Tag Archive for ‘Keynote’

Notes On WWDC

I was traveling the day of the Apple event and the WiFi on the flight wasn’t quite good enough to stream the video live. So it took me a couple of days before I could watch the entire keynote. The following is my miscellaneous notes and observations taken while watching the full replay:

tvOS 13

  • I’m glad they finally showed off a teaser trailer for one of their Apple TV+ shows. I’m not sure if “For All Mankind” is something I would enjoy watching in full, but it does seem quite compelling.
  • Multiple user support sounds really nice, but what if multiple people are watching TV at the same time, which I expect is quite common. How do you track that? Is there any way to tell the TV that there’s more than one person watching and have that sync back to their respective iCloud accounts? Or are you only able to have a single person viewing at a time?
  • Adding support for Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers is a huge deal, but I still wish Apple would design and release their own controller.
  • The new Apple TV dock looks nice, but I’m curious to see how it works with existing applications that have Top Shelf extensions. There is already a limited number of top-tier apps with that functionality and introducing a new iteration of Top Shelf doesn’t give me hope that more apps will implement it.

I’d still like to see a bit more movement on the Apple TV front. The updates they introduced sound great, but I would feel more confident in my decision to go all-in on Apple TV if they pushed it a little bit further.

watchOS 6

  • New Apple Watch faces. They seem neat, but none of them look like they’ll knock Utility, Modular, or Activity Digital off of my setup — they’re the three best watch faces and it’s not even close.
  • I like seeing Calculator come to the Apple Watch. I’ve been using Calzy, but I’m not positive that it’s the best calculator experience possible on the Watch. I’m hoping Apple will help to raise the bar for this category.
  • Independent apps could be a huge deal for Apple Watch because there won’t be any need to build a companion iPhone app. But I’m more excited about the streaming audio API. The experience of listening to podcasts on the Watch at the moment isn’t great, but I hope these two features give developers the opportunity to improve it greatly.
  • App Store on the Watch goes hand-in-hand with the independent application capabilities, but I can’t imagine it being a good experience. Who wants to sit there and browse applications on their wrist?
  • Activity Trends is exciting — it’s the type of information and coaching that I’ve always wanted to see from the Watch.
  • I don’t think too much about my hearing and likely am surrounded by dangerously loud environments far more often than I realize. I look forward to a time when I’m notified to move further away from the source or consider using ear plugs to protect my hearing.

Apple continues to do a great job of improving the Apple Watch year-over-year and I’m happy to see this continue. The most exciting aspect of watchOS 6 is the new streaming audio API — I’m hoping that developers will make some great apps with this.

iOS 13

  • I’m interested to see the real world implications of the new application bundle slimming they’re using. Apps launching twice as fast is an impressive feat — if they can pull it off, it’ll be a big deal.
  • I don’t care about dark mode and don’t understand why anyone else does. I just don’t get the appeal.
  • I’ve never even tried a swipe-style keyboard before, so I’m interested to give it a try. I don’t expect I’ll use it long-term, but we’ll see.
  • I like that Mail is finally getting robust text formatting options, but I’m a little worried that this will mean an uptick in the amount of emails I receive with colored text and font size adjustments. That will not be an improvement in my eyes.
  • The new Maps app looks nice, but I think the most important new feature for me is the shareable ETA. I expect I’ll use that all the time.
  • I’m happy that Apple is making strides at fixing the social login issue. It’s such a convenient feature for users, but the privacy implications are larger than the average user realizes. Being able to use Sign-in with Apple is going to be a boon for user privacy. The randomized email address announcement received a huge applause and it deserves it.
  • I’ve thought about purchasing a HomeKit camera for our backyard, so we can keep an eye on our pool when we’re not home. But the privacy implication of an internet-connected camera kept me from actually purchasing. I might pull the trigger when some of these HomeKit Secure Video cameras hit the market.
  • HomeKit for routers is neat, but wouldn’t it be cool if Apple was the company that was building these routers? I guess our only hope is that Eero will add this functionality to its existing routers so I won’t have to spend another few hundred dollars on a new setup.
  • It didn’t take long for Vignette to get Shrelocked by the new Messages app, I guess.
  • I hope the new photo editing features won’t muck up the interface in a way that makes it difficult for novice users. I don’t want to mess with too many advanced settings, I just want to adjust a couple of sliders and call it a day.
  • There are so many instances where my wife and I want to listen to the same podcast or YouTube video. We end up sharing a set of AirPods and each of us wear one, but being able to share audio to multiple AirPod sets is going to be fantastic.

