41 'WWDC 2021' stories
March 2021 - September 2021
At WWDC this year, Apple unveiled the future of its software platforms, detailing new features in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, macOS 12 Monterey, and more. Head below for a full recap of everything that Apple announced.
Table of contents
- iOS 15
- iPadOS 15
- macOS Monterey
- watchOS 8
Apple kicked things off with the official introduction of iOS 15. This update includes major improvements for FaceTime, new Focus features designed to reduce distractions, an all-new Weather application, and more.
The FaceTime improvements in iOS 15 are especially notable, and they’re also coming to other platforms including iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. A new Portrait Mode feature for FaceTime calls allows users to blur their background. Spatial audio for FaceTime is a new feature that separates the user’s voice from the background noise.
For group FaceTime, a new grid view enables participants to see more faces at the same time. Another new feature for FaceTime is called SharePlay. This allows you to listen to music, watch TV shows and movies, and share your screen with people over FaceTime. You can tune in and watch the same content together and communicate at the same time over FaceTime.
Apple says that it is also working with third-party apps to integrate a SharePlay API, including Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, Twitch, and more.
Focus and notifications
iOS 15 also includes a host of new digital wellbeing features called Focus. This allows users to filter notifications, signal to friends that they are unavailable, and hide distractions without missing what’s important. When a user’s Focus is blocking incoming notifications, their status is automatically displayed to others in Messages, reflecting that a user is not currently reachable.
Focus allows users to set different home screens based on times of day. For instance, you can set specific home screens for when you’re at work and for when you’re at home.
Notifications have also been redesigned with a focus on making them more glanceable. There is also a new notification summary feature that collects non-time-critical notifications for delivery at a more opportune time, such as in the morning and evening.
Apple has announced a handful of new features for Apple Maps. There are a variety of design updates for Apple Maps to bring a ton more details for cities in commercial districts, buildings, and more. Apple is also rolling out a handful of new transit features, including specific directions, information on when to disembark, and more.
Apple has redesigned the Weather application with a ton of new capabilites and an all-new design. Apple says that the layout of the new Weather app changes based on the weather in your current location. There are new animated backgrounds in the Weather app, notifications for incoming rain and snow, and more.
More in iOS 15
Be sure to check out our full coverage of iOS 15 below for more details on what’s new. The first developer beta is available now, while Apple says a public beta will be released in July. A stable release is expected this fall.
- These are the iPhone and iPod touch models compatible with iOS 15
- Apple unveils iOS 15 with new FaceTime features and more
- iOS 15: Find My network can still find your iPhone when it is powered off, or factory reset
- Apple releases first beta of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 to developers
- Download the new iOS 15 wallpapers for your devices right here
- Starting with iOS 15, Apple will give you a temporary boost in iCloud storage to set up new devices
- iOS 15 includes new Home Screen widgets for Find My, Contacts, Sleep, and more
- Your iPhone now says hello on first launch of iOS 15
- iOS 15 brings back the magnifying glass for accurate text selection
- iOS 15: iPhone 12 and M1 iPad Pro can now prioritize 5G over Wi-Fi
Widgets and App Library
Next up, Apple introduced iPadOS 15. One of the biggest changes here is that widgets are now available on the iPad home screen for the first time. No longer are widgets delegated only to the Today View on the side of the home screen, but now they be placed in the midst of all of your other app icons.
iPadOS 15 also brings the App Library to the iPad for the first time. The App Library is located directly in the dock for easy access to all of your applications, regardless of where you are in iPadOS.
iPadOS 15 also includes a new multi-tasking system for applications. The new system is similar to iPadOS 14, but Apple has rethought how you access the controls. The new multitasking menu appears at the top of apps, letting users go into Split View or Slide Over directly from that menu. You can also now have access to the Home Screen when using Split View, making it easier to get to the right app.
The experience is also changed when using an external keyboard with your iPad, with all-new keyboard shortcuts and a redesign of the menu bar. Users can quickly set up and switch between Split View and Slide Over with new shortcuts for multitasking right from the keyboard.
Translate for iPad
The Translate application is now on the iPad for the first time. The Translate app first came to the iPhone with iOS 14 last year, and now Apple is bringing it to the iPad. Text can now be translated anywhere on iPad by selecting it and tapping Translate, and handwritten text can also be translated.
