WWDC 2012 | All-Out Apple Blowout

Apple‘s increased popularity has lead some to believe that Apple of the 90’s never existed. Honestly, it’s hard to believe a 90’s Apple did exist. Just a decade ago, Apple was recovering from it’s lowest point in its tech history. Steve Jobs returned to save the day and since then Apple has been more profitable than ever.

Apple‘s methodical way of designing its products is what got it to this point of “king” of the tech world. When Apple officials go onstage, people watch, people listen. Those who hate Apple spend hours on the day dissecting what makes them so popular and spend even more time bashing Apple principles.

Why is this relevant? Well, Apple is currently wrapping it’s newest event, WWDC 2012 (Worldwide Developer Conference), where they have shown off the newest batch of features to iOS and OS X that fanboys and haters will pick apart to an incredible degree.

WWDC 2012 was probably one of the most unforgettable WWDC conferences in its entire history. The conference started 23 years ago and has always been the number one source to consume the newest vision Apple is trying to produce. Whether you were a developer or a consumer, WWDC has always had an important role in the popularity of Apple computers. Let’s see exactly what there is to be excited or disappointed about in this years WWDC.

 

Macs

Rumors have been flying around for weeks regarding a line-wide refresh of Apple computers. In reality, where Apple does not care for rumors, we received a subtle update to the MacBook Air and next gen edition to Apple’s MacBook Pro.

2012 MacBook Air: The MacBook Air was bumped from last generation Sandy Bridge CPUs to fresh Ivy Bridge CPUs. With the new updated CPUs, users can expect to see a processor boost of 10% and a GPU boost of about 60%, according to Apple, from the Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip. Along with the boost in CPU and GPU power, the MacBook Air also received a boost in the allotment of of RAM the machine can have. The previous barrier was set at 4GB; The new Airs have an 8GB ceiling to mess around with. Just remember to buy the RAM upgrades upfront as the memory is soldered on to the computer’s logic board. Finally, the Airs have more flash storage options with the new 512GB option. As well as having more flash storage available, the storage is actually faster than previous models. To be exact, the storage is quoted from Apple as being 2x faster than before. Overall, the MacBook Air update was welcomed, though many were disappointed to see that Retina Displays had not yet made it to MacBook Air displays.

MacBook Pros have been long overdue for a full revamp, inside and out, though Apple meticulously announced a simultaneous update of next generation and last generation MacBook Pros. Confused? Yes, it was a confusing update for the Pros.

Last Generation MacBook Pro: Apple first started detailing the last generation MacBook Pros. They received much of the same type of updates as the MacBook Air: the move from Ivy Bridge processors and the updated Intel graphics chips. The 13″ MacBook Pros are still limited to dual-core CPUs, but now quad-core i7 CPUs are standard among the 15″ MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pros still max out at 8GB of RAM, but it’s also user accessible. This means if you bought a computer with 4GB of memory, you can upgrade the RAM yourself without much issue. On top of, Apple stuck in the newest high end-mid range NVidia discrete GPU, the GT 650M in 512MB and 1GB flavors for low end and high end options. This is, too, a 60% boost from the previous models with AMD graphics solutions, again, according to Apple. This was the conservative update of the Pro in every physical way measured.

Next Generation MacBook Pro: In concert with the conservative MacBook Pro update, Apple also announced new “next generation MacBook Pros” during the conference. These new models have been completely redesigned to incorporate new Air-like features like the razor-thin profile. The new MacBook Pro is just 0.71 inches thin. To put into perspective, that is about as thin as the human finger and almost as thin as the MacBook Air. Every MacBook Pro comes with flash storage as a standard, just like the MacBook Airs. The computer comes with all of the updated Ivy Bridge and NVidia chips (1GB standard on next gen Pros) in the other MacBook Pro with the addition of a higher RAM ceiling of 16GB 1600MHz memory. The biggest feature was, in my opinion, the show-stopper, the Retina Display. The new Retina Display’d MacBook Pro has a massive resolution of 2880×1800 and has IPS built in. The display is clearly a marvel of sorts in resolution- packing greatness, but it also boasts natural anti-glare features over previous MacBook Air and Pro glossy displays. The new Retina Display is still glossy, but because of the unique display assembly, with no cover glass, the computer should be considerably more enjoyable to look at. Cool stuff, but the only anomaly from keeping you from buying one is the 3-4 week delay in shipping…..and, of course, the massive price tag of $2,199 for the base model with 256GB of flash storage. What’s more, like the MacBook Airs, the MacBook Pro you buy from Apple is the computer it will be until you sell it or it dies. The computer is not user customizable because the RAM is soldered onto the logic board and the flash storage is unique from the flash storage in the MacBook Air. Perhaps 3rd party vendors will eventually figure out how to emulate the new type of storage, but nothing is guaranteed in life except maybe death.