Based on the last iOS-related slide, there seems to be a ton of new features that were never showcased on stage. I’m most excited about the advancements to Shortcuts that weren’t discussed, but I’m sure there are several dozen other little improvements that will be nice to see as well.

iPadOS

  • Pinning widgets on the home screen is going to be amazing and it’s likely the first thing I enable when I install iOS 13 on my iPad. I’m a big fan of widgets, but was never in love with how tough they were to access. There was a time when the system would remember that you accessed your widgets last and present you with those when you swiped down from the top of the screen, but that was lost a few major updates ago. I’m glad we’ll have a quick and easy way to always access widgets again.
  • I’m happy to see that they’re adding the ability to use split-view with multiple instances of the same application, but I don’t expect I’ll actually use it in practice.
  • The app exposé and slide over app switcher look quite nice, but I am a bit concerned that this will add an additional layer of complexity to window management, which will inevitably get in the way of productivity. I’m curious to see how it will play out when you’re actually using the device.
  • Support for thumb drives and external disk drives is going to be a major deal. It was one of the things I mentioned to my wife after the event and it will be a big win for her. She recently switched to an iPad as her primary home computer and having the ability to throw a document on a thumb drive so she can take it to work is a major improvement.
  • Hearing a WordPress shoutout during the Safari segment was pretty cool.
  • I’m not too sure about the new gestures for text manipulation. I think I’ll get the hang of the new copy and paste gestures relatively quickly, but I’m concerned that the new text selection gestures are going to feel a little odd at first. There’s a lot of potential for conflicts — how does the system know I’m selecting text or moving the cursor instead of trying to scroll, for example? There were a couple of snafus during the demo, which doesn’t fill me with confidence.
  • The full page markup functionality is kind of amazing. I’m sure this has a ton of applications for web designers and developers, as well as teachers and print publishers.

Apple really hit it out of the park with iPadOS. This has been my primary home computing platform since I first purchased my iPad Air 2 in 2015 and it just continues to get better each year. I’m still a far cry from being able to do my day job from my iPad, but that’s mostly because of some specialty software that isn’t available on the platform yet. Maybe in a few more years, the system will get to the point where I can start pushing our developers toward releasing apps for iOS as well.

Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

  • I think the new Mac Pro has a snazzy design. It might not be as elegant as an iMac or a MacBook Pro, but it has a powerful, utilitarian look that I love.
  • The machine is incredibly powerful out of the box, but they really gave themselves a ton of headroom to expand and upgrade the machine down the line as necessary. This is exactly what pro customers have been waiting for.
  • The new Pro Display XDR is an incredible piece of tech, but I wish they announced multiple models. A 32-inch display is massive and I’m sure there are plenty of pro users that would have liked to have an option that was a bit smaller, maybe 27- and 24-inch options as well. Even if it meant cutting down the features a bit on the smaller models. This would have been especially nice for users that prefer to have multiple displays instead of one giant display.

The Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are expensive. Really expensive. I understand that this is aimed at the pro market, but I would have liked to see Apple offer these at lower pricing with significantly reduced specs. Long gone are the days of Mac Pros that can be purchased for $1999 and upgraded over time. And that’s a real shame.