Xcode for iPad was not announced during WWDC 2021, but Apple did announce that Swift Playgrounds now allows users to build iPhone and iPad apps right on their iPad, and submit them to the App Store. Code is immediately reflected in the live preview while building apps, and users can run their apps full screen to test them out.
More in iPadOS 15
Be sure to check out our full coverage of iPadOS 15 below for more details on what’s new. The first developer beta is available now, while Apple says a public beta will be released in July. A stable release is expected this fall.
- iPadOS 15 for iPad brings with home screen widgets, multitasking updates, and more
- iPadOS 15 coming to all iPads supported by iPadOS 14 this fall, here’s the full list
- Apple releases first beta of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 to developers
- iPadOS 15: You can now build apps on the iPad, and ship to the App Store
- Translate app coming to iPadOS 15 with system-wide translations
Shortcuts and TestFlight apps
For the Mac, Apple announced macOS 12 Monterey to the public. One of the biggest changes here is that the Shortcuts automation app is now available on the Mac for the first time.
You can build new shortcuts, access existing shortcuts, and more. The Shortcuts app on the Mac also integrates with Spotlight, appears in Finder, supports multitasking, and integrates with the Menu bar. It also features support for importing Automator automations.
Apple has also brought its TestFlight beta testing app to the Mac this year, allowing developers to beta test their apps easily on the Mac.
Universal Control lets users work with a single mouse and keyboard and move between Mac and iPad for a seamless experience, with no setup required. Users can even drag and drop content back and forth between devices. The feature also works between two Macs, allowing you to use a single mouse and keyboard for two Macs.
Safari features a redesign for the browsing experience with a new tab design that lets users see more of the page as they scroll. A new tab bar takes on the color of the webpage and combines tabs, the tool bar, and the search field into a single compact design.
Tab Groups offer a new way to easily save and manage tabs. Tab Groups also sync across Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
AirPlay to Mac
With macOS Monterey, your Mac is also now an AirPlay target, which allows you to cast videos from your other Apple devices to your Mac’s display. The Mac’s sound system can also be used as an AirPlay speaker, so users can play music or podcasts on their Mac, or use their Mac as a secondary speaker for multi-room audio.
More in macOS Monterey
Be sure to check out our full coverage of macOS Monterey below for more details on what’s new. The first developer beta is available now, while Apple says a public beta will be released in July. A stable release is expected this fall.
- Here’s the full list of Macs compatible with macOS Monterey
- Apple announces macOS Monterey: Shortcuts, Universal Control, AirPlay to Mac, Safari updates, more
- First macOS Monterey beta now available for developers with Universal Control, Shortcuts, SharePlay, more
- macOS Monterey brings Shortcuts automation app to the Mac
- macOS Monterey brings new microphone privacy features
Perhaps the least exciting update announced by Apple at WWDC was watchOS 8 for Apple Watch users. This update brings a new version of the Breathe app, now called Mindfulness.
The Photos app and Photos watch faces have gotten notable updates. Photo watch faces can now include depth using portrait mode photos. The Photos app has been overhauled with featured highlights and memories. Photos can also now be shared from the watch with Messages and Mail.
The always-on watch face has been updated to work with three new applications: Music, Maps, and Calculator. Apple also says that apps that don’t support the always-on face include new enhancements to improve compatibility.
The first beta of watchOS 8 is available now to developer beta testers, and a public beta will be released sometime next month. A stable release is slated for later this fall.
Apple also unveiled iCloud+ during its event, giving users new privacy features such as Private Relay and Hide My Email. Through Private Relay, all traffic leaving your device is encrypted and sent through two separate relays. Apple says that no one, not even Apple, can access or view this data.
Hide My Email is a new feature built into Mail, Safari, and other services and it allows you to randomized, unique emails that forward to your main account. This means you can hide your email from services for increased privacy.
iCloud+ also includes unlimited HomeKit Secure Video cameras. Currently, iCloud users are limited to five cameras per account, but this limit has been removed for iCloud+.
iCloud+ comes at no additional cost for existing iCloud subscribers.