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WWDC 2017: the latest news from Apple’s big developer conference

Apple's biggest conference of the year kicked off with a lengthy keynote as usual, bringing us news about its take on the smart home speaker, updates to its MacBook and iMac lines, and a look at what's to come from iOS 11. Catch all the latest news right here as we go through the week at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, CA.

  • Natt Garun

    Jun 9, 2017

    Natt Garun

    Here’s how Apple is making iMessage take on Facebook Messenger bots

    At the wrap of Apple’s WWDC keynote, we learned that the company was set to announce Business Chat, a new tool that will allow businesses to add a live chat / customer support feature. But unlike what currently exists with Twitter’s DM feature or Facebook’s Messenger for Business, Apple’s platform won’t require businesses to have a social media presence, as customers can simply search for them on Spotlight, Siri, or Maps.

    During a WWDC session today, Apple elaborated more on just how it works. Business Chat essentially combines the app component of Messenger and the customer service portion from Twitter, letting you talk to businesses to get shopping / scheduling / general inquiry advice and reach out to file a dispute all from the same chat thread.

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  • Paul Miller

    Jun 9, 2017

    Paul Miller

    How serious is Apple about VR?

    Apple

    I was really excited to see Apple talk about VR at WWDC this year. It's a sign that Apple can embrace a market it doesn't entirely control, or possibly even fully understand. 

    Microsoft, Google, and Facebook all now offer some form of AR or VR hardware and software stack, and the ways they're investing in the future of these markets are fairly clear. But I'm still left with a lot of questions about where exactly Apple is headed.

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  • Ashley Carman

    Jun 8, 2017

    Ashley Carman

    AirPods will automatically pair with your Apple TV running tvOS 11

    Apple TV

    Apple didn’t talk much about tvOS 11 during its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, yet it still released the developer beta. We’re slowly getting an idea of what to expect. 9to5Mac reports that AirPods will automatically pair with a user’s Apple TV. Previously, the earbuds only automatically paired with iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches that were associated with the same iCloud account.

    So maybe with tvOS 11 you’ll be able to watch TV without needing a whole speaker setup or even dealing with manually pairing. How many people want to watch TV with their AirPods? I’m not sure, but Roku did add a headphone jack to its remote. Maybe that’s a sign.

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  • Lauren Goode

    Jun 8, 2017

    Lauren Goode

    How will iMessage payments stack up to Square Cash and Venmo?

    Jake Kastrenakes/The Verge

    Earlier this week Apple announced it will soon be rolling out peer-to-peer payments, effectively (bad pun alert) swiping at services from Square, PayPal-owned Venmo, and giant banks that already let you pay friends through mobile apps.

    Apple is well-known for biding its time while it watches other companies enter a market, then coming in later with a product or service it thinks will somehow be better. The peer-to-peer payments service is no exception; the question is whether Apple’s will actually be better than the others.

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  • Apple will now let hobbyists build their own HomeKit devices

    Apple HomeKit photos

    Though Apple didn't have much to say about HomeKit during its keynote presentation on Monday, it turns out the company's smart home system is seeing some very notable changes this year. The updates center on two things: making HomeKit more flexible for users, and making it much easier for developers to start building new products.

    The second of those is arguably the bigger deal. Until now, anyone that wanted to create a HomeKit product had to join Apple's licensing program just to get started. That big hurdle is being removed, and Apple will now allow any registered developer to start building a HomeKit device. Forbes says that devs can even put something together using a Raspberry Pi or Arduino now.

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  • Paul Miller

    Jun 8, 2017

    Paul Miller

    Drag and drop on iOS is more powerful than it's ever been on the desktop

    Image: Apple

    My first reaction to Apple's WWDC announcement of iOS drag and drop was basically, "Lol welcome to three decades ago." But after watching a more in-depth technical explanation of the technology at Apple's follow-up Platforms State of the Union, I'm starting to wonder if Apple has a new “pinch to zoom” on its hands: a technology that doesn't just allow for multitouch devices to compete with point-and-click desktop experiences, but in a way, it surpasses them.

    iOS’s drag and drop from a user’s perspective is fairly simple. You press and hold on an object, and it's pinned to your finger. Then you drag the item to wherever you want it to go, and release. On an iPhone, your drop destination is limited to elsewhere in the same app, but on the iPad you can drag an item down to the new universal dock in iOS 11, jump to the app switcher view and switch apps, or hover over an app that's already open in splitscreen, all while holding on to your original selection.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jun 8, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Apple’s HomePod looks like a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none

    When Apple announced HomePod at WWDC, I was thrown for a loop. After months of rumors, the Cupertino company was expected to launch some sort of Siri-focused speaker that would serve as the vanguard in an effort to elevate the digital assistant to a viable competitor for Alexa, Assistant, and Cortana.