I’ve been looking to upgrade our home server to something new because the 2011 Mac Mini that we had been using is a bit long in the tooth. It would be nice if I could have replaced it with a Mac Pro so that all of the storage was internal and the ability to rip/convert DVDs and Blu-ray discs was faster than the Mini is capable of. I hate the fact that if I want a ton of storage connected to our Mac Mini, I have to use a bunch of external drives that leave the whole setup looking like a mess.

macOS

  • Catalina is an excellent name.
  • I’m glad they’re finally unbundling iTunes into separate applications. And I’m even happier that they’re doing this after I’ve moved on to Plex for managing my media library. I just feel a bit better about the transition knowing that it will take place without me having to really feel any of the pain points associated with it. I still maintain an iTunes library for iTunes Match, but that’s far less important to my media workflows than our main library is.
  • Sidecar seems like a really nifty feature. It’s just a shame that they had to Sherlock an entire class of applications in the process. But I’m not someone that has really spent much time using multiple displays for any of my workflows. I tend to have my iPad propped up next to my MacBook Air while I work, but that’s mostly for managing music playback and occasionally testing a webpage issue on a different system. I’m curious to see if Sidecar changes that for me.
  • The Find My app seems like a massive upgrade from the previous iteration, with the separate Find My iPhone and Find My Friends Apps. I love that they’re utilizing other people’s iPhones to help you find your devices wherever they may be.
  • Project Catalyst is something that we’ve already heard about, back when it was called Marzipan. I’m hoping it will mean less Electron apps in my Dock and more native applications on my machine.

macOS seemed like less of a step forward compared to the rest of Apple’s platforms. Which makes sense, since the Mac is a much more mature platform. But I guess a large portion of their efforts in that regard went toward developer-level improvements with things like Swift UI and their AR endeavors.

Overall

This was one of the most impressive WWDC events that I can remember. The entire keynote was just packed with little announcements that will have a real impact on Apple device users’ lives. I think they probably could have cut a bit more from the keynote, giving us a more streamlined, compact event. I’m not sure if Swift UI and the AR segment really needed to exist within the main WWDC keynote and might have been better suited for The Platform State of the Union later that day.

But I look forward to getting my hands on all of the new software that they introduced during the event. I’m not sure if I’ll end up installing iPadOS or iOS 13 on my main devices, but it’s tempting. Perhaps I’ll take the plunge when the public beta releases this Summer.

watchOS 5

I watched this year’s WWDC keynote live from the comfort of my living room. My plan was to take notes during the event and share my thoughts on the various announcements throughout the week. I didn’t expect to be completely blown away by the iOS 12 segment, which I shared my thoughts on yesterday. From that point forward, my plan to take notes went out the window. I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

As a result of that, I’ve decided to rewatch the entire keynote and actually take notes this time around. The following is my miscellaneous thoughts and commentary on watchOS 5 — the second most important Apple platform in my life:

  • Competitions seems like a great new feature. I can see my wife and I using these to keep ourselves motivated to stay in shape. And I really like how the progress updates are displayed, with points based on your move ring progress and small charts comparing each person by day.
  • I’m glad they’re finally adding proper support for Yoga workouts. I don’t do yoga as much as I used to, but this might be the motivation I needed to get back into it.
  • The Hiking workout will be a welcomed addition to the workouts app, too. I’m not much of a hiker, but I could see myself using this if my wife and I went on vacation to a mountainous area.
  • My wife loves running, but due to some health concerns, she had to take a break from it over the past year. But now that her heart is functioning properly again, she’s slowly started reintroducing running into her life. And I expect she’ll appreciate the new Outdoor Run features coming in watchOS 5.
  • Automatic Workout Detection is going to be an incredible feature. After owning an Apple Watch for nearly three years, I usually make sure to start a workout on my watch. But about 10% of the time, I completely forget. This solves that problem entirely.
  • Walkie-Talkie demos well, but I don’t expect I’ll ever use it. How is this better than just sending an iMessage?
  • Great additions to the Siri Watch Face including Siri Shortcuts and third-party apps. I haven’t used the Siri Watch Face during my day-to-day use because all of my most important information is kept in third-party apps. But now that third-party apps can populate the Siri face, I think I’ll give it another try.
  • Dropping the need to say “Hey Siri” sounds like a neat idea, but I’m worried that there will be too many false positives. What if I’m just checking the time or glancing at a notification during a conversation and it picks up on something I say?
  • More interactive notifications looks like a great improvement to the watch experience. Especially considering that notifications is one of the killer apps for the device. Giving developers more control over what notifications look like and what users can do with those notifications is going to be great.
  • WebKit on Apple Watch. This is kind of insane and I never thought Apple would ever do this. But I have to say, it’s really lame when someone sends you a link in Messages and you have to pull out your phone to read it. Being able to do that on your Watch is going to be pretty neat.
  • I think Podcasts on Apple Watch is going to be the next killer feature. It’s something that users have been clamoring for since day one and I expect it’s going to sell a lot of watches.
  • Background audio for third-party apps is a huge deal and will give developers of podcast apps the ability to compete with Apple’s offering. I just hope Marco Arment has it ready in Overcast on watchOS 5 launch day.

