Apple is ready to embrace the dark side – and also kill off the app that started it all.
“Dark mode” for iPhones and the end of iTunes are among the cornucopia of updates Apple unveiled Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference, its annual summer event to preview what’s to come to its products later in the year.
WWDC, as it’s known, brought small but welcome iterations on existing products – some of which are long overdue. In them, we can see the world’s most influential consumer tech company trying to use privacy as a differentiator, even if it didn’t go as far as I’d hoped in offering new protections from the growing scourge of data brokers and apps that track us without our knowledge.
Also noticeably missing was much discussion of America’s Number one tech problem – robocalls – that iOS can now automatically send unknown callers to voicemail.
Most of Apple’s upgrades will arrive as free software updates to iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches in the fall. Public beta versions of Apple’s new software becomes available in July – but exercise caution installing it on a device you rely on.
There was a little bit of hardware news of interest to professionals who use Macs to make graphics and edit video. A new Mac Pro, shaped like an oversize cheese grater, promises to be the most powerful and expandable the company has made, with a price that starts $6,000 (R87 715).
What are the most useful new updates – and where is Apple still not delivering what we really want? CEO Tim Cook took more than two hours to present it all onstage Monday. Here’s the seven announcements I think matter to most of us.
IOS 13 gets “dark mode”
Goth is back! Dark mode in iOS 13 adds a black background to apps, including News, Calendar, Notes and Apple Music. Even the keyboard has white on a black background.
Why does this matter? Mostly because it looks cool. The jury is still out on whether using white text on a black background is good for beleaguered eyes.
And Apple didn’t say this in its presentation, but dark mode might also save you a little battery life if you’ve got one of its higher-end iPhones (the X, XS or XS Max) that uses a display tech called OLED.
Say farewell to iTunes
Over the years, the iTunes app that powered Apple’s resurgence with the iPod and then iPhone has become so bloated and saddled with functions that it has become hard to use.
On the new version of MacOS called Catalina, iTunes is being replaced with three purpose-built apps: Apple Music, Podcasts and Apple TV. These apps essentially bring the Mac more into alignment with iOS, where these three separate apps already exist.
The move reflects a bigger shift in online media consumption: the end of the download era. While Apple Music and Apple TV apps will still allow you to buy and download media, their main function is giving you access to streaming subscriptions like Apple Music and Apple TV+, the company’s forthcoming TV services.
We’ll have to see how well the Apple Music app works for people with large collections of ripped and purchased music.
OK, but without iTunes, how will you sync your iPhone with a Mac? That function has moved directly to the MacOS Finder.
New privacy help
Apple has some small but important privacy tweaks in iOS 13. First, when an app asks for your location, now you’ll get the option to share it just once. There’s no reason to allow many apps to keep tracking you.
And a new “sign in with Apple” option for apps offers a more privacy-friendly version of the Facebook and Google sign-in options that many apps use today. It uses a tried and true privacy-protection technique: the pseudonym. Instead of handing over your real email address, Apple generates a random-looking one that automatically forwards to your real account.
What I would have liked to see is something like a “do not track” button for iOS that tells apps they’re not allowed to gather personal data and share it with third parties like marketing companies and data brokers.