WWDC 2017: All the stuff Apple announced

The WWDC is Apple’s annual developers conference. Usually, it is focused on software, but 2017 was different, with plenty of new devices getting announced, albeit some will be available later in the year. The event took place in San Jose on Monday, so after having a bit of time to digest the news, here is everything Apple announced.

Hardware

MacBooks

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The entire MacBook line-up got refreshed, including the now “ancient” MacBook Air.

However, the Air in particular didn’t get the upgrade we were looking for. It got the faster processors, but they are still from Intel’s 5th generation, which is 2 generations behind. On top of that, it remains Apple’s only laptop which doesn’t offer USB-C ports and a “Retina” display. On the other hand, it still remains the cheapest Apple laptop with the base price starting at $999.

The MacBook Air should have been dead by now, but despite the outdated specs, remains to sell well.

The little 12” MacBook also got a spec bump. It should be slightly nippier during normal use, but it still uses the ultra-low voltage Intel processors, limiting it to easier jobs, like taking notes, writing emails, browsing the web, etc. Other than the improved performance, the new chip also enables faster data transfer speeds through the single USB-C port. On top of that, the MacBook now uses the same keyboard as the new MacBook Pros, making it a bit nicer to type on. The worst part remains the webcam. Apple argues that it isn’t possible to fit a higher quality camera into such a thin enclosure, but a 480p isn’t acceptable in 2017.

Some people complained that their 2016 MacBook Pros couldn’t even remotely reach the advertised 10 hours of battery life per charge. The physical battery capacity hasn’t increased, but the better overall efficiency of the new processors should help towards reaching those quoted 10 hours per charge under light load. We were expecting an option to configure the memory up to 32 GB, so people who need more than 16 GB of RAM in their MacBook will probably have to wait for one more year.

iMacs

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In a similar fashion to the MacBooks, all iMacs are now packing in Kaby Lake processors. The lowest end remains the 21.5” without a Retina display, but now there is a cheaper option for a 4K 21.5” version at $1299. Unfortunetally, to keep the costs down, Fusion Drive or SSD isn’t included in that price. On the positive side, all Retina iMacs come with discrete Radeon Pro graphics cards. The top-end 27” version goes all the way up to Quad-Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz), 64 GB DDR4 memory, and 2 TB of SSD storage (bringing the price to $5299).

iMac Pro

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Professionals have been crying for a new high-powered desktop from Apple. The company hasn’t upgraded the “trashcan” Mac Pro for more than 3 years, and only recently came out and admitted how much of a misstep the Mac Pro really was. The new Mac Pro is probably going to be available in 2018, but it seems like Apple has been working on an iMac with workstation-grade internals for a while.

That’s what the iMac Pro. Unlike the MacBook Pros, this machine deserves the “Pro” name, thanks to the Intel Xeon processors (up to 18 cores), up to 128 GB of ECC memory, all flash storage architecture, 5K 27” display, and a few neat extras, like a 1080p webcam and a unique Space Grey color.

Despite how amazing the machine is, it still has one huge problem. Because it’s an All-in-One computer, the internals are not upgradeable, and because the display is built-in, that one cannot be just swapped for a different one.

 

iPad Pros

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Apple is introducing a new 10.5” iPad Pro, which is replacing the 9.7” iPad Pro. It is marginally larger, but still remains very portable, thanks to the slimmed down bezels. Other than being larger, the new display supports “Pro Motion”, which is Apple’s way of saying the refresh rate can go all the way up to 120 Hz. That in combination with the more powerful 6-core A10X Fusion processor reduces the latency of the Apple Pencil down to 20 ms, which is exactly 1 ms better than the new Surface Pro from Microsoft.

Expect to see even more iPad photographers in the streets in 2017.

The cameras got upgraded, and are basically identical to the ones on iPhone 7, therefore the rear shooter is capable of 4K video recording and is optically stabilized.

The 12.9” iPad Pro also features the same improvements, bringing the 2 models up to par, meaning the only difference is the display size.

 

HomePod

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The long-rumored “Siri Speaker” is something different than we were expecting. As opposed to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple is positioning it as a “good speaker first” and a “home digital assistant second”.

People seem to be divided on the looks, but I personally find it cute. It looks a bit like a fat Mac Pro with a mesh cover. Underneath the said cover, there are 7 tweeters organized into a horizontal ring and a woofer pointing upwards. These, together with the “Spatial Awareness”, are supposedly going to be able to create spatial sound.

Other than the speaker system, a 6-microphone array should make it possible to talk to Siri from across the room, even while the music is playing.

The biggest question for now is, whether it will be possible to listen to music from services other than Apple’s own Apple Music, like Spotify.

 

Software

macOS High Sierra

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Other than the continuation of weed jokes on stage, the name quite accurately describes the operating system. It is a refinement of macOS Sierra. Graphics performance should be improved, there is added support for a new H.265 codec, but probably most interestingly, Apple is bringing native external GPU support via Thunderbolt 3 and VR headsets.

iOS 11

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Just as High Siera, iOS 11 is also more of a refinement of iOS 10. There are some really big news though.

After resisting for a decade, Apple is finally bringing a “real” file system to iOS, in the form of a Files app. It groups cloud storage accounts and files stored locally into one simple interface. There is still no word on native externa drive support, but this is a good beginning.

Screenshots are easier to edit and they will not clog up your camera roll, if you just want to send them to somebody as a message.

In an effort to make the iPad act more as a regular computer, Apple us adding a system wide drag-and-drop, which supports multi-touch. It is very difficult to convey it in words, but from what is online, it looks very cool. Also, the multitasking interface is redesigned from the ground up, and it is now easier to keep more apps open at the same time.

All iPads compatible with iOS 11 are getting these improvements.

 

watchOS 4

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As with every watchOS, this one also brings new watch faces, including a one powered by Siri, providing contextually aware cards similar to Google Now, and other improvements to the UI

Most importantly, Apple is doubling down on fitness. The single thing which got me excited the most is that the optical heart rate sensor should more accurately track the actual heart rate during high intensity interval training (HIIT).

 

tvOS 11

The only television-related announcement on stage was that Amazon Prime Video is coming to the Apple TV later in the year. There is a good reason for that, given as you might have guessed it, watchOS 11 only brings minor improvements…

 

Pricing & Availability

12” MacBook – Available now starting at $1299
MacBook Air – Available now starting at $999
13” MacBook Pro – Available now starting at $1299
15” MacBook Pro – Available now starting at $2399

21.5” iMac – Available now starting at $1099
27” iMac – Available now starting at $1799
iMac Pro – Available in December starting at $4999

10.5” iPad Pro – Available now starting at $649
12.9” iPad Pro – Available now starting at $799

HomePod – Available in December at $349

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