As expected, Apple on Monday debuted a series of new and updated features for its mobile and desktop platforms at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
During a two-hour keynote, the tech giant unveiled updated versions of its iOS and OS X systems, including much-rumored services for health-tracking and home automation, as well as an expanded iCloud offering, among other updates.The long-awaited upgrades are meant to help Apple get back its groove amid heightened competition from the likes of Samsung and Google.
“Today was clearly about the sum of the parts being greater than any whole today,” said Doug Rozen, chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM). “iOS 8 brings Apple to parity with Android’s latest [KitKat] OS.”
The iOS 8 and OS X announcement comes on the heels of Apple’s $3 billion acquisition last week of Beats Electronics, which brought music industry veterans Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre on board. The rapper turned entrepreneur even made an appearance of sorts by phone at the conference during a technology demo.
Among highlights from Apple’s announcements today were the following:
The new version of Apple’s mobile operating system includes new notifications that let users reply to text messages or accept calendar invites without leaving the app they’re in. The iOS keyboard was also revamped with a feature called QickType for predicting typing suggestions. Messages now allows users to name threads, and add and remove users. It adds ability to tap and hold the screen to record audio.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple has sold 800 million iOS devices, half a billion of which are the iPhone. And nine of out of 10 devices are running the latest operating system.
Confirming rumors leading up to WWDC, Apple announced a comprehensive mobile health-tracking service called HealthKit. Bundled in iOS 8, it allows users to pull together health data from different sources in one place. The associated Health app can also be accessed by a doctor or hospital to track a patient’s health.
HealthKit will collect data from third-party fitness apps from companies like Nike. The move comes just days after arch rival Samsung announcing its own mobile health-monitoring service for tracking things like heart rate and blood pressure.
Apple’s new HomeKit service, similarly aims to serve as a remote control for home automation. The feature will allow iPhone users to control smart home devices, including garage door openers, lights and security cameras. The will likely take place through Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, than a specific app. Initial partners include Philips, Honeyewll, iHome and TI, among others.
The updated model will be integrated with Shazam so users can ask the music discovery app to find a song, or buy music on iTunes.
A new feature for sharing photos, calendars and other information privately among family members. Parents will also get notifications when their children want to buy new apps.
Among the key new features in the update to OS X, called Yosemite, is iCloud Drive, Apple’s answer to Dropbox. It lets users store and sync files of any type, not just those designed specifically for iCloud. It works across both Macs and mobile devices so you can work on the same file across multiple devices.
The Mac system will also have a translucent design, like iOS, and Safari will offer more privacy controls and ways to share links more easily. Both Yosemite and iOS 8 are slated to arrive by fall for consumers, while beta software will be available immediately for developers.
Third –party developers will now have access to the security feature in the iPhone 5S. Previously, the TouchID button was only for unlocking an iPhone 5S or making purchases through iTunes and the App Store. Now, outside developers can tap into TouchID’s technology to give users authenticated access to their apps without having to remember lengthy passwords.
App Store upgrade
Apple is adding new search tools to make it easier to find apps, addressing a longtime complaint from customers. In addition, people will be able to buy multiple apps at one time.
Apple introduced no new hardware today, but is expected to launch the latest version of the iPhone this fall, rumored to include models with two screen sizes-one at 4.7-inches and another at 5.5 inches. The latter is aimed at keeping up with the trend toward so-called phablets popularized by Samsung and other handset makers.
Despite the fusillade of updates and new features debuted on Monday, Wall Street wasn’t terribly impressed as Apple’s stock closed at $628.65, down slightly from Friday.