Reactions to WWDC: What Was Announced and What are My Views?

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, often shortened to WWDC, took place from Monday 6 – 10th June, with the keynote lasting for nearly 2 hours.

Many videos were released throughout the days following the conference, but in today’s blog, I’m going to outline everything that Apple announced, and give my thoughts on how accessible the next version of iOS is going to be.

iOS 16

The next instalment of iOS will include a redesigned, customisable Lock Screen, as well as improvements to the Messages, Maps and Home apps, new sharing and personalisation capabilities, and more.

The Lock Screen, Notifications, and Focus

The new, fully customisable Lock Screen allows users to edit numerous design elements, including type styles, colours, and whether or not you want to include emojis. As well as this, you’re also able to create multiple Lock Screens, which you can easily switch between by swiping.

The Notifications in the next version of iOS will roll up from the bottom of the screen, but they also come with another new feature. To make room for your new customised Lock Screen, Apple now allows its users to hide their notifications, allowing more space for further customisations.

Focus has been a big hit since it was released by Apple in 2021, and I’ve personally found it useful when working. 

In iOS 16, Apple plans to enhance Focus even more, with users now able to tie specific Focus modes to your customised Lock Screens, as well as applying Focus filters to get less notifications from distracting apps, such as Messages, Twitter and Calendar.

New Features for Messages

The new version of Messages will now include the ability to edit or delete sent messages, as well as allowing users to mark a message as unread.

As well as this, you’ll also be able to send SharePlay sessions (put simply, links that let you watch / listen to the same content as friends in different locations), directly in the Messages app, which will be activated right away.

Dictation, Siri, and Live Text

The new dictation experience keeps the keyboard open when speaking, allowing those who use it to use a combination of speech and typing, while also automatically adding punctuation and emojis into your messages, which you can also use with Siri.

IOS 16 will also see Live Text expanding to video, allowing users to select the text in playing videos. And as well that, Live Text will also be making its way to the Apple Watch, so all the WatchOS users will have an extra way of calling numbers if they need to.

There’s also been improvements made in relation to Visual Lookup, with users now able to pull out subjects and to drag them elsewhere.

Apple Pay and Wallet

Numerous features have been added to the Apple Pay and Wallet app, starting with the ability for you to share virtual keys via message.

As well as this, Apple also announced their Apple Pay Later service, which allows users to pay for purchases in four instalments over six weeks, with zero interest and no fees.

And we’re also getting an Apple Pay Order Tracking feature, making it easier to track purchases from retailers.

Enhanced Changes to Apple Maps

More and more countries and cities have already been added into the Maps app in recent years, which has seen a 2D and 3D design being added, and even more are to be added in the coming months.

But adding to Apple’s support for multitasking, they’re now adding Multistop Routing, which will allow users to plan up to fifteen stops ahead of time. You can start your plans on Mac and continue it across other iOS devices, as well as having the option to add other stops using Siri.

The included Transit feature also allows Apple users to see the costs of a journey while you are planning, with Transit Cards being even heavily integrated into the Wallet app.

Sports

Sports fans will be in for a treat, because the Apple TV app can now display information about sport games via live activities.

Family Sharing

Although Apple has made Family Sharing and kids accounts easy to manage in the past, they will be introducing a couple of new features.

The next version of iOS will include quicker ways to set age appropriate restrictions, from Quick Start, to Screen Time requests in messages, a Family Checklist feature and more.

Safety Check

The new Safety Check feature will be available in settings, and allows its users to quickly turn off the access that others have to your location and information, which will be a welcomed feature for many people.

Home App

The Home App has been completely redesigned in the next version of iOS, with a new main tab view to see your entire home in one place.

As well this, we’re also getting access to new dedicated categories such as Climate, security and more, and distinctions tiles which will make accessories more recognisable.

Other Announcements

Apple also announced improvements for Spatial Audio with AirPods, QuickNote coming to the iPhone, new Mail features, Rapid Security Response, Spotlight in the dock, additional Memoji customisations, the Fitness App coming to iPhone without the need for an Apple Watch, MacOS Ventura, and more.

I’m not going to be able to cover all of these in this blog, but tell me if you’ll like me to do some posts about any of them in future, and I’ll see what I can do.

M2 Macs

Along with all the features in iOS 16, Apple also announced the move from the Mac’s M1 Chip to the M2 Chip.

The M2 Chip features an 18% faster CPU, a 35% more powerful GPU, and a 40% Neural Engine compared to the M1 Chip.

