WWDC 2020 Event Recap

Hey everybody, Sage here, and welcome to our first *NEW* Tech Table episode that is NOT in the form of a video!

In this article, we’ll be recapping what happened during WWDC 2020, which was, in my opinion, one of the biggest WWDC presentations in recent years. A lot was announced during the presentation, so let’s just jump right to it!

Before we get started with this recap however, a few things to keep in mind:

  • I’ll be covering primarily the new software products that enticed me the most; I won’t be covering EVERY single detail that was announced.
  • This is the first all-digital WWDC (obviously due to the pandemic), so everything was pre-recorded. (In other words, Apple’s going the Nintendo Direct route.) Obviously, we won’t be going to full detail on the quality of the footage, because, all you need to say really is that they look cool, especially the panning shots throughout the Apple Campus.
  • Finally, all of the new software products from Apple, as usual, will receive a developer beta available on the same day of its announcement, followed by a public beta in July. Their official releases are, once again, scheduled for Fall 2020.

Anyways, without further ado, let’s get to the recap itself. (If you need to jump to a certain point in the article, these shortcut buttons below will help you.)

iOS 14

So let’s begin this recap with iOS 14, the 14th major release of Apple’s mobile operating system.

iOS14HomeScreen
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Home Screen

Now let’s face it, most of us have been through this before: Your iPhone home screen may be built fine for just the first two pages, but then you lose track of the rest afterwards.

Well, this is where we come to the first big feature of iOS 14: the App Library. It’s a separate page on the home screen that contains a list of all the apps available on your device, all neatly organized into different categories. The App Library page can be accessed by swiping past the last page of your normal home screen setup.

With the App Library, there’s no need for a cluster fudge of apps on many different pages; in fact, you can now hide app pages while customizing the home screen (aka jiggle mode), just by tapping the dots on the bottom, and choosing which app pages to hide or show.

In the App Library page, there’s a search field at the top, which when tapped on, gives you a list of all the apps you have installed, all sorted alphabetically.

As for the App Library categories themselves, there are several:

  • Suggestions, which uses on-device intelligence to show the user what apps they’ll most likely need next.
  • Recently Added, which displays the most recently installed apps.
  • Curated Categories, such as Social, Entertainment, and Creativity apps, as well as games from Apple Arcade.

Finally, each App Library category lists the most used apps at the top level, so you can just simply tap on one in that category to instantly launch it.

Another new part of the Home Screen are the redesigned widgets; they are now more data rich than ever, have different sizes, and you now have the ability to put them directly on the home screen from the Today view. You can also add new widgets to the Home Screen through a Widget gallery, accessible by tapping the “+” button on the top-left corner.

Sage’s Fun Fact: Widgets on the home screen aren’t anything new; Android has done this for years.

There’s also a new widget called the Smart Stack, which contains a set of widgets the user could swipe through, or (thanks to on-device intelligence) will automatically show the right widget for the user based on factors such as time, location, and activity.

iOS14SiriAndTranslate
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Siri and Translations

Siri got a new, more compact look in iOS 14: No longer does it obstruct the screen, but rather shows up as an animated icon at the bottom of the screen, with the results showing up at the top of the screen, all while not interrupting your session.

But it’s not just the UI that got some changes; Siri also adds new commands for finding answers to questions through the internet (Web Answers), as well as for sending an audio message.

There’s also a new app called Translate, Apple’s answer to Google Translate. This app allows you to not only translate conversations, using voice or text, in 11 different languages (such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese), but it can also be used offline.

iOS14Messages
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Messages

As we’ve already heard in the rumor mill, the Messages app got some new features: The first is pinned conversations, in which you can now pin up to 9 conversations or group chats; any recent messages, tapbacks, or typing indicators are shown animated in above the pin. Pinned group chats also have recent participants circling around the pin.

Memoji now has over 20 new hair and headwear styles to choose from, as well as some more age options. (And because we’re dealing with a pandemic here, face coverings were added to Memojis as well.) 3 new Memoji stickers were also added: Hug, Fish Bump, and Blush.

