By Dan Moren
June 25, 2020 6:57 AM PT
WWDC 2020 Wednesday: Session Impressions, Part 2
Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.
The barrage of informative presentations continued on Wednesday, and among the most pressing question I had while watching them…what’s up with all the tchotchkes? Are they an attempt at giving each session a little personality? Could they be some sort of puzzle to decode? Some people have speculated they aren’t even real, but rather AR objects. The conspiracy theories abound!
Ahem. Anyway, here are a few interesting tidbits from a few of the talks I watched on Wednesday.
Meet Face ID and Touch ID for the web
We’ve all gotten used to logging in to apps on our iPhones, iPads, and—in some cases—Macs using Touch ID and Face ID. So much so that when we visit a website and it asks us for our password, it feels extremely 20th century.
Well, good news: Apple is rolling out a way for websites to offer authentication via Face ID or Touch ID. What shouldn’t be a surprise is that on the user end the experience is almost identical to logging in to an app. Once a website offers Face ID/Touch ID as an option, you simply agree to use it, authenticate with the biometrics to prove your identity, and the next time you log in, you won’t have to enter your password.
An interesting tidbit I gleaned from this presentation: as part of the process, Apple has created its own attestation service. This optional feature provides an extra step of security in which the device maker can be queried to confirm details about the device requesting authentication. Such a process might be used by higher-security institutions like banks, which could be required to enforce multi-factor verification. So, for example, a site can check with Apple that the iPhone being used for Face ID authentication is really an iPhone and it actually supports Face ID authentication.
In traditional Apple fashion, the company has layered more privacy on top of this service. As WebKit Engineer Jiewen Tan points out, an attestation service could just provide the same certificate every time it’s queried, thus providing an opportunity for cross-site tracking by comparing those certificates. So, instead, Apple issues unique certificates every time, thus anonymizing the device.
Also, one final good tip I was glad to see from this presentation: Apple’s not advising sites to use Face ID and Touch ID as the only method for authentication, given that if you lose your device, you may be out of luck. So the password is probably here to stay for a bit longer.
What’s New in Wallet and Apple Pay
Apple Pay has obviously become a big part of our lives, and especially in this day and age, contactless payments have become even more popular.
While Apple Pay enhancements weren’t something really touched upon in the keynote, there is at least one very significant improvement this year: the ability to use Apple Pay in both Catalyst apps and native Mac apps.
It actually kind of surprised me to see this brought up, because I hadn’t really thought about Mac apps not having Apple Pay. Heck, I’ve done Apple Pay transactions on my Mac—but they were all via Safari. Going forward, however, any app that’s on the Mac will be able to integrate Apple Pay payments. (That makes sense especially given that upcoming Apple Silicon Macs will run iOS and iPadOS apps, which themselves will be able to take Apple Pay.)
There are a few other improvements coming as well. To anyone who has ever been frustrated by having an Apple Pay transaction fail because of an error in your address or phone number, Apple will now impose standardized formatting of contact information, and will validate the data prior to the transaction.
Finally, in order to provide a better onboarding experience for people adding cards, the Wallet app will now support an extension for issuer apps. So, if you have your bank’s app installed, the option to add your card can appear directly in Wallet.
Oh, and perhaps most excitingly, developers can now alter the corner radius of the Apple Pay button, all the way from rectangles to a pill-like shape. Let’s hear it for button configuration!
Tap into Game Center: Dashboard, Access Point, and Profile and Tap into Game Center: Tap into Game Center: Leaderboards, Achievements, and Multiplayer
I would not have guessed that Game Center would see a substantial overhaul in the upcoming platform updates, but I’m delighted to see that it’s getting a lot of attention.
Chief among the updates, Apple’s rolling out a new Dashboard feature that feels much more like what you might see on a game console. It collects a variety of information into one location, including your profile, your friends, your achievements, and your leaderboards.
To access the dashboard there’s a new, appropriately named Access Point that can games can integrate, which shows up as a little picture of your Game Center avatar on the menu screen of a game. (It can also optionally show other highlights, like your achievements or current leaderboard status.)
A big part of this Game Center update is pervasiveness. You can now access your profile in a variety of places, including in-game and even in the App Store, instead of having to dig into a dedicated app or the system-level Settings.
There are also new UIs for real-time and turn-based multiplayer that app developers can integrate, or roll their own, which not only let you add friends to games but nearby players as well.
Apple’s also beefed up offerings like achievements, which can now show your progress towards attaining the goal, and leaderboards, which can be configured to be recurring, resetting after a specific time period or when a particular score is reached.
Players also have more control over the visibility of their profiles, whether they’re available to everyone, just friends, or just private. And the App Store now shows you what games your friends are playing as suggestions, as well as letting you directly access their player profiles from the store.
Mostly, though, I just want to play the “The Coast”, the demo game the presenters were using. I don’t know if it’s real, but a game about being a lighthouse keeper trying to safely see cargo ships through a treacherous body of water? Sign me up.
All in all, these updates to Game Center seem like a great comeback for a feature that seemed to have been left for dead a few years back. I guess you could call it quite the…achievement.1
- I’ll see myself out. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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