Reviewing my WWDC wish list

on June 5, 2014

A few days before WWDC, my weekly Tech.pinions column focused on my personal wish list for what I’d like to see announced at the conference as a user of Apple products. I thought it would be good to return to that list post-keynote to see which wishes were granted and which weren’t. Here’s a quick summary but I’ve excluded everything related to Apple TV since that wasn’t even mentioned in the keynote – consider those wishes not granted!

WWDC wish list review

Let’s go through those in more detail. One caveat – the keynote went at breakneck speed through many features, and it was impossible to catch them all as they were announced. I imagine some parts of what I’m currently characterizing as “no” answers in my table above may turn out to be at least partial “yes” answers by the time final versions roll around and we know all the details.

iOS – almost all granted

I felt pretty gratified by the end of the keynote about my wish list for iOS – five yes’s and two no’s isn’t bad at all. Though the “Kid Mode” I asked for didn’t show up, there was another major concession to iDevice use in families with Family Sharing. The details aren’t completely clear yet but it does solve a headache for families. Having said that, I think I caught a limit on family members of six which, when you live in Utah, seems a little ungenerous (there are nine kids in my wife’s family). Some details have emerged since the keynote about other parental controls and an evolved Guided Access feature which may meet some of these needs. The other “no” was on third party integration in Siri, which there was no mention of in the keynote. That’s disappointing to me, but not altogether surprising.

On the other hand, Apple did open itself up in lots of other ways, including the third party Touch ID integration I asked for, as well as allowing third party keyboards, which was one of two possible ways Apple could have granted my request for a swiping keyboard. It also announced a sort of predictive text called QuickType, which seems like it might be useful, though I’ve never fallen in love with a predictive type feature the way I have with Swype.

It seems Siri voice recognition might be improved though details were scant. It will now operate on a streaming basis (as Google voice recognition does), which means you won’t have to wait until you get to the end of a long sentence before you know how well the feature has understood what you’re saying. Many is the time I’ve dictated a ton of text and then had to go back and edit every other word. This could be a boon to those of us with funny accents.

We’re also getting better photo management. Photos will now show up on all our devices and iCloud storage will be much bigger and cheaper — a welcome change. I found it intriguing Apple chose to charge small fees for the new expanded storage. The strategy reminds me of plans in the UK a few years ago to charge nominal fees for doctor visits that were always free to avoid people simply not showing up. It’s as if Apple is happy to almost give this feature away to people who show they’re at least somewhat serious about it. Then there’s the Amazon Prime psychology of wanting to use something you’ve paid for.

Lastly, third party widgets in the Today screen in iOS and OS X. This strikes me as really useful and a much better place for widgets than the OS X Dashboard, which I rarely remember even exists. Putting these widgets in a place I regularly visit makes a lot more sense and having them on the iPhone also will be very handy. I’m looking forward to seeing what use my third party apps make of it.

OS X – mostly a bust

Having been so gratified on the iOS side, I’m mostly disappointed by the OS X advancements. Siri remains absent, iCloud backup is nowhere to be seen (despite the increased storage) and iTunes got a new logo but nothing else (at least based on what we saw in the keynote itself).

Having said that, the design changes in OS X look great, bringing it nicely in line with iOS. And the integration stuff – more in a second – was a big deal. iCloud Drive could be a partial solution to my iCloud backup request, though only for documents, and is therefore more of a replacement for my heavy use of Dropbox than for my use of Crashplan. If I knew I would exclusively use Apple devices going forward, I would seriously consider switching from Dropbox to iCloud Drive, but the fact I regularly use other devices in my work means I probably won’t pull the trigger on it. But it does seem like the power user companion to the much simpler iCloud document storage we had before, which was ideally suited to non-power users. (It presently works exactly how my wife expects it to, but I find it utterly useless with no structure).

Integration – a mixed bag with several surprises

In tandem with my request for new iTunes desktop software, I asked for iTunes on the web, but again there was no sign of this. Another “no” – in principle at least – came on the question of better notification sync, where I’d ask for my Mac and iPhone to work together to only serve up notifications on the device I’m currently using. This would require some sort of proximity sensing enabled by Bluetooth LE. I didn’t get this wish granted, but Apple did demo some other examples using the concept of proximity sensing between iPhones and Macs. Specifically, the ability to have phone calls and text messages show up on your Mac when your phone is nearby, and the ability to set up a hotspot on the fly when the two are close and the Mac doesn’t have a network connection.

These are great examples of what’s possible when you control multiple device categories and when you have a low power way for these devices to talk to each other. As such, Apple is leaning on its tight hardware/software integration as a differentiator, doing something no other consumer electronics company could. I wouldn’t be surprised if the notification stuff I asked for came shortly afterwards, since this sort of proximity sensing and communication-centric notification function lays the groundwork for it in principle. The one yes was an obvious one – iOS to OS X AirDrop, which is implemented just as you’d imagine.

On the same theme of integration but going further than my original wish list, there were other new features announced under the heading of Continuity. I already mentioned iCloud Drive above, but there’s also switching a half finished email draft from iPhone to Mac and some other stuff too. This was a major theme in the keynote, and it’s an area where I expect Apple to continue to innovate, driving home its advantage over competitors and driving demand for all-Apple device choices by individuals and families.

My Hobbes moment

A couple of days after I posted my wish list, I jokingly posted a favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strip of mine on Twitter, with the comment that I felt my wish list was in the same spirit:

calvin_and_hobbes-sandwich

Having gotten much of what I asked for and more, I’m feeling about as satisfied as Hobbes in that last frame, but I might just start working on my wish list for next year.