Here’s Everything Apple Announced at WWDC 2021

Here’s Everything Apple Announced at WWDC 2021

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote is always jam-packed with announcements of new features coming to all of your Apple devices later in spring, and this year’s event was no exception.

We saw sneak peeks of iOS and iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, watchOS 8, new smart home features, overhauls of Safari and the Health app, and more. We’re still diving into all of the features, but here’s a quick recap of everything Apple announced. (For a deeper dive, watch the video above.)

iOS 15 Makes the iPhone Less Annoying

A ton of new features are coming to iOS 15 this spring but perhaps the biggest feature is one that will encourage us to use our phones less. Instead of the shame spiral-inducing Screen Time reports that do nothing but make me hate myself, iOS 15’s Focus feature may actually prompt me to use my phone in ways that are more useful. Separate Work and Personal profiles will enable notifications for apps that are relevant to those profiles to come through during specific periods of time during the day, which means you’ll see work alerts during work and fun stuff after hours. Apple is also condensing alerts into one Notification Summary, to be sent at a time of your choosing, rather than let them filter in one at a time. (Messages will still come through as normal.)

FaceTime is also getting an overhaul to become much more useful. FaceTime will let you have watch and/or listening parties with friends and share your screen to browse the web together. And now Android friends can get in on the FaceTime calls, with support for FaceTime on the web. They’ll be able to access the call through new FaceTime links, which you can also use to schedule cal invites. And there will be some new audio features to make it easier to hear you (or your surroundings), with noise isolation, wide spectrum audio, and support for Spatial Audio, which is Apple’s version of surround sound.

There are a couple of fun new features coming to Messages, too, like a Shared With You function that lets you see what your contacts have sent to you in apps like Photos, News, and Apple Music, so you won’t forget to read an article or listen to a playlist.

There are also new Photos features, specifically the ability to use your iPhone camera’s Live Text feature to look up text, copy and paste it, or translate it.

iOS 15 is also becoming a replacement for your physical wallet. Apple will soon support ultra-wideband in addition to NFC for digital car keys, and is working with states to let you add your driver’s licence or state ID to the Wallet app.

iPadOS 15 Turns the iPad Into a Better Multitasker

The biggest problem with the new iPad Pro is that it’s a powerful piece of hardware with some serious underwhelming software. iPadOS 15 aims to fix that with new multi-tasking features and an app shelf that lets you quickly switch between apps or work with them side-by-side as needed.

iPadOS is also gaining some new collaborative tools for Notes, and a quick note-taking option using the Apple Pencil.

And some iOS 14 features are coming to the iPad — specifically, the App Library for storing little-used apps and home screen widgets that you can adjust the size of and place anywhere on the screen.

It’s unclear if iPadOS 15 will make the very good iPad Pro a must-have device, but we’re curious to try it out.

macOS Monterey Unites Your Apple Devices

The next version of macOS is all about making your Apple gear work seamlessly together. Monterey is getting all of the new iOS 15 features, including SharePlay, Shared With You, and the FaceTime improvements.

A new feature called Universal Control will let you use both your Mac and an iPad with one trackpad or mouse, letting you drag and drop files between the two devices if you need to use one as a full-featured second display.

And Safari is getting a huge overhaul, with a new design and the ability to group tabs and access them across all your devices.

watchOS 8 Adapts More iOS Apps for the Wrist

There wasn’t any one standout update for watchOS 8. Instead, we saw lots of mini updates that translate to a better mobile experience overall for the wrist. Namely, the Photos app will be totally redesigned and feature a new Portrait watch face. Texting and sharing from the wrist will also be easier. Not only does watchOS 8 add reaction GIFs, but you can also use a combination of voice diction, scribble, and emojis to send and edit texts. You’ll also finally be able to create and label multiple timers, and more apps will support the always-on display.

Health-wise, Apple’s adding respiratory rate tracking, new Pilates and Tai Chi workouts, and replacing the Breathe app with a broader Mindfulness app. Several iOS 15 features are also coming to the Apple Watch, including driver’s licence and state IDs for the wrist, the new Focus feature, and Find My support.

Health App Overhaul

New to the Health app is something Apple dubs “Walking Steadiness.” iPhones already collect a wealth of mobility data, but now you’ll be able to see whether you’re at a greater risk of falling. You’ll also be able to share your health and wellness data with friends and family (i.e., spouses, children, elderly relatives, medical professionals, etc.) Anyone you share with may also get notifications if the app’s algorithms detect a significant change in your trends. Users get to pick what data gets shared — and what doesn’t — and can also revoke sharing at any time.

Lastly, the Health app is getting a Trends feature that analyses your data in 20 categories over time. The idea is to enable people to view how their metrics progress over time, and potentially get notified if the algorithm detects a meaningful change.

iCloud Gets the + Treatment

With iOS 15, iCloud subscribers are about to get a few new premium features as part of a service Apple dubs iCloud+. Basically it tacks on a VPN-like feature called Private Relay that masking your internet activity by sending it through two separate relays. Apple claims that means no one can see your browsing data — including Apple. You also get the ability to create “burner” emails via Hide My Email. If you use a HomeKit-enabled smart security camera, Apple is also expanding video storage. The amount you get will depend on which tier you pay for.

The good news is you won’t have to pay extra for these features; current iCloud subscribers will be automatically updated when iOS 15 launches later this spring. Also coming to iCloud are two new features: account recovery, and Digital Legacy. The former allows you to send security codes to trusted friends and family if you lose your device. The latter lets you designate someone to access your files after death. It’s sort of like an executor for your digital files in case, you know.

AirPods Updates, Smart Home, and More

Here are a few more tidbits that Apple announced that will definitely make using your Apple devices a lot easier:

  • Siri is now coming to third-party smart home devices
  • You’ll be able to use your iPhone as a house key
  • Find My will be able to track down AirPods Pro and AirPods Max
  • AirPods Pro can help you hear conversations better by boosting other voices and lowering ambient noise
  • Spatial Audio support is coming to M1 Macs and tvOS
  • You’ll be able to pair HomePod mini speakers and the new Apple TV 4K for a home theatre setup
  • Maps is getting a redesign
  • The Weather app is getting Dark Sky’s features, including a new look and granular precipitation updates

As you can see, there was a lot to unpack at WWDC, and there will be more news as we spend time with the betas ahead of their public launch later this spring.

If you’re curious to take them for a spin, you can sign up for an Apple Developer account and try them out now, or wait until July for the public betas to drop.