In the words of CEO Tim Cook, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) marked “a historic day” for not only the company but the consumer tech industry at large. Though the conference technically spans the entire week, the first day, June 5, is when Cook delivers a keynote address, announcing the new product and software updates that can be expected in the coming year, while the ensuing days largely consist of demos and lab consultations geared towards app developers.
This year, Hypebeast was on-site at WWDC at the company headquarters, a nearly 3 million square foot campus dubbed Apple Park in Cupertino, California. After arriving at the iconic Infinite Loop, the keynote commenced outdoors just a few minutes before 10:00 a.m., with Cook taking the stage to a roaring crowd.
The CEO greeted attendees before cueing a video of himself on a projector – the same video viewers at home see on the WWDC live stream – where a virtual Cook hands it off to Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi to introduce the first new piece of hardware. That announcement came in the form of a 15-inch MacBook Air, powered by the M2 chip. The laptop was described by Cook as “the world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop” at just 11.5mm. On the exterior is a headphone jack and two USB-C ports, while the inside houses a 15.3-inch Retina display.
In a post-keynote demonstration, an Apple employee described the new MacBook Air as the company’s way of angling to the gaming space. Whereas Apple computers previously weren’t the first choice of amateur and professional gamers alike, the device provides better graphics without lagging, on top of 18 hours of battery life. An 8-core CPU offers four performance cores and four efficiency cores, while a 10-core GPU prioritizes color and detail, and a 16-core Neural Engine lends itself to the computer’s machine learning capabilities. The 15-inch MacBook Air is priced at $1,299 USD, and the 13-inch version has been knocked down $100 USD, now on sale for $1,099 USD.
Federighi led the majority of the ensuing product and software announcements, following up the laptop with the news of two new versions of Apple’s flagship desktops, the Mac Pro and Mac Studio. The Pro runs on Ultra, while the Studio can be configured with either the M2 Max or the M2 Ultra chipsets. The $6,999 USD higher-end Pro, however, was the focus of the presentation as Apple lauded the capabilities of the workstation device, packing eight Thunderbolt ports, a 24-core CPU and 192GB of storage. The new desktops also provide the final stamp on Apple’s transition from Intel to Apple silicon, its line of processors developed entirely in-house.
A break from hardware news arrived in the form of iOS 17. Apple is updating a few of its apps, along with FaceTime messaging and phone calls. Starting with FaceTime, in the instance that someone doesn’t pick up, a caller will now be able to leave a video message over the app, just like a voicemail. For phone calls, the voicemail function has been updated to include a live transcription, where text of their message will appear on the lock screen. Another feature coming to phones is “NameDrop,” where users can bump their phones together to share contacts or sync up their music and other shared activities.
Messaging, meanwhile, will transcribe voice messages, allow users to see the location of group chat members in-chat and more. A unique new safety feature called “Check In” has also been added, in which users signal that they’ve arrived at their destination. A light-hearted clip of Federighi playing with a basketball was used to announce a neat way to turn live photos into animated stickers. All emojis have also been transformed into stickers automatically and messages will now house stickers in a “drawer” for convenient access.
iOS 17 will additionally comprise Standby, a hands-free mode for showcasing information when an iPhone is mounted on a stand. The iPad-specific portion of software updates seemed to focus efforts on catching up to the iPhones capabilities. In addition to its adding a Health app to the device and revamped function for widgets, iPad users will now be able to set multiple timers at once on their device. “We truly live in an age of wonders,” Federighi joked.
Mac got its own software overhaul, macOS Sonoma, supplying customization options for creatives and working professionals. Widgets can be brought over from iPhones with the Continuity feature and added to the home screen. Once on the computer, can be adjusted to fade into the background and accessed as needed so as to not interrupt workflow. The additional updates were relatively less significant but targeted those using their computers for work, such as improved screen sharing functionality and an easier way to search for information on Safari.
Those with an Apple TV can use it to call their friends and family on FaceTime. And if they lose their remote, they’ll be able to locate it using the FindMy service, so long as it’s the newer Siri model. A slew of updates was delivered for the Apple Watch, as Apple pivoted to present watchOS 10. The bulk of updates were minor, such as users being able to turn the digital crown to show widgets or long pressing to add a widget to their stack. Among the more interesting additions was that the OS will measure how long its wearer is in the sun, as well as how close screens are to its wearer’s eyes. Apple said that providing watch owners with this information is designed to help prevent conditions like myopia.
Cook then made his return for the most anticipated portion of the keynote. Apple’s mixed reality headset has finally arrived, the Vision Pro, a project “years in the making.” The headset doesn’t require any controllers or additional hardware, save for a battery pack with 2 hours of juice, and comes powered by the M2, along with a new chip designed specifically for it, the R1. Vision Pro runs on the visionOS, a new operating system engineered to be attuned to its wearer’s each move, specifically the movement of their eyes. It doesn’t have a camera facing the user, so this intuition relies on close tracking of the iris in tandem with powerful machine learning. Additional functions of the Vision Pro will be able to be instructed via the wearer’s hands and voice commands.
Cameras located on the exterior lend themselves to integrating the virtual with the real world. As users put on the headset, they’ll be presented with Home View, a screen of apps floating around their view. Naturally, Apple will offer the mainstay apps on Vision Pro – including FaceTime, Mail, Music and Messages – but Cook shared that the company is working with Unity, maker of the namesake game engine, to build “hundreds of thousands” of apps for the headset. While the Vision Pro’s capabilities are impressive, particularly that it can essentially replace a Mac screen, it’s also more expensive than most expected. After rumors that the headset would be priced in the $3,000 USD range, Cook elicited a collective gasp from the audience when he revealed the headset is priced at $3,500 USD.
Following a rundown of the Vision Pro, Disney CEO Bob Iger made his own appearance by video to tease a partnership with Apple. It seems the two companies are working on ways to enhance viewing Disney+ content in VR using the Vision Pro.
The Vision Pro will launch in early 2024, arriving as what Apple has deemed “the first operating system designed from the ground up for spatial computing.”
Stay tuned for a closer look at Hypebeast’s hands-on experience with the Vision Pro.