Apple kicked off its 23rd WorldWide Developer Conference this year with an opening act by Siri. Let’s be honest, it was bad. That said , Tim Cooked took over and rehashed some valuable data regarding the App Store and its worldwide presence. Available in 120 countries and being opened up to an additional 32 by the end of the month, the App store has brought over half a million apps to people’s fingertips. Apple also has made cheques totalling $5 billion to its developers, creating what it has called a “self-sustaining economy.” This economy has brought millions of people together and proved to the world that it is possible for one to make a difference in the lives of many. As Apple showed us through its video, developers have been able to enrich the lives of almost everyone that has access to any iOS device. Enriching lives which some may have thought not possible less than half a decade ago.
Apple teased us with a bit of an introduction to its keynote by giving us a hint at what it was going to discuss with the community today. Mention of a refresh to the MacBook lineup, review of OSX Mountain Lion and a showcase of iOS6. In other words, no information about a new iPhone. Admittingly I was a bit disappointed but let’s be honest, we really shouldn’t have expected anything. To start us off, we were run through some stats again on Mac adoption and provided with some nice sales figures. However, I find most of that just boring so let’s dig into it.
Shipping today, Apple has upgraded its MacBook Air lineup with the latest generation of dual-core Ivey Bridge processors. Increasing the speeds significantly but also integrating the latest 1600MHz RAM into its units. This speed bump will be visible most likely on heavier applications such as iPhoto and iMovie where accessing data at higher speeds will result in quicker feedback to the users. Some other more notable upgrades;
- Up to 8GB RAM versus previous maximum of 4GB
- Configurable to 512GB of storage
- USB 3.0 with USB 2.0 support built-in
- Upgraded FaceTime webcam which supports 720p
- $100 cheaper for US models (add $30 for Canadian’s)
Most of these upgrades have been expected and not as mind-blowing as many would hope, however, the increased speeds and upgraded chips produce a (according to Apple) 60% performance boost overall. A notable improvement for a machine which can easily slide into a intermail envelope. As mentioned, available to configure and purchase today.
Unlike it’s sleeker cousin the MacBook Air’s, the MacBook Pro’s did not see a price drop. Nevertheless the upgrades are very similar to what I mentioned in above.
- Top-end 13″ model comes standard with 8GB 1600MHz RAM, where as the entry-level only has 4GB
- 3rd generation Intel Ivey Bridge dual-core’s on the 13″ lineup and quad-core on the 15″ lineup
- The discrete graphics chip has been upgraded allowing for a performance boost of up to 60% (according to Apple)
- On the 15″ models, the dedicated GPU chips are now NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M’s with 512MB or 1GB dedicated RAM (15″ entry and 15″ top-end respectively)
- USB 3.0 and 2.0 support
Not much else has changed on these as can be seen. The slight boost in performance will be welcomed for those power-hungry users that require it, but nothing to jump to the ceiling for.
New MacBook Pro
Apple surprised many with the introduction of what some had predicted would be a 15″ Air styled MacBook Pro. Seems like speculators were correct in stating that Apple was moving away from the traditional form of laptops and creating a new line of Pro’s specifically tailored around performance, speed and portability. For anyone who had read my pre-WWDC post, you’ll note that I had made a statement that I was interested in seeing basically what Apple presented to the community today. A gorgeous laptop which for many will become their new workhorse.
The key specs on the new MacBook pro worth noting:
- Slim design, only 0.71 inches tall with its lid closed (that’s the same width as a current 15″ MacBook Pro with its lid open)
- 4.46 pounds, lighter than the current generation 13″ MacBook Pro’s
- Retina display, 2880 x 1800 displaying 5.1 million pixels on a 15.4″ screen
- Reduced glare by 75% (according to Apple)
- A 2.3GHz or 2.6GHz i7 (configurable on the top-end to 2.7GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
- 8GB of DDR3 RAM, configurable up to 16GB on the higher priced model
- 256GB or 512GB of storage, upgradable to 768GB on the top-end model
- The same graphics chip as on the refreshed MacBook Pro’s: 1GB GeForce 650M and the discrete Intel HD 4000 chip
- 2 Thunderbolt ports, 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports, a HDMI (brand new for Macs but much overdue) and a slimmer MagSafe
- Standard 802.11n wifi chipset and the latest Bluetooth 4.0
An impressive engineering achievement if you ask anyone I would think. It isn’t easy to cram all those pieces into something that small and yet, be able to claim a good 7 hours of battery life, depending upon use. The new MacBook Pro is designed completely around flash. As such, the price point is fairly high. Starting at $2199 USD and jumping up to $2799 for the top-end model, one can easily push the price point to well above $4000 before taxes if configured appropriately. For example, jumping from the 512GB to the 768GB will cost you an extra $500. Do to the fact that the machine is built entirely around flash, like its sister the MacBook Air, there is no way to upgrade later down the road, at this point in time. You would need to upgrade what’s critical for you right on the spot, or be locked into which ever configuration you chose to purchase for the life of the unit.