Supporting up to 24GB of LPDDR5 Unified Memory, and featuring four performance and four efficiency cores, it also supports 100GB of unified memory bandwidth, which is up by 50% compared to the M1.

As well as all these features, the M2s come with 10-core GPU, with two more cores compared to the M1. The peak performance is 87% of what you get from a 12-core PC, and you’ll also get an improved media engine that supports 8K, a ProRes video engine to playback streams of 4K and 8K video, Apple’s newest security technology, and a new image signal processor that delivers better image noise reduction.

The models of M2 Macs that were announced was the new 13-inch MacBook Air and a 13-inch MacBook Pro. You’ll be able to Preorder them starting tomorrow.

Final Thoughts

So what are my final thoughts on what Apple Announced at WWDC, and is iOS 16 the most accessible yet, or do the developers at Apple need to try harder?

While I find the customisable Lock Screen an interesting new feature, Apple will have to make sure that moving the elements you want to add around is easy for everyone to do, even if they are disabled and can only use one finger.

Likewise, I feel that the new Dictation features were a good thought on paper, but it does raise questions over whether or not physically disabled people could use it as well. But I don’t really use dictation for everything I do anyway, so I can’t really comment any further.

But as far as all the other features go, I think the next version of iOS is going to be incredibly useful, although it would be useful if Apple could bring back the ability to talk to Siri via a voice command for those who can’t double click the side buttons on the iPhone and iPad, and the same should apply for paying for and downloading apps, as the older ‘Confirm Using Face ID or Passcode’ option was just a lot more accessible, compared to the ‘Confirm Using Assistive Touch’ feature.

Turning to the M2 MacBooks, however, I think the MacBook Air is going to be extremely popular for production, but I have to admit, I would have preferred seeing it released in a bigger model, like the rumoured 15-inch.

As far as built-in cameras go, I just don’t see how the MacBook Pro on offer comes anywhere close to the M2 MacBook Air, although I’d be interested to see what happens as more of them come out.

Disability History Month Tech Talk 2: What Technological Solutions to Attending Events in 2020 Should We Keep in a Post Covid World?

What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another post on Technology Reviews! As you will have read or heard in last week’s blog, vlog and podcast, this week we’re going to be looking at what technological solutions to attending events in 2020 we should keep in a post Covid world, as we begin talking more about what the new normal will be.

So as we know, 2020 has been a hard year in many areas of society. On one end you have the infection rates, mortality and long-lasting affects of having the virus, and on the other hand, you have businesses going bankrupt. Many conferences and other events have had to be moved online, which divides even more the rich in society with the Upper and Middle Classes, compare to the lower classes, who might not have any other means of attending events. We also have disabled and vulnerable people in all classes, who this year have been told to shut their social lives down.

However, while there are many bad sides to the pandemic, in a weird sort of way, modern technology has made life easier. In last Sunday’s blog I went into how technology, video chats and streaming services make it easier for disabled people to social distance and shield _ which if you haven’t seen them yet, can be seen further down the technologyreviews.co.uk blog, on the Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube, and on the Accessible Technology Podcast on the Phoebs Lyle Soundcloud account. But for many wheelchair dependent people, there will be many technological solutions to attending events this year that will have allowed them greater access to events than they would have otherwise had.

This is a list of some of the technological solutions that I think should stay around in a post Covid world to help bring around better accessibility.

No 1: Virtual Quizzes for Pubs and Businesses

Virtual quiz night background

If there’s a winner for anything that has taken off during the pandemic, it’s the craze for Virtual Quiz nights.

In a normal year, I would go to quiz nights in my local pubs quite regularly, and they are a great night out. I really enjoy the Christmas and Disney quizzes that go on and have scored well in both of them in the past.

But during the pandemic, that had to change.

My reason for including virtual quiz nights for pubs and businesses as my first point is because people with underlying health conditions will still be required to shield in the next year, at the same time as more will want to go out.

Most of the quizzes I go to give you a tablet or tell you to download an app or go to a website on your phone to join in, where you’d enter a code.

If bars, pubs and restaurants offered a certain amount of virtual tickets as well as in-person tickets, not only would it help people like me who still can’t get into a particular building, but it would also let people with underlying health conditions or who have got Covid-19 to still attend an event, just online.

No 2: Virtual Tours

As many of my Accessible Technology Podcast listeners will know, I have a slight obsession with Georgian history, most notably the Regency Era, as I am obsessed with the conversation and debate over who the Prince Regent, the future George IV, might have been.

At the beginning of 2020, I saw that there was going to be a lot of events held in Mainland GB about the Regent, and of course I wanted to go along, but because I can’t travel as easily because of my disability but also because a lot of planning has to go into it, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go.

