WWDC23: My Initial Keynote Reflection and the Features I’m Most Jazzed About
Wow, what a day. First of all, hats off to all the teams at Apple who poured themselves into creating and presenting all these software and hardware goodies to and for the world. Y’all knocked it out of the Park today.
As expected, the keynote blazed by with so many platforms and products to cover. Barely 30 minutes had passed and we’d already covered new Mac hardware and the flagship iOS.
Apple had way more to say about Mac hardware than I anticipated today. I thought we’d hear about the Mac Pro, and maybe the 15-inch MacBook Air, but I wasn’t thinking we’d get a Mac Studio update to boot. The Mac Pro kept its case design, which I was glad about, but did not have a third-party graphics story. Is there more to come? PCI expansion is certainly welcome and helps differentiate it from the Mac Studio, but it feels like part of the story has been left untold. I’m sure the M2 Ultra is an absolute beast, but the lack of expandable graphics and the cap at 128 GB of unified memory are two notable limitations when compared to the outgoing Intel-based Mac Pro.
Whoever said that this would be a quiet year for Apple’s other operating systems while they focused on the AR headset software must not have known how big a splash the deluge of quality-of-life features could make! Honestly, if we did this sort of cadence introducing big features one year and then filling in a bunch of gaps the next, I’d be a happy camper. Nearly every feature they mentioned for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, got an “Oh, cool!” reaction from me. The enhancements to communication apps — some of our most used, for sure — plus Notes, AirDrop, Check In, interactive widgets, password sharing, and so much more are all things I’m going to use the hell out of. That doesn’t always happen with the stuff they show off.
watchOS got a big refresh, but perhaps not the complete overhaul that I’d been led to believe was coming. I don’t think that’s a bad thing since I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with watchOS. I might have been more upset if they really simplified the UI to be too widget-focused. As it is, I’m really excited about the scroll-down smart stack of widgets that live alongside every watch face. The new features for cycling workouts and hiking look like they were custom-made just for me.
We didn’t see much of Tim today, except for the brief intro and then to kick off the Vision Pro segment. That’s okay, too, because I’m always glad to see them spread the stage time out to more of the team members who crafted what they’re introducing. Except for Craig, who continues to hold down the fort on all the major OS unveilings. That’s a hard-working guy!
Despite all those good things, Vision Pro and visionOS, predictably, stole the show. I think we all just saw the start of something very special. I truly believe that visionOS is going to be the talk of the next decade (alongside generative AI).
Speaking of which, I think I would have preferred “realityOS” and “Reality Pro”, but I can get used to Vision. It’s not a bad brand name.
I’d been hoping for a kick-ass media consumption device that could also be a great VR gaming rig, and expand my computing workspace when I wanted. It seems that’s exactly what Apple delivered — save for the VR-specific gaming, but I choose to believe that there’s more to come on that front and Apple just didn’t want to show off the Vision Pro as too isolating. I also noted that we didn’t see much in the way of people typing in visionOS, or doing more than resizing or swiping around in apps. It’d have been nice to see a more in-depth workflow demo.
Seems like most initial reactions to the EyeSight outward screen are that it’s too Uncanny Valley, but I have to disagree. I was very much again the rumor of an external screen based on the rumors, but after seeing the “real thing”, I’d concede that Apple was absolutely right to pursue that technology. I’m so impressed at how it makes it look like you’re looking into the goggles at their real face and completely solves the problem of knowing when the wearer is or isn’t aware of their surroundings. However, it was a bit off-putting when Apple showed a parent wearing the Vision Pro to their child’s birthday party to capture spatial video. That scenario was a step too far, even if the technology is jaw-dropping.
All in all, I’m seriously impressed and I’ll be saving my pennies — nay, dollars — every day with the goal of purchasing one next year sometime.
My Favorite Pint-Sized Features
- Live voicemail transcription
- FaceTime voicemails
- Last cell service location
- Catch up in Messages
- Bumping for AirDrop and NameDrop
- Improved AutoCorrect
- Interactive widgets that can be dragged to the macOS Desktop
- Video conferencing effects
- Password/passkey sharing with friends and family
- App-powered AirPlay through Siri
- FaceTime on Apple TV (I scoffed at first, but quickly came around to it)
- Smart stack of widgets on watchOS
- Cycling features and iPhone integration during workouts
- Offline and topographical maps
- Collaborative Music playlist and SharePlay in CarPlay
- Sharing Find My devices
- Stickers in the Emoji drawer
- In-line sentence predictions (I’ve grown to like this on Windows)
- More flexible Stage Manager
- Grocery List sorting in Reminders
- Column view in Reminders
- Screen Sharing picker on macOS
- Adjustable framing for Center Stage camera
- Elevation alerts while hiking
- Custom Fitness+ workout plans
- Enhanced Dialogue in tvOS
- Pet recognition in Photos
- Everything in visionOS 😉