Finally, we come to the major enhancements made to group chats: The first are inline replies, which is where you can reply to a specific message in a group conversation, or view that specific conversation as its own thread. You could also now direct a message to a specific person by “mentioning” them. Finally, you could now set a group photo or emoji, and the users in that group surrounding it will grow larger, depending on how active they are.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Maps

Earlier in 2020, Apple had finished rolling out its more rich, rebuilt maps to the entire United States, and starting later in 2020, would be rolling out these rebuilt maps in more countries, such as the UK, Ireland, and Canada.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about: We’re here to talk about the new features of the Maps app in iOS 14, so let’s take a look:

The first are curated Guides, where you can get recommendations for places to eat, shop, explore, etc. You can save them for later, and they’re automatically updated whenever new places are added.

Another new feature in Maps is support for Cycling, allowing you to get directions to anywhere using your bike. While Google Maps already offers cycling directions, Apple is taking it a step further, as the directions will also take elevations into account, as well as whether or not the roads are busy. You also have options to skip steep inclines or stairs.

The cycling feature will initially be available in US cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and in China cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

For electric car users, the Maps app now has integration for EV routing, so the app will automatically account for the current charge in your electric car, and add compatible charging stops to your route.

Finally, the Maps app will now include congestion zones, so you can see how congested a city is before entering it.

iOS14AppStore
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

App Clips

iOS 14 introduces App Clips, a small, lightweight part of an app (less than 10 MB) that can be accessed through either Messages, Maps, or Safari, as well as through NFC tags, QR codes, or Apple-designed App Clip codes.

Once an App Clip is found, it’ll pop up at the bottom of the screen, where you can open the App Clip. (Any recently used App Clips can be accessed through the “Recently Added” category in the new App Library.)

App Clips also have integrated Apple Pay for easy payment, as well as Sign in with Apple for privacy-friendly login. Speaking of privacy…

Privacy

(This applies to all of Apple’s software products, so I won’t have to constantly bring them up again.)

On the privacy side, iOS 14 now allows the user to upgrade their account to “Sign in with Apple”. There’s also a new setting to share the approximate location rather than the exact location (useful for weather apps), a light indicator in the status bar letting you know if an app is using your microphone or camera (which as always, requires permission first), and the user could now control how the app tracks them. Finally, the App Store now provides privacy policy summaries (similar to Nutrition Facts) for each app before one is downloaded.

Home

(This applies to all of Apple’s software products, so I won’t have to constantly bring them up again.)

The Home app got some enhancements in iOS 14:

  • After initially setting up a HomeKit device, the app will now suggest some useful automations.
  • A new visual status was added at the top of the Home app, meant for HomeKit devices that need prioritizing.
  • The Home app has more controls for certain HomeKit accessories, such as smart bulbs, which now have support for Adaptive Lighting, so a smart bulb could change color throughout the day or night automatically.
  • For HomeKit cameras, users can now define activity zones, allowing them to focus on the more important areas. The cameras also now support face recognition, so they can detect who’s at the door based on the tags from photos in the Photos app, and any of your iDevices (including the HomePod) can notify the user of who’s at the door.
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Other Features

Before we wrap up the iOS 14 portion, let me go over some of the other features:

  • Picture-in-Picture has been brought to iPhone, so you can go into other apps while you’re watching a video or talking to someone in a FaceTime call. The picture can be dragged to other parts of the screen or resized; it can also be hidden just by swiping it to the side, but the audio will continue to play off-screen. The picture also has on-screen controls for video so you can enter full-screen, rewind, fast-forward, or pause. Finally, you can tap the “X” on the top-left corner to close the picture.
  • CarPlay adds new wallpaper options and support for new app categories, such as parking, EV charging, and quick food ordering. The biggest feature however is in the Wallet app: Digital car keys, driven by NFC. Yes, you now have the ability to unlock and start your car with your iPhone; not only does Apple claim it to be secure, but if it goes missing, you can always turn off the digital car keys via iCloud. And much like with sharing physical keys, you can share digital keys to friends or family through the Messages app, and it even includes options like a restricted driving profile. The first car to support this feature would be the 2021 BMW 5 Series, and this functionality will also be available in a future iOS 13 update.
  • Call notifications are now compact, so it no longer obstructs the current session; it also works with third-party VoIP apps, such as Skype.
  • Previously, the default email and web browser were the built-in Mail and Safari respectively; well, in iOS 14, you can now set your default email and web browser to any approved third-party email and browser app of your choice, such as Gmail and Chrome. (It might’ve been due to government pressure, similar to the US v. Microsoft case which forced a similar feature to be added in Windows XP Service Pack 1.)

(The final two features relate to the AirPods, and applies to all of Apple’s software products, so I won’t have to constantly bring them up again.)

  • AirPods can now automatically switch between the user’s iDevices paired with that user’s iCloud account. (So for example, if you’re watching, say, a movie on an iPad, and a phone call comes in on your iPhone, the AirPods will automatically switch to the latter.)
  • AirPods Pro gains spatial audio support with dynamic head tracking, allowing the user to listen to surround sound (5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos) on-the-go.

And that about wraps up most of the new features of iOS 14. Overall, it’s a pretty big release in terms of features, and was definitely one of the major highlights of WWDC 2020.

Now of course, there’s only one question left to answer: What about compatibility?

Well, the good news is that no devices are getting dropped with this release: All of the devices that can run iOS 13 should be able to run iOS 14 just fine; this includes the iPhone 6S, the iPhone SE (1st generation), and the iPhone 7.

iPadOS14
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

iPadOS 14

Now let’s move onto iPadOS 14, which has some new features designed specifically for the iPad.

iPadOS 14 includes pretty much everything that iOS 14 has, including the new widgets and the compact Siri interface, which is now on the bottom-right corner of the screen.

But as stated before, there are also some new iPad-exclusive features in iPadOS 14…

iPadOS14AppDesign
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

App Design Enhancements

The app interfaces were made more streamlined in iOS 14: A new sidebar with drag-and-drop functionality was added to a number of iPad apps, including Photos, Notes, Files, and Music. (Speaking of which, the Music app was also updated with full-screen lyrics.) The toolbars in the Files and Calendar apps were also made more streamlined.

iPadOS14Search
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Universal Search

Search was redesigned completely in iPadOS 14: Much like with Siri, it is more compact, and it can also be brought up in any app, not just the home screen.

But the biggest change is that search is now more universal; this means you can search for things like contacts, messages, mail, web searches, apps, etc. all in one place, with search suggestions also provided. (In other words, Spotlight for iPad.)

iPadOS14Scribble
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Scribble

The biggest feature of iPadOS 14 however are the major improvements to Apple Pencil support. The first is Scribble, where it converts the handwritten text drawn with Apple Pencil into standard text. (A similar function to that of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, released 18 years earlier.) Not only that, but you can also delete text by simply scratching it, and if you want to select text, just simply circle it.

Handwriting recognition was also improved:

  • When you draw a standard shape into the iPad, if you hold it at the end for a bit, it’ll automatically convert into a professional-looking shape.
  • You can now select handwritten text (all while avoiding the drawings surrounding it), change the color of it, ,and even copy handwritten text as standard text, which is quite cool.
  • The handwriting recognition also detects multiple languages (such as Chinese), as well as phone numbers and addresses.

So that covers pretty much most of the major features in iPadOS 14. Overall, it’s a pretty decent release, especially with the improved handwriting features.

Also, much like with iOS 14, it supports the same devices that run iPadOS 13; this includes the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 4.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

watchOS 7

Let’s move onto watchOS 7 next.

Now at least half of the features in watchOS 7 primarily focuses on health, while some of the other half are imported from iOS 14, such as Cycling from Maps, translations, etc. However, there are some new features made exclusively for the watch…

Watch Faces

Much like with the home screen in iOS 14, watch faces are getting more customizable than ever in watchOS 7. Watch faces can now have multiple complications per app, so you can create, say, a surf watch, where there are multiple complications for wind speed, swell size, and water temperature.

Some new watch faces also were added to take advantage of this: A Chronograph Pro watch face with richer complications, as well as an updated Extra Large watch face. Watch faces can also be customized with different color filters, as well as a whole range of complications to choose from.

