06 Jun 2022

Thoughts on WWDC 2022

This WWDC keynote was crammed with updates for iOS 16, watchOS 9, the new M2 chip and redesigned MacBook Air, macOS Ventura, and iPadOS 16. Each year, Apple’s empire seems more sprawling than ever… So rather than try to cover everything, here’s some impressions on the bits I personally found most interesting in this year’s keynote.

New Lock Screen + Focus Filters

The redesigned Lock Screen lets you customize the font and color of text (time, date, etc), add widgets (which come in a new compact form factor), and drag your custom photo to position it optimally amongst everything. This work seems to build on the momentum from introducing Widgets to the Home Screen last year, which has been a hit amongst users.

The new Lock Screen also moves notifications to the bottom. This seems ideal. We already swipe to unlock from the bottom of the screen, and the top of the screen has become hard to reach with one hand as iPhones have gotten larger. I especially like the idea of being able to assign different Lock Screens to different Focus modes. I can imagine creating a work Lock Screen, with a more understated wallpaper and work widgets (calendar, Slack, etc); a personal Lock Screen, with a family photo and personal widgets (Home controls, Fitness, etc) and an evening Lock Screen when I want to tune out all the noise but still have my iPhone at hand for e.g. reading as I wind down for bed.

Apple is taking Focus modes a step further by introducing filters inside of apps. When you’re in your Work focus, you might only see work related browser tabs in Safari, and when you’re in your Personal focus, you wouldn’t see your work email in Mail. I love Apple’s continued push to provide tools to be present and intentional with how and when we use our devices and the constant stream of information they put at our finger tips. I hope these filters will be helpful, but I think they will only be as good as their weakest link: third-party app support. Things could break down quickly when you leave the walled garden of Apple’s own apps. Will Chrome, Slack, and other apps that straddle people’s work and personal lives support Focus filters?

FaceTime Handoff

This lets you seamlessly move a FaceTime call across your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten all set up at my desk, rearranged my windows, double checked my webcam, and prepared for a FaceTime call on my Mac, only to have it come in on my iPhone or iPad instead. Cue the awkward dance of me asking to call the person back, doing so from my Mac, only to have the call get routed to their iPhone, etc… Ideally, a FaceTime call would always come in on the device I’m actively using, but being able to seamlessly hand it off to different devices will be really nice.

Shared Tab Groups

I’ve come to really like Tab Groups in Safari. They help me be more intentional with actively researching something, keep track of everything good that I’ve found, and then destroy the group when I complete the project. (Or just “archiving” it by dragging the Tab Group to the bottom of my Tab Group list for posterity). They also help me stay more organized and focused on the task at hand, instead of having a messy mix of tabs and minimized browser windows for different suspended processes in my brain.

It will be really useful to be able to share them when researching something with others. We’ll each be able to add tabs to the group, and we’ll even be able to see who is viewsing which tab in real time. My wife and I are planning our honeymoon to Italy right now, and I so wish we had this. We currently drop links in our wiki, and then just huddle around each other’s computers to see what the other is looking at.

Continuity Camera

Continuity Camera lets you use your iPhone as a webcam. You have an incredible camera in your pocket, and (sadly) a fairly crappy one built into your Mac. Why not unlock that potential? This is a great feature, and I’m excited Apple is introducing it.

But here’s the thing — there’s this amazing app called Camo that has let you do this for a long time. I have a soft spot for it, because we used it to shoot our Zoom wedding during the pandemic, and it worked great. So it’s a little sad to see Apple sherlocking it.

On the other hand, the Camo creator has a thoughtful and optimistic take on how everything’s going to be Just Fine. And it will be nice to also have Apple offering a solution that just works out of the box, and pushing an ecosystem of accessories for mounting your iPhone to your Mac or (gasp!) Studio Display. 1

Messages: Edit, Undo Send, and Mark Unread

Apple mentioned that Messages has hundreds of millions of users… It’s often overlooked how huge their messaging platform is. I’m pleased to get support for editing messages (no more follow-up bubbles with “*typo: bats, not cats”), undoing sends2, and marking messages as unread. I find myself using Messages with friends and colleagues more and more, so more power for managing it is very welcome.

Family Photo Library

Family Photo Library lets you share photos and videos with up to five other people, so that everyone can share a family photo collection. This seems long overdue. I do wonder how much overhead and cognitive load it will introduce in practice. Will I default to my personal or family photo library? Can a photo live in both? Will it count against storage for both?

