WWDC 2021: Quick Thoughts

Lots and lots of goodies in Apple’s 2021 keynote. Some quick thoughts:

  • FaceTime on the web – I guess just as I was last pondering this May, someone at Apple was also wondering why Zoom took off and not FaceTime. Thankfully they reached the same conclusion.
  • Digital ID – The ability to add ID to our digital wallets will finally end the need for a physical wallet. I wrote about this at the end of 2019 and so was pleased when the presenter almost quoted the title of my post The card missing from our digital wallets. At the moment it’s US only, but at least it’s a start.
  • The Mail app will now proxy images to protect privacy. Has Hey.com just been Sherlocked? All along I’ve said this kind of functionality should be something a mail client offers, not the email service itself.
  • On-device speech to text will dramatically help Siri’s performance. The current cloud-based STT is often so slow I manually deduct 30 seconds from the time I actually want to set a timer for. I didn’t notice any mention of intent recognition, and so I assume it is still likely cloud-based, which means an Internet connection will still be required for many Siri tasks.
  • Apple will allow developers to A/B test App Store listings. While I understand this kind of testing can be effective, I’m coming round to the view that perhaps asking users is more polite than bypassing their consciousness.
  • Being able to edit dictated text on the Apple Watch is fantastic and solves a major problem: most ML based STT systems still struggle with unexpected, out of context words. It looks like Apple are moving watchOS towards where early iPhone models were when it comes to content creation with the ability to share photos as well.
  • Built in VPN for iCloud+ users. Did I understand this right, that anyone paying for storage currently will now be an ‘iCloud+’ user? Surly that can’t be right? Apple don’t give features like this away for free!
  • iPad multitasking – Looks good. We now have the Shelf, a nice reference to NeXTSTEP which of course had its very own shelf that would become the Dock in macOS.
  • On the presentation itself, I find myself missing the days of one or two presenters simply levelling with an audience to explain what’s new. For the past for years, and even pre-pandemic, there have been dozens of presenters, high-production videos, and special effects that seem more at home in a Hollywood blockbuster than a developer talk. It makes one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world seem even less relatable.
  • Quick Note. Great name, but where have I heard it before? Hmm…
  • A menu bar on the iPad, which was pretty much the conclusion of my recent post The Tablet Dilemma.

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