After you’ve created your watch face, you may want to share it with others: Well, that’s where Face Sharing comes in: You can now install custom watch faces not only from the App Store, but also on websites, and you can even receive custom watch faces from friends and family through Messages or Mail.

It’s also pretty easy to share a custom watch face; long press on the face, tap the Share button, select a contact to send it to, and you’re good to go; you can even share custom watch faces on social media.

Workout and Fitness

Some new workout types were added to the Workout app, including Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and Cooldown. But those are nowhere near as interesting than the new Dance workout. Using advanced sensor fusion (which combines data from the accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as heart rate data), it’ll automatically detect what type of dance you’re doing, whether it’d be Hip-Hop, Latin, or Bollywood.

The Activity app, used to track your workouts, was also completely redesigned, and has now been renamed to Fitness.

watchOS7Sleep
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Sleep App

Another big feature in watchOS 7 is a new Sleep app. This allows the user to keep track of their sleep, as well as be reminded of when to go to bed and when to wake up.

Here’s how this Sleep process works:

  • First thing you do is set up a schedule of when to go to bed and when to go to sleep.
  • Next, comes Wind Down, which is where you can set up a bedtime routine before you go to bed; not only will your phone automatically go into a “calmer” lock screen experience, but will also turn on Do Not Disturb. You can also set up shortcuts as part of your bedtime routine, such as setting an alarm and playing calm music.
  • Once bedtime begins, your watch will go into a Sleep Mode, which essentially dims the screen and brings up a simple alarm clock screen when you tap on it. (See picture above)
  • When it comes time to wake up, your watch will sound a wake-up alarm, whether it’s a gentle one or a silent Taptic-only one.
  • Finally, once you’re up, you’ll be greeted with a morning screen, consisting of the time, battery level, and weather.

During the process, the watch will track your sleep using advanced machine-learning and motion technology that detects the signals of when you’re awake and when you’re asleep. A Sleep chart can be seen on both the watch and the phone, showing how much time you’ve slept. Some of the sleep features (Sleep Schedules, Wind Down, and Sleep Mode) even work in the Health app in iOS 14, without the need of a watch.

Hand Washing

The final big feature in watchOS 7 is handwashing detection, something more relevant than ever thanks to the pandemic.

When you start washing your hands, the Watch will detect it using the motion sensors and microphone, and will start a 20-second countdown timer, letting you know how long you should wash your hands; it even encourages you to keep washing if you stopped early.

So that’s about it for watchOS 7. Overall, it’s a pretty interesting release for users of the Apple Watch.

Unlike the previous watchOS releases, watchOS 7 will only run on the Series 3 or later, meaning that it will drop support for the Series 1 and 2 watches, effectively rendering them obsolete in the near-future.

tvOS 14

Now, let’s move onto some tvOS news. There’s not much to talk about regarding tvOS 14, so I’ll briefly go over some of the new features:

  • First off, Apple Arcade can now support multiple users, so each user profile will have a different gaming experience. It also now supports two Xbox controllers: the Elite 2 and Adaptive controllers.
  • Picture-in-Picture, introduced in tvOS 13 through the Apple TV app, has now been extended across the system. This means you can now watch the news while you’re watching a workout video in another app.
  • YouTube videos and videos shared through AirPlay from their iDevice can now be viewed in their full 4K resolution.
  • Finally, the new HomeKit camera features, introduced in iOS 14, have now extended to tvOS, allowing the user to receive a live view of the camera whenever, let’s say, somebody rings the bell. It also supports Siri, and you have the ability to take the camera view full-screen.

But there’s also another aspect of Apple TV that we should probably bring up as well…

Apple TV+ Update

Now you’ve already heard me talk about Apple TV+ before: three times in fact.

However, there’s not much to really talk about regarding Apple TV+ from a technical standpoint here. The only update we got is that the service will be coming to Sony and Vizio Smart TVs later in the Summer of 2020, and…that’s it.

However…

AppleTVPlusFoundation
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Apple announced a new original sci-fi drama series based on the novels by Isaac Asimov: Foundation, produced by Skydance Television, and is scheduled for a 2021 release.

According to the Apple TV+ Press Release, Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire. (The last two words sounds like something out of Star Wars.)

