Apple announced a flood of new features for its software platforms for Macs and iPhones, many of which might feel familiar to users of apps like Dropbox, Voxer and WhatsApp as Apple moves to keep up with developments in cloud and mobile communications technology.
Among the unifying themes:
1) Tying Apple devices together with features like calling and emails that can work simultaneously across iPhones and Macs.
2) Bringing other apps services directly into Apple’s native apps, allowing a user to for instance use a photo editing app within the company’s native photo service or add their data to Apple’s notifications stream.
At an unusually lighthearted keynote, Chief Executive Tim Cook said that the updated iPhone platform iOS 8 was “a giant release” for both consumers and developers.
The reveals included some neat developer features that make programing an app for Apple’s devices a lot easier with features like Swift — but also put mature services like DropBox and Skype under pressure by essentially aping them as native Apple features. Jan Koum, the founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger tweeted his own veiled criticism at the event which seemed heavy on familiar features.
Among the big reveals:
- iCloud Drive seeks to redeem Apple’s struggles with cloud and file sharing with a service similar to Dropbox. It stores documents and data from apps in the Mac’s Finder window, syncing the data across devices and even across Microsoft Windows. (Ironically, Steve Jobs tried to buy Dropbox back in 2009, and then when he was rebuffed vowed to destroy the company with iCloud.)
- A featured on the theme of bringing devices together, called Handoff, lets users swipe an email from their iPhone to their Mac (if they’re close enough) to continue writing the email on that device, or pick up where they were browsing on Safari on a separate device.
- A calling feature very similar to Skype and Viber allows users to take phone calls on their Macs and not just their phones
- Mark-Up, an extension to Mail and Safari that lets users edit attachments by drawing on them.
- Mail Drive allows Mac users to send attachments up to 5 GB in size.
There were also a raft of features specifically for iOS 8 and messaging that appeared to draw on the popularity of third-party apps:
- A new native feature on the iOS keyboard called QuickType uses “language models” to predict words before they are typed, with an interface very similar to that of SwiftKey, a predictive keyboard app that has not been able to sell on Apple’s App Store because of the closed ecosystem for iOS. Ironically enough, now that Apple has the QuickType feature, it would allow iOS users to buy and install third-party keyboard apps.
- Within iMessage Apple revealed a push-to-talk, and push-to-video feature very similar to push-to-talk features announced by messaging service WhatsApp several months ago, and popularized by the messaging app Voxer.