Most to Least Interesting for Mobile: Apple’s WWDC 2017

June 7, 2017
Ashley Rondeau

Earlier this week, Apple held its annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) and there were some highlights and lowlights. Hey, they can’t all be winners. Since we’re all about mobile here, let’s rank the announcements that pertain to the mobile side of Apple’s business from the most to least interesting.

1. Redesigned App Store

For those in the app world, getting found on Apple’s App Store can make or break your business. This is why when Apple announced a drastic redesign of their App Store, it was immediately the most interesting part of their WWDC. We don’t think anything else announced compares to how this update can potentially affect millions of developers’ bottom lines.
Changes include making it easier to discover apps (we’ll see), a new “Today tab” that will feature different apps and the stories behind them, better insight into what apps have updated, and a more useful search with better search results (again, we’ll see). And it certainly looks a lot nicer.

It’s early to say these changes will make developers happy, but anything to reengage with the 500 million weekly visitors to the App Store is welcome. At the very least, new places where apps may get featured is a good thing, and there’s also a new “share story” feature that lets users share an app’s blurb with friends. That alone has the potential of helping apps go viral.
The App Store update is definitely something app marketers should look closely in to. Apple’s Newsroom has more.

2. ARKit

We just posted about how augmented reality is an emerging platform for mobile apps that’s quite exciting. With the announcement of ARKit, Apple is ready to jump into these waters and help developers leverage the power of their ubiquitous hardware with some great software.

Google’s doing AR (most notably their Tango project), Facebook is too (focusing on the power of the camera), and now Apple. They’re a little late to the party, but that’s classic Apple as they work behind closed doors to put out the best experience possible. And with rumors of AR glasses in the works, along with best-in-class cameras on their flagship smartphones, Apple is ready to give eager developers access to this new platform.
If Apple can spur on AR app development, it could catapult the fledgling industry. After all, Apple says they’ve got “the largest AR platform in the world,” and they’re not wrong. Now even the least savvy person with an iPhone has a potential AR device in their pocket. And that’s pretty exciting.

3. WatchOS 4

Any Apple Watch announcements are going to be mid-tier for us since, well, we don’t quite know what to make of the product. There’s wasn’t an Apple Watch 3 announcement, which is fine since the hardware doesn’t need iterating (well, besides battery life); but rather the software.

And the software feature that could have some excitement potential is Siri. From the beginning, having a wrist-mounted personal assistant was the neat promise of the Apple Watch. Now that Siri is coming to watchOS 4, that could become a reality. While you still won’t be able to chat with it (and honestly who’d want to be in public whispering into their watch) the new Siri watchface will use “machine learning” to pump relevant information to you when you need it.
Game changer? Not really. But depending on how intelligent the Siri watchface is, it could give new life to this oft forgotten mobile device.

4. Homepod Speaker

We all knew Apple’s competitor to Google Home and Amazon Echo was coming, and here it is… at $350. Yikes. An Echo Dot costs just $50, by comparison. Yes, Apple has always launched premium versions of hardware, but it’s still a little surprising. Usually when Apple puts out an expensive gadget, it redefines the space. The iPod, the iPhone, the Macbook Air. These all cost a lot more, but brought so much more to the table. The HomePod’s killer feature? Great sound.

If it’s a speaker first, then yes, sound is important. But a) great speakers already exist (you can get a Sonos system for multiple rooms starting at about $350); and b) these gadgets are supposed to be the hub of the home, not just smart speakers. We touted how integral these hubs may be for the future, but the way Apple has positioned the HomePod leaves us wanting. While we expected this to be the physical manifestation of HomeKit, Apple’s IoT play to control a smart-home, they’re selling it as a glorified speaker.
It’s possible that Apple is underselling the device to temper expectations, and to differentiate themselves from an increasingly crowded market. But the WWDC announcement just left us underwhelmed with what we expected to be a game-changing device.

5. iOS updates

From a mobile standpoint, only one iOS update Apple announced held any interest: multitasking on the iPad. And even that is stretching a bit, since Windows and Android has had this feature for a while. But since the iPad Pro (more on that later) is a popular mobile device for businesses, the addition of multitasking definitely makes it a more formidable foe against Window’s Surface tablets.

But aside from that, the new updates in iOS 11 were just yawn-inducing. A more useful Siri? Updated camera features? Apple Pay? Do Not Disturb While Driving? There’re all fine, but none of them had us sitting up in our chairs during the WWDC. At least as mobile app developers, none of this warranted any excitement. Moving on.

6. iPad Pro

We need to mention it, because it’s a mobile device, but the updated iPad Pro was probably the least interesting announcement. The 10.5 inch screen is larger than the previous 9.7 inches of the one introduced in March, and it’s probably more useful than the 12.9 inch screen that’s available. The display is better and brighter, of course, and they increased the storage. But it all feels like they are running out of ideas on how to improve the tablet.

If you were waiting on some killer feature that would bury Window’s Surface, there was nothing here. It’s still a formidable device for businesses, but it’s hard to say it’s any better than before. It feels like the iPad Pro was refreshed for refreshing sake, and that’s why it’s at the bottom of our interest list.
What interested you from Apple’s WWDC?

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