WWDC 2017 Event Recap

NOTICE AS OF 6/1/2020: This is a revised edition of the WWDC 2017 Event Recap video that we did years ago. For the website, we decided to convert it into an article only, along with adding some tidbits here and there to make it a bit more of an interesting read. Hope you guys enjoy this as we continue to make more content for both our website and YouTube channel. 😉

Introduction

What’s going on everybody, Sage here, and today we’re here to recap WWDC 2017. The Keynote has ended, and as usual, I took a bunch of notes.

Like with the other recaps, I’m going to be talking about the stuff that enticed me, as well as some that I could care less about, but some of you may otherwise.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

The APPocalypse

So the presentation starts off with a pre-show video showing what would happen if someone unplugged the App Store servers, and we lived in a world where every app on that person’s iDevice suddenly disappeared without a trace due to this. (Honestly, I could see that happening if the tech world got too Orwellian.)

Basically, it’s an apocalypse—oh sorry, an APPocalypse, complete with vehicle crashes, explosions, people arguing, literally making apps real-life places, and it even has a Game Grumps cameo.

Now to be fair, the video does have some creative ideas in it, but by far the creepiest one was the Face Swap, where it depicts a husband and wife literally undergoing a face swap at a plastic surgery center, and the final result is so terrifying, it’ll most likely haunt your dreams.

FaceSwapMeme
*This image is very cursed, so we put a blur on it by default unless you don't plan on sleeping tonight.*

Afterwards, Tim Cook comes up on-stage to talk about tvOS briefly, with the only major announcement being Amazon Prime video coming to tvOS.

watchOS4
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

watchOS 4

The next thing Apple announced was watchOS version 4.

This update added some new watch faces: a Siri watch face, a Kaleidoscope watch face, and three Toy Story-themed watch faces, featuring Woody, Jessie, and Buzz Lightyear.

There’s also an enhanced workout app, and a redesigned music app, which automatically syncs your music based on what you love, and supports multiple playlists, including album art and playlist images. Other features consist of a new flashlight in the Control Center, and you could now auto-rotate the screen.

A developer preview was available on the day of its announcement, with the free upgrade made available in the Fall.

macOS10.13HighSierra
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

macOS 10.13 “High Sierra”

Now let’s move on to another set of big announcements: the Mac. And to kick things off, we have the next major release of the macOS, version 10.13 “High Sierra”.

One of the new features in this release was Autoplay Blocking, incorporated into the Safari web browser: If you’re trying to read a news article and a video with audio attempts to play, the browser will prevent that video from playing automatically. This option can be toggled in the browser settings.

Safari also has Intelligent Tracking Prevention, where it uses machine learning to identify trackers and segregate the cross-site scripting data, protecting your privacy.

The Mail app now has a full screen split view for composing messages, and the Photos app has new organization and editing tools; the latter even supports external editors such as Photoshop. Going back to the former, on the imports page, you can now view your recent imports in chronological order, and in any page, you can filter any photos by favorites, etc.

But the biggest feature in macOS High Sierra was the new Apple File System (APFS), replacing HFS Plus as the default file system. It’s optimized for flash storage and copies files faster. (For example, when you’re duplicating videos, it takes a while on HFS+, but on the Apple File System, you just duplicate the video files, and you’re done.)

Now since High Sierra will default to APFS, it’ll require the user to convert their file system before installation, regardless of what type of storage drive you have.

In terms of video encoding, High Sierra supports H.265, also known as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), and there are two different ways of encoding it: Through a built-in software encoder for older macs, and if you use a more recent Mac (such as a Late 2015 27-inch iMac or a 2016 MacBook Pro), through hardware acceleration.

macOS High Sierra also supports a new graphics API called Metal 2, an updated version of Metal that contains optimizations and other improvements. One notable thing about Metal 2 though is that it now supports external graphics, and at the time of its announcement, a developer kit was made available through Apple, priced at $599 USD: This developer kit included an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU and a USB-C hub in a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.

Another notable thing about Metal 2 is support for VR, so if you are looking forward to virtual reality on the Mac (for the few people that use it), there you go. As a result, Final Cut Pro added VR support for 360° videos, and game engines such as SteamVR (which just recently ended support for Mac as of May 1st, 2020), Unity VR, and Unreal Engine VR would also support the Mac, following the release of High Sierra.

And that’s pretty much all of the key features in macOS High Sierra; it’s mostly a technology release, with a couple of new features thrown in, much like with Snow Leopard.