The enhancements in watchOS 5 weren’t as impressive as iOS 12, but the update is filled with solid improvements that will go a long way toward improving the experience.

watchOS 3, tvOS 10, and macOS Sierra

I spent Monday afternoon sitting on my couch with Tweetbot on my iPhone, Ulysses on my iPad, and Apple’s WWDC keynote playing on the Apple TV. I took notes during the event, kept track of my exceptionally busy Twitter timeline, published bits of commentary myself, and enjoyed the show.

There was a lot to take in with this one. It’s no wonder Apple decided to announce their App Store changes last week — there really wasn’t enough room for them in the keynote. I typically try to fit my thoughts into a single feature article that encompasses the entire keynote, but with so many little software announcements, its taking longer to digest this year. It’s amazing how much more there is to talk about when four platforms get refreshed all at once.

Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on watchOS 3, tvOS 10, and macOS Sierra. My current plan is to tackle iOS 10 later this week or early next week. For whatever reason, Apple’s iOS announcements have been the most difficult for me to unpack — potentially because of their placement in the keynote.

watchOS

As I mentioned when I linked to Apple’s watchOS 3 preview page, there was only one thing I wanted for the Apple Watch — improved efficiency — and it looks like we got it. Granted, its hard to say how much of an impact this will have in real world use, but Apple’s on-stage demos were impressive. If apps launch as fast as Apple claims they do, it’ll be a huge win for third-party developers.

Apple also announced new watch faces, improvements and optimizations for wheelchair users, HomeKit support, more detailed workouts, and SOS. But there are four features I wanted to highlight specifically:

  • The Dock: Using the side button to open a quick app launcher seems like a more appropriate use for the hardware button.From what I can tell, the Dock appears to have completely replaced glances on watchOS. Glances is a feature I was interested in, and used regularly when I first purchased the Watch, but I don’t even know the last time I actually used one.
  • Activity Sharing: This is the next logical progression for the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker. All other fitness bands (that I know of) have this feature and I’m glad Apple’s finally adding it. Now I just need more of my friends to own one.
  • Breathe App: I’ve been mildly curious about deep breathing exercises for a couple years, but I’ve never actually tried it. I’ll probably start when watchOS 3 is released this fall.
  • Messages Improvements: This was my biggest pain point when using the Apple Watch — I mentioned it specifically in my WWDC wishlist piece. But it looks like Apple has made some serious optimizations to this process. There’s no need to tap the reply button first, reply options are immediately available. And I’m in love with Scribble — the new text input feature that lets you draw characters to type. This will make responding much easier when the pre-canned messages don’t quite fit.

tvOS

Not too many groundbreaking announcements for the Apple TV, all of it feels like logical next steps rather than revolutionary new features. I know a lot of Apple TV users that would have been happy with Apple only announcing single sign-on. This isn’t a feature that will have an impact on how I use tvOS, though. I haven’t had a cable subscription in over a decade and don’t plan on ever looking back. But this is a really big deal for Apple TV owners who have yet to cut the cord.

The new Apple TV Remote app is interesting to me. I don’t expect I’ll use it and that’s mostly because it’s functionality is limited to what the Siri Remote is capable of. That’s great for some users, but I was hoping that Apple would include a tvOS App Store in the app which allowed users to download and share links to applications from their iOS device. Although, they could be laying the groundwork for this to be added in the future — as evident by the new automatic downloads feature, which will download new apps to your Apple TV, if one is available, when it is first downloaded to your iPhone or iPad.

