Apples WWDC Keynote Reveals iOS 9, Apple Music and more

tim cook apple wwdc 2015Like Googles I/O conference, Apples WWDC is an annual opportunity to give developers and the wider world a glimpse of what it has lined up for the next 12 months, and begin the hype machine on the next devices and services that we can expect from Tim Cook and company.

While the Apple keynote was less mobile focused than its Google counterpart, with time given over to a new version of the companys desktop OS X El Capitan, there was still plenty of mobile news rolling out from the Moscone Centre in San Francisco, not least the announcement of a new version of the firms mobile operating system iOS 9.

ios9 siriNo Revolutions, but Plenty of Renovation

While previous years have always seen a new version of iOS announced at WWDC, there was speculation this year that the company would take a year off to focus on fixing existing features and solidifying Apples mobile foundation. However, it was not to be, with iOS 9 bringing some of the refinements we were expecting, along with some new unexpected features.

Siri, Apples digital assistant, will be improved, with better natural language processing and proactive features that learn from users behaviour and predict actions that will be wanted, for example taking travel time into meeting reminders, and starting up an audiobook when you get in the car if you like to listen to audiobooks while driving.

Spotlight is also receiving a long-overdue upgrade, following Apples search feature being made available to third-party apps. Deep-linking to apps will be introduced, enabling users to search on the home screen for a restaurant then jump straight to a listing within a restaurant booking app, or reviews on Yelp. This kind of functionality will push back against Googles dominance of search, at least for iPhone and iPad users.

Among the other new features announced were a new app that appears to pretty much copy successful news service Flipboard and add a search function, the introduction of a trackpad for iPad keyboards that activates when you place two fingers on it, and the ability to run two apps side by side on an iPad, reminiscent of Windows split-screen feature.

apple pay natwestA Sterling Update to Apple Pay

As the Sex Pistols didnt quite sing, “Apple Pay in the UK, its coming next month, maybe”. In addition to rolling out their contactless mobile payment solution to more stores, more banks and more apps, Apple announced that Apple Pay will be rolled out to qualifying users in the UK shortly, perhaps as soon as next month.

As with the US launch, the rollout is being made in conjunction with Visa and Mastercard, who are introducing their tokenisation solutions to Europe as part of the launch, as well as a series of traders including Tesco, Boots, Marks & Spencer and TfL.

Multiple UK banks have already confirmed their participation with the solution, including HSBC, Lloyds Bank, TSB, Bank of Scotland, Nationwide, NatWest and Ulster Bank, among others.

The UK is noted as being one of the key early adopters of contactless payment, and the introduction of Apple Pay to the UK may be another step in securing contactless place as a trusted form of payment, and moving towards a cashless society.

In addition to the UK rollout, Apple are introducing the ability to store reward cards in the Passbook app, which is being rebranded as Wallet, which may help cement Apple Pays usage in quick transactions like coffee shops and everyday grocery shopping.

apple watch slideshowApple Watch Keeps on Ticking

Despite the less than full-throated support that greeted its initial launch, Apple is continuing to bet on the Apple Watch as being a key aspect of its device ecosystem, with the announcement of watchOS 2, the first major software update for the wearable that enables developers to take advantage of more of the devices hardware.

The update and accompanying new SDK will unlock the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and microphone for developers, allowing them to create third-party apps that finally start to take advantage of the watchs features, which have so far been limited to Apples own apps.

New software APIs will enable audio and video playback and animation, and with the ClockKit framework, developers will be able to deliver data as complications on the watch face itself.

New Apple Watch features include the ability to turn photos into watch faces, even transforming the device into a slideshow of images that changes every time you raise your wrist. Also available is a Time-Lapse watch face that plays out time-lapse footage shot in iconic locations from around the world, and a Time Travel feature that allows users to scroll through upcoming and past events.

apple musicApple Faces The Music

Finally, Apple unveiled its long-predicted music streaming service, Apple Music. The service will be made available on 30 June in over 100 countries, and will cost $9.99 (£6.51) a month, or $14.99 for a family plan that enables streaming over multiple devices.

The app was introduced by Jimmy Iovine, whose Beats service was bought by Apple a little over a year ago for $3bn. The presentation included several musicians, from a talking head video by Trent Reznor to rapper Drake explaining the social aspects of the app, and a special performance by R&B singer The Weeknd.

Although it will initially only be available on iOS devices, Apple plans to roll the app out to Android users eventually, and is clearly positioning itself as a rival to services like Spotify and Rdio, with the offer of a large catalogue of on-demand tracks as well as a live radio station called Beats 1, curated by DJs in London, New York and Los Angeles.

Apple Music will also include a social media aspect, with the Connect feature pulling content from a variety of social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, into a single portal that users can access while streaming.

All the functions will be built into the Apple Music app that comes with iOS 9, meaning that any user running the latest version of the operating system will find the app on their phone, and with a three-month free trial, Apple is likely hoping to tempt many new users onto its service.