The developer beta was made available on the day of its announcement, with a public beta made available in late June. And as with the other recent releases, the full release was made available for free during the Fall. (It would be released on September 25th, 2017.)

2017Macs
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

2017 Mac Refreshes and the iMac Pro

Now let’s move on to the Mac refreshes, starting off wth the new iMac models: They now have Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, which were first introduced back in 2016. It also now supports up to 32 GB of RAM for the 21.5-inch model, and up to 64 GB of RAM for the 27-inch model. The Fusion Drive (a flash storage/hard drive combo drive), which debuted with the late 2012 iMacs, was now made standard on all of the 27-inch models, and on the high end of the 21.5-inch models. The 2017 iMacs could also support up to 2 TB of flash storage.

The 2017 iMacs also have 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports (which are all shaped like USB-C), along with 4 USB 3 Type-A ports, which thank god they kept for those who rely on Type-A stuff still; so at least you don’t have to throw your money towards dongles…for now.

In terms of graphics, the non-4K 21.5-inch iMac has integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, which Apple claims is 80% faster than the previous generation. The 4K 21.5-inch iMac however uses discrete graphics: Either an AMD Radeon Pro 555 or an AMD Radeon Pro 560, with up to 4 GB of video RAM supported. Finally, the 5K 27-inch iMac uses either an AMD Radeon Pro 570, 575 or 580, with up to 8 GB of video RAM supported.

And now we come to the pricing: the 2017 non-4K 21.5-inch model starts at $1,099 USD, the 2017 4K 21.5-inch model starts at $1,299 USD, and the 5K 27-inch model starts at $1,799 USD. All models were made available on the day of its announcement.

The MacBooks also received updates, with Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, updated specs, and of course, a price change to the 13-inch non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro, now starting at $1,299 USD. This inevitably put it in direct competition with the clearly inferior 12-inch MacBook, in terms of performance and screen size; and that also starts at $1,299 USD. (Seriously Apple, what were you thinking…)

Overall, the 2017 iMac models were a pretty decent hardware upgrade, but we kind of saw that coming already; the same went with the MacBooks.

But that’s not all on the Mac side of things… A brand new model for the Mac was also announced that same day…the iMac Pro.

iMacPro
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Now the iMac Pro is a really beasty machine: It only comes in space gray, so you know it’s for the pros. But the outrageously powerful specs are what’s the main focus of this machine.

In terms of the main processor, the iMac Pro starts with an 8-core Intel Xeon, with 10-core and up to an 18-core configuration offered. Mind blown.

In terms of display, it uses the same size and resolution as the 27-inch iMac, but when it comes to discrete graphics, it uses AMD Radeon Vega graphics, with up to 16 GB of video RAM supported, offering up to 11 teraflops of single precision computation, and up to 22 teraflops of half-precision computation.

In terms of memory and storage, the iMac Pro can be configured up to 128 GB of ECC memory, and up to a 4 TB of flash storage. Both are unfortunately not upgradable out of the box.

With these specs, Apple claims that the iMac Pro is the most powerful Mac ever…until that modular Mac Pro comes out a couple years later.

In terms of connectivity, it uses similar ports to that of the 2017 iMac models, albeit with 2 additional Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, a 10 Gb/s Ethernet port, and a UHS-II SDXC card slot.

Other features include a 1080p FaceTime camera, a user customizable VESA mount option, and probably the most infamous Apple didn’t mention: The T2 chip, which means the primary storage, while technically replaceable, is not entirely replaceable, as doing so would pretty much render it useless.

But what about price and availability? For the base 8-core model (which also has 32GB of RAM, Radeon Vega graphics with 8GB of VRAM, and a 1TB SSD), the iMac Pro starts at $4,999 USD, and began shipping in December, so the people who ordered this would’ve had to wait a while before they could get this all-in-one behemoth.

iOS11
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

iOS 11

Now let’s move on to the next big announcement: iOS 11.

One of the first major changes was an iMessage redesign, because of course they had to. The app drawer was redesigned so it makes it easier to use iMessage apps and stickers. Messages can also now be synced in the cloud across all user-owned iDevices. Apple Pay person-to-person payments are also integrated into Messages as an iMessage app, so you can send money using Messages.

