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Apple WWDC: Features overhaul for all things ‘i’

From FaceTime on the web to ID cards and driver’s licenses being stored in Apple Wallet, Apple revealed numerous new features for its products at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference.

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At Apple’s virtual Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) last night, it announced numerous new features for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, macOS, and AirPods. We’ve wrapped up the ten most important features from its announcement.

FaceTime on the web

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Apple’s videoconferencing platform FaceTime is now available on the web, enabling PCs and Android devices to join in on the conversation. The platform, which was previously locked to Apple devices only, has been overhauled to be more Zoom-like, with link invites to allow participants from any platform with a web browser to participate in calls.

iPhone as identification

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iPhones will now be able to store drivers licenses and ID cards in the wallet app. This enables users to use their iPhone as a form of ID when taking flights in the US. It also allows users to present only certain parts of their ID card (like sex, birth date, and legal name) to providers that support this service. With Apple Pay launching in South Africa nearly six years after its launch in the US, we can expect this form of technology to take a while to get here because Apple would have to work with the Department of Home Affairs and licensing departments. We all know how efficient those are.

New privacy features in Mail and Safari

Apple will now load tracking pixels from emails on their servers, instead of directly on a user’s device, to mask their IP address and location. Safari will also implement a service to hide one’s IP address when browsing the web. This is one of the main reasons why people use VPNs on their devices. In addition to these features, Apple devices will also generate a report for users to show them how much it has hidden from providers and who wanted to track them.

Siri processes voice without an Internet connection

Apple will use on-device voice processing to provide responses to its virtual assistant Siri. “This addresses one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording,” said Apple in a press release. In older versions of iOS, Siri sends voice data to Apple servers to process requests.

Sharing health changes with family members

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Families that all use Apple Watches will be able to receive alerts about the health statuses of other family members. Those with additional equipment, like blood glucose and cholesterol monitors, will be able to notify family members of health issues and charts of health trends, which makes a family aware of issues in case one’s health state deteriorates. Apple Watch users will be able to tell their families about a change in sleep time or a change in resting heart rate, and talk about these issues in messages, with attached graphs.

iCloud+: Apple’s new VPN service

Apple is getting into the VPN game with a privacy-focused DNS resolver (the Internet’s ‘phonebook’ that stores website addresses and where they should point a user), the ability to hide an email address when signing up for an online newsletter, and the deletion of shared photos from their devices when a family member passes away. These features will become available to all paid iCloud subscribers at no additional cost when the service launches.

Siri on third party accessories

Apple demoed Echobee’s new thermostat with a built-in microphone, which now responds to Siri requests to change smart home devices. In addition to requests, these devices will support Siri intercom, timers, and alarms. The devices will relay requests to an Apple HomeHub, like a HomePod, Apple TV, or a stay-at-home iPad for processing, so the HomeHub is here to stay.

Safari gets tab groups

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Safari will now be able to organize tabs into groups, so users can separate their concerns when browsing the web. It demoed the idea with a group of tabs for organizing a birthday, another for news tabs, and another for recipes to try. Microsoft implemented a tab group system in Microsoft Edge a few years ago to a lukewarm reception, so we’ll have to stay tuned on the success of this feature. Chrome allows specific groups of tabs to be combined into single tabs.

FaceTime gets screen and music sharing

In addition to FaceTime being available on more devices, users of Apple devices will be able to share their screens with FaceTime users. It calls this the ScreenPlay API, which developers will have to implement in their apps to enable multiple users to interact with an app over a FaceTime call. Users with subscriptions to Apple Music and Apple TV+ will be able to share music and video content, as long as all participant in the call are subscribers. So far, Disney+, TikTok, and Twitch are on board with it and are ready for the feature when it launches.

Notifications come to AirPods

AirPods will now be able to announce notifications from the devices they’re connected to, which enables users to hear their notifications before looking at their smart devices. It also launched a feature to send a notification to an iPhone to alert a user that they left their AirPods at home when they leave.

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