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iOS 18 revealed: Highlights from Apple's WWDC24 keynote

TL;DR: The keynote from the 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) (generally) did not disappoint developers and Apple enthusiasts alike. Here, we’ll focus on three important themes emerging from the mobile giant’s latest series of product announcements, as well as some of the ways its next update — iOS 18 — will promote customization, security and privacy, and continuity across devices.

The 2024 iteration of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) — an annual Apple-hosted tech gathering aimed at showcasing new iOS features, software, and devices — was, as usual, highly anticipated.

Apple’s innovations are always newsworthy but, for iOS 18, tech-news followers likely had a keen interest in how Apple would incorporate its commitment to privacy (as seen in their brand campaigning); immerse itself more deeply in AI (which continues to be a trending keyword); and offer an increasingly secure and seamless experience made possible by software enhancements that iOS 18 will deliver to each Apple device interface (iPhone, Vision Pro, iPad, and Mac).

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more significant highlights.

iOS 18 and WWDC24: 3 key takeaways 

1. Users have more flexibility in customizing the look and feel of their iPhones

The 2024 keynote dedicated substantial time to showcasing all the ways users can personalize their mobile phone environment, giving them control over how to arrange, size, and colour-code their apps. Here are some highlights.

Home Screens

iOS users already enjoy some Home Screen customization functionality (think changing wallpaper and lockscreen images, and hand-picking the app icons and widgets that appear on your home screen). 

With the latest update, though, Apple is making home screen customization even more convenient and intuitive: Users will now be able to arrange how apps and widgets appear on the home screen (i.e., you can place them in a way that frames your home screen image, align them along the top or bottom of the screen, or have them on the side, for instance). 

This likely solves the problem some iOS users have highlighted in the past: a non-intuitive or cumbersome home screen reorganization experience. 

App icons: Dark mode and tinting features 

iOS users who value a different aesthetic for their app icons will enjoy the new ability to adjust the color and/or tint of app icons. iOS can also suggest an app icon tint that suits your Home Screen wallpaper. iOS 18 also unlocks the ability to make them larger.

Screenshot showing dark mode on iOS 18
Image source: 9To5Mac

Tip: With this functionality, designers of app icons should think ahead and deliver those that are as visually responsive as possible —given that end users now have keys to the color controls. Apple has thought ahead on this: designers can maintain the integrity of an app icon’s branding by consulting Apple’s App icons guidelines.

Control Center customization

The Control Center offers even more convenient accessibility, with the functionality now available to singularly swipe to multiple new groups of controls like for Media Playback or Home.

The new Controls Gallery is an area where users can resize and rearrange their controls in a way that best suits their experience — and these are also conveniently available from the lock screen (so, if you want to replace your airplane mode control with a flashlight, you’re able to do so from Home). The goal of this update?: “Helping you access many of the things you do every day even faster.”

A more personalized iPad UI

The iPad is also set to reap the rewards of the next OS update — similar to the enhancements mentioned above, they deliver on customization. For instance, those users who frequently opt for a specific tab will now be able to customize the tab bar, making accessing preferred apps much easier (plus, it’s available in apps across the OS).

As for ease of use, the keynote also briefly noted the inclusion of a new floating tab bar in iPadOS 18. The functionality aims to simplify navigating between different parts of an app and, in iOS apps like Apple TV, keeps content ‘edge to edge’. The tab bar will morph into the sidebar if you want to navigate to different areas of the app.

2. Security and privacy drive enhancements to how we display our sensitive apps (and information)

Privacy has always been a core value for Apple, and iOS 18 continues to demonstrate the company's unwavering commitment to protecting user data …  iOS 18 gives you even more ways to control who can see your apps, how you share your contacts, and how you connect to accessories. - Apple WWDC24 Keynote 2024

Data privacy has increasingly been both a keyword in Apple’s advertising and a feature in its past operating systems. With iOS 18, the mobile phone giant is doubling down on the concept by rolling out some enhanced app-specific security features.

The integrity behind the latest security features has much to do with empowering users to have greater control over their sensitive information —which should bring some piece of mind to both end users and app developers alike. Let’s hone in on some key updates.

Hiding and locking apps

At the micro level, iOS 18 includes the ability for users to lock individual apps in use. After sealing them, user authentication (FaceID, Touch ID, or a passcode) will be required to re-open them. This locking functionality also applies at the app folder level, so you can secure multiple apps in one environment. 

Plus: Any app that users hide will not appear in other places across the operating system (like notifications, for instance); this will stop others from seeing the presence of these hidden apps inadvertently.

Hiding and locking apps - iOS 18 update
Image source: Apple

Information-sharing privacy

iOS 18 also puts more control in the hands of users when it comes to sharing their sensitive information with apps. Instead of broadly letting an app gain access to all of your contacts when prompted, the next software update will let users hand-select what contacts will be shared.