Siri got a huge revamp in iOS 11: It has a new female and male voice, as well as a new visual interface. It’s also getting a translation feature (which was in beta at the time), so you can ask Siri to say, translate an English phrase to one of these languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more languages to come, such as Japanese. SiriKit API enhancements also adds support for more functions, such as QR codes, so developers can put them in their third-party apps. Finally, Siri has on-device learning, which is synced across all user-owned iDevices, with end-to-end encryption of course.

Next up are enhancements to the Camera app: You can not only record videos in HEVC, but also take photos in the HEIF (High Effiency Image Format) codec, which is basically HEVC, but for photos. Portrait Mode (for iPhone 7 Plus users) also got an enhancement: it now supports HDR, true tone flash, has improved image quality, optical image stabilization, and the Portrait Mode Depth feature (which was first implemented in iOS 10.1) is now accessible as an API to third-party developers, so they can implement it in their own apps, such as Facebook or Instagram.

The Photos app got a bit of an update in iOS 11: It can now identify more kinds of events, such as weddings and sports events, and it has better editing tools, much like in macOS High Sierra. It also brought enhancements to live photos, such as the ability to trim them, select a key photo in them, mute them, add effects to them, loop them, and even make them reverse. There’s also a long exposure feature added to live photos.

The Control Center was redesigned, making it customizable, and you can expand parts of it to reveal more settings, using the 3D Touch feature on some of the newer iPhones. The lock screen and the Notification Center have been merged into one screen; if you swipe down, you will now get a familar lock screen interface with notifications, and if you swipe up at this lock screen, you can scroll through past notifications.

The Apple Maps app also got some enhancements: There are now detailed floor plans for shopping malls and airports in some major cities, such as Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA. Apple Mapps will also display posted speed limits, has lane guidance (in which the app will tell you which lane to go to while you’re following the directions), and an optional feature called Do Not Disturb While Driving. (Basically, it turns off notifications to prevent distracted driving, and it activates when the car starts to move and the phone detects the vibration.)

And then we have AirPlay 2, the second version of AirPlay, which adds support for HomeKit, which in turn, now supports speakers. As a result, multi-room audio is supported, so you can control HomeKit speakers from multiple areas of the house.

Sage’s Fun Fact: AirPlay 2 was scheduled for iOS 11’s release, but it never happened; users had to wait almost another year for that feature to be available.

Also, while we’re on the topic of shared audio, there’s a new feature in the Apple Music app called Shared Up Next, where other people can add music to a shared playlist, without interrupting the current music playing.

And speaking of Apple Music, the app itself also got a couple of enhancements: You can now know what your friends are listening to, and there’s a new API called MusicKit, so developers can implement Apple Music into their apps.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

But by far the biggest feature of iOS 11 is the App Store: It was completely redesigned from the ground up in iOS 11, and no longer looks like the old one from years ago. There are new tabs at the bottom to navigate to:

  • Today: Dedicated to Today’s featured apps and games.
  • Games: Dedicated to just games, featured or not. It also has a section dedicated to featured in-app purchases.
  • Apps: Dedicated to pretty much everything non-games.

The new App Store also shows other things, such as stories about devs, how-to guides, and themed cards, such as the app of the day, game of the day, and the daily list.

Other features in iOS 11 consist of new technology implementations, such as Metal 2, a machine learning API called Core ML, and an augmented reality API called ARKit, so developers can use these functions in their apps, the latter particularly for games.

And that’s pretty much it for iOS 11. A developer preview was made available on the day of its announcement, with a public beta rolling out in late June. And much like with macOS, it was released in the Fall.

Sage’s Fun Fact: iOS 11 was also the first version to be 64-bit only, as it’ll only work with 64-bit iPhones (such as the iPhone 5S). It also will only launch 64-bit apps from thereon out, as compatibility with 32-bit iOS apps was dropped in this release as well.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

New iPad Pros and iOS 11 for iPad

Next up are the iPad Pros. A new 10.5-inch model was announced, replacing the previous generation 9.7-inch model. Despite the slightly larger screen size, it still weighs 1 pound (or approximately 0.45 kilograms) according to Apple. The screen size, also according to Apple, allows for the system to have a full-size onscreen keyboard, that supports more than 30 languages, including Japanese.

As for the display, the 2017 iPad Pros have a True Tone display, with wide color gamut and HDR support. It also has a refresh rate (which dynamically changes depending on the visual task being performed) of 120 Hz, double that of the previous generation. This allows for much smoother scrolling, and better support for Apple Pencil with a latency of only 20 milliseconds.