    Instead, Apple zigged when it was expected to zag — launching HomePod with a focus on music. As Apple put it onstage, its goal is nothing less than building a speaker that will "reinvent home music" in the same way that the iPod did for portable music so many years ago.

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  • Ashley Carman

    Jun 8, 2017

    Ashley Carman

    The 6 best new features in iOS 11

    Apple

    Apple unveiled iOS 11 during its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, and while it might not feature an overhauled Messages app like last year, the company’s smaller but iterative changes add functionality that some users might have always wanted. Do Not Disturb While Driving, for example, mutes notifications when your iPhone thinks you’re moving. It’ll auto-reply to your texts, too, which is a welcome feature after other companies, like Samsung, introduced a similar product. The whole App Store is undergoing a redesign, as well, so that’s cool.

    We compiled a couple lists of all the features we learned from the WWDC keynote, and now we’re narrowing them down to the things that we’re most excited about. These are the six best new features coming with iOS 11.

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  • Where does the smart home fit into Apple's HomePod?

    It's impossible to miss one of Apple's biggest ambitions for the HomePod: control over your home, and a central placement within it.

    It's right there in the name. And yet, the way Apple is trying to set the HomePod apart from direct competitors like Google's Home and Amazon's Echo, the HomePod ends up positioned oddly far from what seems like such an obvious goal.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jun 7, 2017

    Sean O'Kane

    Apple still hasn't fixed Siri's biggest problem

    If you were listening to Apple’s keynote address at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference this week, you might have walked away thinking that this is the year (and the version of iOS) that Siri finally feels like a capable digital assistant.

    Apple announced it was adding a new visual interface to its digital assistant, the ability to handle follow-up questions, and even language translation. Siri is also getting a new voice completely generated by machine learning algorithms. SiriKit, the development tool that lets third-party companies integrate with Siri, is becoming more robust, too. You’ll be able to type to Siri in iOS 11, and, of course, the assistant underpins Apple’s newest product, its HomePod speaker.

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  • Paul Miller

    Jun 7, 2017

    Paul Miller

    Apple needs to sell a computer with a good GPU for $1,000, not $5,000

    Apple

    A few months ago, Apple offered a rare near-apology for the Mac Pro. “We designed ourselves into a bit of a corner,” said Craig Federighi, which is probably the best way to say it. Apple was so focused on whether it could put workstation components into a beautiful, tiny trash can form factor, that it never bothered to ask if it should.

    But by the time Apple was coming to this obvious conclusion, it was already too late for me to care whether or not Apple can figure out how to build a modern desktop computer. I built my own Windows 10 PC late last year, and it's great. My budget was $1,000, and I went $100 over. My build's dominant cost was the graphics card, a GeForce 1070 which was a bit over $400 at the time. I skimped on the CPU (Core i5), got a too-small SSD (256GB), and only have 16GB of RAM. But I got what I wanted: a simple, white box that holds a GeForce 1070 and runs Overwatch, Visual Studio, the Unreal Engine editor, and Oculus VR perfectly.

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  • James Vincent

    Jun 7, 2017

    James Vincent

    The iPhone is also getting drag and drop with iOS 11

    The iPhone 7 will get the upgrade to iOS 11 later this year.
    The iPhone 7 will get the upgrade to iOS 11 later this year.
    Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

    Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 11, is primarily focused on turning the iPad into something resembling a desktop computer. You’ve got a dock for apps, a new file system, and features like drag and drop. But, not all of these changes are destined for the iPad only. The ability to drag and drop files, for example, is also coming to the iPhone.

    There are limitations, though. According to tweets from developers at WWDC, Apple says drag and drop on the iPhone will only work within apps. There is a way to use it between apps (see below) but it seems this is a bug, rather than a feature. You can select multiple elements to drag and drop in iOS 11, but there’s no “spring loading.” (On macOS, this is when you pick up a file and hover over a folder and it opens automatically.)

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  • Sam Byford

    Jun 7, 2017

    Sam Byford

    Who needs a HomePod when you could have an iPod Hi-Fi with Alexa?

    You’d think I’d be right on board with the HomePod, Apple’s Siri-powered speaker coming out later this year. I actually really like Apple Music as a service, and after buying a Google Home six months ago I’ve grown quite fond of talking to a speaker to tell it what song to play. Something with better sound quality and slicker execution should be an obvious purchase.

    Well, the problem is I’ve already rolled my own Apple-speaker-with-smart-assistant solution, and I’m not convinced the HomePod will be much better.

