By Alex Perry
The 2020 edition of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference wasn’t exactly full of bombshells, but we did get some choice announcements out of the all-virtual event.
We learned about the next big version of macOS and some fun enhancements to the iPad experience, but the most exciting reveals pertained to iPhones and Apple Watches. Bigger isn’t always better, at least not in this case.
Apple Watch sleep tracking
Apple Watches have been health- and fitness-focused for a while, but they couldn’t natively track your sleep patterns until now. The next version of watchOS isn’t out until later this year, but once it’s available, your Apple Watch will finally be able to track your sleep.
What’s more, the features actually look and sound pretty nifty. You can set a bedtime and wake-up time for yourself, customize a nightly wind-down routine with meditation apps of your choice, and track your sleep habits in the iOS Health app. The watch screen will also go to a special nighttime mode with a simple watch face that won’t sear your eyes in the middle of the night, which is a nice touch.
Apple probably should’ve done this years ago, especially considering that wearables from companies like Fitbit have built brands around the idea of sleep tracking. Better late than never.
Apple showed off a revamped Messages app in its iOS 14 preview, but many of these changes are coming to other platforms, like macOS Big Sur, too. In short: Group texts are about to get a lot easier to follow.
Apple is adding inline threading to group texts so you can directly respond to something without everyone else wondering what the heck you’re responding to. Another nice addition is the ability to directly ping someone in a group text by typing their name. If they have notifications muted, they can still get a push notification if you tag them in a text.
One last thing to note is that you’ll be able to pin certain conversations so they’ll always appear at the top of the Messages app screen. Group texting is more useful than ever right now, so it’s good that Apple is making it more functional.
The one Apple didn’t actually say out loud
Apple didn’t make this next announcement headline material at the show, but it should have been. Hidden in a slide about iPadOS 14, Apple revealed that the new update will let users change their default browsers and email apps away from Safari and Mail, respectively. This will apply to both iPhone and iPad users.
That’s right: If you’ve ever been annoyed by a link taking you to a browser or mail app you don’t like to use, you can finally fix that. Victory!
Our last highlight from WWDC concerns the iPhone home screen. It’s been a pretty static feature for most of the iPhone’s existence. You either fill it with apps or folders with apps in them. That’s it.
Not anymore! Apple is finally letting us add widgets for things like weather, music playback, and exercise tracking to any home screen. You can resize them to your liking and place them among apps in a way that makes sense to you. The image above should do a pretty good job of explaining what we mean.
In all honesty, Android phones have been able to do things like this for a while now, so we can’t give Apple too much credit. But everyone benefits when every phone is able to do things like this, so good on Apple for finally breaking the hardened home screen mold it built almost a decade and a half ago.
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