WWDC 2023: Apple iOS 17, Headset and Mac Updates From the Event

Apple on Monday kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) by announcing new computers, iOS updates, and a mixed-reality headset.

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Apple devices running the new iOS

Apple on Monday kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference by announcing new computers and iOS updates in a prerecorded announcement.

Apple also acknowledged its work on a secretive, long-awaited product: a mixed-reality headset called Apple Vision Pro, capable of offering immersive VR experiences as well as a view of the real world with digital objects and environments laid on top of it.

Here's everything you need to know.

Apple Unveils Vision Pro

The Vision Pro headset is what industry experts call a mixed-reality device, which can both immerse you in virtual experiences and overlay digital imagery over your view of the space around you. When you're doing something that shifts your attention from the rest of the world, a wave of colorful clouds will wash over the external screen, indicating to the people near you that you're indisposed. But when you can see what's happening around you, the headset will display a view of your eyes - a decision that feels at once thoughtful and creepy.

Apple's Vision Pro headset "seamlessly blends the real world with the digital," said CEO Tim Cook, before adding that you control the headset with your eyes, hands, and voice - no controllers required. Apple says the interface you'll work with will feel in some ways real, even though it's all just digital imagery - the homescreen, for instance, reacts to ambient light and even leaves digital "shadows" in your view of the real world. Interacting with what you see relies on a set of simple gestures: flick your hand up and down to scroll, and touch two fingers together to select something. (Think of it as the "tap" for a new generation).

Related:Apple Extends Broadcom Pact With Multibillion-Dollar 5G Deal

As for what you see, Apple was keen to talk about 2D apps - versions of software you already use now, splayed out in the space in front of you and around you. You'll also be able to interact with 3D objects and imagery, which Apple says can even be sent through the built-in Messages app. And if you look at your Mac while wearing a Vision Pro headset, its screen will go dark - that's because everything on it expands into your eye line, as though it were a "enormous private 4K display.

iOS 17 Updates

For the software that runs iPhones, Apple's updates with iOS 17 focus on refinements to some of the most core apps to a smartphone: calls, contacts, messages and typing. A new feature called Contact Posters lets users design a screen that shows up when they call another iPhone user, including a photo. On the phone, you will be able to watch a live transcription of voice-mail messages as callers leave them - and decide in the moment. (Google's Pixel phones offer a similar function.) FaceTime callers will be able to leave video voice-mail messages, too.

Related:Hey Apple, Where Are Your Chatbots?

Sending text messages will get a little more fun, too, with an expanded ability to turn certain photos into stickers that you can use to respond in all the same places you can currently use emoji. Apple also promised some improvements to one of its most kloogy features: Airdrop for sharing files and images. Now, iPhones can initiate a transfer by bringing them close to each other. You can also share contact information with someone new this way, with a new feature called NameDrop.

Unlike Amazon and Google, Apple's suite of smart home gadgets has been limited to its HomePod speakers - until now. Starting this fall, when you plug in an iPhone running the company's new iOS 17 software, you'll see a Standby feature take over the screen. It basically turns the device into a tiny smart home display, so you can check up on the weather, photos, and your schedule details, all without having to pick up your phone.

Improvements to Auto-correct

Apple also unveiled some improvements to auto-correct - that handy feature that fixes your misspellings and replaces your favorite curse word with "duck." Now, your iOS keyboard will use the same technology that powers cutting-edge bot ChatGPT to fill in the blanks while you type. That means the suggestions will actually be based on the words and phrases you use most. (And it applies to voice dictation, too.)

While Apple didn't say "AI" by name, updates to the keyboard are one way AI made a showing in this year's announcement.

New MacBook Air, Mac Studio and Mac Pro

Apple kicked off the day with a few new computers announcements. For years, the company's popular MacBook Air computers only came with a 13-inch screen, making it great for travel but lacking for folks who needed to immerse themselves in work a but more. That's where a new, $1,299 15-inch Air model comes in - even with that bigger screen, Apple claims its 11.5mm frame makes it the thinnest 15-inch laptop in the world.