This changed within a couple of weeks however when the coronavirus arrived in the UK and Ireland, and this is where, without sounding disrespectful to the millions of families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, I think the technological fixes have helped me as a disabled person.

Not only have I been able to go along to the George IV: Art and Spectacle exhibition virtually, but I’ve also been able to tour the Royal Brighton Pavilion, which I’m not sure I’d be able to access fully anyway with me being fully wheelchair dependent.

What really impresses me about the virtual tour of the Royal Pavilion is that you have your audio tour guide in each of the rooms, but a sign language or subtitle option would have to be included if virtual tours stayed around in the future, and I would also like the ability to move around the room by tapping the screen, or by staring in a particular direction to move round if I use a virtual reality headset.

No 3: Virtual Talks

Sticking again to the Regency, I was also able to attend a virtual talk on The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain, where Ian Mortimer was interviewed by HistoryExtra.

Since again, I can’t travel just as easily as other’s anyway, I feel like this allowed me to attend a talk that I’m generally interested in, and I’ve also been to a number of other virtual talks since.

Many historical buildings and museums don’t have the right wheelchair accessibility that they should have 25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act became law, and while I understand why this is the case, if there’s anything this pandemic can teach us, it’s that we have the technology now to let people attend in whatever way is safest and easiest to them, which could get around the disability discrimination problem.

If virtual tours and talks were packaged together in an All-Virtual-Pass, I’d definitely be interested in paying for it, and if someone told me they couldn’t offer an event to me in person because of accessibility issues but they could offer it to me virtually, I’d see it as a compromise. Even if half the questions come from the in person audience, and the other half come from the virtual audience.

Another reason why I’d like to see history conferences taking place in a half virtual, half in person scenario is because apparently my mother still likes to use her 2 holidays at history conferences a year as a change to get away from me. Giving that I still live at home, I have no idea why that is!

No 4: Online Conferences

During the various Lockdowns we’ve lived through, I’ve also been able to attend a vast number of technology conferences, which I think could also stay around in a half in person, half virtual event way.

As I said in point 1, there will still be people who need to shield in a post Covid world, but this would be a good way of letting us go to events while still looking after our health.

What I like about attending conferences virtually is how I’ve been able to talk with people and ask questions, as well as expanding my network and getting new contacts. But what I think could improve is allowing people to choose whether they would like to talk to the panelists in person or type their questions into the chat, but I think that’s doable anyway.

No 5: Virtual Meetings

At the minute, I’m volunteering as a Lead Reporter for Leonard Cheshire’s Change Makers Programme in Belfast, where I report on and try to change issues that disabled people in the community are concerned about.

In a Post Covid world, I do hope to get reporting on most stories and conducting interviews with people in person, but as someone who lives in Northern Ireland and can’t travel as easily as others, I will be doing most of my work over Zoom.

Conclusion

But anyway guys, what do you think? Do you agree with everything I’ve said, or do you think there’s any other areas where going half virtual and half in person could help? Looking forward, it seems doing a bit of both worlds is what we’re going to be looking at, so we may as well get something that’s as accessible for everyone.

Disability History Month Tech Talk 1: How Technology, Streaming Services and Video Chats Have Helped Disabled People with Shielding

What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another blog! As Disability History Month runs from November 22nd – December 22nd, this is going to be a blog mixing the title with how I feel personally about Disability History Month, and I hope you enjoy all the different content I’m going to bring you over the next few weeks. As you heard in the last vlog _ which if you haven’t seen yet, you can find by searching for Phoebs Does Technology Reviews on YouTube _ I’m going to be doing these every few days from 22nd November – 22nd December, but now let’s get into it!

So what does Disability History Month mean to me? It means, as ugly as our history might be, looking into the days when we were mocked _ which you could argue, still happens when non-disabled actors are chosen to play us in films and tv shows _ to looking at the shame we brought centuries ago when for years we were isolated, to looking back at the early 1990s when disabled people protested for more rights and won us the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, to fighting to overcome the rise in Ableism we have today so we can achieve equality!

Yet the year we’ve had was unforeseen by everyone. 2020 was looked forward to as a year which would be everyone’s year, but the global pandemic changed everything. Disabled and vulnerable people were forced into shielding at the start of the year, and some have had to remain in shielding to this day.

But for many, the use of every day technology has brought around a glimpse of the outside world. Although shielding has been paused for a few months, I still haven’t been out too much (but as something that on a normal year I would do a lot of anyway), I’ve found it easier than others, in many way thanks to modern day technology.

