Over a long two hours at WWDC, Apple showed off the roadmap for the next year of its software. Phones will get performance boosts and services aiming to help people fight compulsive use, Macs will get iOS apps and new machine learning technologies, and even the Apple Watch sees an upgrade or two.
But some changes didn’t make it on the main stage, either because they’re a bit too technical, a little embarrassing for the company, or just plain old bad news.
The war against Facebook is even bigger than it looks
If there was one theme running throughout Apple’s presentation, it was that the company is taking on Facebook on all fronts. The new Screen Time app, which aims to help users cut back on their device use, was demonstrated using Facebook’s Instagram as the test case, and Safari’s new anti-tracking tech is positioned squarely against Facebook’s use of Like buttons and comment boxes to track users around the net.
But the specific details of ITP2, the updated version of the anti-tracking technology, are even more aggressively targeted at two of Apple’s biggest rivals, Facebook and Google, than the company let on on stage. ITP works by segregating the cookies dropped by websites so that they can only be read by that specific website, ensuring that an ad provider cannot, for instance, use those cookies to track your browsing across every single website on which they run ads.
Previously, that segregation had only kicked in 24 hours after a user visited the specific website. That was a handy out for sites such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube, which users visit regularly enough to spend a lot of their time in that day-long window. Now, that grace period is gone, and Apple’s tracking prevention kicks in immediately. When ITP1 was launched last year, ad-tech firm Criteo saw an immediate drop in revenue of 22%; what will Facebook see?
Your £10,000 watch is now obsolete
The new version of Apple’s watchOS brings with it a few nice features, including the ability to play audio from services other than Apple Music during workouts, and a nice auto-start feature for when you forget to tell the fitness tracker that you’ve begun your training.
But Apple’s richest customers will have to shell out more for the privilege of acquiring those new features, because the update is the first version of watchOS not to run on Apple’s first-generation watches – including the £10,000+ solid gold Apple Watch Edition.
In recent generations, Apple has dropped the price of its most expensive watch, fashioning it from ceramic rather than gold and selling it for “just” £1299. But when it launched, it had ambitions for high fashion, and the solid gold watch was one manifestation of that goal. Those watches should carry on running for a while, but they’ll be cut off from more and more new features as time goes on. Have they been worth more than £3,000 per year of operation? For that, you’d have to ask one of the (select few) customers.
Law enforcement’s secret weapon against iPhones got disabled
Police forensics departments the world over have had a slight edge over Apple for the past year or so, thanks to a mysterious technology called “Greyshift” which is able to crack the pin-lock on the latest iPhones. It’s not clear how the service, which is packaged as a nondescript box that investigators can plug in to seized devices, actually works, but Apple has apparently worked out how to stop it: disable USB.
From iOS 11.4.1 – coming very shortly – a new feature disables access to the phone from USB devices once the device has been locked for more than an hour. That means police will have to work fast if they’re going to extract usable information from phones taken in as evidence, or get the co-operation of the suspect and have them unlock it the old-fashioned way.
It’s an odd game of cat and mouse, since Apple doesn’t enjoy being perceived as the enemy of the forces of justice, but when push comes to shove, it will protect its users security over anyone who seeks to compromise it.
There’s probably going to be an iPad with FaceID
Just because no new hardware was announced at Apple’s event, doesn’t mean there was no information about new hardware hidden away in yesterday’s releases. The beta version of iOS 12 for iPads appears to contain references to FaceID, the tech that the company first launched with the iPhone X to replace the old fingerprint-based touchID.
That also explains, perhaps, why iPads now have the same gestures as the iPhone X, asking users to swipe down from the top corners to access notifications and control centre.