Top 3 from the WWDC Keynote

I wanted to write about some of my highlights from WWDC, more specifically the keynote. So here it is, my top 3...

1. Multitasking on the iPad. (video)

This is one of those that has pretty much been inevitable since the launch of the iPad and rumoured for as long. Apple's iPad has always been a game changer and though Android, and more specifically the Samsung Note range, offered decent "true" multitasking this new iPad feature could certainly change the game, again.

During the keynote Craig Federighi highlights the already great multitasking on the iPad like the task switcher and 4-finger gestures - but now we’re taking it to whole new level…

iPad Taskswitcher

We begin with a new task switcher, instead of the side by side list, we now have a depth effect, not too unlike that which you might find on Android. The new switcher still offers the full screen app snapshot, so no real changes there, and It does look pretty good.


Next comes the first of the new multitasking features something Apple are calling SlideOver. Anyone who uses OS X will be familiar with the notification centre you can access by sliding two fingers in from the righthand side of the trackpad. It seems they’re bringing the same feature to iPad. From the demo Craig shows a fullscreen Safari and slide over messages, he then goes on to show you can change the secondary app by simply tapping the top in that “it just works” Apple way.

iPad SlideOver

In order to access the new SplitView multitasking you, again simply, tap on the left hand side of the SlidOver app, this changes the view and lays the apps side-by-side with a draggable margin in the middle that will resize the views. The second app now becomes “pinned” to the view and you can leave to the home screen to open a new app and then hey-presto! your pinned app will follow. That’s certainly a nice touch and it does feel like a well thought out feature.

iPad SplitView

The last new Multitasking features is full on Picture-in-Picture (PIP), which was demo’d with ESPN playback of a video while writing email. The PIP isn’t limited to video apparently and can host any app. it would be amazing if you could resize the PIP as it would bring a more desktop-like feel to the multitasking ability.

iPad SlideOver

Device Support

Sadly all this great multitasking goodness will only be available to the more recent crop of iPads. The new Slide Over and PIP is supported on the iPad Air’s and the mini 2 / 3, the surprising thing is SplitView is only supported on iPad Air 2, where I would have thought PIP be a much more intense activity.

I imagine the split across the range is partly due to performance and partly to drive sales of new devices - why have only half the features when you can buy a new slab?

2. Spotlight API

I realise this is one that not immediately sounds like a game changer but bare with me. During the Keynote the feature was bundled into a piece around the new Proactive Assistant feature of iOS 9. Siri is no longer just for bringing out at parties to ask it “What do you dream of?” or “Ok, Google”. According to the demo Siri is now more context aware, allowing you to say things like “Remind me of this” while in a message screen to get a reminder based on the content in your message. This is not unlike the beefy new natural language features we are seeing from the Android camp.

But the integration goes deeper then that. Things like location aware music playing upbeat music in the gym for starters, could certainly be useful for some. More automatic updates of Calendar from emails is certainly going to prove useful, and if the same is available for text / iMessage then even better.

Spotlight is learning new tricks

On next to Spotlight, I use Spotlight daily, and it’s the main way i interact with both my phone and mac. Spotlight on iOS has been getting better and better and the latest incarnation follows this trend. Building on the iOS 8 experience of suggestions the new spotlight immediately offers, what I imagine are, frequently used contacts and apps - though useful for some I find contact suggestions irritating, especially those on the task switcher. But I welcome frequently used apps. In fact I used to use a great little app for the notification centre called Launcher, that did exactly this, though apparently it’s been removed from the App Store.

iPhone Spotlight

Next on the new Spotlight is Nearby and News, both features I think could be useful from time to time and I hope there’s the some level of inteligence built into Nearby so i’m not suggested Starbucks while at home - though that might lightly encourage me out of the house so that could be a good thing, time will tell. In a similar vein during the demo Craig was interupted by his “assistant” to let him know traffic conditions were bad and he’d need to leave now to get home - a great feature that I’ve seen in the Cortana adverts from Microsoft so Apple playing catch up a little there.

New developer API? Tell me more...

And finally, the new Spoltight API, it was touched on in the demo by demo’ing with searches for recipes, typing “potato” into Spotlight is certainly one way to do it. Yumly, a recipe app on the phone, has picked up on the search and offered some options. This then links directly to the recipe in the App. This sort of deeplinking has been available for a while now and more commonly found in Push notifications. But the usefulness shouldn’t be overlooked. Without opening the App you get at the content via Spotlight. The recipes example was good but say you were looking for a film to rent, or to buy a new monitor you can very quickly search across multiple apps on your phone right from Spotlight.

iPhone Spotlight Search

This will impact my day to day and if the search is as slick as we’ve come to expect from Apple then it really will be a game changer. The new developer API enables more and more apps to surface their content. The one drawback I can think of is that it might get a bit noisy with all those apps offering you links, so I would imagine Apple has added some way to tailor which apps are searchable.

3. WatchOS 2.0, iOS 9 Install Size and iOS 9 Support

To be honest I am finding it hard to pick a winner out of these. I know that the Spotlight features in OS X are also improved but it feels like I would be repeating myself slightly. So with what’s left (leaving out Apple Music - which I’m keeping an eye on, especially after the Tailor Swift effect) there’s only really two that do it for me.

Apple Watch

The Apple watch is certainly one of the biggest releases in tech since the iPad. Once again Apple has splintered opinion with the loyal users rushing to get their shiny new iDevice, the Android naysayers poopoo’ing the efforts while murmuring the Android gear.

watchOS 2

I have high hope for the Apple Watch, but I think this is one place where it might pay not to be an early adopter. With the WatchOS 2 release comes the welcome news of native watch apps. Previously the Apple watch companion apps were very much that, a companion. With the new native apps they'll run directly on the watch, improving load times and letting you use them without your iPhone nearby.

While the WatchOS 2 looks set to improve the experience I still feel it's too soon for me to buy. I'll be waiting for the 30% thinner second generation before I consider it.

iOS 9 install size

The install size of new iOS builds has always been a bone of contnention for me. I am one of those users who has a 16GB iPhone but runs it right to the limit full of Apps, photo’s, music, podcasts.. you name it. So i’m always plagued by the usual upgrade routine of deleting all that I can stand to lose in order to get the latest software.

But, this might be about to change, gone (apparently) are the days of tightening your belt as Apple has finally taken notice and reduced the image size of iOS 9. If it comes in at the ~1.3 GB that was promised during the keynote then it certainly will reach more people and there will be less anger at the simply ludicrous 4GB+ that we’ve had to contend with in the past.

iOS 9 Support

And finally, Apple have done its dedicated users a solid and maintained support for the same number of devices as iOS8! This is likely due to the emphasis Apple has put on performance improvements in iOS9. Not to mention some of the more battery saving features. But, with the reduced install base size and large number of devices available iOS9 looks set to be the most popular yet.

So there you have it, all in all WWDC didn't disappoint. While there are some lacklustre features on iPhone compare to previous years I still feel iOS 9 set to be another slice of Apple magic. The OS X improvements are all welcome too. I'll be getting the beta onto a device too soon enough and I can't wait to have a play!

First appeared on Trusty Interior, last update 14 Nov 2023