Mac Pro: Unfortunately, Mac Pros, Apple’s workstation-class tower was not upgraded like the rumors foretold. The Mac Pro received one more processor option of the E5645. Apple has said that Mac Pros will get another update in 2013.

 

OS X

With all the excitement surrounding the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Apple paid special attention to show the new adopters of those updated computers what

they should expect in the next revision of OS X, Mountain Lion. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger features.

iCloud: iCloud is the new glue that holds iOS and OS X together. Files sync, settings sync, notifications are refined; iCloud is now the single most important feature of any Apple product. getting information from one device to another has never appeared to be as easy.

Reminders + Notes: Both Notes and Reminders are not completely new features to Mac, they just finally have dedicated applications instead of being afterthoughts in Mail and iCal. The use of both applications are pretty straightforward, Reminders is a simple application that will remind you to do whatever you tell it to remind you to do. Notes is a unified service that allows you to quickly make note of anything and everything you desire. Notes supports images and weblinks and can sync with Notes on iOS devices.

iMessages: iOS users have been used to iMessages for a while now. The feature launched in iOS 5 and is about to debut on the Mac. iMessages is another simple feature that’s incredible in use. The instant messaging service works through an internet service and supports images, video, sound, and standard text. Of course, the only caveat being the service is iOS to iOS, OS X to OS X, iOS to OS X. In other words, if you’re not using a Mac or an iOS device, the service will not work.

Notification Center: Notification Center allows gives you a centralized space to keep all of your notifications that are sent from all of your applications. It works about the same as iOS’ Notification Center and also features Twitter and Facebook status- updating widgets so users do not need to log on to the full sites to post.

Power Nap: Before Mountain Lion, once you close the lid of a Mac, the computer detaches itself from Wi-fi and is separated from the big, wide web. With Pawer Nap, your Mac stays in-tune with the internet and notifications and emails will still fly in and be waiting for your return. Even better, the feature gains extra functionality when connected to a power source. When connected via MagSafe, the computer will also back itself up to a local Time Machine and also auto-update applications from the Mac Appstore.

Dictation: Full-on Siri did not join the party this time around, but the Mac is getting the same dictation support that is in the new iPad and iPhone 4S. With Dictation, users will be able to speak their thoughts and see the text appear on screen in any text field. The feature also recognizes names from your contacts and any punctuation you may want to include. At launch the feature will support English (U.S., U.K., and Australia), French, German, and Japanese.

Sharing: Sharing may be pretty easy to do from the web, but Apple is trying to take that a step further by integrating popular sites right into the OS. This has been done to an extent, for example Vimeo and YouTube support in iMovie and Final Cut Pro X, but never on a OS-level. New to OS X is Facebook and Twitter integration. From any supported application, users will be able to tweet and/or update their status on facebook. On Safari you’d be able to update your status with the inclusion of websites you want link with the message; the exact same thing can be said with Twitter. In addition, facebook and Twitter notifications will pop up in Notification Center per your convenience.

Air Play: If you are like me, a Mac user with a dream of wirelessly getting your Macs desktop on the big screen, well, then you’re in luck because Mountain Lion now allows us to mirror our displays on any TV connected to the newer, black Apple TV. The newer Apple TVs will emulate our Mac displays at full 1080p, while older black Apple TVs will display our Mac’s display at 720p. Video games on the BIG screen, anyone?

