Seven Head-Scratching Features from WWDC 2022

Originally published at: Seven Head-Scratching Features from WWDC 2022 - TidBITS

Although there’s much to look forward to in macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16, there are also some features that had us scratching our heads, wondering what had gotten into the Cupertino drinking water.

My comments. May not be right, but hopefully plausible:

Freeform

I was particularly interested in this one. Not because of the concept of a shared whiteboard. As you wrote, that has been done by several vendors. But I was particularly interested in making the whiteboard a space that appears to be infinitely scrollable and infinitely zoomable (up to the limits of memory and bandwidth, of course).

This reminds me quite a lot of the Zooming User Interface (ZUI) concept that Jef Raskin was working on via the Zoomworld component of the Archy system.

The idea being that you eliminate the whole concept of files and file systems, instead having an infinitely-zoomable/infinitely-scrollable canvas on which to place content. Important stuff is large (and hence readable when zoomed-out) with less important stuff being smaller (and hence only readable when zoomed in on it).

The idea is that spatial memory combined with robust search capabilities should make it easier to find content than current systems involving files and folders.

Although not identical to Zoomworld, Freeform seems to be an implementation of that concept, with each whiteboard being a complete ZUI-based content management system.

Depending on how much capabilities Apple decides to place into these Freeform documents, it could become the next truly great thing. Imagine, for instance, if you can insert data tables and scripting to one - you’d end up with a modern Hypercard-like environment.

I don’t know exactly how far Apple plans on taking this, but the concept really grabbed my attention.

Handoff for Facetime

This looks like a critical component if Apple is trying to position FaceTime as a tool for business meetings - competing against Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Teams.

It is common (at least where I work) where someone will schedule a virtual meeting (via Teams at my job) and some people will call in from their mobile phones, either with the Teams mobile app or by dialing a voice-bridge number. They often do this because they are traveling at the time the meeting starts. When they arrive at their destination (home or work), they then connect to the meeting from a computer and hang up the phone - which can often be awkward and often results in them going off-line for a minute or so during the transition.

With handoff, this can (in theory) be seamless. At least if the person is transitioning to an Apple device.

Shared Tab Groups

Shared tab groups also fill a similar role. Everybody uses screen sharing during these meetings, but in many cases, the screen being shared is a web browser. But when that is done, everybody can only see the part of the page the presenter is showing - because it’s his screen that’s being shared.

He may send URLs to the participants in a chat window, so others can view the sites and scroll/link to related pages that are not being presented, but that’s a bit awkward. And it also means that if you visit a related page and want to share it with the rest of the group, you’re posting more URLs to the chat, which others need to explicitly open to visit.

With shared tab groups, you can simply let the meeting share the group. Everybody sees the tabs that everyone in the group is visiting. So if you want to point something out, you can simply open a new tab with that content and tell others to switch to it.

2 Likes

Handoff for FaceTime

I have actually wished for this more than once. When someone calls me on FaceTime, it rings to all my logged-in Apple ID devices, and the one at hand may not be the one I want to take the call on. Common pattern:

  1. Answer on my phone before I miss the call
  2. Tell them I’ll drop and call back on the iPad
  3. Find the iPad and look them up to call back
  4. Finally have the call

So if I could answer FT on any device, then hand it off to the device I really wanted do the call on, that would be great!

3 Likes

Oh, I definitely want hand off for FaceTime. My mom has a hard time hearing on the telephone, but, strangely enough, she hears FaceTime calls really well (though Zoom, not so much.) I’m sure it’s because she can watch us speaking and do lip reading, or cues like that.

But there have been many times when she’s called and I’ve had only my phone and watch (or only my watch, worse) and have scrambled to get to my iPad to answer the call, because that seems to work best for these calls. With hand off I could answer on my phone (or watch) and then transfer to my iPad a lot more casually.

And I really do like the filtered focus feature. I think they’ll be better for more advanced users. And just this morning my wife was asking how to get the phone to automatically reply while she is driving, but she does still want to get the messages to show in the car (which integrates with Siri and reads them to her, though it’s not CarPlay.) The ability to allow messages through except for blacklisted people (rather than the current whitelist you need to do) will be better for her.

1 Like

I agree with Adam about just about all of these. But my response to the CarPlay presentation was more like sheer terror–I have enough trouble keeping my eyes on the road with a modest 6" screen glowing beside me, not to mention the difficulty of using a touchscreen with nowhere to support my wrist. Maybe a focus filter will help. :face_with_spiral_eyes:

I have to admit, though, that the Customize Spatial Audio thingy fascinates me. HRTF is indeed a thing in our daily perception of audible “space” and directionality, but no one that I know of has ever tried to make a feature of audio reproduction. It could be as startling as the first time you heard stereo. I can’t wait to try it.

Why is CarPlay being introed at least years before it could appear? Well, it’s the Developer conference and developers are going to be the ones who will need to implement that feature, and do development on apps so that when it does hit the market those apps are ready. I wish Apple had more things that were in the 1-2 year window so developers could do the baseline implementations and explore a bit before it just drops and they have 3 months to add new features before the new version drops and users say “why isn’t that new feature ready yet?!?”

In fact, a lot of these things aren’t just for the Apple implementations, but for multiple applications, so while it may not be huge this year they could be more useful over the next year.

