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18 Highlights from WWDC 2018 Keynote

The biggest announcements from Apple’s major developer show

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Today’s two and a half hour long Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote was jam packed with announcements that give us a taste of what using an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac will be like in the year to come.

Here are all the highlights condensed into 18 bitesized bits.

1. New Animoji can do more

Apple adds four new Animoji characters to iOS 12: ghost, koala, tiger, and T-rex. But the fun doesn’t stop there, all 20 Animoji can now detect winks and tongue movement, so if you stick out your tongue, your Animoji will do so too!

2. Me, me, MeMoji

If that’s not enough, you can also turn yourself into your own Animoji character. They call it MeMoji, and from what we’ve seen, it’s much better than Samsung’s own AR Emoji attempt on the Galaxy S9. You get plenty of customization options to ensure that it creates a close cartoony match.

3. Shortcut me Siri!

Siri may not necessarily be getting smarter, but is definitely getting more useful. With something called Siri shortcuts, you can create your own voice commands for Siri to carry out tasks. For example, you can say, “I’m coming home” and Siri will then proceed to turn on your air conditioning at home, turn on navigation, and launch Audible so you can listen to a book on the commute home.

4. FaceTime Calls, the more the merrier

Ever wished you could group FaceTime? On iOS 12, you’ll be able to do just that, from two people all the way up to 32. When several people are on a call, the interface looks rather quirky, with several floating boxes with faces. When someone speaks, his or her box becomes the biggest one on the screen. Of course, all your friends will need to own an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to join in on the fun.

5. Google Maps on CarPlay

If Apple Maps is not your navigation app of choice, that’s okay. CarPlay now supports third-party apps like Google Maps and Waze.

6. More or less screen time?

Looks like the effort to strike a balance between using our devices and enjoying the real world is an industry shift. After Google talked about Digital Wellbeing features in Android P at Google I/O last month, Apple is doing the same here at WWDC with what it calls ScreenTime.

Activity Reports lets you monitor how much time you spend on apps, and then sets limits if you feel like you’re on Instagram too much, for example. It’ll warn you as you get close to the allowed time, and when your time is up, it locks you out. You have full control and can get back in with a few clicks but the added steps is supposed to help you learn the discipline of stepping away form big attention-sucking black holes.

The feature isn’t just for adults, but also a great way for parents to understand where their children spend the most time. The app lets parents monitor their children’s app usage, and gives them the ability to assigning limits also.

New Do Not Disturb features also help get notifications under control and out of the way.

7. LEGO like never before

Apple’s been working on developments to its augmented reality platform and to showcase this, they are shipping an app called Measure that can measure objects in the real world. There’s also a new LEGO app that lets you play with physical sets and merge them with digital sets and characters. And finally, there’s a game called Swift Shot, the first multiplayer AR game of its kind.

8. Walkie Talkie

Apple Watch gets a whole bunch of updates including a new WalkieTalkie app.

9. Wear it with Pride

As a bonus, Apple is bringing back the Pride watch band with an updated design. This new limited edition strap is available starting today and it matches the Pride watch face that just rolled out to celebrate Pride month.

10. WebKit Integration

Apple Watch gets WebKit integration, meaning you can now read full emails and web pages from your watch.

11. Surround me with sound

Apple TV 4K now supports Dolby Atmos (apart from Dolby Vision) so you get can get surround sound audio in your home with supported sound bars. Existing content will be updated and you get free updates for movies you already own.

12. Breathtaking views from outer space

Jen Folse shows new tvOS 12 aerial screensaver features on Apple TV 4K, including aerials shot from space by NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station. | Apple Newsroom

Apple TV owners have become fond of aerial flyovers over scenic spots. Have you ever wondered where those places were? I have, and now with a short press on your remote, you can find out. There are also new aerials featuring the earth shot from the international Space Station. Stunning!

13. The next version of macOS will be called…

The cat’s out of the bag, and nope it’s not a cat. The next version of macOS will be called Mojave, named after the Mojave Desert in California.

14. A taste of the dark side

To give the new operating system a fresh look, macOS Mojave will come with an optional, high-contrast dark mode that should make it easier to focus on your content.

15. De-clutter your desktop

If you’re like me and have a desktop that’s peppered with icons everywhere, you’ll like a new feature called Stacks, that as its name implies stacks similar apps on top of each other on the home screen. You can sort by file type, date, or tags you assign. Speaking of desktop, there’s a new Mojave Desert wallpaper that changes to match the time of day.

16. No, you can’t Facebook

Privacy is a big issue in today’s world and in a subtle jab at Facebook, Apple says macOS will shut down apps and services that track your activity. Safari will now alert users for their permission whenever Facebook attempts to track a user’s online activity.