Game Center: So Game Center is probably one of the coolest features hardly anybody will use. What this feature does is keep a centralized list of high scores, challenges completed, friends, and friend requests for you, the gamer. While it wasn’t such a big deal on the iOS simply because the most popular games were usually 1-player titles with only high score features; on the Mac, bigger games are possible. While the service supports multiplayer, it’s been revealed that cross platform (iOS to OS X) games are possible. This could be the big push that gets all the popular titles on OS X and Windows.

Safari: Okay, so, you don’t use Safari on Windows, right? Well, most Mac users don’t use Safari on Mac, either. Apple is looking to change this with their newest version of Safari which has even more ties to iOS. The first new feature of Safari is that it’s more faster than it’s ever been. That’s most certainly enough for some people, but Apple is now integrating iCloud tabs. iCloud tabs sync across iOS and OS X. So, if you’re at your Mac and want to continue surfing the web from where you were at on Safari on iOS, go ahead and do so by just a few clicks into iCloud tabs. The third feature is the addition of a new iOS inspired tab view. The new view is activated by pinching in while in on a web page. Then multi-touch gestures are used to switch between the tabs, which display a large window of the web page you were visiting. The final feature is offline Reading List. Reading List allowed you to get back to anything you wanted to read at a later point in time by saving the web links. The only anomaly was that unless you were connected to the internet, the feature would not work. Now, the web site is cached so whatever you wanted to view later can be viewed at any point from any place, with or without internet.

Gatekeeper: This is the next generation of antivirus for the masses. As many of you know, Macs are very prone to malicious software, just like PCs. Though, Apple/Stevie J. made many think Macs were incapable of receiving viruses, too many people have stories proving otherwise. Well, Apple has finally woken up and is doing something about it. Gatekeeper will only allow users to download applications from the Mac Appstore and from identified developers. Again, keep in mind that users will still be able to download applications from outside the Appstore, the developers just have to be identifiable by Apple. Gatekeeper can be disabled by the user at any point, but this is virtually free antivirus software, so I’m all for it.

So, those were all of the major announcements for OS X Mountain Lion. The latest version of OS X has been in developer beta for quite some time now and is ready to be downloaded via Mac Appstore next month. No exact date was given, but a price certainly was given. Lion launched at the incredibly low price of just $29.99. Mountain Lion, which bring more functionality on top of Lion will launch at an even lower price of just $19.99 Even better, if you bought a new Mac the day of the event onward until Mountain Lion’s release, you’ll get the Mountain Lion upgrade for free.

 

iOS 6

All the Mountain Lion news was cool and all, but Apple has expressed on many occasions that iOS is the future of computers. What this means is that iOS is a huge push for Apple and OS X shares many features with iOS. The two OS’ may be merged together at some point, so it’s important to keep many features on both platforms to make the transition as seamless as possible. In other words, Apple doesn’t want to pull a Windows 8 on everybody. So, here’s iOS in all of it’s glory.

Remodeled Stores: The iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore have all been remodeled to reflect the progression that iOS has undertaken. You browser history is synced through iCloud, so you can start browsing on your iPhone and continue on your iPad. Featured items and artists are also featured in a new way that is definitely more pleasing to look at.

Find My iPhone: A neat addition to Find My iPhone was the inclusion of Lost mode. Lost mode, when activated, will lock you phone but will also display a message and contact phone number of your choice. The person who possesses the device, a good Samaritan, can then press the call icon and the pair of you can schedule a meet up.

Find My Friends: Find My Friends was a pretty cool feature when it launched in iOS 5, but now has some more functionality built in. The service has spread from being a friend-friend connection to now adding support for locating family. Location-based alerts can be set up so that whenever your kids get home from school, a notification is sent directly to your iPhone notifying you of their safe arrival. Cool stuff for parents.