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  • Nick Statt

    Jun 6, 2017

    Nick Statt

    Apple will likely expand NFC features beyond Apple Pay with iOS 11

    Apple Pay

    Apple yesterday took the wraps off iOS 11 and detailed a healthy chunk of new features set to arrive for iPad and iPhone owners some time this fall. One aspect of the new mobile OS that wasn’t talked about during the keynote was a new “Core NFC” framework that could expand near-field communication features for Apple devices beyond just its mobile payments support.

    The change in how iOS makes use of NFC is detailed in a documentation webpage for the beta version of iOS 11, and it was reported by Engadget earlier today. (Apple did announce on stage yesterday that its upcoming watchOS 4 release would let the Apple Watch communicate with supported gym equipment using NFC.)

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jun 6, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Apple reportedly adds support for FLAC lossless audio in iOS 11

    Apple Lossless

    Apple has allegedly added support for lossless FLAC audio files in iOS 11, according to reports from Reddit users who have installed copies of the developer beta, spotted by The Next Web.

    Per the Reddit thread, FLAC files can be synced to an iOS device through iCloud Drive, then accessed through the new Files application, which will allow for local playback of the high-quality audio files directly on the device. If true, it would mark the first time that Apple has offered support for the popular FLAC file format on an iOS device.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Jun 6, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Breaking down Apple’s new augmented reality platform

    Apple finally announced an augmented reality platform for developers yesterday, and it’s about time. ARKit, as the tool is called, lets app makers draw on detailed camera and sensor data to map digital objects into 3D space. This lets them move beyond simple 2D camera overlays, without requiring the heavy-duty software engineering behind more advanced tools like Snapchat world lenses.

    If nothing else, Apple has just made catching pokémon more immersive. But ARKit could also let the company compete against Google, which currently sets the gold standard for phone-based augmented reality. It could even set the stage for augmented reality glasses and virtual reality. Here’s what that means.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jun 6, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Apple halves cost of 2TB iCloud plan to $9.99 a month

    Among the many announcements at WWDC yesterday, Apple cut the cost of its 2TB iCloud storage plan in half — from $19.99 a month to $9.99. This replaces the now-defunct 1TB plan that was previously offered at that price point.

    That leaves three options for iCloud pricing now: $0.99 per month for 50GB of storage, $2.99 per for 200GB, and $9.99 per month for 2TB. Free storage (unfortunately) is stuck at a mere 5GB for now.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jun 6, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    How does Apple’s HomePod compare to cheaper options from Amazon and Sonos?

    HomePod is Apple’s newest hardware, and the company’s big play to put Apple Music and Siri in the center of your living room. It’s an interesting product, one that seems to be making a simultaneous move against Sonos’ industry-leading, multi-room audio speakers and smart assistant hubs like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

    The problem? HomePod is expensive. At $350, a single HomePod speaker costs more than many of its competitors in either product category. Smart assistant speakers aren’t even close — an Amazon Echo costs $180; the Echo Show costs $230; Google Home sells for $129; and perhaps most significantly, an Echo Dot is just $50. And Sonos’ speakers — which aren’t exactly known across the industry for being the cheapest line of products — also undercut the HomePod when it comes to price: a Sonos Play:1 costs $199, while a Play:3 runs for $299. Only the Play:5, which is hardly comparable from a speaker standpoint to Apple’s offering, is more expensive than HomePod.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jun 6, 2017

    Chaim Gartenberg

    watchOS 4 will let Apple Watches sync data with gym equipment through GymKit

    Apple

    Apple is bringing even more fitness features to the Apple Watch in watchOS 4. The biggest highlight is support for a new technology platform called GymKit, which will let users wireless sync fitness data between cardio machines at a gym and their Apple Watches.

    As Apple noted in the keynote yesterday, when you use gym equipment with a Watch, there’s data on a treadmill that the Watch can only estimate, like distance traveled. Conversely, data on the Watch, like calories burned, is information the treadmill lacks or imprecisely measures. GymKit solves that problem by pairing an Apple Watch to whatever cardio gear you’re using by tapping on an NFC pad, allowing the two devices to sync their respective datasets to ensure that your workout results are accurate on both ends.

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  • Jun 6, 2017

    Vlad Savov

    The iPad takes a big step toward being the computer for everyone

    iPad Pro
    iPad Pro
    Image: Apple

    The iPad has never been a full-fledged computer. At its launch back in 2010, it was mocked for having a large screen without a typical large-screen operating system like macOS or Windows, and it was dismissed as just a bigger iPhone. But, as it turned out, people found a whole bunch of really cool and enjoyable uses for that enlarged iPhone, and even as iPad sales have slowed over recent years, Apple’s tablet has proven enduringly popular among those who’ve acquired one. At WWDC 2017, Apple underlined its commitment to pushing the iPad as its next computing platform, and for the first time ever, it even has me interested.

