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

What’s new in MacOS 14

After showing off the shiny new 15-inch MacBook Air and an updated Mac Studio powered by an M2 Ultra processor, and an all-new Mac Pro, Apple detailed the latest software features coming to its Mac lineup later this year. MacOS 14 Sonoma will bring several new features to the Mac. 

MacOS Sonoma is getting a lot of the same features that are coming to iOS and iPadOS but also gets new features like a screensaver feature that’s similar to what Apple TV users can access. 

Also: All the Mac news from WWDC 2023

Widgets are moving out of Notification Center and will be available on the desktop in MacOS Sonoma. When you open an app, your widgets become translucent in order to not distract from what you’re doing — and then go back to normal when you’re looking at only the desktop. You can view widgets from the apps you have installed on your iPhone on your Mac’s desktop whenever your iPhone is near your computer or at least connected to the same Wi-Fi network. The widgets are interactive, just like on the iPad, so you can click on tasks or items and you don’t have to launch the full app. 

Apple appears to be building some momentum when it comes to gaming on the Mac. MacOS 14 Sonoma has a new Game mode built into it, prioritizing CPU and GPU performance for the game you’re playing. Input and audio latency is also improved when in Game mode, specifically with Xbox or PlayStation controllers and with AirPods, respectively. 

Also: Comparing the best Macs: Is a MacBook or Mac Studio right for you?

Apple used the keynote to announce the game Death Stranding Director’s Cut is coming to the Mac. There wasn’t a specific release date outside of the announcement that it’ll be available for pre-order soon. 

When it comes to video conference calls, there’s a new overlay feature that will help with sharing your screen to give a presentation while also streaming your video with a smaller thumbnail. Have you ever seen any of those fun effects in the Messages app? You can now trigger this directly in your video feed. They’re compatible with Zoom, Webex, Teams and FaceTime (plus more, I’m sure). 

Safari’s private browsing is getting new privacy features and support for sharing Passkeys — a passwordless authentication method that’s gaining traction thanks to Apple and Google. Another new feature coming to Safari is Profiles, allowing you to do things like separate your personal and work browsing habits. Web apps are also making a debut on the Mac, meaning you can save any website to your Mac as an app. Your Mac will treat it as a full-fledged app, with alerts and multitasking features. 

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Everything’s new in visionOS

Every single software feature of Apple Vision Pro is new, so I’ll spare you from running through all of them as I have for the others. The demonstrations Apple included in the keynote included using all of the same iPhone and Mac apps we already use –Messages, Safari, Photos, Notes, Mindfulness, Apple Music — they’re all there. 

You can control the apps with your eyes, hands, and voice. App icons float above your surroundings — you’re not blocked off from the outside world. However, you can darken your surroundings or use a feature called Environments to immerse yourself in a different world. EyeSight will detect when someone else is nearby and allow them to see your eyes. 

Also: The Vision Pro VR headset uses custom avatars for video conferencing and more

You can use Bluetooth accessories, such as a keyboard or mouse, to control the headset. And just by looking at your Mac’s screen, you’ll see a larger version of the display floating in front of you alongside any apps you have open and running in Apple Vision Pro. 

FaceTime is, of course, possible with video tiles for each participant. Apple uses the 3D camera on the Vision Pro to create a persona of how you look, which is what other FaceTime participants will see when you’re on a FaceTime call with them.

Vision Pro can capture Spatial Video or Photos using a button on the outside of the headset. The result is a 3D picture or video you can view in the headset. 

Also: Meet Apple’s AR/VR Vision Pro headset: Price, features, release date, and everything else to know

You can watch videos and movies using Vision Pro, including 3D movies, with an adjustable video size in the headset. Apple Arcade games are playable using the headset — 100 titles at launch — with a third-party controller. Disney and Apple teamed up to create some immersive experiences with Vision Pro, such as using the Disney+ app to be placed inside shows like The Mandalorian or video games. 

For a more detailed look at Apple Vision Pro and what xrOS brings to Apple’s new headset, but sure to check our Reality Pro roundup.


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