SAN FRANCISCO — Apple unleashed a smorgasbord of new announcements on the world this morning at the opening keynote for its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. While the full, two-hour-long keynote holds a bunch of insights about what’s in Apple’s future, it was a lot to sift through. So here are the top 5 items that we consider worth knowing.
New operating systems for the Mac, iPhone and iPad
The marquee announcements today centered around iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, major updates to Apple’s operating systems for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Yosemite brought a major visual overhaul to the Mac, complete with more translucent user interface elements and a change to the system font.
Yosemite also includes a new “Mail Drop” service that allows users to send large attachments up to 5 GB in size over iCloud and circumvent email providers’ limits on attachment size. A Mac user on the other side of the conversation won’t have to know they were sent an attachment using the service, either: attachments sent with Mail Drop are designed to behave exactly the same as other types of attachments that OS X’s Mail app handles. Non-Mac users will be offered a link to download the attachment for themselves.
The changes in iOS 8 aren’t nearly as radical, but bring a number of welcome changes to Apple’s mobile OS. Families can now share apps and media among themselves with Apple’s new Family Sharing service, and parents can require their kids get parental approval before purchasing anything on their iDevice.
Users of the Messages app got the ability to send video and voice messages to their friends, as well as the ability to better manage multi-user conversations.
Developers will get access to beta versions this week, while normal users will get the updates this fall. People interested in getting early access to OS X Yosemite can sign up for Apple’s beta seed program, and get a hold of it later this summer.
Better integration between all of Apple’s devices
One of the major areas of focus was a renewed push for greater integration between the iPhone, iPad and Mac. iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will bring users a number of ways to connect the device in their pocket with the device on their desk.
A feature called Handoff allows users to seamlessly keep working across all of their nearby devices. If someone is composing an email on their iPhone on their way back to their Mac, they’ll be able to pull up the Mail app on their computer and grab the message in progress from their phone. By the same token, someone could open a Numbers spreadsheet from their Mac on an iPad to bring it with them to a meeting.
Users who have Macs running OS X Yosemite will also get a notification from their iPhone whenever a new phone call comes in. If they want, they can also choose to accept the call, and use their Mac as a speakerphone, even if their phone is across the room, or left behind in their bag.
Never leave a photo behind
With iOS 8, users will be able to choose to back up all their photos to iCloud in full resolution. To match that capability, the iOS 8 Photos app is built to view photos saved in the cloud as well as those stored on a user’s device, so it’s possible for people to delete old pictures without losing them forever
While it will cost users to store more than 5 GB of photos in Apple’s cloud, the company announced new pricing today that offers users 20 GB of iCloud storage for 99 cents a month, and 200 GB of storage for $3.99 a month. It’s not cheap, but it will give shutterbugs some peace of mind knowing their precious snaps are safe.
Users can now bring their own software keyboards
I’ve gotten fairly quick at typing messages up using the iPhone keyboard over my past 5 years of iPhone use. But in that time, other companies have been developing a variety of new tools for thumb-based typing.
Apple announced its new SmartKey keyboard for iOS 8 today, which will offer users word suggestions as they’re typing, but people who would prefer a different typing experience can also choose a third-party keyboard. Possible options include Swype, Nuance’s popular keyboard which allows users to type words by swiping their finger across the keys.
Security-conscious typists can rest easy with the new feature, too. By default, new keyboards will be blocked from connecting to the Internet, and will only have network access if users opt in to it.
Cool new tools for developers
Developers got a number of great new tools from today’s release, including a new programming language named Swift, which they can use to develop apps for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. The language comes with a number of benefits, including a design that’s supposed to prevent a number of common programming errors from ever occurring in the first place.
In addition, Apple launched 4,000 new APIs for iOS in the update announced today. Developers will get access to a number of features they’ve been clamoring for, including Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor and tools that allow developers to extend their app’s tools to other parts of iOS.
Developers also get access to TestFlight, a system that will allow them to distribute beta test versions of their apps to 1,000 different Apple IDs. That will allow developers to get a better sense of how their apps work, and build a userbase prior to launch.
What did you think of today’s announcement? What would be on your top 5 list? Let us know in the comments.