WWDC 2021 took place two months ago but many of us are still trying to absorb all the new technologies and improvements introduced this go around. We’ll start with reviewing some of the big announcements and then dive into some particular technologies. Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference took place in online fashion again this year from June 7th to 11th.
WWDC 2021 Big Announcements
One of Apple’s main focuses was connectivity. This was demonstrated with FaceTime improvements such as SharePlay. SharePlay and the Group Activities API allow users to share experiences inside apps such as movies, TV, music, and other media. This may not have been too much of a surprise considering the increase in virtual meetings over the past year.
iOS 15 features include improvements in Messages for sharing and new Memoji. Notifications were redesigned with contact photos and larger app icons. There is now a Notification Summary too. Maps have been improved to explore cities in more detail. Safari has a new tab bar design. Live Text unlocks useful information in images so you can make calls, send emails, and look up directions. There were many more new features and improvements introduced but these were some of the main ones.
iPadOS 15 allows widgets on the home screen along with new larger sizes for widgets. App Library is now on iPad. Multitasking is easier to use with new features and controls such as keyboard shortcuts. Quick Notes allow jotting down notes easier with system-wide use. Swift Playgrounds bring the possibilities of learning code and building real apps with SwiftUI. iPadOS also has the improved FaceTime, Notifications, and Maps as iOS.
tvOS 15 saw connectivity improvements with SharePlay, audio updates, new HomeKit support for security cameras, and easier sign in using an iOS device.
watchOS 8 makes staying connected with others easier than ever. You can see your photos, control your home, start your car, and view your ID. There are additional improvements for Messages, Mail, focusing, and work outs.
macOS Monterey has various improvements throughout including FaceTime, Messages, Safari, Notes, and many more.
With over 200 sessions covering topics on all Apple platforms, there was plenty of help to continue to create innovative apps. Here were some highlights broken down by frameworks.
The biggest addition to the Swift library this year was built-in support for concurrency. Introducing asynchronous functions into Swift allow for running complex asynchronous code easily. One way this is accomplished is using the async keyword, which specifies that a function can be suspended while it’s partway through execution. When calling an async function, the await keyword is required to pause execution until the function completes. There are AsyncSequences that allow looping over asynchronous sequences of values. Task and TaskGroups allow running concurrent operations either individually or in a coordinated way. Actors are a new reference type like classes except they allow only one task to access their mutable state at a time. Using the new concurrency features will result in fewer lines of code, additional safety, and fewer bugs.
SwiftUI has gotten several improvements this year. AsyncImage is a new view that asynchronously loads and displays an image. It supports showing placeholder views while an image loads. A modifier called searchable(text:placement) was added. It makes showing a search bar easier and filtering search criterion. With the new SwiftUI Focus APIs, interactions involving keyboard-driven navigation, tvOS focus, and accessibility can all be improved. Even UIKit saw some improvements in UICollectioViews, diffable data sources, and buttons.
Xcode Cloud was introduced as a continuous integration and delivery service. It is built into Xcode and designed for Apple developers. It brings together cloud-based tools to help build apps, run automated tests in parallel, deliver apps to testers, and view and manage user feedback. Currently it is limited to the beta and will have more availability later.
We are excited to start using these new technologies to make our projects more efficient and provide an even better user experience. With so many new technologies and improvements there is plenty to keep us going until next year’s WWDC.