Sunday 9 December 2018

Five takeaways from WWDC 2018: Apple declares war on Facebook and parents to get more control over screen time

Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose, California Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Adrian Weckler in San Jose

Data protection, Apple's new features and tackling unhealthy screen technology habits ere just some of the items on the agenda at the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

Here's our analysis from the opening day of the event, which is being held in San Jose.

1. Apple declared war on Facebook

With disdain dripping from his voice, vice president Craig Federighi said that iPhones and Macs were now stepping up efforts to “shut down” Facebook’s attempts to follow you around the web with ‘likes’ and other things. Federighi said that they want to make it “dramatically more difficult for these companies to track you”.

When an ad tracks a user through those ‘like’ buttons, for example, Apple devices will ask users whether they want to allow the tracking to happen. During the demo, Federighi specifically used Facebook as an example of the tracking. The contempt isn’t new. Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously strongly criticised Facebook (and Google) for trading in people’s personal data.

2. Apple acknowledged that our screen time habits are getting out of hand

We all know that we spend a bit too much time staring at our phones. But we just can’t help it. So Apple is introducing new modes in iOS 12 that limit our own screen time and that of our kids. Notifications won’t show at night if we so enable, allowing us to avoid picking our phones up and stay glued to it past midnight.

For kids, there are now controls include time limits on specific apps or the whole phone. Once the time limit expires, the phone needs parental input to continue working.

The ‘Screen Time’, feature is account-based and works across all of a child’s iOS devices. The ‘Screen Time’ feature gives parents the ability to schedule a block of time to limit when their child’s iOS device can’t be used, such as at bedtime.

3. Apple’s new group FaceTime feature could make it a big competitor to WhatsApp and group calling services

Arguably the biggest immediate feature upgrade from WWDC this year was group messaging on FaceTime. Grandparents of the world rejoice: this means all of them can get on the same call with a grandchild (or vice versa with the grandkids).

Up to 32 people can join a single FaceTime call with a really nice implementation of the feature on the phone.

FaceTime is actually one of those things that now anchors people to iOS in a way that iTunes used to years ago.

4. Apple’s iOS and MacOS are getting closer

One of the big recurring questions that Apple has faced in recent years is: ‘are you merging iOS and MacOS’?

“No! Of course not!” said Apple VP Craig Federighi. But he then went on to show how iOS apps will be easier to run on Macs.

The question is understandable. Apple’s iPhone business is a multiple of its Mac business. Arguably, phones have eaten into the overall computing market, with traditional computers starting to be used less and less for casual communication and entertainment.

However, Apple did announce a slew of new features for Macs, including some new apps a ‘dark mode’ and general updates.

5. No hardware

I was a little surprised by this. At last year’s WWDC, we had quite a lot of new hardware announced, especially the HomePod, a new iMac Pro and a new iPad Pro. While WWDC isn’t traditionally the place for new hardware announcements by Apple, the company has become so big with so many different product categories that we’d all just assumed there would be some new hardware announced, especially MacBook updates.

The absence of any hardware announcements means there’ll now likely be an absolute ton of them in September.

Online Editors

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