There was, of course, some enhancements to Siri — search for specific topics, combine multiple criteria, search YouTube, and control HomeKit devices — all great, but nothing major. I was happy to see a dark mode, though, which will become my new default when I install the update.

macOS

I was lukewarm on the idea of renaming OS X when it was first rumored a few months ago, but it quickly grew on me. I’m someone who prefers uniformity and OS X was the sole outlier. I’m glad they made the change.

Using Sierra as the California location felt appropriate with Siri being the marquee feature of the update. Adding Siri to macOS has been a long time coming. The feature was first introduced to the iPhone in 2011 and it’s taken nearly five years to come to the Mac. But the implementation looks good. There’s some Mac-specific features — like interacting with files and drag and drop from the results. And it seems like the kind of feature that could really improve a Mac users productivity — like being able to add a calendar event or reminder without leaving the app you’re working in.

Many of the new features in macOS Sierra seem to be the result of greater collaboration between the teams within Apple. The ability to use Apple Pay for online transactions — using your Watch or iPhone’s Touch ID sensor to authenticate — automatic macOS login when you’re wearing your Watch, and Universal Clipboard wouldn’t be possible if software teams weren’t working together on it. This is the kind of platform integrations that Apple’s always been good at, but they’ve really stepped it up over the past couple years.

In contrast, I find it rather odd that the Mac gets picture-in-picture support before tvOS does. I completely understand the appeal of the feature on macOS and I’m sure many users will find it invaluable, but why not build it for tvOS first? I would argue that the Apple TV’s single-tasking nature prevents most users from regularly using more than a handful of apps.

Overall, macOS Sierra looks like a solid release. I don’t expect I’ll use many of the new features, though. At this point, iOS is my primary operating system and its not even close. All I really need from macOS is the ability to run Transmission, iTunes, and Photos. As long as it can still do that, I’ll be happy.

Apple Updates Pages, Keynote, and Numbers ➝

Plenty of “about dang time” features in these updates, too.

Apple Posts WWDC 2015 Keynote Video ➝

The full keynote from yesterday in which Apple announced OS X El Capitan, iOS 9, watchOS 2, and Apple Music.

Notes on the Google I/O Keynote

The following is notes and observations taken while watching the Google I/O Keynote video yesterday morning. All in all it was a good presentation, albeit a bit too long for my taste. There’s some announcements that make Google feel a little late to the party while others that are legitimately intriguing.

Android M Developer Preview

Android applications will now ask permission for access to things like the camera, your contacts, current location, microphone, calendar, etc. And, it asks for this permission when the application tries to retrieve it rather than during installation. Users can also revoke permissions or see what information you’ve allowed an application access to from within the app’s settings. I never realized that Android behaved this way and it seems crazy to me that it’s done so for so long. As far as I can remember iOS has always asked for permissions in this way and I’m glad Android is finally catching up — this is clearly the best way to handle it.

Chrome Custom Tabs is an interesting way to handle web links from within applications. It’s not too dissimilar from the way application developers build web views into their applications now, but from a developer standpoint it seems to be much easier to implement. Essentially, users will get all the benefits of using the full browser — saved passwords, autofill, Google translate, etc. — without the jarring context change of having the application open the full web browser. And, developers get easier to implement web views that still give them the ability to make subtle design changes like a custom button in the toolbar.

Android will now have a more powerful way for applications to claim ownership of links allowing better linking between applications. Instead of getting a dialog box asking the user what application they want to open a link in, developers can claim ownership of a domain with their application. During app installation the OS will check with the web server to ensure that the application is certified to open links to that site. This seems like a really neat way to implement this sort of deep linking within applications, but they didn’t discuss whether or not users would be able to revoke this permission if they later wanted to open links in the web browser, instead. Will the OS ask me if I want this functionality when I install an application that supports it?

Android is also standardizing support for fingerprint sensors. This support will work across a breadth of different hardware and will offer a standard API for developers. With Android M, the OS will have built-in support to use the fingerprint sensor to unlock your device, purchase items in the Play Store, and make payments with Android Pay.

Google has also made some improvements to the power management features in Android including something they call Doze. Doze uses motion data to determine when a device isn’t in use and significantly decreases the device’s activity in order to improve battery life. In their testing, they found that many devices can experience battery life that lasts up to two times longer using this new power management scheme. I’m a little skeptical of their “2x longer” claims, but even if there’s only an improvement of 25% that’s still quite significant.

