By Dan Moren
June 4, 2019 11:18 AM PT
The good, the bad, and the pricey: Apple’s WWDC announcements
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
It’s not an Apple event without strong opinions all around, and there were no shortage of those at WWDC this year. Apple showed off updates to all of its major platforms—yes, even tvOS!—and there are very few, if any, products that won’t be affected by these changes.
With all that to sift through, here’s my personal rundown of the best and worst of Apple’s major platform announcements.
The best: Multiuser support
Finally, an indication that Apple realizes that households share devices. Individualized queues and recommendations are great, but I’m curious how deeply this goes into the OS. Does each user use a different Apple ID? How are purchases handled? What about third-party apps—can they “see” who is logged in and provide their own linked profile support? This may be more a starting point than anything else, but I’m glad that Apple’s at least starting.
The worst: Auto-play on home screen
Ugh. There’s a taste of this in the latest tvOS update, where the TV app now auto-plays trailers in the background. I hope there’s a way to turn this off, because it’s annoying and distracting. If I’ve decided I want to watch something, I don’t need to see the trailer; if I’ve decided I don’t want to watch something, I don’t need to see the trailer. If I’m on the fence, just let me choose whether or not I want to see the trailer.
The best: Activity trends
With this long-term view, Apple’s shifting its health perspective from the tactical to the strategic. Now that the Watch is motivating people to get up and get moving, it’s time to analyze the data that’s being collected and make more proactive decisions based on it. This feels like a real shift in terms of the digital health initiatives Apple has been pushing. (Also health related, and worth a mention: Cycle Tracking for menstruation, a feature that has been missing for far too long, which is also available on iOS.)
The worst: Calculator
I’m really just trying to support James Thomson here.
The best: Reminders redesign
The current Reminders app on macOS is, frankly, a travesty. It’s the one app that never quite hit escape velocity from the skeuomorphism black hole, even though whatever it’s mimicking isn’t actually a real thing? It’s clunky, frustrating, and yet I somehow use it every day anyway, because it’s built-in to the OS. But it’s in need of a top-to-bottom refresh, and that is exactly what Apple is delivering here. This is one of those small moves that will make a huge improvement to my everyday life.
The worst: Project Catalyst
Wait, wait, hear me out. It’s not that I’m against the idea of bringing any iOS apps to the Mac. However, I am specifically against bringing the Twitter app to the Mac because a) I think it’s a terrible app and b) there’s a good chance it will reinforce the social network’s attempt to shut down third-party apps, which have long thrived on the Mac and provide overall better experiences, except where they have been hamstrung by Twitter itself.
The best: USB external storage access
One of those glaring omissions that existed only because Apple was trying to disrupt all of the existing computing paradigms, only to realize that some of those paradigms existed for reasons. This is one of the last holdouts in that category, and it will significantly streamline some workflows on the iPad that were technically possible, but required cumbersome workarounds.1
The worst: New text selection model
Okay, maybe “the worst” is overselling it, but the onstage demo, which involved dragging the cursor where you want it to go, seemed awkward and a little janky. Frankly, though, text selection and manipulation on iOS devices has always been a little janky. I’m not sold on the three-finger gestures for cut/copy/paste either2, but an Undo gesture seems like a great idea.
The best: Sign In with Apple
Streamlining signing up for new services? Excellent. Giving you more control over what information is shared with third parties? Even better. Providing disposable email addresses that can be used to figure out which service is spamming you and then allow you to revoke just that address? Hallelujah. The feature will apparently be mandatory if an app offers any other third-party sign-on service (i.e. Sign In With Google or Facebook), which ought to help adoption, but no doubt there are some companies that won’t be thrilled with it.
The worst: …Maps?
Uh, I guess with enhanced geographical data and the new Look Around3 feature, we won’t have Maps to kick around anymore, and that’s a…shame?
Honestly, I got nothing.
The Mac Pro
The best: Easy modularity and upgrading
People clamored for an easily upgradable, insanely powerful Mac, and they got it in spades. The pull-off case hearkens back to the heyday of the PowerMac G3/G4 towers and their flip-down doors, and the amount of internal expandability is truly amazing. Hard to imagine there’s anything more that a professional user might want.
The worst: It’s not for you
All of us prosumers and enthusiasts who used to insist we needed a pro desktop are gasping at the $5999 price tag (not to mention the equally expensive Pro Display), but that’s because this isn’t a machine designed for even “average” power tasks. This is a workstation, emphasis on work. If you’re not a creative professional, the Mac Pro is likely overkill, and at that cost, it’s not a machine that a lot of individual users are probably going to be buying anyway. We’ll have to make do with iMacs and iMac Pros, poor us.4
Multiuser support for HomePod, full display of Siri search results on Apple Watch, macOS Mail’s ability to unsubscribe from marketing lists, widgets on the iPad Home screen and multiple windows per app(!), name/avatar sharing in Messages on iOS, the Mac Pro’s 28-core processor, and so much more.
Too much to count
Even at more than two hours, this Apple keynote felt jam-packed. There was a lot to like, and not really that much to disappoint, though as always, we’ll have to wait to get our hands on all of these updates to see how they really perform.
- Now if you could add the ability to record and transmit audio simultaneously, we podcasters would be in business. ↩
- And “three-finger spread”, Craig? No. Please, no. ↩
- Don’t call it “Street View” unless you want to get kidnapped in an Apple Maps van. ↩
- Also the Mac Pro’s two-tone silver and black keyboard, mouse, and trackpad are the new prestige accessories, for when you want people to know this isn’t just any old iMac Pro. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.