Privacy when it comes to pairing with apps

One of the risks iPhone users face is making their devices vulnerable to oversharing information: apps that request Bluetooth and local network access can ultimately also see all other devices on a network (think other phones, computers, televisions, and anything else a user has connected). With iOS 18, developers are able to implement a way to pair accessories privately and securely (and as Apple promises, “seamlessly”).

3. ‘macOS Sequoia’ promises more continuity between desktop and mobile

Introducing macOS Sequoia

Introducing macOS Sequoia
Image source: Apple 

A significant interval of Apple’s WWDC24 keynote focused on introducing macOS ‘Sequoia’, the next iteration of Apple’s desktop OS. Already we can see it in action: In late June 2024, Apple released macOS Sequoia 15 Beta 2, which brings with it some subtle updates like: 

  • Headphone audio customization
  • The addition of ‘Highlights’ to Safari, wherein users can discover information more easily (by adding summaries of articles, and tables of contents for longer pieces of content)
  • A net-new Passwords app that streamlines the organization of credentials in a single place, and 
  • Storage space savings: Apps that users download will no longer require twice the space for an initial download.

Tip: MacOS Sequoia is supported by: MacPro 2019 and later, MacBook Pro 2018 and later, Mac mini 2018 and later, MacBook Air 2020 and later, Mac Studio 2022, iMac Pro 2017 and later, iMac 2019 and later.

But perhaps the most highly anticipated update is iPhone Mirroring, which allows users to interact with their iPhone on their desktop screen — wirelessly. Let’s take a closer look.

iPhone Mirroring gives users control of their iPhones directly from macOS

What does iPhone mirroring entail? According to Apple, this efficiency-first macOS Sequoia feature promotes ‘continuity’ between desktop and iPhone. Users can wirelessly connect and display their iPhone right on the desktop screen, drag and place it where it makes the most sense on the screen, and interact with their phone with the trackpad. This aims to solve the common problems of interrupting work flow by having to switch focus to different devices, or needing access to a phone that is buried in a bag (or another room).

iPhone Mirroring gives users control of their iPhones directly from macOS
Image source: Apple

Connecting iPhones to MacOS is relatively seamless, too: As demonstrated in the video below, we see how easily one can give permission for the Mac to access the iPhone, and how it will lock when connected to the desktop. In the Desktop & Dock settings, desktop users can also toggle between the iPhones (with iOS 18 updates) connected to their Macs, and essentially choose which iPhone they want to see displayed on your desktop. 

Those users who are concerned about losing important functionality while in desktop mode can rest assured: Users can interact with their phones exactly as they would in the palm of their hands, swiping through pages or opening and interacting with their apps with either the Mac trackpad or the Mac keyboard (to add special notes).

For a visual demonstration, see this comprehensive demo:

💡 Spotlight on: Push notifications: Native functionality is not lost with iPhone Mirroring: iPhone notifications will be available on Mac with this next update, appearing alongside Mac notifications — and the physical iPhone is not needed to interact with them. With this new macOS Sequoia feature, users have more control than ever over the notifications they receive. They can view, respond, or turn off iPhone notifications directly from their Mac. Users also have the ability to control which iPhone apps show notifications on their Mac.

iOS 18: What’s in it for app developers? 

For developers, Apple offered up the enhancements delivered by Apple Intelligence to apps themselves. In its keynote, the tech giant promised updated SDKs with enhanced APIs and frameworks that enable iOS developers to enhance the user experience — with minimal coding. For instance, developers will now be able to easily add the Image Playground to an app to help users create images, and Writing Tools are automatically available to integrate, a functionality that will allow users to easily edit and summarize their notes in an app.

Plus, iOS developers using SiriKit will see more seamless ways to provide users with the ability to leverage Siri within apps without added coding efforts.

Updates also include a focus on the App Intents framework “to connect the vast world of apps with Apple Intelligence.” What does this mean? Ultimately, Apple is investing more effort into training, testing, and pre-defining these intents so developers can more easily adopt them.

Developers can also expect robust updates to the platform SDKs which make it easier to add “intelligent” and user-friendly features to apps. Also announced: Apple is bringing generative intelligence to Xcode for developing apps using Swift and SwiftUI, with features like on-device code completion, and smart assistance for Swift coding questions.

💡 Spotlight on: App Intents: Apple announced major upgrades to the App Intents framework which will streamline how to define actions for systems like Siri and Shortcuts, and be able to leverage Apple’s AI (Apple Intelligence) for efficiency. App developers in particular were interested to learn that App Intents functionality will extend beyond just proprietary Apple apps.DOCS CTA

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Conclusion: Embracing the seamless + secure future promised by iOS 18

From dynamic app icons to enhanced multitasking capabilities, the updates unveiled at WWDC24 promise to redefine the way we interact with iOS devices and further integrate them into our daily tasks.

Apple Intelligence will be available across iPhone 15 pro, iPad, and Mac — and available to try out in the U.S. in summer 2024. It will be a part of iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia this fall.

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