Google has also been working with device manufacturers to bring USB-C to Android handsets. This will finally give Android users a reversible cable — something iPhone owners have had for over two and a half years now — which is leaps and bounds better than the junky Micro USB connector that most Android handsets have used for years.

Android Pay

Yet another NFC-based payment solution. I can’t believe they’re calling it “Android Pay.” Couldn’t they come up with a better name that doesn’t sound so similar to Apple Pay? Not only do they share the word “Pay” between them, but they also have the same initials — even the same number of syllables.

The biggest concern I have about the adoption of Android Pay is simply the slow adoption rate of Android operating systems in general. When the majority of users are still running a version of Android that came out in late 2013 and which only accounts for about 40% of users, why would I expect any significant adoption of Android Pay within the next two years?

Android Wear

I’m always surprised at how ugly Android Wear looks to me. For whatever reason its far more attractive in my mind than it is in reality. And, I don’t understand why they feel the need to have the display on at all times. It just seems like an unnecessary battery-killing “feature” akin to Blackberry desperately trying, and failing, to convince the world that we should want hardware keyboards.

And, bragging about 4,000+ apps isn’t that impressive — Apple Watch launched with over 3,000 and I’ve recently seen estimates saying that there are over 5,000 apps available for it already.

Brillo OS

Brillo is built on a stripped down version of Android while Weave is the communication layer that talks to all of the connected devices and appliances on your network. This gives developers standardized and custom schemas for interacting with the connected devices in your home. Google will offer a developer preview of Brillo in Q3 2015 and the full stack will be available by the end of the year.

What a terrible name for a technology product. I don’t know if I’m supposed to install it on my smart waffle maker or use it to clean my bath tub.

Now on Tap

Advancements to Google Now that can use contextual information about the app your using to provide information and offer actionable items to help you get stuff done. For example, you can tap and hold on the home button while viewing a conversation with your spouse and it will display contact information, offer links to restaurants or other businesses mentioned in the conversation, and more.

Now on Tap looks like an incredible feature for Android users that allows for more seamless movement throughout the OS by linking the information you’re currently viewing in any app to whatever action items you’re most likely to want given the context. The proof is in the pudding, of course, who knows how well it will actually work or how useful it will truly be when its released. But, it sure looked impressive in the demo.

Google Photos

Another one of Google’s oh so original product names. Google Photos automatically backs up and syncs all of your photos and videos on all of your devices. The new app displays your photos in a very similar fashion to Apple Photos in which you can zoom out to ever increasing periods of time with smaller and smaller thumbnails of your photos. And while zoomed out, you can drill down into your photos by tapping or pinching at them.

Using machine learning, Google Photos automatically organizes your photos based on location, faces, and photo subjects like stadiums, beaches, etc. These features are the most compelling to me. But, I wonder how accurate it really is, especially their claims of being able to recognize a specific face from the time they’re born all the way into their teenage years and beyond without needing to tag the photos by hand. This is something I’ve found to be nearly impossible in other facial recognition systems, but if they’ve managed to figure it out with a high level of accuracy then Google Photos will truly be something special.

The photos assistant is another cool feature that offers suggested creations from your photo library that you can share. They didn’t talk about it too much on stage, but if it suggests groups of photos that could be used for sharing, making photo books, or printing to hang on the wall it’ll be quite the useful feature. It’s always a pain to try and find the 3-4 good photos to be used in a project and anything that can help with that will be greatly appreciated.

Google Photos can store unlimited photos and videos for free in a high quality compressed format. Or you can choose to store the original, uncompressed files at full resolution. But, doing so means that those photos and videos will count towards your account’s storage (which costs about $10 per terabyte per month at most tiers). And, its available today for Android, iOS, or the web.

Free is a compelling price point and Gmail for images is an incredible, three-word pitch to describe what they’re doing. But, I don’t know if I really want Google to store all of my photos and video. I’m sure the privacy policy and terms of use is just fine now, but what’s it going to look like in 5-10 years and will I even know if they make changes that I dislike?