The show is going to star a cast of characters, including Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell, Leah Harvey, Laura Birn, Terrence Mann, and Cassian Bilton.

It is also to be primarily executive produced by David S. Goyer, who did some screenwriting work on various superhero movies, including the Blade trilogy, the Dark Knight trilogy, and even films by Zack Snyder, such as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Robyn Asimov, the daughter of Issac Asimov, is also said to be involved in the making of the show.

So that about wraps up the TV side of things, taking us to the next BIG announcement…

macOS11
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

macOS 11 “Big Sur”

Now when we first heard the rumors of macOS Big Sur, I (and probably a lot of other people) didn’t know what the codename of it was, nor did we have any idea that Apple was completely ditching the decimal version number pattern that had been in place since Mac OS X’s introduction in 2001.

Well, now here we are: macOS has finally jumped to version 11, with Big Sur.

And with Big Sur, comes big features…

All-New Design

macOS Big Sur has an all-new desktop design, mostly inspired by those of iOS and iPadOS:

  • The dock got a new look (similar to that of iPadOS), with the icons more streamlined to be similar to that of iOS, while also keeping some of the Mac’s design.
  • The app interface for all of the Mac apps are more streamlined (similar to that of iPadOS), and has a new set of icons to meet that of iOS, while also keeping the Mac’s “look and feel”.
  • The menu bar and menu layout are now more translucent; the menu bar text in particular is now always white. The menu controls on the right (such as Sound and Wi-Fi) have also been reworked so they’re more useful.

Some of the apps got major overhauls in macOS Big Sur:

  • The Finder, Photos, and Notes apps all got new streamlined sidebars and toolbars, introduced in iPadOS. (The Finder in particular looks oddly similar to the Files app on the iPad. Hmm…)
  • The Mail app finally has a brand new icon, almost 19 years after the original made its debut; it also has the new sidebar and toolbar.
  • The Maps app got a redesign in macOS Big Sur; it’s essentially similar to the iOS version, and even has all the same features, including guides, cycling directions, etc.
  • The Podcasts and Music apps now have the new sidebars, as well as a new Listen Now pane (also available in iOS 14).
  • A new version of iWork was also announced, with a new simplified toolbar being one of the key features.
macOS11CtrlCenter
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Control Center

Control Center has finally been brought to the Mac. Just like in iOS, Control Center allows the user to get into all of their controls in one menu, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, AirPlay, Display brightness, Sound, and more; you can even click on one of them to get more on that particular control.

The new Control Center also allows for a new feature: The ability to customize the statuses in the menu bar very easily. All you have to do is drag a control from the Control Center to the menu bar, and that’s it.

macOS11NotifCenter
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Notification Center

Notification Center got a major redesign in macOS Big Sur: It now looks similar to that of iOS, and even includes the new widgets. (You can even customize what widgets you want in the Notification Center.) It is also now accessible by clicking on the time menu, instead of a dedicated Notification Center button.

macOS11Messages
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Catalyst Messages

Messages got a major overhaul in macOS Big Sur: It is now more in-line with the iOS version, thanks to the Mac Catalyst APIs.

With a catalyst version of Messages, it gains features from the iOS version: new search, a new photo picker, Memoji stickers, Messages effects, and much more. It also has the new Messages features from iOS 14, including pinned conversations and the group chat enhancements that I mentioned earlier.

macOS11Safari
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Safari

Finally, we come to Safari, which received a massive update in macOS Big Sur:

  • As usual, the new Safari has some performance enhancements, so pages should load faster. (According to Apple, 50% faster than Chrome in terms of loading frequently visited webpages.)
  • The new Safari is also taking the privacy stuff further, with a new feature called Privacy Report, which allows the user to identify which trackers were blocked. (This tracking identification is provided by DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine.)
  • Safari now securely monitors any saved passwords, ensuring they aren’t compromised in a data breach.
  • Extensions got a massive overhaul in the new Safari: They now support the WebExtensions API, so it’ll be easy for developers to port their extensions designed for other browsers over to Safari. As well as that, there is now a new Extensions category on the Mac App Store. The extensions also have some features regarding privacy; you can choose which sites each extension can work with, asking you for permission before using it; options include for one day, to always allow on one particular website, and to always allow on every website.
  • You can now customize the start page on Safari (something Chrome already had for quite some time) with any photo of your choice, or you can customize which sections you want on the start page, such as the Reading List or Frequently Visited.
  • Finally, Tabs were improved in Safari; they now have favicons (finally), and you can hover over them for a page preview.