Specs-wise, the 2017 iPad Pros use an A10X Fusion with a 6-core CPU and a 12-core GPU. It also has a 12 megapixel rear-facing iSight camera that records 4K video, and a 7 megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera that records 1080p video and includes Retina flash. It also supports USB 3 for fast charging and faster data transfers. And much like with the other iPad models, it still retains its 10-hour battery life. These spec changes also apply to the 12.9-inch model, which also received an update.

As for pricing, the 2017 iPad Pro starts at $649 USD for the 10.5-inch model; the base storage was upgraded to 64 GB, double that of the previous generation. The updated 12.9-inch model starts at $799 USD. There’s also 256 and 512 GB storage capacities as well as LTE versions for both models; of course prices may vary.

Orders began on the same day of its announcement, and began shipping the following week.

iOS11iPad
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

But wait, there’s more! As it turns out, we weren’t done with iOS 11 just yet: the new release also has some iPad-exclusive features not available on iPhone.

One of these features is the Dock, similar to the one from macOS; you can summon it from the bottom in any app, and it makes multitasking a lot easier on the iPad; you simply drag the apps from the dock and make them either separate pop-up windows, or a split-screen view.

There’s also a new App Switcher that makes switching between apps on the iPad a lot easier. The ability to drag and drop and multi select images, text and/or URLs between apps has also been implemented, and the QuickType keyboard was improved, so accessing numbers or punctuation from a letter key is just a slight flick away.

There’s also a new app exclusive to the iPad, simply called Files. As you would expect, it’s a file manager that allows the user to manage user files. It also supports online storage services like iCloud Drive, DropBox, and Google Drive, among others.

Sage’s Fun Fact: Android has had a built-in file manager app for years. Even though there were third-party file managers for iOS through the App Store, we never got a built-in one until iOS 11 for iPad.

Other features include the ability to create a markup PDF or a screenshot (which can be taken using the sleep/wake and home buttons combined), searchable handwriting in Notes, markup in Mail, and a built-in document scanner in Notes, so you can take a picture of a document, and it will automatically scan it correctly to a digital format.

So that wraps up the iPad Pro stuff and (hopefully) the entirety of iOS 11.

HomePod
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

One More Thing…HomePod

Before we wrap up this recap however, we have one more product to cover: the HomePod.

Now you’ve probably heard rumors about Apple making an Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor, originally called the “Siri speaker”. Well, here it is: the rumors were indeed true.

So let’s talk about the HomePod. The design for it is…interesting to say the least. If you thought the Mac Pro “trash can” design was crazy enough, take a look at this… A lot of people compared it to a roll of string and to be honest…they weren’t wrong. But at least it is somewhat soft to touch, thanks to its outer fabric covering.

The HomePod come in two colors: Space Gray and White.

Hardware-wise, it is powered by Apple’s A8 chip, the same one used on the iPhone 6. It also has a very advanced speaker system, which include a six microphone array that listens in a 360-degree area, an Apple-designed woofer, spatial awareness, and beam-forming to direct sound.

Software-wise, it is designed to work with Apple Music, and it has Siri built-in. You can also use the “Hey Siri” command to activate Siri (a graphical waveform also shows up on top of the HomePod), much like you could similarly with Amazon’s Alexa. You can not only command it to play music, but you can also ask for the weather, the nearest restaurant, turn on the air-conditioning via HomeKit, pretty much anything that works with Siri normally. Oh, and to be sure Apple really cares about privacy, all communication between the HomePod and the user are encrypted.

The HomePod starts at $349 USD, and much like the iMac Pro, was to begin shipping in December of 2017, in the US, UK, and Australia. However, it ended up being pushed back to early 2018, before finally being released on February 9th, 2018.

Conclusion

And that’s pretty much it for WWDC 2017. Overall, I thought the presentation was…okay.

If I was asked what the best part of the presentation was, it would probably have to be the iMac Pro. That thing looks like it kicks arse, both design and specs-wise. Despite it being rather expensive (as most pro-focused Macs are), the fact they could fit an 18-core monster inside of a rather thin all-in-one design boggles my mind. For me, it was a rather unexpected surprise (probably because I didn’t bother reading rumors about it at the time), and this wasn’t even pulled as a “One More Thing”.

And if I was asked what my least favorite part of the presentation was…it would probably be the HomePod, mainly because lot of the stuff they talked about didn’t really entice me that much.

So that’s all I have to say regarding WWDC 2017, concluding this recap. Hope you guys enjoyed this read, and as always I will see you all next time. Peace. 😉

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