But, I do like the idea of using a third-party service to keep all of my photos on all of my devices. It would mean that my fiancée and I could setup a Google account that we share in order to keep our photo library unified between the both of us —something I’ve been wanting for months. Maybe I’ll start looking at other, similar services that come from companies with less ties to the NSA.

Google Optimized Search

Not only has Google shrunk the page size and decreased load time on the search results page in countries where internet connections are often slow, they will now begin serving optimized web pages to those users when clicking on a link in search results. These optimized, Google-served pages will load four times faster and use 80% fewer bytes than non-optimized pages.

If only web designers and developers would do the work to shrink their own webpages.

Cloud Test Labs

Google will run automated testing on your apps. Simply upload your application and they’ll run it on the top 20 Android devices around the world. You’ll receive a free report with crash logs and videos. This is a necessary evil for Google. I’m sure they don’t really want to do it, but unfortunately there’s just too many Android handsets to expect developers to test their apps on all of them.

Family Store

All of the family-friendly content in the Google Play Store will now be accompanied by a star-logo. When viewing the family store you can browse content based on age and the top listings and search results will only display family-friendly results. They’re introducing a character browser (like Netflix’s) which will display content based on a specific character such as Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig, Cailou, Mickey Mouse, and more. There will be objective third-party content ratings for apps, a new set of parental controls, stronger password protection for in-app purchases, and labels on applications that are ad-supported.

These are great additions to the Google Play Store and will be welcomed by anyone with kids who use Android devices. I wouldn’t mind Apple stealing some of these ideas for the App Store.

Google Cardboard

The Cardboard SDK now supports Android and iOS. And, the new version of Cardboard supports phones with screens up to six inches and the built-in button now works with all phones.

Cardboard Expeditions lets classrooms go on field trips to anywhere in the world. A boxer on Google arrives with everything you need to travel. It includes cardboard and phones for every student and a tablet for the teacher. All of these devices are synchronized so that when the teacher chooses a location, the entire classroom jumps there together in virtual reality.

This is the first implementation of VR that I could see really taking off. My fiancée’s an elementary school teacher and I can assure you her students would absolutely love lessons that made good use of Expeditions. She could use it to teach about habitats, planets, animals, the types of homes in various cultures, and almost anything else you could think of. The possibilities are endless.

Jump

Enables any creator to capture the world in virtual reality video and make it available to anyone. Google is opening up the camera geometry, video assembler, and player to the world. They will be sharing everythng they’ve learned making VR video this summer so that anyone who’s motivated can build their own Jump camera rig. GoPro also plans to build and sell a Jump-ready 360-degree camera array.

The assembler takes the video recorded by each of the sixteen cameras in the Jump rig and assembles it into virtual reality video. This summer, YouTube will begin supporting Jump. You’ll be able to watch VR video with your smartphone and Cardboard.

Overall

There were plenty of other announcements on stage at the I/O keynote — Network Quality Estimator, Polymer 1.0, developer pages on Play Store, etc. — but the above are the most important of the bunch. If I had to pick my favorites it would probably be Google Photos and Cardboard Expeditions. Photos is the one service everyone’s been talking about because it’s available today and being able to back up all of your photos to the cloud for free is an amazing proposition. I doubt I’ll use it. But for those who do, I’m sure they’ll absolutely love it.

Cardboard Expeditions isn’t getting enough attention, if you ask me. I’m likely biased because I’ll be marrying an elementary teacher next year, but Expeditions has the opportunity to create a whole new kind of lesson plan. When students are able to see with their own eyes how big an elephant is, what kind of wildlife live under the sea, or what it’s like to walk the streets in another country, they’ll have an opportunity to make connections to the lesson that just aren’t possible with regular video or photos. Cardboard Expeditions might not have the immediate impact that Google’s other announcements will! but in 5-10 years when technology like this has been put in more classrooms, that’s when we could start to see how big of an impact it truly has on the lives of students around the world.

 

Thoughts on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Apple had some great announcements for us earlier today and among them were two brand new iPhones to take over as the flagship models for the next year. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus didn’t come as much of a surprise, most of the rumor sites had many of the features pegged months ago. But, it’s always nice to see the official announcement so we get a better idea of what the whole picture is. Even if it means having to sit through the cheesy new ads featuring Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon.