Accessibility: Accessibility is really a a series of features built in iOS that allows better use of iPads in homes with children/adults with disabilities and schools. Apple is working with manufacturers in order to develop specific made-for-iPhone hearing aids that are efficient and reproduce high-quality sound. Guided Access includes one-app mode. This can be used by schools to limit the use of an iPad to just one application meaning that pressing the home button does nothing, and students can remain on task without the temptation to cheat (sorry, cheaters). Finally, Guided Access allows parents to restrict what parts of an application children can interact with. This is included so that a child does not accidentally press a portion of an application that might pull the child out of the engaging experience.

Safari: Apple wants you to use Safari. Hey, have I said that before? Well, it’s true. All of those new features that are in Safari for Mac are now in Safari for iOS. This means offline Reading List, iCloud tabs, and a faster, smoother experience (according to beta users). That’s all expected, though, so Apple also introduced some new-to-iOS features like full-screen mode on iPhone and iPod touch. This eliminates the status bar and URL input bar and stretches whatever website you’re on to full screen when in landscape view. Also, users will now be able to insert a picture or video into websites within Safari. This means we can finally upload pictures to facebook.com or any website without actually the need to go to the Appstore applications.

Mail: Apple’s Mail application received a slight tweak that now allows for VIP contacts, flagged messages, and easier ways to insert media into email. Flagged messages is pretty straight forward: flag messages and they are put in a special boxes. VIP inbox aggregates all of your chosen VIP contact emails into one specified inbox. If you happen to be viewing your unified inbox, which all of your email accounts feed into, VIP emails will have a star icon next to them signaling their level of importance. To compliment all of that, Apple is now making it easier to insert media into email messages. Did you hate how you had to select the videos or photos you wanted to email in the Photos application before actually composed a message? Let go of your built up anger because Apple now allows us to press and hold within the compose field and inserts media directly inside the Mail application. You probably moved on to a 3rd party email client app that already gives you that option, but perhaps now you’ll give Mail a second chance?

Phone: Apple’s Phone application now has a makeover. It has gotten a fresh coat of white paint added to the new dialer and new options for the occasion that you can not talk to someone at the exact moment that they call. If the caller is calling from a cellphone, you’ll be able to send the caller a quick automated text message or a custom message. You can also be reminded to call the person at a later point in time, say, in an hour, or even when you leave a certain location.

FaceTime: FaceTime is a great way to video chat with friends and family. It’s built in to every iOS device (with a FaceTime camera) and OS X machine running Lion (again, with a FaceTime camera). Well, FaceTime now is bound by no shackles! Anyone with a capable 3G/LTE FaceTime device will be able to video chat away from Wi-Fi. This is great for all of those people who want to video chat, but don’t always want to do it at home. It’s also now even easier to receive calls on your iPad. You Apple ID and phone number are now unified, giving you the option to pick up a video chat convo on your iPad even if someone calls your iPhone’s phone number.

Passbook: I don’t know about you guys, but my wallet is filled to the gills with credit cards, debit cards, promotion cards, coupons, and even some tickets to movie and music events. Passbook wants you to keep all of those things, just in a better place. Passbook works with Fandango, Target and even United Airlines so that all of your tickets, passes, and gift cards are in a safe, secure location. What’s more, the Passbook application is also location base. When you’re near, say, a Starbucks with a burning, hot Starbucks gift card in Passbook, it’s notify you in the lock screen for easy access to the gift card for easy purchase. The application is so integrated with these 3rd party services that it’ll even display a remaining balance on the card. I think you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

Shared Photo Streams: This is a self-implied feature that some users have been asking for. We all have our normal Photo Stream which allows us to view our last 1,000 photos we’ve taken on any iOS or OS X device, but now we have Shared Photo Streams. This allows us to select friends or family and they can instantly see photos that are taken with iPhones, iPads, iPod touch, Macs. Of course, all devices must be running the latest version of iOS 6 and Mountain Lion to do so. Users can like and comment on photos and the Shared Photo Stream does not count against your amount of iCloud storage.

