Someone, please call up DJ Khaled’s people 📞
An audience full of memojis, the ability to teleport between stages, and jokes that “no iPads were harmed” in the production of this session. For the second year in a row, Apple hosted its annual Worldwide Developer Conference virtually. It was nice to see Apple inject some lighthearted nods to the virtual medium into the session, alongside two hours packed full of feature announcements.
You can find summaries about what was announced on just about any tech blog, but I wanted to share my commentary on 😃 what got me excited and 🙃 what was meh. I break it down for the 📢 announcements themselves, as well as the quality of the 📽️ show.
😃 What got me excited
During COVID, one of the ways that my friends and I have maintained social connection is through long text chains. Whenever it’s one of our birthdays, I’m amazed by how my friend always wins the thread by sharing the best photos of the birthday girl. I have almost 15 GB of photos and videos on my phone, but they’re not organized and I can never find the photos that I know that I have. With Spotlight Search for Photos, I’ll be ready to bring it for the next birthday! Some other features that I’m excited to try:
- I love that iOS will automatically save photos that are shared with me in Messages into my photo library and organize it into the right collection.
- With Live Text, I can select text in a photo and look up information about it. It works in 7 languages so I imagine this will be handy when I can travel internationally again.
- With Visual Look Up, I can find out information about a visual object. I know nothing about gardening, so this will help me finally answer what kind of things I have growing in my backyard.
Photos are pivotal to preserving memories and showing people that I love how much I care for them, so I’m most excited about all of the ways that Apple is bringing Intelligence to Photos.
It’s no secret that Privacy and Security continue to be important themes for Apple.
- Last year at WWDC, they unveiled a nutrition label inspired component in the App Store to give users more information about an app’s privacy practices prior to download. This year, they’re doubling down and bringing app privacy reports into your Settings so you can see exactly how you’re being tracked and even how often.
- Apple will hide my IP address from sites that I’m browsing on Safari and from tracking pixels in marketing emails.
- I don’t even have to give out my real email address for junk email anymore. I can use a temporary email address to keep my real email address private.
While I’m personally excited to have more options for privacy, I’m sure these updates will cause a lot of turmoil for many companies that depend on advertising and marketers.
🙃 What was meh
Last year, WatchOS was the star of the WWDC keynote. This year, WatchOS was barely a blip. I wouldn’t read too much into this. I believe that Apple Watch is still an important growth focus for Apple, but today’s announcements reflect the reality that Watch is a much smaller category for Apple. Apple sold about 34M Apple Watches in 2020, compared to over 1B iPhones in 2020. In addition, big updates to the watch ecosystem, including Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Fitness+, were introduced in an event less than a year ago in Sept 2020.
Now although the focal point was different, there was a lot of consistency in Apple’s roadmap tackling relevant, timely themes. Last year in the height of the pandemic, Apple developed the ability to provide you feedback on your handwashing. This year as we look towards a return to a post-pandemic normal, Apple announced updates to get the most out of virtual meetings and create focus when you need to. For Facetime, you can turn on Spatial Audio to feel like you’re in the same room together, choose Grid View to see all tiles, send FaceTime links to schedule calls in advance, or use SharePlay to listen to a song or view content together. I have no doubt that I will use some of these features, but they didn’t feel groundbreaking. They reminded me of features that I already use on Zoom.
📽️ The Show
😃 What got me excited
How do you make a presentation about an operating system exciting? Lead with user benefits, not features! I was impressed by how Apple structured the presentation around the user benefits, like staying connected and focus, and used these benefits as a rallying theme for groups of features. This is a great way for PMs to structure roadmap meetings or demos.
🙃 What was meh
The keynote was incredibly polished… too polished, actually. At some points, I almost felt like I was watching a long commercial. Each presenter transitioned seamlessly from one to the next. Each presenter spoke in a pleasant, upbeat tone. To stay engaged in a two hour show, I needed a plotline and more vocal variety. Imagine WWDC in an alternate universe where DJ Khaled was there as Craig Federighi’s hype man. I missed the clapping, cheering, and even stumbles that happen in an in-person live event that make the interaction feel personal. It’s nice that the pandemic has made WWDC free and available to all, but I look forward to the day that conferences and big events resume in-person. In any presentation, the content is important, but so is the delivery of the content. It’s WWDC…and as one of the largest tech events of the year, I want showmanship!
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