WWDC 2016 Keynote Highlights

The first day of WWDC 2016 is in the books. Now comes the fun part of analyzing everything that was announced and pouring over documentation and betas to find things that did not make the keynote1.

Instead of trying to cover everything, I just want to quickly discuss my favorite announcement as a developer, my favorite as a user, and a few things I was surprised to see that did not get updated.

Swift Playgrounds for iPad

This was the coolest thing of the Keynote for me. They took the Playground feature from Xcode and brought it to the iPad. It includes Swift 3 and a great code editing keyboard that uses gestures on the standard keys to insert common characters that are used while coding.

It was pitched as being a great way to introduce people (especially kids) to the concepts of coding. A few years ago, I led a small class teaching middle schoolers how to do some simple coding. Something like this would have made things way easier for both the kids and myself.

Outside of teaching, this app will be valuable for more experienced developers as well. Playgrounds on Xcode are already useful for trying with new APIs or building isolated components of an app. Because the iPad app has full access to all of the system frameworks like UIKit, this type of quick prototyping can now be done on the iPad. It is not a full version of Xcode, but it is a lot closer than I think most people realize.

Messages for iOS

The changes to Messages for iOS were the consumer highlight of the Keynote. The list of additions is impressive.

  • Message emphasis (like slam, loud, gentle, and invisible ink) and effects (like exploding backgrounds and confetti).
  • Reactions for individual messages (like, dislike, ect).
  • Apple Watch-like drawings and heartbeats.
  • All Emoji-fiable2 words can be automatically converted from boring English3 to Emoji.
  • Third party iMessage Apps + including a separate App Store to manage and discover them.

All of these things together make iMessage a much more viable competitor to some of the more modern chat apps to come out recently like Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat.

Some of the third party iMessage App ideas they showed during the keynote were already served by third party keyboards, but having these build right into Messages is going to provide a much better user experience.

The biggest problem of using a custom keyboard for things like animated gifs or stickers was searching. In a custom keyboard, you can not use the standard keyboard to do a search for whatever image or content you are looking for. So apps would either not include search at all or would build a half backed QWERTY keyboard into their extension that was never anywhere close to as good as the standard one. Since they can now be accessed from Messages4, I can still use my normal keyboard to do the search. This feature will pretty much kill third party keyboards for me.

I remember thinking that Apple was really falling behind in messaging after watching Google IO this year. With what they announced today, they have already passed Google’s new Allo app. They did not pass them by directly competing with them, but by allowing third parties to fill in gaps that Apple did not provide solutions for5.

One interesting side effect of iMessage Apps is that they basically rule out the possibility of iMessage for Android.

What We Didn’t Get

There are always some things that you hope get announced that don’t show up. While some of them are missing understandably6, some of them leave you scratching your head a little. The big ones that stand out for me so far are…

  • Some system apps still do not support multitasking on the iPad7.
  • The iPad multitasking app picker is still horrible.
  • There was no mention of PiP on tvOS.
  • Even though “OS X” was renamed to “macOS”, we are still using the “10.x” version numbering system.

I will go deeper into some of the other new things that were announced after I have time to read the documentation closer, go to some sessions, and play around with some code.

If you see me around Moscone or SF during the week, come say hi!

  1. My favorite find so far is the ability to quickly unsubscribe from newsletters in the iOS Mail app
  2. Emoji-fiable is my leading candidate for the Word of 2016. 
  3. Or presumably other languages. 
  4. Which was the only app I ever used them from anyway. 
  5. The exciting this about this solution is that there is nothing that is preventing Google from putting some of Allo’s features right into iMessage. 
  6. Like UIKit for macOS. 
  7. Thankfully, the new Apple Music app does. I’m sure I will have more to talk about for Apple Music, but I want to spend some time with it first.