Despite the price, we’ll most likely see some of our friends carrying around this beast under their arms fairly soon.
No More 17″ MacBook Pro’s
One important fact to note which was not announced but most likely those who’ve been on the Apple store since the keynote have realized, the 17″ MacBook Pro models are no longer available. As predicted, the 17″ has gone end-of-life. For those who still are looking for one, take a look at the “Refurbished Mac“ section on the Apple store. At time of writing this, there are a fair amount of models still available, some saving you as much as 26% off the original price.
OSX 10.8 … Mountain Lion
We all knew that we’d see this, it was announced at Apple’s last keynote and developers had let it slip to the public that it’s coming. The 8th iteration of OSX 10 is close to release as stated by Apple announcing its availability next month. Priced aggressively at $19.99, Mountain Lion will be available for upgrade through the App Store on our Mac’s soon. Customers who purchase a Mac as of today, will be upgraded for free when it is released.
Apple presented us with a few of the 200+ new features we’ll be seeing in Mountain Lion, some of which will allow us to better integrate between our iOS devices and some which will improve the way we work on our Mac’s. The first four new features that will be the most noticeable are Notification Centre, Messages, Notes and Reminders, similar to the versions on iOS. These applications will communicate together through our Apple ID’s instantaneously updating data on the fly where changes are detected. iCloud at its finest, for once.
Speaking of iCloud, with Mountain Lion, the integration is even tighter. When you setup for the very first time, you will be prompted, similarly as on your iOS device, to log into your iCloud account. This will then connect all of Mountain Lion’s applications with those counterparts on your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. A big addition being what has been called Documents in the Cloud. Connecting your iWork applications to allow you to create, edit and view any Numbers, Pages or Keynote documents across all platforms. In simpler terms, Apple may have finally gotten iDisk right. Only took them a decade but hey, it has been an interesting trip.
Next Apple introduced us to its level of integration across applications with services we most commonly use. Starting off with Twitter and FaceBook. In Mountain Lion, we will be able to Tweet or post to our FaceBook timelines from virtually any application. Sending a webpage via email will become easier and updating a friend with some relative research through Messenger will be a breeze. The level at which Apple has gone to integrate its applications with services most commonly used is mind-boggling. I’ve personally not seen a tighter level in another OS and I have the pleasure of working across multiple operating systems. That said, please note that as stated on Apple’s website for Mountain Lion, FaceBook integration will not come until the fall.
Two features which I am personally looking forward to are AirPlay and Power Nap. AirPlay will allow a Mac to connect to an Apple TV and display pixel per pixel what you are viewing on your Mac. Boardrooms that are setup, we will no longer need to connect via a VGA or HDMI cable, but will be able to display presentations and other key information over their wifi networks.
Power Nap is a neat little feature which keeps our Mac up-to-date while it’s in sleep mode. Meaning that when you fire it back up, your mail, calendar, address book and reminders will be all updated with what ever happened while you were asleep. While plugged into a power source, your Mac will be able to pull down updates and install them as well as backup to your TimeCapsule. The only question still unanswered is whether you can close your lid or not. I guess we’ll just have to wait until we get our hands on it.
Overall it seems like an impressive update. For only $19.99 I don’t see why anyone would stick around on an older OS version. Apple has also announced it will be making available upgrade packages for those users who are still stuck on versions older than Lion. How far back and what the prices will be are currently unknown. Also, as with any other app purchased through the App Store, you will be able to upgrade up to five Mac’s while logged in with your Apple ID.
Every year since the release of the first iPhone, Apple has graced us fans with a new version of the iOS. This year was no different. We can expect to upgrade our iPhone’s, iPod Touches and iPad’s sometime in the fall. Most likely at the same time perhaps see a new iPhone. With over 200 new features, iOS 6 brings with it a new Maps application, Passbook, better Mail, Siri to more international customers and onto the iPad, FaceBook integration, enhanced phone app and FaceTime over cellular.
Support for iOS 6 will be on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad 3 and 4th generation iPod Touch.
We’ve read that Apple could be dropping Google Maps in its latest iteration of iOS and the rumours seem to have been true. Built from the ground up, Apple is shipping iOS 6 with its own redefined Maps. Built-in with 3D FlyOver, turn-by-turn navigation, integrated with local traffic and anonymous real-time crowd sourcing data, Apples take on Maps seems to be what people have been asking for. Siri aids by announcing exactly when to take a turn but more importantly, turn-by-turn works while your screen is locked. A nifty feature if you ask me.
