Overnight, Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC21) — an annual event dedicated to showcasing new software developments to the Apple suite of products.
This year, the event brought new updates and features for iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV, and while no new products were announced (yet), the shake-ups to software on the existing products are enough to have us super excited about the future of both home and personal tech.
One theme that was very much apparent throughout the reveals was a focus on health. Of course, Apple already has a comprehensive line-up that promotes good health, including Apple Watch, Apple Fitness+, and the Health app, but it would seem the tech giant is placing even more importance on wellness and in particular, mental health.
There’s a lot to cover; too much, in fact, that we’d recommend true Apple fanatics to watch WWDC21 in their own time. But if you’re short on the clock and are interested in the highlights, then we’d be glad to bring the highlights pertaining to iPhone and Apple Watch your way.
Here are the best new updates to be announced at WWDC21.
The latest operating system from Apple brings “new ways to stay connected, and powerful features that help users focus, explore, and do more with on-device intelligence”. WWDC21 previewed major updates to FaceTime, a new ‘Focus’ feature to reduce distraction, and more ways to explore the world using Maps, Weather and Wallet.
“Focus is a new feature that filters notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on. Customers can set their device to help them be in the moment by creating a customised Focus or selecting a suggested Focus, which uses on-device intelligence to suggest which people and apps are allowed to notify them,” Apple says.
Apple also revealed a new notifications experience that allows you to filter notifications according to how important they are for each individual user. Of the new features, Apple says:
“To help reduce distraction, a new notification summary collects non–time-critical notifications for delivery at a more opportune time, such as in the morning and evening. Using on-device intelligence, notifications are arranged by priority, with the most relevant notifications rising to the top, and based on a user’s interactions with apps. Urgent messages will be delivered immediately, so important communications will not end up in the summary, and it’s easy to temporarily mute any app or messaging thread for the next hour or for the day.”
Keys and IDs for Apple Wallet
Last year, Apple introduced digital car keys, with BMW the first car company to add its keys, allowing users to tap their phones to unlock. Now, and with shiny new tech updates, digital car keys will be able to securely unlock and start a supported car without you having to remove your iPhone from your pocket or bag. “iPhone can also be used to unlock a user’s home, office or even a hotel room — all through keys stored in Wallet,” Apple says.
Health for the Whole Family
The health app already allows you to set up emergency contacts, and note important information like your blood type, allergies, heart health and sleep. Now, you’ll be able to share this data with your family with a “new sharing tab that lets users share their health data with family members, caregivers or a care team”.
Improved FaceTime and Shared Experiences with SharePlay
Hearing the demands of users after 2020, by which we all spent a lot of time communicating via FaceTime, Apple has made a number of improvements to make this experience more natural.
“With spatial audio, voices in a FaceTime call sound as if they are coming from where the person is positioned on the screen, and new microphone modes separate the user’s voice from background noise. Inspired by the stunning portrait photos taken on iPhone, Portrait mode is now available for FaceTime and designed specifically for video calls, so users can blur their background and put themselves in focus. While using Group FaceTime, a new grid view enables participants to see more faces at the same time.”
Also soon to be available is SharePlay on FaceTime, which allows people on a call to share experiences together, including “listening to songs together with Apple Music, watching a TV show or movie in sync, or sharing their screen to view apps together”.
SharePlay even extends to Apple TV so users can watch shows or movies on a big screen while connecting over FaceTime.
Okay, we are so excited about this one. Have you ever written a list, whether shopping or to do, only to wish you’d just created a digital version? Live Text allows you to hover your camera over written text and take action on your device, like search or translate the text.
“For example, users can search for and locate a picture of a handwritten family recipe, or capture a phone number from a shopfront with the option to place a call. With the power of the Apple Neural Engine, the Camera app can also quickly recognise and copy text in the moment, such as the Wi-Fi password displayed at a local café. With Visual Look Up, users can learn more about popular art and landmarks around the world, plants and flowers found in nature, and breeds of pets, and even find books.”
Apple Watch users will be excited to hear of updates that offer “greater access with Wallet, more capabilities with the Home app, new workout types and an updated Breathe app”.
Apple Fitness+ is an incredible personal trainer on your wrist, but two new workout types are set to make it even better for both your body and mind. Tai Chi and Pilates are much-loved practices for balance, breathwork and mood-boosting.
Apple says: “These new workout types are supported by powerful, validated, custom-built heart rate and motion algorithms to provide users with accurate metrics.”
Breathe and Reflect
Apple Watch users will be familiar with the Breathe app, but in the future, this is set to become a whole new mindfulness offering. “Now more than ever, people are recognising the importance of finding small moments in their day to be more mindful. In watchOS 8, the Breathe app becomes the Mindfulness app, featuring an enhanced Breathe experience, plus a new session type, Reflect.”
Like Breathe, Reflect lasts one minute but instead of merely pausing to inhale and exhale, the app will pose a mindful and thought-provoking question designed to remove you from the distractions around you and help you feel centred and refreshed, for example: “Reflect on one thing you’re grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much”.
Sleeping Respiratory Rate
You can already track your sleep and heart rate, but the new software will help users reach sleep goals further by tracking sleeping respiratory rate, which is the number of breaths per minute.