Apple seems to have designed helpful suggestions both for creating your Family Photo Library from all of your existing photos, and also for adding new photos as you take them. For example, the Camera app will suggest a photo go in your Family Photo Library if you take it when family members are nearby.

M2 + Macbook Air

The M2 chip looks impressive, but the M1 and then M1 Pro/Ultra are already so impressive, it’s less interesting to me than the redesigned MacBook Air. The new form factor looks amazing, and I especially love the lean, mean Midnight machine.

Despite such a great looking design, the announcement somehow felt… underwhelming. Maybe it’s because this industrial design for the Air takes its cue from the recently redesigned MacBook Pros. It may also be because Steve Jobs set such a high bar when he first announced the MacBook Air by pulling it out of a manila envelope in 2008. And the excitement might have been dulled by sandwiching the segment in the keynote amongst everything else…

Regardless, this machine looks sweet. I went from the M1 MacBook Air to the 16” MacBook Pro. I’m now tempted to switch back, but I’ve come to love the larger display… Which brings me to my one disappointment. I’d really hoped that Apple might introduce a 15” or 16” version of the Air. I don’t actually need the Pro functionality that comes with the MacBook Pro: the faster chip, the extra ports, the fans… I just want the larger display. It would be really nice to see Apple separate the larger display from Pro specs. Perhaps they have no incentive to. It would complicate the lineup, and they know that people who really want the larger display will just pay extra for a MacBook Pro anyways.

Some Curiosities

I’m curious to try the new Freeform app, which provides a collaborative whiteboard to brainstorm ideas with others in real time. This looks like a cool tool for thought. I’ve recently been playing around with the awesome (and already launched!) Muse App… It’s hard to imagine Apple isn’t aware of it, and will be interesting to see how Freeform compares.

I’m curious to try the new Running Form on Apple Watch, which will provide a few metrics: your vertical oscillation, stride length, and ground contact time. This seems like a really tricky task to get right; inferring all of this from a single sensor on your wrist is bound to be error prone, and the science on what constitutes a “good” running stride seems somewhat mixed in the first place.

It’s curious to see that Apple has not only completely redesigned the Home app, but has also reset their marketing. In today’s keynote, they positioned their Home strategy as being early days, they reminded users why they might want a smart home in the first place, and they oh-so-nobly took the stance of being happy to help the ecosystem evolve. I think this is a tacit acknowledgement that their home strategy has been a total mess to date and in need of a reset. Hopefully this complete redesign of the Home app is laying the groundwork for new hardware that works well with it too.

It’s very odd to me that Apple is keeping the 13” MacBook Pro in the lineup, and with the TouchBar no less! This is in addition to the 14” MacBook Pro. I don’t know why they would choose to do this… Is there some market segment that particularly likes this machine?

Notably missing: tvOS. Nary a mention.

Some Speculation

I recently explored some ideas around Apple’s rumored AR/VR headset, and how one killer use case might be watching movies in VR. I didn’t expect Apple to announce the headset today, but I did think they’d announce ARKit (and possibly some kind of new VRKit) features to help pave the way. Perhaps there will be updates to them shared in the developer sessions, and Apple will just quietly lay the groundwork before a large reveal whenever the headset is ready.

Is the new CarPlay a strategic retreat for Project Titan, from launching an entirely new autonomous car to “just” sticking a slick UI inside existing cars? Or is it the cusp of much more to come?

I was guessing that Apple would announce the new Mac Pro today. In the previous “Peek Performance” event when the new Mac Studio was unveiled, John Ternus teased how the Mac Pro is the one remaining machine to complete the Mac’s transition to Apple Silicon… but that it would have to wait for another day. Today seemed like it could be that day. The Mac Pro is first and foremost for developers and creative professionals, so WWDC is the perfect fit for releasing it. Maybe it’s not ready, maybe Apple doesn’t want to launch it amidst supply chain woes, or maybe there just wan’t enough time in this already crammed keynote to do its new architecture and industrial design justice.

  1. This feature must have been long in the works prior to the Studio Display Camera fiasco, but once that broke, Apple surely knew they’d just have to take the jokes around this feature on the chin. 

  2. Apple’s fine print says you can undo sent messages for up to 15 minutes, which means you can undo even after the recipient has viewed the message, for better and worse.