Keeping to brining new apps to iPhone users, Apple has built a native Passbook app which stores all of your reward cards, flight boarding passes, coupons and gift cards. The app will know where you are through geotagging and location services and help locate the right rewards or gift cards by sending you a notification when you enter a store. This unique spin on using your phone to make purchases removes the need to have several different applications by localizing everything in one place. Well thought out, however I’m curious to see the adoption rate for it once it is released. Seems also vaguely similar to something another company was working on.
A notable and much welcomed update to Mail will now allow users to set up multiple email signatures as well as tag important contacts. For those users who use their iPhones and or iPad’s for work and personal communication, will be glad to know that now we can create customized signatures for each mail account. What does this mean, it’s simple. I no longer will have to worry about removing data from my email signature that I wouldn’t want one of my work contacts to have. Currently only one email signature applies to all of your accounts. In iOS 6, we will be able to differentiate this. Another key feature, the ability to add a VIP status to contacts, will ensure we don’t miss anything important. If you don’t want to miss emails from your boss or family member, marking them as a VIP will help identify those emails with a star as well as group them into a smart mailbox on your iOS device for quicker access. Finally I won’t miss out on important updates.
Siri apparently had gone through some major learning curves and now understand sports. Not something I personally am looking forward to but I am looking to getting my hands on it here in Canada and utilizing it properly. As stated in my pre-WWDC post, Siri was localized to the US since its initial release. In iOS 6, Siri will be able to do everything our US friends have been able to, but localized to where we live. Until we get our hands on it, not much else can really be written on this feature. Oh one more thing, Siri is coming to the iPad.
Integration seems to be the running theme in this years WWDC. iOS wasn’t able to avoid that. Last upgrade, Twitter was the big partner to be integrated into iOS. This time around it’s FaceBook. From the demo, you’ll be able to do pretty much what has been made available to Twitter. Post directly to your timeline from most built-in applications. In other words, we won’t need to launch the FaceBook app to post a picture or update our timeline. Not something I’m excited about as I don’t use FaceBook as heavily as say twitter.
The most impressive update however for me was to the phone app. There are three upgrades which are worth mentioning and most likely will be utilized heavily. Reply, Remind and Do Not Disturb. We’ve all been in situations where we get a call that we cannot take but would like to let that person know that we’ll get back to them or perhaps set a reminder for ourselves which by the end of our activity, we forget. With iOS 6, we will be able to do just that right in the middle of an incoming call. Slide the screen up and you will be presented with two options. “Reply with Message” or “Remind Me Later”. When replying to a call, we can either select a preset response or send a customized message without having to go into Messenger. If we select to remind ourselves later, we are presented with 4 options; In 1 hour, When I Leave, When I Get Home or When I Get to Work. Utilizing geotagging present locations, or perhaps just using our data in our contact card, the iPhone will be able to send us a notification to call back once we’ve stepped outside a geo-fence. Nifty but I foresee battery drain issues if the GPS keeps verifying our location.
More importantly in my opinion, is the new Do Not Disturb (DND) feature. Essentially it does what we all think it’ll do. Eliminate notifications both visual and audible when set. We can either manually set this or setup a timeframe which to put our iOS devices into a DND mode. I know my wife will personally appreciate this as my iPhone has woken her up in the past due to late night work emails or other notifications. That said it is smarter than just setting itself up and leaving it at that. There is an option where we can specify a specific group of individuals who regardless of this feature being on, can still get through to us. For those important contacts like family members, we can set up the DND feature to permit calls from them regardless of DND being enabled. Handy if you don’t live with your family or your spouse works late and you’d rather not sleep through what may be an emergency call. Also, if a number or contact calls you twice within a 3 minute window, the DND feature will push the call through to notify you that someone urgently needs your attention.
Lastly, I think it is important to note that finally since its release, Apple will enable FaceTime over cellular. No longer will we need to be tethered to a wifi hotspot in order to make a FaceTime call to a loved one or a friend. Despite this great news, I am hesitant to find out how much data this will chew up. Perhaps in iOS 6 Apple has coded some new compression algorithms which will aid in keeping FaceTime from eating up our data plans. For now I’m sure many are just happy that they can do this without wifi. We’ll see the reports after iOS 6 gets released, as to what type of damage it does on our pockets.
That’s basically it. WWDC 2012 in a nutshell. There were a few other minor features in both the OSX and iOS preview which could be mentioned, but for that, I’d just recommend you watch the keynote which has been posted on Apple’s website. Overall, an impressive kick-off to a week-long conference. New hardware, better understanding of what to expect from OSX Mountain Lion and a preview of what we’re looking forward to this fall.