    In all the time it’s been around, I haven’t been able to answer the question of who the iPad is for. It’s often been the wrong question, mind you, as the iPad shows its strengths best when it’s serving narrowly defined purposes and applications: a sketching pad for some, a comic book reader for others, and a great way to show off pictures for all. But with the changes to how the iPad works in iOS 11, Apple is ready to answer the question of who the iPad is for in a bold and emphatic way: it’s for everyone. What this latest generation of Apple’s tablet represents is a maturation into a truly versatile and powerful computer, thanks to Apple’s usual mix of tightly integrated hardware and software upgrades.

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  • James Vincent

    Jun 6, 2017

    James Vincent

    A $29 holster for the iPad Pencil might be the most Apple product ever

    The Pencil Case comes in four colors and costs $29.
    The Pencil Case comes in four colors and costs $29.
    Image: Apple

    It wasn’t announced onstage at WWDC yesterday, but Apple’s new Pencil Case might be the most quintessential Apple product to date. It’s a leather sheath for the company’s iPad stylus that comes in four colors. It costs $29, and is described by the company using the usual string of flattering adjectives. “Beautifully crafted,” says the product page, channeling Jony Ive. “A graceful statement [...] cleanly and precisely designed.”

    It is a pencil case that holds a single, $99 pencil. Very, very Apple.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    Jun 6, 2017

    Dieter Bohn

    Apple’s HomePod sounds really good in its demos

    Although we were rebuffed at Apple’s main demo area at WWDC today, we did get a chance to go listen to the HomePod later on. In a controlled demo with specific songs designed to show off the HomePod’s strengths, we heard it do some pretty impressive audio tricks. We couldn’t test Siri or pick our own tracks, but we did get to hear it both individually and set up as a pair of stereo speakers.

    I’m no audio expert, so my colleagues Vlad and Nilay will surely take me to task for the words I’m about to type, but here goes. The main thing to know is that Apple has done a remarkably good job finding ways to get its speaker to feel like it’s filling a room with sound. It starts with the subwoofer, which delivers bass that doesn’t quite hit you in the chest but does manage to put other smart speakers like the Echo or Google Home to shame. It’s obviously no standalone subwoofer, but it outperforms what you’d expect from a speaker of this size.

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  • Natt Garun

    Jun 5, 2017

    Natt Garun

    Apple’s Business Chat takes on Twitter DMs for customer service messaging

    At WWDC 2017, Apple is set to announce Business Chat, a feature that looks to be a direct shot at customer service messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and Twitter’s DM support. Not a whole lot of details are currently available from the official website other than customers will be able to start a chat with businesses by searching for them from Siri, Spotlight, Safari, or Maps. So if Apple can get businesses to sign on, that will help iOS users avoid the need to have Messenger or Twitter installed in order to start interacting (i.e., file complaints) with various companies’ customer service departments.

    In a preview screenshot Apple provided, a dad has messaged Apple from his phone to discuss buying an iPad for his daughter. The responder appears to be a real person (he introduces himself by name) which is similar to how Twitter currently handles customer service support. (Typically Twitter-based support team members sign off with their initials to let the customer know who is handling their case.)

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  • Dieter Bohn

    Jun 5, 2017

    Dieter Bohn

    Apple’s new HomePod speaker is really cute in person

    I just spent a moment with Apple’s new HomePod intelligent speaker, which kind of looks like a mesh-wrapped Mac Pro. It comes in black and white, and it’s cute. Like a cute little ovoid thing. It has seven tweeters in the bottom, along with a four-inch woofer, and six microphones at the top. It’s about the size of two large grapefruits stacked on top of each other, I guess, if I needed to describe it. Smaller than a breadbox, anyway.

    When you say “Hey, Siri,” it lights up at the top with a little waveform, and you can ask for a lot of Siri-type things, like reminders, timers, and random questions. Or at least, it’s supposed to do that. In the “demo” area, I looked around at all the Apple representatives, said “Hey, Siri” in a clear voice, and all I heard in response was the sound of their laughter. Nice try, Dieter.

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  • Nick Statt

    Jun 5, 2017

    Nick Statt

    Apple says only iMac Pro buyers will get space gray mouse and keyboard

    Photo: Apple

    Apple’s latest desktop powerhouse is a pro variant of its all-in-one iMac, which will start shipping in December starting at $4,999. The device has all sorts of top-notch specs, including a Xeon processor that scales up to 18 cores and an all-new AMD Radeon Vega GPU.

    But the computer’s most aesthetically pleasing perk happens to be an all-new space gray finish alongside space gray accessories, which we’ve never seen from Apple before. Unfortunately, the company says these new color options for the wireless Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard will be restricted to buyers of the iMac Pro, according to 9to5Mac.

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