Monday, June 4, 2018

WWDC 2018 Impressions: iOS 12

I think it’s not too outlandish to say this year’s WWDC was underwhelming. I set my expectations low, so I’m not too surprised. This was a two hour presentation with very little substance. Let’s start from the very beginning.

The intro video is always something I look forward to. This year, we saw a nature documentary about developers going to WWDC. It was pretty lackluster. There were a few moments that were funny, but we’ve seen way better in previous years. One of my favorites was a Google I/O intro from a few years ago with the actors from Silicon Valley watching the presentation. This year’s intro video just made me not want to attend WWDC. Maybe it’s just me, but watching a bunch of introverted people crowding into a building, awkwardly socializing, grabbing at food, and then trying to get seats isn’t what I’d like to associate WWDC with. I know it’s just a joke, but previous years had much better wit and creativity.

The theme of the presentation was putting the customer at the center. The use of the term “customer” felt really strange coming from Apple. Apple usually refers to the consumer as their users. They like to make us forget that we’re shelling out a lot of money for their products so using this term a lot was weird. I get that this presentation is for developers, but even then, customer is not the best choice. (Also, this presentation has very little substance for developers.)

iOS 12’s first feature was performance improvements, which I really hope is pseudo language for bug fixes. I can’t send three iMessages to my friends without the order of the bubbles getting mixed up. So much of iOS has become unacceptable at release and should’ve been fixed. Moving on, many of the features were either things that already exist or attempts to get certain apps used more.

ARKit looks nice, but had way too much demo time. I could see ARKit table tennis, where people would just need their phones and a table to play. The Measure app is a nice utility, but already exists in the App Store from other developers. Hopefully the measurements are as accurate as advertised.

FaceTime got a long overdue update. Up to 32 people can FaceTime at once now. I don’t use FaceTime very often, but I do use FaceTime Audio. I’ve been waiting for group FaceTime Audio forever, so I’m a fan of this. I also like having FaceTime calls in iMessage. I think that’s a nice touch.

Memoji is literally just Apple copying Bitmoji. The customization looks robust, and gives hope for more frequent Animoji updates, but they put way too much emphasis on this. I don’t want to use these things in a FaceTime call. This just looks like Apple copying Snapchat. If I wanted this, I would probably use Snapchat, especially considering Snapchat is cross-platform and doesn’t require an iPhone X. Of all things, I’m actually happy they added tongue tracking. Of the few times I did use Animoji, it was weird having everything but my tongue line up. That sounds weird, but when you’re playing around making exaggerated facial expressions at your phone, you notice it quick.

I’m really tired of these “use your phone less” updates. Google did it last month and Apple is doing it too. I can see it as a parental control feature, but not for adults. Phones and tablets are so essential today that the monitoring feature is a bit redundant. I’m glad they didn’t add that “turn your screen black and white so you don’t use your phone” feature that Android has. I do really like the idea of having Do Not Disturb automatically disable based on location or calendar events. That’s perfect.

Notifications are finally grouped. They also will have some interactive uses that a total of five apps will take advantage of most likely. For example, you can quickly add another seat to a reservation from the lock screen. I like features like this, but the use is so specific, very few developers hop on. And the apps that are perfect for this will likely never add it.

Photos features always bug me. Mostly because Apple pretends that every photo we take is perfect. I like the iPhone’s camera a lot, but I don’t like Memories. The new For You tab is Memories times ten. It picks random irrelevant photos I never asked for and shoves them in my feed. When I want to view specific photos, I view said specific photos. Apple can’t predict what photos I want to see and they shouldn’t try. Also, sharing photos with friends is still super fragmented.

Shortcuts was both awesome and scary at the same time. Apple actually did something with Workflow, which they acquired a while back. I get that regulating so many commands for so many apps will be a huge undertaking for Siri, but we needed better third-party support for Siri. I’ll have to wait and see how useful some of these new features are, but I like being able to create automations for Siri. Workflow wasn’t super user-friendly and I didn’t like how certain automations didn’t work as expected, but maybe Apple making it will improve upon these issues. It bugged me that the demo didn’t use phrases for the commands, instead using basic words that were just commands. It took away from using Siri as a proactive assistant and just makes Siri look like something you have to tediously setup to get it to do what you want. Also, they way overplayed the “Siri can tell your boss if you’re running late” feature. It’s cool, but they made it sound like it could do more than just that. Maybe it can, but I’m not sure. You can’t even edit the prewritten response it seems.

They had this little section some of about iOS’s “most popular apps.” Those apps were iBooks, Voice Memos, Stocks, and Apple News. Apple Books looks okay. Yeah, okay. Sure. They didn’t show off much. There’s a better design at least. Voice Memos looks terrible. It has long-overdue iCloud support but the ruined the design, and that’s saying a lot. The previous version was nothing to brag about either. Granted, we didn’t see much of this, so maybe it’s easier to navigate. Stocks and Apple News merged. Apple News looks way worse on the iPad with the sidebar. There was probably a better way to design that. Apple News on the iPad should look like a newspaper, not a website or whatever they made here. The new Stocks is fitting I guess, but I’ll have to get used to it. I think they just merged it so people will finally use Apple News.

Student ID cards. Where was this last year? My dorm used contactless ID cards for entry and I would’ve loved using my phone to unlock it. Unfortunately, most uses of ID cards require the card to slides through the reader, which isn’t possible with iPhone. Still, maybe it can be used as a form of identification. It’s also only available at a few select universities, so maybe adoption will pick up, but likely not anytime soon.

All in all, iOS 12 needs to make strides to fix a ton of bugs above all. A lot of the features iOS 12 boasts are either not necessary or things we should've had forever ago. Hopefully bugs will be dramatically reduced moving forward.

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