Not everything Apple introduces at WWDC gets a big announcement on stage. Sometimes there are positive things that just aren’t big enough for a fancy executive to spend 30 seconds talking about; sometimes there are good changes that are just a little too copycat for Apple to want people to notice; and sometimes things get a little worse, for various reasons.
Here are some of the biggest changes that you won’t have heard about.
1. A wireless 110-key keyboard – and the death of wired keyboards
Wired keyboards are dead. Long live wireless keyboards. With the slow move to USB-C as the primary wired connection, Apple’s taken the opportunity to kill its wired USB keyboards, which means it’s finally found the time to release a full-size wireless keyboard. With 110 keys, including a full number pad on the right side, the keyboard should serve the needs of those who really, really need as many keys as possible.
If you’re an iPhone user, you likely haven’t had much experience with Near Field Communications. The tech has been built into the phones since 2014, to enable contactless Apple Pay transactions, but it’s not been opened up to other uses until now. On iPhones 7 and up – no word as to why the 6 and 6S aren’t supported – developers will now be able to read data from the NFC chip, and use it “to give users more information about their physical environment and the real-world objects in it”.
That suggests that the new Core NFC framework will still have some restrictions – preventing, for instance, tap-to-pair bluetooth functionality that Android users are used to – but iPhone users will now get to experience the questionable joy of tapping their phone on more things than just payment terminals.
3. Screen recording
This one’s useful for all the videographers in the room – and those who just want to share clips of games on Facebook. You can now record your screen, and save the resulting video to your camera roll. Screenshooting has been available on iOS since day one – indeed, the way a niche developer tool became one of the most important OS features in the social media age is a tale in itself – but now you’ll be able to do the same thing with video.
4. RIP Facebook and Twitter
Chalk the silence on this change up to “not likely to be well received”: Apple’s removing most of the social network integration from iOS 11, resetting the board for app integrations. On the plus side, that means that smaller networks can compete on equal terms, rather than having to deal with the fact that a few sharing services, like Vimeo and Flickr, get priority. On the minus side, Facebook and Twitter integration in particular has been very useful for apps that use the social networks for federated login: expect to have to spend a bit more time typing in passwords once iOS 11 drops.
5. Redesigned podcast app
The podcast app in iOS is … not great. It’s one of the few areas where there’s strong demand for third-party versions – consider how few people use a third-party photo storage app) – such as podcast apps like Overcast, Castro and Pocket Casts. That might change with the new Podcast app in iOS 11, though, which gets an Apple Music-style visual overhaul. It still lacks many of the features that drive podcast fans to the competition, though, including smart high-speed mode, and streaming playback.
6. Wifi password sharing
Another feature that Apple probably didn’t want to make too much of because it’s basically copied from a competitor, iOS 11 now gets the same password-sharing feature that Microsoft introduced with Windows 10. If one iOS 11 device is already on your home network, a nearby device can join it simply by clicking on the network SSID. A request comes up on your device, and if you accept, the password will be sent over the air to the new phone. Say goodbye to fishing around for the router and reading an alphanumeric string from the bottom.
7. iCloud family storage plans
If you’ve got an iCloud Family set up in your house, Apple’s just given you some free stuff. The company’s iCloud storage plans, which let you pay between 99p and £9.99 for up to two TB of cloud storage space, can now be shared between members of your iCloud Family.
8. Business chat
Brands will now be able to set up dedicated iMessage chatlines, letting iOS 11 users text them for help without needing to navigate through a complex phone tree or find the right form on the website. The feature seems to be aimed at stealing business from Twitter and Facebook Messenger, both of which have been promoting themselves as the first line of customer service.
9. QR Code support
The iOS 11 camera will now recognise and scan QR codes. Another for the annals of “Android users won’t get why it’s taken this long”, but iPhone owners may finally find out why there are small checkerboards stuck on adverts these days. It’s actually kind of useful – typing in a URL takes a while.
10. A Pencil case
If you’ve got an Apple Pencil, sometimes you wonder “where can I keep this when it’s not in use?” Now, we have an answer: a £29 leather pencil case that holds one pencil. Aren’t you glad you asked?
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