On Day 1 of this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC or “dub dub”—really that’s a nickname for it) in San Jose, California, CEO Tim Cook and Co. rolled out a massive array of product updates across their stable of hardware and software offerings, including Apple TV, iMac, iOS, macOS, iPad, Apple Pay and Apple Music. But despite all of those gadgets and services receiving their annual love—which this year included a lot of AR, VR, and machine learning additions—the biggest reveal from the most valuable tech company in America was a completely new product line, the HomePod. Here’s a quick breakdown of the new in-home music companion/smart speaker, as well as all the other big highlights from the two-hour presentation.
The HomePod was the final product announcement (the classic “one more thing”) for this year’s WWDC, and it stands as Apple’s foray into the smart speaker market, which is currently dominated by Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Google Home. The device, which is powered by Siri, is less than seven inches tall, and looks, as most of the internet will tell you, like a ball of yarn. A ball of yarn that costs $349.
Was this the HomePod inspiration? pic.twitter.com/EXoj1y1cHk
— Jenna Ezarik (@jennaezarik) June 5, 2017
Focusing on the music aspect of the smart speaker device—yes, the device works best with Apple Music—Apple seems to be attempting to distinguish its HomePod from the significantly cheaper Echo and Google Home with its acoustic prowess. The HomePod is powered by Apple’s A8 chip (the same one that powers the latest iPhones), and purportedly delivers a next-level listening experience thanks to an array of seven beam-forming tweeters, precision acoustic horns, and a four-inch woofer. Like Amazon and Google’s offerings, Apple’s HomePod can also assist you with reminders, information about news, traffic, and sports, and general knowledge: Anything you can do with Siri on your phone, basically.
iMac Pro and macOS Updates
The iMac and macOS operating system are both getting updates, with a heavy focus on graphics processing for the former and a focus on the Safari web browser for the latter.
All of the iMacs are getting refreshed with brighter screens, double the max memory, and USB-C ports for faster data transfer. Graphics processing will also be improved across the line-up (80% for the lower-level 21.5-inch model), and the top-echelon will now have 8GB of Video RAM and 5.5 teraflops of computing power in order to handle VR development. Apple has also revealed its iMac Pro, which is simply a beast.
The iMac Pro, which is priced at a staggering $4,999 and will be available in December, is, according to Apple’s Newsroom, an “entirely new workstation-class product line designed for pro users with the most demanding workflows.” With a “27-inch Retina 5K display, up to 18-core Xeon processors and up to 22 Teraflops of graphics computation” the iMac Pro is the most powerful computer Apple has ever made.
As for macOS, the new version of Apple’s desktop operating system, it comes with a slight name change from Sierra to High Sierra, as well as a lot of improvements to Safari. Apple claims Safari is now the fastest web browser available, and that it boasts Intelligent Tracking Prevention to help you protect your identity (and avoid marketing algorithms hounding you), and auto-play blocking to detect auto-playing videos, like loud, annoying ads, and immediately block them.
iOS11, iPad, Apple Watch Updates
All of Apple’s mobile devices are receiving updates as well, including Apple Pay, Siri updates, and messaging updates for iOS11, a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro for the iPad line, and a new operating system, OS 4 for the Apple Watch.
With Apple Pay now baked into your SMS messenger, you can pay friends directly, rather than use an app like Venmo. Siri is also receiving more conversational voices, and will also be able to do real-time translation for people speaking two different languages. Better quality photos, machine-learning enabled slideshow presentations, and live video that can be trimmed will also be available.
As for the iPad lineup, all of their screens will have brightness increased by 50%, and the smaller version of the new iPad Pro is .8 inches larger than its predecessor and 30-40% faster. There’s also now a lower-latency Apple pencil so that it feels more like natural writing. There’s also a keyboard available, and with the new specs, it’s reasonable to consider the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro as a solid desktop substitute, although it does cost $1,099.
The Apple Watch will mostly be getting a lot of new bells and whistles rather than any new functionality, including a “proactive Siri face,” a Toy Story animations face, and a kaleidoscope face. The Apple Watch will also be able to connect with a new wave of gym equipment rolling out from some Apple partners, and have Native Bluetooth for connecting with health monitoring devices.
ARKit and VR
Last, but certainly not least were Apple’s ARKit and VR demonstrations. The ARKit is Apple’s way of adding augmented reality functionality to iOS, and a representative from Sir Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films was on hand to show off a pretty mind-blowing AR display that happened on a table in front of the crowd in real time, and also looked like the ideal way to play Dungeons and Dragons (or Dejarik?).
As for VR, Apple demonstrated how its new line-up of iMacs with all their computing power are perfect for developing content in the VR space with a Stars Wars demonstration that took place on Mustafar. The demonstration foreshadows the narrative capabilities with VR, as well as how hard it is to not trip while one of those sets is on your face.
On top of all this, Amazon Prime will also be coming to Apple TV, and the App Store is getting a total revamp in order to look far simpler. As for the iPhone 8? We’ll have to wait until September.
What do you think about Apple’s rollout of products and updates for this year? Let us know your thoughts below!