iMessage next, and Mindy Borovsky, a product manager, is up to introduce the changes:
- Photos can be displayed as a small collage, or an interactive stack that you can click through to browse.
- Shared photos can now be automatically added to your library – but only the ones you “actually care about”.
- The Apple News app will now keep track of which links have been sent to you, letting you read shared articles – and the same is true of playlists shared from Apple Music.
- “Shared with you” is also built into podcasts, Safari, and the Apple TV app.
FaceTime is getting Share Play: you can share music, movies, or your screen through a FaceTime call.
“With Share Play, you can bring an album right into the conversation. All you have to do is click play in Apple Music while in a call, and everyone is listening to the same track at the same time.”
For music, share play seems limited to Apple’s own streaming service, but video can be shared from any streaming platform (presumably, if the streaming platform decides to support it). “We wanted to make sure you have a ton of incredible experiences to share in FaceTime, so developers can bring their own apps right into FaceTime”. Partners include Disney+, Hulu, Twitch and TikTok.
And users can also share their iOS screens through FaceTime – perfect for troubleshooting relatives’ devices.
And first, over to Craig Federighi, for the update to iOS. It’s called… iOS 15. Obviously.
The focus of this update: “Staying connected, finding focus, using intelligence, [and] exploring the world.”
Staying connected first, then, and FaceTime. “It has its challenges. When talking in person, our brains process hundreds of cues. On a video call, those signals can get lost, leaving us feeling drained.”
How to fix that? Apple is bringing spatial audio to FaceTime, making it sound like speech is coming from the actual person talking in a group chat. And updates to the microphone processing allow users to block out background noise.
Elsewhere, FaceTime is getting updates to bring it in line with the competition: you can view group chats in grid mode, blur the background, and send a link to people in advance of the call. More importantly – Android and Windows users can now join FaceTime group calls through the browser.
The first few minutes suggest that Apple is going for “friendly and relatable” this year: a cute, silly, video shows Apple developers describing what they would do as the opening video for WWDC, before Tim Cook walks out to a cheering crowd of… animoji heads?
“Last year’s event was the most inclusive WWDC ever,” Cook says, leaning on the positives of a fully-remote conference. “This year, we’re bringing you another online experience. We’ll provide the tools you need to continue creating the world’s most innovative apps, and the entire conference will be made available for free.”
We’re expecting part of today’s event to focus on iMessage, and the placeholder imagery suggests the guesses were true:
What else? Well, as well as the expected updates to Apple’s operating systems, we should be prepared for at least one new laptop – a high-end MacBook Pro – and maybe more than that on the hardware side, if rumours of a new Mac mini pan out.
It hardly seems worth mentioning, but this year’s WWDC has a weird vibe for another reason too: it is, again, entirely remote. Last year saw chief executive Tim Cook stood alone on an empty stage, speaking to an empty auditorium. This year, with the benefit of a few more months to prepare, we can expect something a bit more elaborate.
But a request for leniency from your humble liveblogger: as Apple has become more comfortable with pre-recording its events, it’s made them more information-dense than any live event could be. I have but two hands.
This year’s WWDC has, as they say, a weird vibe. Apple is in the middle of multiple lawsuits and regulatory investigations around the world, centred on its treatment of developers, and it hasn’t exactly been sweet-talking them.
Marco Arment, developer of podcast app Overcast, reader app Instapaper, and an early employee of Tumblr, is representative of a strain of unease amongst the community. He writes:
Apple’s leaders continue to deny developers of two obvious truths:
- That our apps provide substantial value to iOS beyond the purchase commissions collected by Apple.
- That any portion of our customers came to our apps from our own marketing or reputation, rather than the App Store.
For Apple to continue to deny these is dishonest, factually wrong, and extremely insulting — not only to our efforts, but to the intelligence of all Apple developers and customers.
Will Apple directly address this simmering displeasure on stage today? Absolutely not, no. But will it indirectly address it, and take steps to heal the wounds? We’ll see in just a few minutes.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live blog of Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference. We’ll be kicking off at 10am Pacific Time – that’s 6pm UK time, and 3am in New South Wales if you’re staying up for all the latest news.
If you want to watch along live, Apple is streaming the event on its website. Otherwise, stick around here, and we’ll keep you up to date with the important news, translate the technobabble, and hope there’s not too much straightforward advertising over the next one to two hours.