Inside the new MacBook Air is a bit of familiar silicon - Apple's M2 processor, which we tested last year. The company claims it's dramatically faster than the fastest Intel-powered MacBook Air, which may be true, but just be warned: if you splurged on one of Apple's not-that-old M1 Mac laptops, you probably won't notice a big leap in performance - we sure didn't.

The same can't be said for Apple's other new computers, which skew heavily toward power users. Updated versions of the company's tiny, $1,999 Mac Studio workstations now run on Apple's M2 chips, including a new, high-powered version called the M2 Ultra that basically stitches two of the company's already-fast M2 Max chips together.

Unless you're dealing with lots of, say 8K video, though, you'll almost certainly never need to worry about investing in one of Apple's Ultra machines. And that's especially true for the company's updated Mac Pro, which retains its existing cheese grater design and comes with that ridiculous Ultra chip across the board - all of which starts at an eye-watering $6,999.

AirPods Pro Gets New "Adaptive Audio"

Apple says a new "Adaptive Audio" mode blends the AirPods Pros' noise cancellation and transparency modes based on your surroundings. Walking down a city street with the feature enabled, for example, you might notice the din of traffic being drowned out, while louder sounds like bicycle bells ring through clearly. Another new feature makes conversing easier while you've got AirPods in - you'll be able to start talking out loud, at which point the volume of your music is dialed down and the sound of voices gets enhanced.

The biggest question may be whether you should use this feature at all though; it still seems pretty rude to chat with someone while you're wearing ear buds to us.

iPad OS 17 Gets PDF Tools, Lock Screen Updates

In building the latest version of iPadOS, Apple sought to make iPads act just a little more like its iPhones. That means iPad users will - finally - be able to customize their lock screens with different fonts and wallpapers that can sit behind some elements on-screen. Those lock screens can also display so-called Live Activities, which provide up-to-the-moment updates for things like your flights or Uber Eats deliveries, just like Apple's iPhone 14 Pros.

Apple also said it would bring its Health app to the iPad for the first time. Other changes, however, highlight some of the iPad's distinct talents. Their bigger screens makes them ideal for working with documents, and a handful of new features for PDFs - think auto-filling them with personal information, and collaborative editing with nearby colleagues - could help iPad users get productive more easily.

Our favorite change, however, might be the most basic: you can now have multiple timers running at the same time. Sometimes, it's the little things that hit the hardest.

MacOS Sonoma Adds Widgets, Powerful New Private Browsing Option

As for MacOS, Apple previewed its latest iteration called "Sonoma." The new system will come with some changes to widgets, those little windows that show information from your apps at a glance. Now you can view and interact with iPhone widgets from your desktop, as long as your phone is nearby. Sonoma also comes with new video conferencing features. Screen-sharing in Zoom is getting fancier, with the option to put your face in a floating, movable bubble while you present. Lastly, Apple's Safari browser is getting new privacy protections and will block companies from tracking you using URLs. (Apple has been angling to expand its advertising business, even as it shields users from certain forms of online tracking for advertising.)

Apple Watch Wants To Know if You’re Depressed, Getting Enough Sun

The most significant updates to WatchOS focus on health and wellness. Now you can track your mood by selecting an option like "neutral" or "pleasant" in the Health app. Apple says it will combine that information with data on your sleep, "mindful minutes" and other factors to analyze how your broader habits impact your mood. If you're worried about your mental health, Apple Health will offer screening tools pulled straight from real-world clinics, it says, to help you determine whether you need extra support. The presentation showed a questionnaire that appeared to measure common symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you're struggling, you can share information with a doctor or read articles selected by Apple. The company cited studies showing that self-awareness can help improve mental health, but didn't include any information about the efficacy of its new health features.

Apple also announced two new Health features for kids. The first is a "time in daylight" counter for Watch that purports to tell parents whether their children ever see the sun. The second is a computer vision tool that warns kids when they sit too close to an Apple device's screen.

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