What’s the Latest with Apple?

Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC17) didn’t disappoint this year. Announcements ranged from the Apple HomePod to iOS 11 to “the world’s most powerful Mac.” Here we have a look at the full spectrum of new Apple products, software and services announced.

HomePod

Although rumors of Apple announcing a “Siri speaker” to take on Amazon Echo were roughly right, Apple still had a surprise in store: the HomePod will also take on Sonos. Rather than emphasizing its smart speaker prowess, Apple’s primary pitch was for the HomePod’s virtuosity as a premium home music player and sound system. Nonetheless, the HomePod does have Siri inside, and can respond to questions and requests for news, weather, podcasts, and so on. HomePod can even control smart-home gadgets, such as light bulbs and locks powered by Apple HomeKit.

However, at $349, the HomePod is roughly twice the price of the Amazon Echo and is pushing three times the cost of Google Home. Apple enthusiasts will argue that HomePod’s clear superiority as a home music player, perhaps the primary use case for smart speakers, justifies the higher price. However, we will have to wait until December, when HomePod begins to ship, to find out.

iMac Pro

Apple gave conference attendees a sneak peek of the iMac Pro, “the most powerful Mac ever.” Wired Magazine backed up Apple’s claim, calling the iMac Pro a “ridiculously powerful… supercomputer.” The specs bear that out. The premium all-in-one will feature a stunningly high-resolution 27-inch 5K Retina display, but that’s only the beginning. The iMac Pro will also come with the capacity for up to 18-core processors, built for the most advanced and demanding programs and tasks, such as machine learning AI. Apple also included a GPU that can run at 22 Teraflops, enabling professionals to tackle bleeding-edge graphics feats, such as VR development and 3D rendering. The iMac Pro also has up to 4TB of high-speed SSD hard drive, and up to 128GB of ECC (error-correcting code) RAM.

Coming in December, the starting price for the iMac Pro is $5,000.

iOS 11

Due out this fall, the new iOS includes a remarkable array of improvements and new features:

A new Siri

You can now choose either a female or male voice for Siri, and both have a more fluid, human-sounding speech pattern than the original. Siri can also answer follow-up questions now, eliminating Google Home’s prior edge on the interaction front. In addition, Siri can now translate your questions into Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian and German.

Better Maps

Apple Maps will now feature detailed indoor mapping, complete with store directories and details, for malls and major airports. Although the new indoor mapping will initially only cover eleven major cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong, Apple plans to add several hundred more each month after iOS 11 launches this fall. Apple Maps will also come with driving-related improvements, such as enhanced driving lane guidance and speed limit icons.

Do Not Disturb While Driving (DNDWD) mode

When you switch into DNDWD mode, the device will turn the phone screen off as soon as it senses that you’re in your car and on the move. It will also auto-respond to others trying to reach you, letting them know that you’re driving. In some cases, such as urgent messages, exceptions and overrides are possible.

New features for iPad

iOS 11 will bring drag-in-drop functionality to iPad, as well as a customizable dock. Apple is also introducing a new native app called Files that streamlines file-browsing not only in iPad, but in iCloud and other cloud services. A better Apple Pencil integration is also on the way, and is bound to improve the experience of the new iPad Pro (see below).

Person-to-person payments

Users of iMessage will soon have the option to easily pay one other with Apple Pay. It’s not yet clear whether Apple plans to expand their person-to-person payments, which will initially come courtesy of an iMessage app, beyond the iMessage platform.

10.5-inch iPad Pro

Still weighing in at only one pound, Apple has reduced the iPad Pro’s borders by 40 percent to pack even more screen space into the frame. Apple describes the iPad Pro’s new screen as “the world’s most advanced display,” thanks to ProMotion technology and an A10X Fusion chip. The new iPad Pro will also take advantage of iOS 11’s new features for iPad. One of the most striking is the improved integration with Apple Pencil, which reduces latency to an industry-leading 20 milliseconds for a more realistic, natural drawing experience.

Starting price: $649

New macOS High Sierra

Rather than release a major update this year, Apple has opted to enhance what they have. As a result, the primary improvement to look for in Version 10.13 (macOS High Sierra) is not a feature, but a boost in speed and power, with a particular emphasis on graphics and a fast file system. Nonetheless, the free update will also include several notable new features, such as video auto-play blocking and ad-tracking reduction in Safari.

WatchOS 4

Expected this fall, the major WatchOS update comes with major improvements. To begin, the new watch face is powered by the new Siri. Another form of AI, machine learning, attempts to determine when news, reminders, and other important information is most relevant to you throughout your daily routine. WatchOS 4 also comes with a new capacity to exchange information with several major brands of gym equipment. At its most practical level, the new watch face now doubles as a flashlight or blinking light for added safety while running at night. Glucose monitoring is also on the way, although it will likely require additional hardware.

The key takeaways

Although Apple’s WWDC17 came with dozens of product and feature announcements, a few clearly stood out. Foremost among them was the announcement of the HomePod, Apple’s answer not only to Amazon Echo as a smart speaker, but to Sonos as a high-end home music player.

On the operating system front, iOS 11 will come with a new Siri, better Maps, person-to-person payments, a DNDWD mode and several new iPad features. The New macOS High Sierra, on the other hand, is not a major update, but nonetheless features a boost in performance and a more savvy Safari. WatchOS 4, however, is indeed a major update with a new Siri-powered face, machine learning and lights for night-running.

On the hardware front, the iMac Pro, due out this fall, ventures into supercomputer territory with breathtaking specs and the capacity for VR development and 3D rendering. The 10.5-inch iPad comes with “the world’s most advanced screen” and industry-leading responsiveness.

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