Apple has introduced its next operating systems for iPhones, iPads, smartwatches and personal computers, as well as a strong line-up of new technology and privacy features at its five-day Worldwide Developers Conference that began on Monday.
Here are the top 10 takeaways from the first day of the event that is taking place online.
iOS 15 to enhance iPhone experience
Apple announced its newest iPhone operating system, the iOS 15 platform, with several innovative features for an enhanced smartphone experience. The updates aim to make video calls more natural and add new tools that give quick access to information.
Voices in FaceTime, which lets Apple users make video calls to one another, will sound as if they are coming from where the person is positioned on the screen while new microphone modes will strip out background noise.
“For many customers, iPhone has become indispensable ... this year, we have created even more ways it can enhance our daily lives,” said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering.
The iOS 15 platform "helps users stay connected ... gives them new tools to reduce distraction and uses intelligence to enhance the experience”.
The beta or test version of iOS 15 is currently available to app developers. Another test version will be released next month for iPhone users who want to try it out and help Apple to identify any bugs before the platform is made available to everyone.
New features added to digital keys
Apple introduced digital car keys to let users unlock and start their cars using their iPhones last year. Through new ultra-wideband technology, users can now unlock and start their vehicle without having to remove their iPhone from their pockets or bags. New keys have also been added that will unlock homes, offices and even hotel rooms through keys stored in the Apple wallet.
To ensure user privacy and security, the keys in the wallet are encrypted and stored in Secure Element, the same hardware technology used to protect Apple Pay.
Support for the developer community
To support the community of more than 23 million developers, Apple has introduced new tools to build apps on the iPad and submit them directly to the App Store. Codes will be reflected in the live preview while building apps and users can run their apps in full-screen mode to test them.
Apple has also added new augmented reality technology to make it easier to build immersive content into apps or on the web.
“We are thrilled to provide our developer community with powerful new tools and technology to help create even more compelling and higher-quality apps, while engaging with their users in all new ways through the App Store,” said Susan Prescott, vice president of worldwide developer relations.
Linking up different Apple devices
Apple has added new "continuity" features to ensure a seamless experience when working across different Apple devices.
Enhanced controls will let users work with a single mouse and keyboard and move between Macs and iPads with no extra set-up required. Users can even drag and drop content between devices. They can play and share movies, games, pictures and presentations from their iPhone or iPad straight to their desktop computer.
Adding more to health
The new operating system gives users the ability to share their encrypted health data with a physician. New tools in the iOS 15 platform can be used to identify, measure and understand changes in a person’s health data, the company said.
“This past year has emphasised the importance of health and we are enabling our users to take a more active role in their well-being. We have added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” said chief operating officer Jeff Williams.
The Health app adds trend analysis for 20 types of data ranging from the heart's resting rate to sleep to cardio fitness, allowing users to easily see how a given activity is progressing.
Tools to hone focus of users
To reduce distractions, Apple has introduced a new feature called Focus that filters notifications based on what a user is doing.
Users can create custom Focus settings or select a suggested one based on their context, such as when they attend a meditation class or finish office tasks. They can also create pages on the home screen to display only apps that are relevant and reduce distractions.
Apple Watch to track sleeping respiratory rate
Apple has unveiled its latest smartwatch operating system, the watchOS 8 platform, which adds new features essential for users to stay healthy, active and connected.
Besides helping users to monitor sleep time, heart rate and blood-oxygen levels, the platform also allows them to track their sleeping respiratory rate, which is the number of breaths a minute. Apple Watch will use the built-in accelerometer to measure this and the information can be viewed in the iPhone Health app, along with trends over time.
Privacy takes precedence
Apple showcased new privacy protections in its latest operating systems for iPhones, iPads, smartwatches and personal computers to improve user control and management of data.
“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning,” said Mr Federighi.
“This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.”
New operating systems for iPads and Macs
Apple's latest iPadOS 15 will add previews to its productivity features, enabling tablet multitasking and helping users to be more productive, the company said.
The company will also add a library to the iPad, automatically organising apps into categories such as productivity, games and "recently added".
It also introduced macOS Monterey, the latest version of the desktop operating system, which comes with new ways for users to connect and work seamlessly between connected Apple devices.
With the new OS, the "shortcuts" feature finally arrives on the Mac to help users automate everyday tasks. As with the iPhone and iPad, the feature allow Mac users to quickly accomplish tasks with the apps they use the most.
FaceTime coming to Android and Windows
Apple extended its FaceTime service to users of Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. The video-calling service was previously available only on Apple devices.
"Now you can send friends and family a link to connect on FaceTime – even if they are using Windows or Android. And it is still end-to-end encrypted, so your call is as private and secure as any other FaceTime call," the company said on its website.
The feature, which will be introduced later year, could help Apple retain customers who are compelled to use other platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The company will allow users to schedule calls and share the web links.