While these demonstrations were just proofs of concept of what Apple systems could do with VR, they do suggest Apple is taking the medium more seriously and that more could be in store—especially when one considers that the primary audience of today’s keynote was the myriad developers who build games and apps for the company’s existing platforms.


The annual iOS update is here.
The annual iOS update is here.
Image: Apple

Perhaps the most impactful announcements Apple made today concerned iOS, its mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads. Rather than redesigning the entire experience, Apple decided to change specific pieces of the software and add new features into existing platforms like iMessage and Siri.

iPhone owners will now be able to use Apple Pay to transfer money between each other, much like the popular Venmo app. Of course, because Apple Pay requires a phone made by Apple, you won’t be able to easily send money to your friends who have a Google Pixel, which might still give Venmo an edge.

Swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone screen will reveal a new Control Center, the bevy of buttons used to manipulate things like wireless connectivity, screen brightness, and music. The new Control Center is all on one screen, rather than a series of pages that the user swipes through. There is also a dedicated button for turning cellular signal on and off, great for the times when you don’t want to lose signal to Bluetooth headphones, like on an airplane. Best of all, it’s finally customizable, so you can create your shortcuts in your own image.

Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant, wasn’t neglected either. Apple says Siri will be in even more places on the phone, reading iMessages and browsing history to help predict when you want to see information, create events, or even type certain words. Siri can also now translate English to Chinese, French, German, and a few other languages. You’ll also be able to type messages to Siri—instead of just talking to it—making it so much more than just a voice assistant. 

On the iPad, iOS 11 will bring an entirely new app switcher and bottom dock (like the one on traditional Mac laptops), as well as a new file explorer app. Called Files (nice), the app attempts to turn the iPad into a viable work machine; trying to put files in a folder or work with a few files at once on an iPad was previously a Sisyphean task.

It’s not really a iOS feature per se, but Apple is also redesigning its entire App Store for the first time since its creation. A new “Today” tab will emphasize recently released apps, and there’s a dedicated section for games.

Then, as mentioned earlier, the final iOS 11 presentation slide revealed a slew of other features not discussed by Apple execs onstage—but that will significantly change the iPhone and iPad experience for most users. To name a few: There’s now one-handed typing, where holding down the emoji key on the virtual keyboard brings all the keys closer to your preferred thumb, making it easier to tap out messages while holding a coffee or crying baby. There’s also a new way to set up your iOS device: Just hold it near one of your old ones, and a new setup process will automatically import data from that device’s iCloud.

macOS High Sierra

MacOS has a new name: High Sierra. Apple made a significant tweak under the hood, changing the way files are constructed and stored into a different proprietary format. This will likely speed up some operations like copying files, but doesn’t really mean much for the average user. It will probably still be a nightmare to transfer large files between Mac and Windows environments.

Other than the new file system, nothing groundbreaking is happening on MacOS.

watchOS 4

Smarter notifications.
Smarter notifications.
Image: Apple

Is the fourth time the charm for the Apple Watch? Since the device launched in April 2015, Apple’s premiere wearable has had three complete iterations on its operating system. They just can’t seem to get it right. But that’s okay, because nobody really has—smartwatch software is generally terrible.

Apple is trying a slightly different approach this time, with a Siri-backed watch face. Based on a variety of factors, like the time of day, amount exercised, and location, Siri will suggest information that you might want to see. Given Apple’s past problems with slow load times on the Watch, we’ll have to see whether this feature is quick enough to be actually useful. Other faces added include a kaleidoscope and Toy Story characters for some reason.

The Workouts app is being overhauled for easier use, and Apple has partnered with gym equipment manufacturers so Watches can sync with them for better health data. But unless your gym changes its equipment every year on an Apple hardware cycle, you probably shouldn’t get too hyped about using this feature in coming months.

Apple TV

Amazon Prime Video is coming to Apple TV, and that’s about all Apple had to say about its streaming device.

AR Kit

Augmented reality is Silicon Valley’s buzzword du jour, dragged into the public eye by the insane popularity of Pokemon Go last year.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the basic idea: you use your phone (or tablet) camera as an oracle to glimpse into a world where digital objects are laid over reality. A digital dog pees on your rug, but there is no stain afterwards. A cup of tea sits on your table but you cannot drink it. The idea is interesting, but in practice it feels silly to move around a tiny glass window in order to peek into a massive digital world that doesn’t do all that much. 

Following the trend— at Google’s I/O keynote the company also gave developers a group of augmented reality tools—Apple released AR Kit, tools for developers to build AR experiences for iOS devices. Where will iOS developers decide to put place digital teacups? That’s for us to find out, and personally we cannot wait. 

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