The new products coming from Apple this year
This week the world waited with baited breath to Apple's keynote speech at its Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC). The presentation covered all the WWDC mainstays—a new version of macOS and a new version of iOS, both arriving in the fall—as well as a handful of hardware odds and ends, and the long-rumored Siri-powered speaker. Here is our edit of what you need to smarten yourself up about:
The biggest announcement of WWDC this year is Apple's long-rumored smart speaker, officially dubbed the 'HomePod'.
At just under seven inches high and powered by Apple's A8 chip that you will also find in iPhones, HomePod is a speaker that uses sensing technology in an attempt to offer fuller, spacious sound. Multiple HomePods can also be networked together for especially large rooms.
As expected, the HomePod can react to voice commands with the help of Siri, much like competing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Although while the Echo and the Home bill themselves as voice assistants first and speakers second, it looks like Apple is positioning HomePod as a speaker first, with Home Assistant features as the added bonus. Through voice commands, the HomePod looks to be able to general question answering, calendar adjustment, and timer setting just like a Google Home or regular old Siri can. The details of how far it can go are still fuzzy for the time being. The HomePad can also interact with smart appliances that work with HomeKit, including the commands in the picture above.
The HomePod comes in white and grey and starts shipping this December for $350. By comparison, you can buy a Google Home for $110 or an Amazon Echo for $180.
The newest version of macOS, dubbed High Sierra, is what Apple is billing as a refined version of regular old Sierra, which came before. The new version of Safari included in High Sierra can automatically block auto-playing video and will also use machine learning in an attempt to minimize the amount of ad-tracking information shared between sites. The Photos app in High Sierra also packs a few new tricks, including machine-learning-powered facial recognition, much like what Google announced in Google Photos two years ago.
High Sierra will also introduce a new, default file system. It's an under the hood tweak, but one that Apple promises will be able to speed up processes like moving or duplicating files even with the same computing horsepower.
High Sierra will be out as a free update this autumn.
The newest line of iMacs come with the latest Intel Kaby Lake chips which will give them a boost in both compute power and graphics capability. They also come with Thunderbolt-capable USB Type-C ports, which brings us one step closer to using the same type of cable for pretty much anything. Though Apple's iPhones still use the proprietary Lightning Port.
Apple also teased a new "iMac Pro" that will release in December with up to an 18-core Xeon Processor, AMD's new Radeon Vega graphics and up to 16GBs of video RAM. Oh yeah, and it comes in Space Grey. This kind of power isn't aimed at the average joe, but instead aimed directly at professionals that do a lot of video editing or other horsepower heavy jobs, so all that will cost you a hefty $5,000 on the low end.
Apple's MacBooks are also being updated with Intel's new chips, but no other design modifications. You'll notice that the MacBook Air is pointedly absent:
In iOS 11, Apple Pay will be able let you send or receive money to and from people, effectively putting a built-in version of Venmo right inside iOS. So long as the people you hang with are all on iPhones.
Siri is also getting some updates. Thanks to machine learning, she'll now have a more natural-sounding voice with more options for emphasis than before. Siri will also be able to give you translation if you ask her how to say something in say, Chinese, although this will only be a beta feature in iOS 11.
The control panel is also getting a brand new look that packs a bunch more functionality into a small space:
iOS 11 also includes a suite of features aimed mostly at iPad Pro users. The new "Files" app functions basically as a traditional computer file system for the iPad Pro, but also includes files from third-party cloud storage services like Dropbox. iOS 11 on the iPad Pro also supports drag and drop, which lets you drag apps around your screen much the same way you can have multiple windows open on the same desktop. Apple is clearly making a push to use iOS 11 to make the iPad Pro a more suitable replacement for your average laptop.
A new iPad Pro
There's a new version of the smaller iPad Pro, with its screen scaled up to 10.5 inches from 9.7 thanks in large part to some shrinking down around the bezels. This modest bump in size is just enough for the new iPad Pro to be able to have a full-size on-screen keyboard and use a full-size keyboard cover. Apple also doubled the refresh rate of the screen on the iPad Pro, effectively increasing the speed at which the screen can update itself. That'll make motion on it look extra smooth (if the app can support it and your eyes can tell the difference) and also let it work with the Apple Pencil without as much update lag.
The new iPad Pro is available now and starts shipping next week: