Last week was a fun one for iMore in San Francisco: Between keynotes, sessions, other conferences, and meetups, we got to see a lot of fantastic upcoming features and chat with a lot of great people. Now that our week has drawn to a close, here are our highlights, thoughts, and lingering reminders.
Peter: Multitasking and split screen are huge features, but the killer feature for me was trackpad-style selection gestures using two fingers. I’ve bitterly disliked editing text on the iPad for as long as I’ve had one because managing insertion points and copying or cutting selections was such a drag. Now it literally is a drag, and I’m so happy!
Ren: Faster, smarter Siri. A more fluid, responsive multitasking switcher. And yes, yes, the keyboard! Custom shortcut keys are awesome for developers who want functionality without necessarily having to build a full-custom third-party keyboard, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about cursor placement. It sounds like a silly thing to be excited over, but it will save me so much time when trying to edit articles from my iPhone or iPad. But my top feature is Power Saving mode. Once I saw the option on my Apple Watch, I was secretly hoping Apple would develop something along those lines for the iPhone, and the result has the potential to be battery-changing. I don’t really care about fancy animations or push email when I’m trying to save the last 20 percent of my charge, and it will be incredibly exciting to have a switch that can just take care of that.
Oh! And sketching in Notes! So awesome.
Rene: So much to like here. Multi-window is huge and will only get huger as new devices take advantage of it and more people get those devices so they can take advantage of it. The new system font, SF, looks great as well. Behind the scenes, how the new Siri and Spotlight “proactive” engine works is something I’m going to be paying a lot of attention to. And I’ll have the time as well, what with all the nifty battery life enhancements…
OS X El Capitan
Ren: I thought I was going to hate the implementation, but I am actually super excited for OS X’s window management improvements and Split Screen mode. I still love and treasure my 11-inch MacBook Air, and anything that makes computing easier on it is a big plus in my book.
Peter: Metal for OS X changes everything. The Mac’s graphics are great, but in certain performance areas it’s been very slow — just ask any Boot Camp gamer who’s seen the exact same game run slower on the Mac than on Windows. But rather than focus on gaming-specific optimizations, Apple’s taken a more holistic approach: Metal means faster performance and improved efficiency. Windows gaming laptops are notorious heat-generators and battery hogs — the same shouldn’t be said about Macs running El Capitan.
Rene: Yeah, Peter’s right. Metal is huge. Getting OpenGL and OpenCL unified and Core Graphics and Core Animation on top of them promises real benefits to both games and apps. There’s the new SF font on the Mac as well, which looks terrific. The new security stuff, however, deserves more attention. Attacks on the Mac will only increase, and preventative security like Apple is providing is key to defending against it.
Ren: TIME TRAVEL. Honestly, there are a lot of cool things coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 2—the biggest of which, of course, is native apps—but I love the idea of being able to preview your day with Time Travel on the clock face. Also, friend groups! Our long national nightmare of only being able to send sketches to twelve people is over.
Peter: Right now watchOS limits the Apple Watch to do little more than serve as a notification dongles for our iPhone apps, but that changes dramatically and fundamentally with watchOS 2, which will let developers put app logic on the watch itself. That will enable the Apple Watch to do much more than it can on its own right now. I’m a bit worried about how that’s going to impact battery life, but I hope that there will be a balance that won’t keep us from having to tether our watch mid day to charge it up again.
Highlights from AltConf
Peter: The speaker track at this year’s AltConf balanced three distinct themes — development, business, and social issues. There were sessions on best practices for using Swift, managing open source software projects, legal issues for contractors, and how to be a better person. That’s what separates AltConf from so many other technical conferences: It’s really community-focused. It’s a positive and safe environment, and a really special place. I hope it continues long into the future.
Ren: Like Rene, I only managed to stick around Alt for the iMore show — and a little bit of the State of the Union, before the feed crashed — but from what Peter was telling me, it sounded like a great time. A lot of really smart people chatting about our community and where it’s going? Sounds like a great place to spend WWDC week to me.
Highlights from Layers
Ren: Instead of Alt, I spent my non-keynote time at Layers, Jessie Char and Elaine Pow’s new design-focused conference. Not only did I have the pleasure of moderating a panel on Apple punditry and doing a little radio play directing, but I was also really grateful to spend some time with a wonderful group of designers, interface enthusiasts, and friends old and new. The speakers at Layers really encompassed and represented what I’ve started calling “atmospheric conference talks”: The kind of conversations that, though they may originate in the given field of the conference (in this case, design), they can still touch and give meaning to attendees in vastly different fields.
My favorite talk of the conference was Neven Mrgan’s sweet story about spending all night trading “secret weapon” secrets with his wife when they first began to date, which quickly segued into how you can combine two very different influences and interests to create a brand-new experience, and how you can bring that to your work. X+Y=Z. It was a smart, funny, and inspirational talk, and I recommend anyone watch it when the Layers conference videos go live.
Ultimately, Layers was perhaps one of the best ways I’ve spent my time at WWDC: Not only did I get to catch up with friends, developers, and designers and chat WWDC and their projects outside the confines of a noisy party or late-night bar scene, but I met wonderful new people, got to hear some incredibly smart talks, and ate my weight in popsicles.
So, I’ll just say all the stuff Ren did; because an ace.
Best food of the week
Ren: Sadly, I ended up with food poisoning early on in the week and didn’t get to eat much of consequence. But on Thursday, Jason Snell was kind enough to invite a few folks over to his home in Mill Valley, and grilled a few delightfully delicious items there. I was very happy to have my appetite back for that!
Peter: One afternoon I had an opportunity to go with a couple of friends to Samovar, the tea room overlooking the Yerba Buena Gardens on top of the Moscone Center. It was an utterly delightful, peaceful hour sipping on Turmeric Spice tea and munching on some cheeses. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hectic flurry of having to get everything done. It left me in a much better frame of mind than I had been up until then.
Rene: Oh, wow, so much great food. I tend not to have favorites but prefer wondrous variety. I’ll say Tommy’s, though, because of the occasion. If you’re ever in the area, and want margaritas that go down dangerously smooth, check it out.
Worst food of the week
Number of devices you have running the beta
Ren: Two, because I do not practice what I preach and I like breaking everything I need to use on a daily basis. But that’s why we have desktop computers, right? In seriousness, though, I use beta software in part because filing bugs at this stage is crucial, and it allows me to chat with developers about their awesome iOS 9 apps coming to an App Store near you this fall.
What was your favorite part of WWDC 2015?
Ren: Our answers are all the same here, but it’s true: the people are what make WWDC special. There are other events where we spend most of our week heads down and writing—but with WWDC, it’s all about gathering new information, learning new things, meeting new people, and spending time with old friends. It amazes me how many people I’ve met at WWDC who, as a result, have become great friends, work buddies, podcasting partners… I’ve gotten jobs, I’ve met fantastic developers, and I’ve put down roots in this community. All as a result of WWDC. It’s truly a magical experience.
Peter: Seeing everyone at after-hours events. I don’t go to WWDC to learn about new tech — I go because it’s my best opportunity to spend time with all the people in this industry I really love. I wish we could do it more often.