The 5 most important announcements Apple made at its biggest conference of the year, and what they mean for the future

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Apple

Apple made a ton of important announcements at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote.

But while some announcements were fun and exciting, others laid important groundwork for developers, consumers, and Apple itself.

And so, here are the 5 most important announcements Apple made at WWDC 2018, its biggest conference of the year:


1. In its effort to bring augmented reality (AR) to the mainstream, Apple teamed up with Pixar to make a new compact file format that’s optimized for sharing GIFs and videos that feature 3D graphics and animations.

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Apple

Why it matters: Augmented reality could one day kill the smartphone, and Apple is doing everything it can to push this new technology to the masses.

AR, for those unfamiliar, lets you see virtual images as if they existed in the real world. You can see examples of AR in popular smartphone apps like Snapchat and Pokémon Go, where your phone places virtual images on top of whatever your camera is capturing, but lots of companies – including Apple – are reportedly working on AR smart glasses that don’t require a smartphone.

Last year, at WWDC 2017, it introduced ARKit to let developers build their own augmented-reality experiences. And this year, Apple is addressing the second half of that equation by helping developers create experiences that can easily be shared on popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter thanks to this new compact file standard, called USDZ.

Once people on social media start seeing more AR videos, there’s a good chance others will want to get in on the action. This could be how Apple finally makes AR go mainstream.


2. Apple is making Siri much more useful, thanks to Siri Shortcuts, a new feature born from Apple’s acquisition of the excellent Workflow app.

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Why it matters: Apple’s Siri assistant has been a laughing stock for years. Compounding the problem is the fact that other virtual assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, are constantly getting better every year. Google, for instance, showed off a version of its Assistant at its own developers conference this year that can place calls for you and even book reservations. It was a wild demonstration, but it also showed how far behind Apple was in those same efforts.

Many wondered what Apple would have for Siri at WWDC 2018, and the answer to that question is Siri Shortcuts.

With Siri Shortcuts, you can create unique phrases that perform multiple actions in either one or several apps. For example, you could create a shortcut for the phrase “I lost my keys,” which could automatically trigger your Tile app to play an alarm so you can find your device.

You can also have a single phrase trigger a series, or sequence, of actions. Maybe when you tell Siri “I’m coming home,” it can automatically text your wife the same message, pull up directions to your house on Apple Maps, and set the thermostat so it’s perfectly cool when you arrive.

Siri is also more proactive now, too. If Siri notices you have a meeting, but you’re physically nowhere close to the location, it could suggest you text the meeting organizer with a pre-set message that you’re running late. Or if it recognizes you bought movie tickets for a certain day and time, it could recognize those things and automatically suggest you turn on Do Not Disturb. These are nice touches that require minimal effort on behalf of the user.

Siri may not be at the level of Google Assistant or Alexa just yet, but Siri Shortcuts is a vast improvement to one of the core components of Apple’s ecosystem.


3. MacOS Mojave introduces several new features to Mac computers, but perhaps the best among them is a new feature that automatically organizes your desktop files for you, called Stacks.

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Apple

Why it matters: We could all use a little help staying organized. Thankfully, in macOS Mojave, a new feature called “Stacks” easily organizes all the random contents on your desktop into neat little batches of documents located on the right side of the screen. Stacks can be arranged by file type, date, or tag.

If you click on a stack, you’ll see all the contents. From there, you can double-click to open a document, or click the stack again to put everything away.

And the best part is that Stacks will stay organized, regardless of how many documents you add to your desktop. If you continually take screenshots, for example, macOS Mojave will automatically categorize them for you, rather than scatter them everywhere. This is a great example of how Apple’s software can make tedious processes much easier for users.


4. Apple introduced software that can actually help people from getting too distracted by their phones.

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Why it matters: At WWDC 2018, Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi made an interesting admission: He said apps often “need more attention than we realize.” He talked about how notifications draw us in for fear of missing out, which has created a new habit where we are constantly checking our phones.

And so, Apple introduced new features in iOS 12 that limit distraction and help you focus on the things that are important to you.

There are four components to Apple’s plan to limit distraction:

1. Do Not Disturb mode for bedtime can hide your big, stressful list of notifications when it’s time for bed. When you’re fully awake the next morning, you can tap a button for when you’re ready to see all your notifications and take on the day.

2. Notifications are getting a big update. “Instant Tuning” will let you turn off notifications for apps at any moment, or help notifications bypass the lock screen. Also, Apple is going to add grouped notifications to iOS (thank goodness) so they’re grouped by app, topic, or thread.

3. Apple’s new Screentime app can give you deep insights on how you spend time in your apps. You can see how often you’re picking up your phone, and what’s drawing you in. And you can also see which apps are sending you the most notifications.

4. App Limits can help you manage your time on your phone – so you can choose to only spend an hour in Instagram per day, for instance. Parents can also set App Limits on their kids by category or individual app, in case you want your kid to always have access to the Phone app, or educational apps, but want to limit their time in certain apps and websites. It works across both iPhone and iPad, and you can manage it all remotely.

All four of these components could go a long way towards breaking smartphone addiction and overstimulation.


5. Apple also offered a sneak peek of an ambitious project it’s working on: the ability to easily convert iOS apps into Mac apps.

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Apple

Why it matters: Not every iOS app makes sense as a Mac app. Yet, given the fact that Apple’s iOS App Store has millions of apps while the Mac App Store only has “tens of thousands,” this movement could help bolster the Mac App Store as a whole, while simplifying things for developers, who want to bring their apps to every platform with minimal effort, and for consumers, who want the same experiences across every device.

Apple used this new tech to bring its own iOS apps, like Voice Memos, Apple News, and Stocks, from the iPhone to the iPad and Mac this year. But Apple says it’s going to make this feature available to all developers in 2019. If porting iOS apps to the Mac App Store indeed requires only minimal effort, as Apple insists it does, this could be a huge burden lifted off developers that want the widest audience possible.


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