Other Features

Most of the other features in macOS Big Sur also apply to iOS 14, such as a collapsible pinned section in Notes, webpage translations in 7 different languages (including Spanish, French, German, etc.) in Safari, and sign language prominence in FaceTime.

As for compatibility, well…if you own a 2012 Mac, you’re out of luck: macOS Big Sur drops support for all of them, and then some: All the 2013 iMacs, and the Early 2013 MacBook Pros as well.

Aside from that however, all the other systems that can run Catalina (such as the 2015 MacBook, the iMac Pro, and the 2013 Mac Pro), should be able to run Big Sur.

So that about wraps up macOS Big Sur. Overall, it’s a pretty massive release, and definitely another big highlight of WWDC 2020, but it also marks the end of an era for the Mac operating system. (That being Mac OS X.)

Now normally, this is where we would conclude this recap, but if you’ve read the rumors (like I did), you know we’re not quite done yet…

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Apple Silicon

Now THIS was the main highlight of WWDC 2020, and probably what made it the biggest WWDC in recent years. Before we get onto the subject however, let me give you a brief history of architecture transitions

Now on the Windows side, you’ve got x86_16 to x86_32, which began in 1987 with the introduction of Windows 2.0, and ended in 1995, when Windows 95 dropped support for the x86_16 architecture completely.

There was also a second transition: From x86_32 to x86_64, which (theoretically) started in around 2005 when Windows was ported to x86_64; that transition would end when Windows 10 stopped offering 32-bit versions in May of 2020.

On the Apple side however, there were 3 architecture transitions:

  1. Apple II to Mac (6502 to 68K) – Began in 1984 with the introduction of the Macintosh, and ended in 1993 when the Apple II was finally discontinued.
  2. 68K to PowerPC – Began in 1994 with the introduction of the Power Macintosh lineup, and ended in 1996 when the last 68K Mac was discontinued; software support would continue for the next few years afterwards.
  3. PowerPC to Intel – Began in 2005 when the transition was announced to developers. The first Intel-based Macs started shipping in January of 2006, and the transition officially ended when Apple introduced the Intel-based Mac Pro and Xserve systems; software support would continue for the next several years afterwards. (Mac OS X dropped native support for PowerPC starting with Snow Leopard in 2009, and Mac OS X Lion would drop support for PowerPC software completely in 2011.)

Now, there will be a 4th architecture transition for the Mac: Intel to Apple Silicon, the latter being the same architecture (ARM64) used in both the iPhone and iPad; this would bring the Mac in-line with the rest of Apple’s product line, at least architecture-wise.

So let’s take a brief look at Apple Silicon, shall we?

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Now when Apple switched to Intel from PowerPC back in 2005, one of the main reasons for the switch was because of one thing: Power consumption. Compared to the PowerPC G4 and G5, the Intel Core Duo (at the time) could deliver better performance per watt, especially on notebook systems.

Well, one of the main goals for the Apple Silicon transition is indeed to achieve low power consumption, while also delivering better performance. (Competition when it comes to performance is usually a good thing, especially with the AMD vs. Intel rivalry currently going on.)

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Now there are some hardware advantages in Apple Silicon compared to the x86 architecture: Some of these Apple mentioned include Advanced Power Management (supposedly giving the Mac better performance and battery life), a Secure Enclave (supposedly giving the Mac better security), a high-performance GPU (giving the Mac much better integrated graphics than, say, Intel’s integrated graphics), and of course, the Neutral Engine and its machine learning technology. The switch would also allow Apple more control over its hardware, as well as having to no longer adhere to Intel’s release schedule.

Now I know there will be some questions regarding compatibility, so here are some of the frequently asked questions I know our readers will be asking:

How will apps run natively on Apple Silicon?

