Typically, the Apple Design Awards have been held on the evening of the first day of WWDC. With the conference online this year, Apple held off until today to announce the winners. This year, in a collection that has a distinct iPad focus, the company announced four app winners and four game winners.
I’ve watched a lot of sessions this week. I’ve been impressed with the production quality of them all and the shorter, more condensed format of many of them. I’m still working my way through everything that has been released, but my favorite sessions by far have been the ones presented by Apple’s design team. Through a combination of under-the-hood peeks at how various design elements work and practical tips for implementing new UI controls, the sessions are terrific resources and provide fascinating insight into where design is heading across all of Apple’s products.
Probably my favorite session of the bunch has been Design for the iPadOS pointer. The session explains not only how the pointer works on iPadOS, but why it works that way through a technique called adaptive precision that accounts for the context in which the pointer is being used to define its level of precision. The talk also covers pointer inertia, magnetism, and interaction with controls and other screen elements. It’s an excellent place to start for anyone adapting an iPad for pointer support.
Designing for the unique characteristics of each platform.
One of the big picture themes that I came away with from the design sessions I’ve watched so far is the emphasis on designing for the unique qualities of each platform’s hardware. As Design for iPad explains, this doesn’t just mean designing something in between a Mac and an iPhone for the iPad, it also requires developers to consider what makes using an iPad different from either of those platforms. Having used far too many iPad apps that feel like blown up iPhone apps in the past, I hope this session is watched by a lot of developers and designers. I also enjoyed the Design with iOS pickers, menus and actions session, which explains the migration away from (but not complete elimination of) action sheets and popovers in favor of pickers and menus.
Menus and Pickers.
Finally, I want to mention the SF Symbols 2 and the details of UI typography sessions. I’m a big fan of SF Symbols. I love the consistent look and feel they provide across UIs. This year there are over 750 new glyphs including Apple device, transportation, game controller, and human-related images, plus multicolored symbols for the first time.
As someone who looks at text all day, I also enjoyed nerding out on typography with the details of UI typography session. It’s a fun deep-dive into a subject that I don’t know well, but appreciate for what it adds to an app’s experience.
Even if you’re not a developer or designer, the design sessions at WWDC are some of the most accessible talks released this week. I highly recommend them to anyone who has any interest in how the apps they use are made and the care that goes into the process.
Few developers have as many years of experience building Apple Watch apps or as many Apple Watch apps on the App Store as David Smith. One of Smith’s apps, Sleep++, has been available to users who want to track their sleep since watchOS 2.
During Monday’s keynote, Apple announced that it was adding sleep tracking to watchOS 7, placing the viability of Smith’s app in jeopardy. But ‘sherlocking’ as it’s called when Apple builds a system feature already provided by third parties, doesn’t necessarily mean a third-party developer’s app is doomed. As Smith explains, his step tracking app Pedometer++ saw increased sales after Apple began tracking users’ step count in the Health app because it raised awareness of the feature. In turn, that led some users to seek out third-party apps that could do more than Apple’s basic feature could.
After trying watchOS 7’s sleep tracking for a couple of days, Smith is optimistic that something similar will happen with Sleep++:
I suppose a good summary of my expectation is that right now (say) 1% of Apple Watch wearers think to try sleep tracking. After this fall, most Apple Watch wearers will be aware of it and (say) 50% will try it out. Apple’s approach will be sufficient for 90% of them, but 10% will want more. Leading to now 5% of Apple Watch wearers looking for a 3rd-party app to augment their experience…so I end up way ahead overall.
This is entirely speculative and it is possible that the market for Sleep++ will completely evaporate, but I’ve been doing this for long enough and have seen this pattern repeat itself often enough that I really don’t think so.
I’m eager to try Apple’s sleep tracking feature and see how apps like Smith’s Sleep++ improve with the availability of new data. There are a lot of third-party sleep tracking apps available, and they all use slightly different tracking methodologies. Hopefully, the addition of sleep tracking to watchOS 7 will raise the quality of them all, allowing developers to focus more on differentiating based on the features that extend the category beyond what Apple offers.
