WWDC 2014 Expectations

I love Apple because they make great stuff, and they generate a lot of excitement about that stuff. Maybe that’s just me being a super nerd, but I think that a lot of people look forward to the stuff that Apple makes.

One of the most exciting times of the year for Apple fans is their Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC). Every summer Apple holds this event to show off the latest versions of iOS and OS X. Last year they showed us iOS 7, which was a drastic redesign of iOS. They also showed OS X Mavericks, which brought some great new features to the Mac.

After the announcement of iOS 7, my immediate thought was that I could not wait to see iOS 8. The new features and aesthetics of iOS 7 are great, but now that Apple has laid the foundation for a new iOS, I know that they are really going to bring it with the new features over the next few years. The rumor mill has been churning for weeks now, and while I usually try to ignore Apple rumors, I can’t help but get excited about a few of them that I expect we will see in a few weeks at WWDC.

Here are a few things I think that we will see, and why I think that they are important for the future of iOS.

Healthbook

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac does a lot of reporting on Apple rumors, and I tend to trust him because the guy has connections. You can read what he has to say about Apple’s alleged efforts to emphasize health tracking in iOS 8 here. You can also see some purported screenshots here.

I think it’s fairly certain that we will see something like Healthbook at WWDC. Essentially, Healthbook is an app that tracks things like fitness and weight loss. With so many companies getting into this business these days, it’s not hard to imagine that Apple will as well.

Something like Healthbook doesn’t interest me much. I have never been into tracking my steps taken or anything like that. However, the market for people that do care about that is huge. I think that Apple could do this better than others, and hopefully it will work with third party accessories, or maybe even an Apple accessory like an iWatch. Whatever the implementation, Healthbook will certainly be popular. And it would represent a huge tentpole feature of iOS 8.

TextEdit and Preview

Mark also reports on two new apps that we may see make their way from the Mac to iOS at WWDC: TextEdit and Preview. For those not familiar, TextEdit is a basic text editing app for the Mac, and Preview is used to view and edit images, PDFs, etc.

Reportedly, the iOS versions of these apps will not be used for editing, but instead just used for viewing files synced via iCloud.

I totally believe this one. Currently, the Mac versions of TextEdit and Preview sync documents to iCloud, so it only makes sense for Apple to build apps that can access those files on iOS devices. Whether we see these in iOS 8 is uncertain, but I would say this will probably be another big feature of iOS 8.

These apps would certainly improve the utility of iOS, and also increase the value of iCloud as a way to keep files synced between iOS and OS X devices. Dealing with text files and PDFs has long been a pain on iOS devices because the operating system has no default app to handle the viewing and editing of those types of files (aside from PDF support on iBooks, which is not ideal).

iCloud

I would expect to see some improvements to iCloud made at WWDC, especially if Apple announces TextEdit and Preview for iOS. As for specifics, I have no idea. I can only hope that Apple improves the reliability and ease of use of iCloud.

Also, iCloud pricing should be lowered so that users can have backups of their data without running out of space. A lot of people trust Apple to make sure that their stuff is safe without having to do anything, and Apple is failing in this regard when it comes to iCloud backups and Photo Stream’s weird limits.

Federico Viticci has some good thoughts on Photo Stream improvements in his iOS 8 wishes article. I like his thoughts on how to fix the problem:

Photo Stream should be renamed and relaunched to hold a full backup of photos in their original resolution, with filters to browse and organize those photos by location, event, time, person, or user-defined album. The integration with the Camera app should be seamless and reassuring: go ahead and delete old photos from your Camera Roll, you have them in iCloud anyway – that’s what the Photos app should say to all those users who keep their entire photo collection from the past several years in the Camera Roll, taking up precious local storage. In my experience, normal people don’t get Photo Stream, are confused by iPhoto, or don’t have Macs; they keep all photos on an iOS device and regularly have to decide which old photos to delete to make room for new ones.

iCloud was a good start, but it is falling behind quickly. Apple needs to work quickly to make up for their mistakes.

Touch ID

Touch ID is one of those features that makes your iPhone feel like a piece of the future. I don’t use it for unlocking my phone, but I love it for authorizing iTunes and App Store transactions. Apple needs to extend the use of Touch ID because of its convenience.

Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac has some thoughts on this, and also includes a quote from Tim Cook about mobile payments on the iPhone. I think that would be a prime use of Touch ID. Let users store their payment information on the device, and then use Touch ID for all sorts of mobile payments. I’m sure Apple has a lot of ideas on this front, but the security of the matter is very important to them. I’m not sure that we will see major changes in iOS 8, but I have no doubts that they will continue to iterate on Touch ID’s features over the coming years.

Split-Screen Multitasking

Recently, Mark Gurman has also reported that Apple will be adding a new feature to the iPad that will allow apps to run side by side simultaneously. Traditionally, iOS’s multitasking has meant that you could only use one app at a time.

First of all, people have been begging for this feature ever since the first iPad was announced. I have always thought that, while split-screen multitasking would be cool and maybe even useful, it would be a negative experience on a device like an iPad, and even more so on the iPad mini. Also, wouldn’t it be a nightmare for developers to make sure that their apps work well in a split-screen mode?

I am most skeptical about this feature, but I know that if anyone can pull this off right, it’s Apple. They may not always deliver everything that people want, but when it comes to iOS, their implementations of core features are always solid and well thought out. I’m not worried.

The thing that excites me most about this is that it has also been reported that Apple is going to improve the sharing of data between apps to complement this feature. I would kill for better inter-app communication.

Siri Improvements

An interesting bit of news crossed my path yesterday when MacStories reported on an update to Apple’s Podcasts app. While I don’t use the app, I was very excited to learn that Apple added support for Siri integration in the app’s update. Users of the app can now speak to Siri in order to play podcasts.

Seeing support added in this way gives me hope that perhaps Apple will open up Siri to developers so that they can add new features to the voice assistant. This would certainly make Siri more useful. I hardly ever use Siri, and I know that many other people don’t as well. Letting developers integrate with Siri would make it a lot more useful.

OS X Redesign?

I’m not going to spend much time on this, but I think it is plausible that we will see a new look for the Mac this year. I don’t think it will necessarily be a complete iOS 7 redesign for the Mac, but OS X could certainly do with being freshened up a bit.

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I always look forward to Apple’s press conferences because I get to see my most favorite company in the world show off their cool new stuff.

I am very excited about this year’s WWDC, which falls on June 2-6. Hopefully, we will see a lot of the low-hanging fruit of iOS addressed. I am especially hopeful for new features that will make using iOS to get stuff done easier. New apps, improved iCloud, and better multitasking are all great examples. And can we please get a better way to share data between apps?

I’m not going to say that the future success of iOS rests in the hands of iOS 8. Even if we don’t see any of these new features announced next month, iOS is still the best mobile operating system out there. It amazes me every day that I can do almost everything I need to do on the little block in my pocket. But things could definitely be improved, and I hope we that at WWDC.