Top 5 announcements from Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote

New FaceTime features, revamped notifications, Universal Control and more are coming to Apple's operating systems

At WWDC 2021, Apple announced iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, macOS Monterey and several smart home updates. Overall, it was a pretty eventful WWDC keynote, even if Apple didn’t release its often-rumoured next-generation MacBook Pro.

Several of the key highlights from the developer conference’s keynote are outlined below:

FaceTime gets a facelift

FaceTime Gridview

Apple opened up WWDC by dedicating a chunk of keynote time to several new features coming to its video chat platform, FaceTime. Chief among these updates is the ability to invite Android, and Windows users to FaceTime calls through the web. This is a significant move for a company that typically excludes none-Apple device users from using its software.

Beyond that, FaceTime is also getting support for Spatial Audio, new microphone modes to isolate your voice and the ability to listen to music or watch movies simultaneously as the other people on the FaceTime call through a new feature called SharePlay.

You can read more about all the FaceTime updates here. 

Subtly speedy Siri update

Tucked under its privacy section, Apple announced several improvements to its digital assistant, Siri.

The main update is Siri can now do a lot more of its calculations and learning on-device. This makes it more private and faster in some instances. That said, there are still many things Siri needs to connect to the internet for, like getting weather information, for example, but simple requests like setting timers will now happen faster and locally.

To make Siri even better, Apple is finally allowing third-party device manufacturers to add the voice-activated assistant to their hardware — sort of. Apple still requires users to have at least one HomePod to route the Siri conversations through. That said, you won’t need a HomePod in every room to now talk to Siri. Toronto-based Ecobee has announced that it will be the first third-party device to support this feature.

Notifications might start respecting your time a little more

One of the best features that Apple is adding to iOS, macOS, iPadOS and watchOS is a new form of notification management called ‘Focus.’ This new feature allows you to set up notification filters that block out distracting pop-ups when your working or trying to relax, without being as restrictive as ‘Do Not Disturb.’ When you set a Focus on one Apple device, it applies to all your Apple devices, too.

To clean up the Notification shade, Apple will start organizing notifications by what it thinks you want to see the most, and it will group less important notifications into summaries. These summaries are a larger card that reveals all the notifications the company thinks you might not care about right away.

The iPad (and the Mac) are now the perfect notepads

While I’ve shifted away from Apple Notes towards Google Keep over the last few years, the new ‘Quick Notes’ feature might bring me back.

On an iPad or Mac running either iPadOS 15 or macOS Monteray, you can bring up a smaller notepad from anywhere, instantly jot down your thoughts, and then that Note will be saved in the default Notes app for you to use later.

While this seems like a minor update, the fact that Apple users can pull up notes quickly makes them more convenient and, in turn, likely to actually be used.

Universal Control

This feature almost seems like witchcraft. It allows users to place their iPad and Mac beside each other and use the computer’s mouse/trackpad and keyboard to control the iPad.

Taking the concept even further, you can drag and drop a file from an iPad to Mac using this new system. You can also move a drawing from an iPad, drag it across a MacBook Pro, and then drop it on an iMac.

I want to believe that this feature will work as seamlessly as it did during Apple’s presentation, but I’m still a little skeptical. If it does work as well as it appears to, it will be a huge reason to join the Apple ecosystem.

All the operating system updates

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