Just like with the PowerPC to Intel transition, there will be a Universal Binary 2, where developers can enable their apps to run natively on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

All of Apple’s apps for macOS Big Sur (including pro apps such as Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro), have all been recompiled to run natively on both Intel and Apple Silicon. To demonstrate the power of Apple Silicon, they ran Final Cut Pro on a development platform (a Mac with an Apple A12Z Bionic, the same SoC used on the iPad Pro), where it could do up to 3 streams of 4K at once.

At the time of its announcement, third-party developers such as Microsoft and Adobe have already made their Office and Creative Cloud suite respectively available as a Universal Binary, so it should work on both Intel and Apple Silicon on day one.

What if an app isn’t ready for Apple Silicon?

Much like with the PowerPC to Intel transition, any apps that aren’t native for Apple Silicon will still run under Rosetta 2, an emulation layer which translates the x86 code into that of Apple Silicon. Software such as Maya 3D and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, both of which were designed for Intel-based Macs, were demonstrated to show off what it would be like to run these kinds of apps on top of Apple Silicon.

However, not all Intel-based apps will make the cut under Rosetta 2. For example, current versions of virtualization apps such as VMware and Parallels that depend on x86 hardware won’t work.

Speaking of which…

What about virtualization?

Apple showed off Debian Linux (presumingly the ARM version) running under Parallels Desktop on Apple Silicon, and performance-wise, it seems to be better than expected. So while virtualization will still be a thing on the Mac, there are a couple of catches:

  1. Since Apple Silicon is based on the ARM64 architecture, it’ll only virtualize operating systems designed for ARM, leaving x86 virtualization impossible, unless it can be emulated. (So it’ll be sort of like back in the PowerPC days with Microsoft Virtual PC if anyone remembers it.) While some companies such as Parallels are already working on Apple Silicon-based versions of their software, some unfortunately won’t make the cut: VirtualBox, an open-source VM program, have already confirmed that it won’t be ported to Apple Silicon.
  2. Obviously, because of the Apple Silicon transition, it will mark the death of Boot Camp, which allowed Mac users to run Windows natively on a Mac. (It was also one of the selling points of getting an Intel-based Mac back then.) So, when the transition does come to an end, you’ll have to say goodbye to your native multi-boot configuration of macOS, Windows, and Linux.

Are there any compatibility benefits to using Apple Silicon?

Yes, there is one in fact. Because they run on the same architecture, the ability to run iOS apps natively on a Mac is now possible. This opens up the gates to hundreds of thousands of applications that would’ve only been accessible on iPhone and iPad previously, including the tons of mobile games out there.

So hopefully that answers the questions involving compatibility.

The first Mac with Apple Silicon is expected to be available near the end of 2020, with the transition (supposedly) going to last for 2 years. During this time, new Intel-based Macs will still be introduced, with support to continue for “years to come”.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

During the transition, developers are being sent a “Developer Transition Kit” in the form of a Mac Mini (Late 2018) enclosure with an Apple A12Z Bionic chip, 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 512GB SSD, and a developer beta of macOS Big Sur. The kit has a leased fee of $500 USD for those who are part of the program, and are approved to get their hands on one; the main purpose of this kit (much like with the previous DTK during the Intel transition) is to recompile and test out apps so they run natively on Apple Silicon.

Final Verdict

So that about wraps up our recap of WWDC 2020. Overall, it was pretty good. It was definitely better than the previous WWDC’s in terms of quality, but interest in the products is a different animal: The biggest highlights of WWDC 2020 were iOS 14, macOS Big Sur, and of course, the Apple Silicon transition.

Sage’s Fun Fact: The last time an architecture transition was announced, there were barely any new software announcements, aside from a teaser of Mac OS X Leopard.

iOS 14 looks like another decent iOS release, but macOS Big Sur, while interesting to look at, barely has any features that would make me want to upgrade to it on day one. The Apple Silicon-based Macs though…I don’t know, I may want to get one myself in the near future after seeing the benefits of it.

So anyways, that about wraps up this Tech Table episode; as always, stick around for more (both on our website and YouTube channel), and we’ll see you all next time. Take care. 😉

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