17. iOS apps on macOS

Many have asked if Apple was merging iOS and macOS at some point, and the answer is a resounding No. But it is working on helping developers bring iOS apps to the Mac starting with their own apps, News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home.

18. Redesigned App Store

Speaking of apps, there’s a redesigned Mac App Store that’s aimed at making it easier to find new apps. The new desktop App Store will follow the lead of the new iOS App Store, with editorial content that will highlight the best apps the store has to offer, like Microsoft Office 365 which is coming to the App Store real soon.

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Hong Kong protests: Apple succumbs to pressure from China

Trying to please both the sides

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Every international company, whether based in China or the US, is now stuck in the middle of the Hong Kong protests. While the people want pro-Democracy ideals to govern their city, China refuses to back down and continues its passive-aggressive push.

Apple has reportedly removed the Quartz app from the App Store at the request of the Chinese government. Quartz’s Investigations editor John Keefe confirmed the app has been removed from the App Store and even the website has been blocked in Mainland China.

The publication has been covering the Hong Kong protests in detail and this hasn’t gone down well with the government in Beijing. China has a long history of suppressing free speech and it’s not surprising to see them block off content that doesn’t suit their narrative.

Though, users are furious at Apple for not taking a stand and bowing down to pressure. A few days back, the Cupertino-based giant removed the Taiwanese flag from its keyboard for some users to please the Chinese officials.

Apple was also in the news this week due to its initial rejection of an app that kept a tab on police movement in Hong Kong. Back in 2017, Apple removed the New York Times app from App Store after the Chinese government requested its removal because it was “in violation of local regulations.”

It is necessary for Apple to stay on good terms with China because of its business interests. Almost every other product designed by Apple will find its roots back in China, where everything is built — components as well as finished iPhones.

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Instagram is finally getting a dark mode

Out on iOS, beta on Android

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The spookiest and scariest month is upon us! A week into October, we can’t wait to sink our teeth into Halloween. While we wait for our monsters to wake up, the tech world is slowly paving the way for a scary month. For one, Instagram, Facebook’s popular photo-sharing social media network, has started embracing the dark side.

The app has released a much-awaited update for its iPhone variant. The update includes a dark mode, in collaboration with the newly released iOS 13’s native dark mode support. Finally, Instagram turns off the lights on its iconic (and sometimes obnoxiously bright) white theme. We can now browse throughout feeds in eye-pleasing darkness.

Sadly, the new dark mode is not accessible using a normal on-and-off switch. The mode switches on based on your own iPhone’s settings.

In addition to iOS, Instagram is also slowly rolling out the update for Android users. Unfortunately, the update is available only for Instagram Beta users. Even then, the Android update is only starting to trickle down to users worldwide.

Regardless, Instagram’s dark mode is a welcome addition to our growing list of dark mode-friendly apps. It’s getting easier to distract yourself from startling jump scares during those inevitable horror movie marathons on your couch this Halloween.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Dating is now live with Instagram integration

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This is Huawei’s alternative for missing Google Play services

Filling up the vacuum

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2019 has been an awfully difficult year for Huawei. While the US and China are embroiled in a trade war, the Chinese telecommunication giant is stuck in the cross-fire. Like every other phone maker, it relies on Google’s Android operating system and services to deliver a complete experience to the end user.

However, President Trump has barred American companies from doing any business with Huawei, which means the brand can no longer leverage Google Play services. Google has been banned from China for the longest time, so this won’t have any effect on Huawei’s sales in the country, but it will completely derail Huawei’s plans of global domination.

To counter these missing Google apps, Huawei has released a plethora of in-house apps that will ensure the user doesn’t feel left out. AppGallery is will replace the Google Play Store and can be used in 170+ countires. Launched way back in 2011, it was initially released for users in China only. In 2018, it was shipped to non-Chinese users and became a pre-installed package on all new phones.

Similarly, Huawei Browser replaces Google Chrome, Huawei Mobile Cloud replaces Google Drive, and Huawei Music replaces YouTube or Play Music. There’s also an addition of Huawei Themes, Huawei Assistant, and many more.

Thanks to the open-source nature of AOSP, Huawei is not completely barred from using Android on its smartphone. The recently launched Mate 30 series runs on Android, but doesn’t come with Google apps out-of-the-box, including Google Play Store.

This reminds us of Samsung’s Galaxy phones that usually ship with Google apps as well as Samsung’s own suite of apps. They are pretty much meant to do the same job, but come from two different vendors. Ultimately, offering more options to the user.

Will you be fine with these replacements or are Google apps necessary? As Plan B, Huawei has already announced its Harmony OS and we expect it to be ready for phones in the coming years. But, that’s still a long way down the line.

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