Apple’s top 5 announcements at WWDC 2021

Apple’s World-Wide Developer Conference started with a two-hour-long keynote on some of its new software innovations. The keynote was packed with details about iOS 15, macOS Monterey, and iPad OS 15. We picked out five of the best features users can expect once they launch this fall.


Apple announced a ton of features for FaceTime that will make virtual meetings more enjoyable and meaningful. SharePlay, a feature that lets one user share their media with other conference participants, expands upon the app’s capabilities.

Once enabled, SharePlay will let users share their media from video streaming apps and even music to all participants. This way, friends and family who’re socially distancing can still enjoy media together without ending the call or using another device.

Apple's SharePlay feature in action.
Apple Share Play will let FaceTime participants watch the same movie to mimic a virtual theatre experience. Source: Apple.

SharePlay will initially work with Apple TV and Apple Music and partners including Disney, WarnerMedia, MasterClass, Paramount, Hulu, HBO Max, ESPN+, Twitch, and TikTok. Users can also pop the stream to an Apple TV to watch on the big screen.

When sharing music, SharePlay will support shared medial playback controls and a shared music queue. SharePlay will also support real-time screen sharing for those impromptu tech support moments.

The initial rollout is just the beginning, however. Neither Netflix nor Spotify are part of Apple’s SharePlay partnership, at least for now. Apple has also released the SharePlay API to allow developers to build advanced sharing features into their apps.

In addition to simply sharing media, developers will be able to enable collaborative functions like drawing and editing through the SharePlay API.

FaceTime in Android and Windows

While most teleconferencing apps support multiple operating systems and platforms, Apple’s FaceTime has always been an Apple-exclusive. Sure, it worked on iPhones as well as Macs, but it didn’t exist anywhere else.

That’s no longer the case with the upcoming iOS, iPad OS, and macOS releases. With them, users on Android and Windows will be able to join FaceTime calls through their browser.

While it’s good news, it’s still unclear whether the browser versions will support the newly announced features like SharePlay.

Messages overhaul

Messages, Apple’s default messaging app, will be getting a huge overhaul in the way it organizes conversations.

Firstly, Messages will group all items shared with a user in the new Shared with You section. Within, it will contain web links, photos, music and video. The sender will organize the content, or the user can choose to pin messages that are most relevant to them.

How the Shared with You feature groups together multimedia items.
Pictures and other media shared in Messages will be grouped together. Source: Apple.

Furthermore, Messages will compile multiple photos into collages or stacks, depending on how many are shared at once. Pictures shared through Messages will also automatically appear in the Photos app, which will support search by subject and location.

iCloud+ Private Relay and Hide My Email

iCloud will get a premium subscription tier called iCloud+ with enhanced privacy and email features.

For users who want to mask their internet presence better, iCloud+ will bring Private Relay. It’s essentially a VPN service that encrypts traffic from Safari and sends it through two internet relays to hide personal details and traffic origins. Apple says that this service does not log any personally identifiable information. However, there are restrictions as Apple has confirmed that Private Relay will not be available for users in China, which has heavily restricted personal VPNs.

iCloud+ also brings two big email features: Hide My Email and custom email domains.

Hide My Email will let users generate random email addresses that forward the messages to a personal inbox–useful for signing up with random websites without forfeiting a primary email address. The generated addresses can be deleted at any time.

While many temporary email services exist, most sites today block addresses generated through them. Apple’s solution retains the iCloud Mail domain name. It’s much harder for sites to distinguish an alias from an actual email address.

On the topic of domain names, iCloud Mail subscribers will be able to create a customized domain name that can be shared with other iCloud Mail users.

Privacy enhancements

Apple has also bolstered privacy beyond its iCloud+ privacy features. Mail Privacy Protection is a big one. Once enabled, the Mail app can hide the user’s IP address to prevent the sender from guessing the recipient’s location. Advertising agencies and spam mail use invisible techniques to monitor the user, like embedding code in an invisible pixel that notifies when the mail has been opened. Mail Privacy Protection can thwart that as well.

Example snapshot of Apple's Privacy Report coming in iOS 15.
Privacy Report will list how apps access sensitive sensors. Source: Apple.

Additionally, the upcoming iOS release will include a new App Privacy Report. Inside, users can find how frequently apps access sensitive sensors like the microphone and whether they’re contacting external domains. Also, with the added option of sharing only the current location, the user can choose to share their location only once, sending a snapshot of where they are without continuous tracking thereafter.

When will they arrive?

These features will launch with iOS 15, iPad OS 15, and macOS Monterey. All three new operating systems are expected to launch this fall.

The full list of announcements is available on Apple’s website.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT Business. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

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