Facebook: Do you Like Facebook? If the answer was “YES!!” then iOS 6 will please you: Facebook is now integrated in the OS. Facebook contacts can now show up in your iOS contacts, Facebook pics can be used as contact pics, sharing is prevalent in many applications and can be associated in 3rd-party applications, and one’s facebook status can be updated from Notification Center. Apple appears to be killing off Ping and Facebook will be replacing it. With Facebook integration everyone will be able to like applications and songs through Facebook’s services and those items will show up on your Wall. If you view an app that some of your Facebook friends have, the Appstore will tell you how many friends have or like that app.

Siri: Siri is a digital assistant to anyone who owns an iPhone 4S. With iOS 6, Siri is now expanded to the new iPad, as well. So, those of you keeping track, Siri works on the iPhone 4S and on the newest iPad. That could have been enough to keep a lot of users satisfied, but Apple has also improved Siri in the languages she (in the U.S.) recognizes. Siri understands U.S. English and Spanish, yes, U.S. has Spanish speakers too; U.K. English; Australia English; French; German; Japanese; Canadian English and French; Spanish from Spain; Spanish from Mexico; Italian from Italy; Swiss French, Italian, and Swiss German from Switzerland; Korean; Mandarin; Cantonese; and Mandarin and Cantonese from China. Siri hasn’t only studied new languages, she also knows a lot about sports, movies, and restaurants. Siri can make diner reservations, movie reservations, and answer any many questions you may have about individual sports players or complete standings in baseball or basketball leagues, et cetera. Siri also launches applications and can update Facebook and Twitter for you. Won’t be too long before you’ll have to pay Siri $9 an hour to get things done.

Maps: I definitely saved the best thing for last. Maps has been completely overhauled. Google Maps has been kicked out and new Apple Maps have taken its place. The maps are sourced from Tom-Tom, Open Maps, and a few other reliable map makers, so don’t worry over the quality of Apple Maps not being up to par. The new Maps is vector-based so moving through the app is smooth and fast. New 3D modes give you a new view on the world around you. Buildings pop up when you zoom in close enough and reveal some pretty stunning virtualized locations. In addition, a new Flyover view allows you to view full cityscapes in 3D. Your view of these areas can be manipulated by you, the user, but the feature hasn’t been revealed to work everywhere yet. More popular areas of the world should be good, but more rural areas will most likely be exclusively rendered in 2D mode. The next two features work in concert with each other: Turn by Turn Navigation + Real-time Traffic reports. Yes, iOS is finally getting Turn by Turn action going on, it’s easy and wonderful to use, and has a beautiful new UI to play around with. En route to your destination, Maps will give you all the traffic reports as they come in. What’s so cool about this feature is that anybody using Maps is a reporter for this. If you’re stuck on a freeway that’s moving slower than molasses, you can personally report the traffic slowdown. If it’s because it’s rush hour, just say so, if it’s because of a traffic collision, again, the option is available for you to report. If you’re lucky enough to have been informed before you reach the anomaly, Siri will gently guide you around the traffic at your will. Real time ETA is also granted to the user and the ETA refreshes as your route changes.

All in all, this was not a bad update. Like most announcements, iOS 6 did not quite live up to all of the rumors, but iOS 6 did more than enough to keep people interested in seeing what’s next for iOS and iPhone. Don’t forget, Apple usually reserves a few key iOS features for their iPhone event. We could see more iOS 6 features revealed then.

Apple didn’t say whether some users will have to pay to upgrade to iOS 6, but if last year was any indication, iOS 6 will be free for any devices that can actually upgrade to iOS 6. Speaking of which, the devices capable of running iOS 6 are the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S; iPod touch 4th generation; iPad 2 and the new iPad. Not all these devices will be able to run all of these features in iOS 6, and certain areas of the world may have some features restricted them.

 

So, that’s all, folks! That was Apple’s WWDC event in its entirety. There was a lot updated in the world of Apple, and it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten or used the bathroom, so I think this is a good time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Siri just wigged out when I asked her where the nearest bathroom is. I guess it’s safe to say that she won’t be helping me navigate through my house. Sad.

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