Apple’s WWDC 2021: Xcode Cloud, AR updates, and Swift concurrency support

by Joseph K. Clark

Today, Apple announced several newly available APIs for developers, updates to the programming language Swift, App Store enhancements, and new software features at its online 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2021). 

“We’re thrilled to provide our developer community with powerful new tools and technologies to help create even more compelling and higher-quality apps while engaging with their users in all-new ways through the App Store,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “With the robust set of tools included in Xcode Cloud, continuing innovation in the Swift programming language, a wide range of new APIs, and even more ways to reach users — Apple’s platforms have never been stronger.”

concurrency support

According to the company, Swift has taken a significant leap forward with the announcement of concurrency support, enabling developers to write fast, modern, and safe code. The SwiftUI has also been redesigned to make it easier to build high-quality applications with less code. 

The FaceTime application added new APIs, including SharePlay, enabling users to co-watch, stream, and screen-share over FaceTime. It also includes further voice isolation, portrait mode, and wide-spectrum audio capabilities. 

The company also revealed a new advanced rendering API and the ability to create realistic 3D objects using Object Capture for augmented reality. This technology leverages photogrammetry that turns 2D pictures into 3D content. 

Other advancements to AR included the launch of Live Text, which can automatically identify text in pictures so that users can save it as a note or use it in an online search. In addition, the company ramped up its machine learning capabilities to identify text, locations, and objects on a screen and then enable users to search up these elements through Spotlight.

Apple also announced Xcode Cloud at WWDC 2021, aiming to simplify the developer workflow by integrating the cloud and developer tools. When a developer commits a change to the code, Xcode Cloud will automatically build the app. Since the app is made in the cloud, the device is free for other tasks, and other team members see if a change introduces errors.

Xcode Cloud runs automated tests in parallel, simulating how they would run on every Apple device and platform, and test results are displayed in Xcode. According to Apple, once it passes all tests, it can be distributed to all testers on the team and even beta testers with Test Flight

With today’s App Store updates, developers will maintain multiple product pages to test which graphics and text work best.

Apple also announced iOS 15, iPad OS 15, WatchOS 8, and macOS Monterey, designed with more excellent connectivity between devices. For example, iOS devices can now share their screen with a Mac computer through AirPlay, and a cursor used on one device can seamlessly cross over to another device. 

As for security, Apple introduced tracker blockers in its Mail App and Safari to hide IP addresses and users’ locations. Users will also now be able to see exactly how each of their apps uses their info in the last week and see precisely which third-party apps each app is sharing that info with. 

Audio will also now be processed on-device using Siri to enhance privacy and speed it up since the data no longer has to go to the cloud.

The OS releases are available as developer betas today, and each of them will have a public beta next month. According to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, all of the new software will be available to all users this fall. More details from day one of WWDC 2021 are available here.

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