iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch typically get the most airtime at WWDC – but there’s plenty more to talk about. This week Apple has announced improvements for several other products and services too. Here’s a recap of everything you might have missed, including some great new features for anyone who uses AirPods, Apple TV, or smart home gadgets.
“People love the magical experience that AirPods deliver,” says Apple. The truly wireless headphones have proven ridiculously popular, and they’re about to get better with iOS 14.
The update will give AirPods the ability to automatically switch between Apple devices as your use them. For anyone who owns an iPhone, iPad, and Mac, this will be a game-changer. Currently, AirPods will automatically connect to the last device they were used with when you put them on, and you have to manually disconnect from the Settings app if you want to switch to another device. Now, they’ll be able to detect which device you’re actually using and hot-swap between them at will. A great feature users have long been asking for.
AirPods Pro are also due an update to enable “spatial audio,” which uses a complex series of algorithms to replicate the experience of immersive surround sound. Apple says it will use the various sensors in your devices to “anchor” the sounds to the screen, so each fragment of audio sounds like it’s coming from a specific direction, even if you turn your head. It’s impressive stuff that should allow for a more cinematic viewing experience on iPhone and iPad.
These updates will be delivered as automatic firmware updates to existing AirPods, but our understanding is that the features are tied to Apple’s main software updates coming this Fall and won’t be active until you update to iOS 14.
It’s surprising it’s taken this long, really, considering it targets roughly half of the world, but Apple Watch now ties directly into the iOS Health app to provide menstrual cycle and fertility tracking.
The next version of tvOS, due out alongside iOS 14 this Fall, brings with it some handy changes that please gamers. Apple TV is going “beyond video” with better Music and Arcade integration. That means multi-user support is expanding so a household can each have independent save files and settings for Apple Arcade games played on the TV.
Those games should be easier to play than ever too, with added support for Xbox Elite 2 controllers and the highly-praised Xbox Adaptive controller. The latter is designed to allow those with special accessibility requirements to customize the controller to their needs.
Like iOS, tvOS is also adding a new Picture in Picture mode – meaning you’ll soon be able to watch the new and workout videos simultaneously, or keep tabs on your security cameras while watching TV. (More on that below.)
Finally, Apple unveiled a new big-budget TV+ original at WWDC. It’s an epic sci-fi series called “Foundation,” based on Isaac Asimov’s groundbreaking novels. You can catch the teaser trailer right here.
Apple is building on its HomeKit framework to improve the integration and usefulness of smart home devices.
Firstly, the Home app adds Suggested Automations, granting easy access to workflows to make your life easier. A redesign also gives extra prominence to devices the app thinks need attention – like when you forget to turn off a light.
Speaking of lights, a new feature called Adaptive Lighting can automatically adjust the brightness, color, and temperature of your smart bulbs throughout the day – like a home-sized version of the iPhone’s True Tone and Night Shift features. This means you can be gradually woken with the morning, turning off as the sun gets brighter, coming back on and slowly shifting away from blue tones in the evenings.
The update also bolsters the security of, ahem, your security cameras. Apple’s Secure Video API is adding facial recognition features and “activity zones” for tracking movements on camera. Video feeds from doorbells, baby monitors, security cams and so on will now be accessible from Apple TV, and will be able to offer more nuanced activity alerts to your other devices.