Bigger Than Bigger

Apple finally did it, they announced bigger iPhones. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays respectively. Both sporting a new case design with curved glass at the edges and an aluminum back. Both have brand new “Retina HD Displays” with resolutions of 1334×750 at 326ppi for the 4.7-inch model and 1920×1080 at 401ppi for the 5.5-inch model. And if you were wondering how third-party apps would work with the new display sizes, they will automatically scale to fit, even if the developer hasn’t built their app with these new displays in mind.

Beyond the displays, there’s been a ton of other hardware advancements in these models as well. Faster A8 processor, better battery life, the next generation M8 motion coprocessor, VoLTE, 802.11ac, and some great enhancements to the front and rear-facing cameras.

But, the star of the show really is the new display sizes. It’s what many have been asking for and Apple finally delivered. Unfortunately though, I’m a little disappointed. I don’t want to bury the new sizes too much, but I’m a bit bugged that the phone has grown the way that it has. I understand that the market is pushing Apple to build bigger iPhones, and I understand that many will be happy about it. But, I don’t think I’ll be one of the happy ones.

I haven’t actually had my hands on the device yet (I’m not one of the lucky ones). But, Ars Technica put together a neat printable paper template that will give you an idea of how big the new iPhones are. They’re pretty big, maybe a little too big for my liking. Just comparing the size of the paper template to my iPhone 5s, I can tell that I won’t be able to reach all four corners of the device with my thumb while using it one handed. And, I’m not sure if it will even fit comfortably in my pants pocket.

I have discussed the new iPhone sizes with my girlfriend and I can tell you that she absolutely hates the new sizes. She has the same concerns as I do about being able to use it one handed, but her concerns about the size are a little bit more serious than mine. Her current iPhone 5s barely fits in her pants pockets and the iPhone 6 won’t actually fit in her pockets at all. That’s a bit of a deal breaker for her and she’s hoping Apple will “get their act together” and release a more powerful 4-inch iPhone next year for her to upgrade to.

I would like to actually hold one in my hand before I make my final decision about the new sizes. I don’t expect I’ll have any interest in the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s much larger than I would expect myself to ever want in a smartphone. The 4.7-inch model is much closer to what I expect the optimal size is for me, but it’s pushing it. And, without actually holding one in my hand, using it for a little bit (and trying to put it in my pocket), I don’t think I’ll have any idea how it will be to live with one day in and day out for two years.

The one bit of solace in this otherwise annoying iPhone announcement is that I don’t plan on upgrading my iPhone until next year. Since the original iPhone in 2007 I’ve purchased every other iPhone — with last year’s model being my most recent purchase. Maybe I’ll get used to the size over the next year or I’ll finally give in and just deal with it. Either way I’m glad I have an extra year before I have to make the decision.

iPhone Lineup

Apple does have an incredible lineup of iPhones leading into the holiday season, though. What strikes me most about this year is just how similar the iPhone lineup is to what the iPod lineup was at its peak — the iPod shuffle, nano, classic, and touch. The iPhone lineup is now as follows:

  • iPhone 5c – Free
  • iPhone 5s – $99
  • iPhone 6 – $199
  • iPhone 6 Plus – $299

Four options, just like the iPod. There’s now an option at every price point from free all the way to $299. This is exactly the same strategy that Apple used to push all of the other MP3 players out of the market — don’t give them any breathing room.

Daring Fireball’s WWDC 2014 Prelude ➝

It’s always interesting to see what John Gruber is thinking about the night before an Apple keynote. It doesn’t seem like he has much more information than any of us do regarding Apple’s announcements for tomorrow (as he reminds us, Apple’s “double-down on secrecy” seems to still be in full effect).

I’m thinking along the same lines as John on the possibility of an updated Apple TV. More because I want one than because Apple needs to release one. I agree with John that the next Apple TV is likely to have an SDK released alongside it that would allow developers to create games and media apps for the platform. And, I can’t think of a better place for Apple to announce a new developer platform than WWDC.