How Technology and Video Chats have Helped Disabled People with Social Distancing

I’ll admit, when I was told to stay inside when the original lockdown first happened, it was hard. It was hard to fight the urge not to go for a walk around the pier on hot summer, or to meet up with friends, but despite the temptations, I knew I couldn’t. But there were other ways I got around it.

Video chats have come a long way since the early 2000s, when Skype was the only one you could choose, or since 2010, when it was challenged by Apple’s FaceTime. In 2020, however, there’s so many to choose from, so whether you choose to meet up with one friend over FaceTime, which I’ve done many times, or set up a group catch up for a quiz night _ something I’d like to do at some point if someone could give me counters on how to set it up – but other hobbies can be included _ then there’s something for everyone to meet up with your friends even if you’re not in the same place.

But if one of the many group video chats can take the crown for most talked about this year, then it’s Zoom.

Zoom has been used during the pandemic to go to meetings, to run webinars, for education in some countries and a lot more! Ranked number one in Customer Reviews, I think it’s well worth what it is whether you’re using the free membership _ which limits you to 40 minute calls _ or the paid subscriptions which give you unlimited call lengths.

I think moving conferences and webinars online have also helped in another way, though, and that is in the way that as a disabled person, I’ve been able to attend talks and conferences that I might not have been able to otherwise go to, for lack of wheelchair access.

As a lot of my Accessible Technology Podcast listeners will know, I have a slight obsession with anything that is to do with the Georgians. Last week, I was able to attend a webinar of the Regency on my iPad which I could mirror off my tv, and was able to go along with it that way. If _ Heaven forbid _ Covid did not happen _ I’m not sure I would have got this sort of access _ and this will be something I’ll be talking about more in next weekend’s content _ which will be on what technological-based solutions to the Covid Pandemic I think should stay in place in a post-Covid world.

But it isn’t just video chats that I feel have helped disabled people social distance, but with a rise in Adaptive Gaming, disabled people have also been able to remain in contact with their able-bodied and non-disabled friends over gaming subscriptions. No matter which platform you choose, most gaming platforms have subscriptions which let you communicate with your mates without being in the same room, which was cool with all young people before the pandemic, even more now that since the Xbox Adaptive Controller was launched, disabled people have had greater access to playing the games they like with their friends across all platforms.

How streaming services have helped disabled people with social distancing as well

But it isn’t all just the mainstream tech and video chats that have helped disabled people with Social Distancing. Our choice of Streaming Services has also doubled since the early 2010s. Even live tv now is caught mainly through streaming, but as for how much content across all the services helps with social distancing, it very much depends on what content appears on what one.

The big three this year have been Netflix vs Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video, but it’s clear that Netflix and Disney Plus are the ones in front. What Disney Plus offer that Netflix doesn’t, is theatre productions being available on their service. Between July 3rd through 13th 2020, the live performance of Hamilton on DisneyPlus was viewed by 2.7million households _ according to nexttv _ exceeding the number of people who have seen it live on stage.

As someone who hasn’t seen it live yet (as I can’t travel just as easily and so, would prefer to see if it comes to the Republic of Ireland first if not Northern Ireland), seeing the live version on DisneyPlus starring the original cast, is something I’m happy to say is my way of seeing it.

DisneyPlus has also given us access to other Broadway performances and movie premiers, which is something that if you have a very severe disability with health conditions that don’t let you go out, you often wouldn’t have access to anyway.

But Netflix is still seeming to do better than Disney Plus in other ways, with them beating them on the day they released season 5a of Lucifer, as well some of their other shows performing better. But for me, it very much depends on what I’m in the mood for. And Prime Video isn’t too bad either, without also adding in some good BBC programmes on the iPlayer, and other ones across other services.

What I’ll say, so I don’t end up squaring them off against each other any more, is that now it’s getting colder, I’m glad there’s enough content out to stop me going out in the cold when there’s nothing much to go to.

Conclusion

But overall, I would have to say yes; technology, video chats and streaming services have helped disabled people social distance, and shield. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like technology has allowed me greater access to things than I would have, but I’ll be talking more about this next week.

There have been bad sides as well with a rise in online Disability Hate Crime _ which, according to the BBC, has went up 84% in Wales _ and the how do special educational needs kids get looked after in school when they’re meant to be shielding argument is another one to get into.

Please tell me if you agree with what I’ve said regarding technology, video chats and streaming services, and if you’d like to see more on how technology has helped disabled people with Social Distancing and Shielding. But otherwise, I’ll see you for another one of these next week.