Apple Notes and Reminders are two of my most-used apps, and each has received significant updates in iOS and iPadOS 14. Though neither app’s improvements have been held up as tentpole features of this fall’s releases, Apple has nonetheless given noteworthy attention to making the user experience for each app better in a variety of key ways. You won’t find fundamental evolutions in how either app works, but these updates prove the power of iteration. From visual tweaks that make everything look and feel more modern, to quality of life enhancements, and more substantive new features, the list of total changes is surprisingly rich.
After a few days of use, here’s everything new I’ve discovered in Notes and Reminders.
With the advent of Macs running Apple-designed processors, things will get a whole lot simpler. As described Wednesday in the WWDC session Explore the New System Architecture of Apple Silicon Macs, these new Macs will only require you to remember a single button: Power. (On laptops, that’ll be the Touch ID button. On desktops, presumably it’s the physical power button.)
Holding down that button at startup will bring up an entirely new macOS Recovery options screen. From here you’ll be able to fix a broken Mac boot drive, alter security settings, share your Mac’s disk with another computer, choose a startup disk, and pretty much everything else you used to have to remember keyboard shortcuts to do.
The new system is based on iOS’s boot process modified to meet the needs of Mac users. I can’t wait for this change. I don’t use the boot-up key combinations often enough to remember what they are. I expect that as we learn more about Apple’s upcoming Macs, other benefits gained by moving to Apple-designed SoCs will become apparent too.
John Gruber’s annual live version of The Talk Show has become a tradition at WWDC featuring a variety of guests from Apple in recent years. This year, with the conference held online-only, Gruber recorded the show remotely with guests Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak.
Apple crams a lot into a keynote, and it is interviews like Gruber’s that provide additional details, helping paint the bigger picture with interesting insights into the thought that goes into the company’s products.
The wide-ranging interview covers developers and the App Store, the Mac and Big Sur, the iPad and Pencil, iOS 14, and privacy. In response to commentators who believe that Apple is merging iOS and macOS or abandoning the Mac, Federighi rattled off a long list of projects related to the Mac, commenting, “We love the Mac and we’re all in.” Joswiak added, “We’re far from bored with the Mac; it’s in our DNA.”
Federighi also addressed the relationship of Catalyst, SwiftUI, AppKit, and UIKit for developers, explaining that there is no single correct path. He said that the best path depends on where developers start. For example, some developers have invested heavily in AppKit and will probably want to stick with it, while UIKit developers may want to bring their apps to the Mac using Catalyst, whereas a new developer may want to start fresh with SwiftUI.
Gruber also asked about Scribble for iPad, the new feature that recognizes handwriting and adds other flexibility to taking notes with the Apple Pencil. The popularity of apps like GoodNotes and Notability haven’t gone unnoticed in Cupertino. In response to Gruber’s questioning, Federighi explained that the feature is designed to extend the utility of the Pencil when you’re already in a Pencil-centric mode, making it an alternative, but not a replacement, for a keyboard and touch.
The entire interview runs roughly 90 minutes and is worth watching in its entirety on YouTube for the full experience, but it is also available in an audio-only format as part of The Talk Show’s podcast feed.
WWDC week is always full of big and small announcements about Apple’s core software platforms. Monday’s keynote only has time for sharing a limited number of details, however, so as the week goes on many new discoveries are made as developers and writers delve into the first beta OS releases themselves. As a result, we always have a roundup of new things to share midway through the week. So today, on top of everything detailed in our overviews of iOS and iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, macOS Big Sur, and tvOS 14, here’s an assortment of extra goodies that will be arriving on your devices this fall.
Today on AppStories, we cover the highlights of Apple’s keynote, including widgets, the App Library, App Clips, and design changes in iOS 14, system-wide sidebars and Apple Pencil updates in iPadOS 14, sleep tracking and the Fitness app in watchOS 7, and macOS Big Sur’s big redesign, Safari, and the transition to Apple Silicon.
Today as part of the Discover section of Apple’s Developer app, the company shared three playlists and interviews with developers about the role music plays in their lives. Among the interviews is one with Federico, who was asked about MusicBot, the Apple Music shortcut that he created, and shared on MacStories, last December.
Sam Rosenthal, the developer behind the excellent Apple Arcade game Where Cards Fall, was interviewed too. He explains how his love of music informs his company’s approach to game development:
“A lot of the bands that I really loved… They didn’t stick with one sound,” he said. Rosenthal has carried that philosophy into his work: “Every time we make something, it should be different from the last. It should surprise people.”