FaceTime Handoff would be useful in classroom situations, allowing a change from the instructor camera to an iPhone focused on the experiment or moving around a gallery, and back again. I use phone handoff with a HomePod when I get to the office just so I can do other things while having a conversation. Also handy in the kitchen. Using FaceTime handoff would be similarly useful, and hopefully more seamless than hanging up and calling again.

Freeform would let people on an existing FaceTime call get up and running without running out to another app (MS whiteboard, Teams, Zoom-who has what account). We use FaceTime all the time as a deaf to standard for 1:1 support calls, and having a quick way to make a diagram is going to be useful as it becomes widespread.

I’m eager to see where the other developers takes these features.

2 Likes

Good for you, Adam. Somebody needs to point out when the emperor is naked.

Apple Pay Later – The thing that puzzles me about this is how Apple makes money on it. I guess maybe it’s just that it might encourage people to use Apple Pay more often so they get the transaction fee?

Focus Filters – The complexity of this makes me sad. Also, why would I want to change the wallpaper for a mode where the whole point is to focus on something else – probably not even use your device?

Freeform – I use Muse, which is likely more feature-rich than what Apple is rolling out. Hard to say, as Freeform was just just an aside in the keynote. If this sort of thing interests you, I recommend checking out https://museapp.com

Tab Groups – I completely agree that tab groups are a mess and too easily ruined.

Sure, but it’s pretty hard to develop for a platform that you won’t even be able to see in the real world for several years. And it’s not as though cars have a lot of flexibility when it comes to third-party apps. CarPlay seems to be mostly about mapping and audio at the moment, and it’s hard to see that much else being appropriate while driving.

I pretty much agree with everything, except Apple Pay Later/BNPL. Here’s an interesting article on BNPL. It can actually allow people to buy stuff without using a payday loan. Of course it can also allow people to buy stuff they might not have bought if BNPL wasn’t available to them, but there’s very little in finance that can’t be abused or misused in some way, including credit cards (and cash can be stolen, etc). But also, Apple didn’t invent it, they’re just adding an increasingly popular payment rail to their existing supported payment rails, which doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I don’t know. I’ve been in literally thousands of business meetings, and none have been via Facetime, and while people do fumble the handoff, they usually learn quickly, and even when it happens, it’s not a big deal. Meetings being sidetracked talking about the latest movie or tv show, or someone working remotely having their neighbor fire up their lawnmower, etc., have wasted orders of magnitude more time in meetings than someone leaving a meeting for a minute then returning (for whatever reason). Also, do any of the the other big meeting systems (WebEx, Teams, Meet, Zoom) allow this sort of handoff? If not, I’m not sure how critical it is.

I’ve been thinking along these lines for years. Distracted driving is a huge cause of accidents, but it’s usually blamed on phone use (to the point that it’s illegal a lot of places to use a phone while driving, at least not hands free). I’ve often wondered, how many accidents are caused by people fumbling with their in car control systems (which have notoriously bad UX)? And then think of the last time you fumbled around with your iPhone trying to figure out how to do something, then think about doing that while driving a car.

Late fees. Interest on late payments.

1 Like

I’m just going to pick up on two of these:

Next-Generation CarPlay
Environmental and engine diagnostic features/convenience settings have been screen-based for several years. Our two Honda vehicles (a CR-V and a Ridgeline, both 2019 model year) have everything on screen, with rudimentary physical buttons whose feedback comes from the screen.

Like almost everything about Honda’s infotainment systems, they are poorly organized in practice. If Apple can do it better with CarPlay (and I suspect they can), this is good news.

Handoff for FaceTime
Case 1: I answer a FaceTime call on my Watch. Audio only. I hand it off to literally any of my Apple devices with a screen and I’m already way further ahead than I was.

Case 2: I answer on my iPhone. My spouse wants to join in. Nice camera, but awkward. We move in front of our iMac with a 27 inch screen and an external webcam, and again, much much better and didn’t have to disconnect.

I don’t get the “juggling housekeys and phone” scenario, because I’d just hang up and call back too.

1 Like

Similar thought crossed my mind.

Some of this stuff feels like a solution in search of a problem (share tab groups). And just because Google or MS does something, should never be a reason to also do it. There should be a solid use case—and it’s not like they didn’t have enough good stuff to talk about

Me, I’d prefer to see Apple finally fix iCloud Safari sync before they try to add more stuff to sync.

And next-gen CarPlay: Good. Luck. With. That. Show me just three car manufacturers who eagerly await some outside non-automotive company to swoop in and commandeer there UI, thereby inserting themselves between said manufacturer and their customers. It took forever to get basic CarPlay into most cars, and yet we still see several non-negligible holdouts. But here we are, Apple flaunting their wildest dreams in front of the world as if this thing had any legs outside of Apple. Perhaps this was just a lot of marketing (and perhaps indeed to remind people to keep obsessing about Apple Car rumors), but reality in say the most-sold makers’ cars in the US (or Europe for that matter) in the next few years? Fat chance. :laughing:

29 posts were split to a new topic: CarPlay and driving technologies

I suspect that Apple is aiming to expand its financial services portfolio. And like other credit and loan services, they charge a % fee to participating retailers, so this isn’t a total freebie. They’ve been working with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard for years, and maybe this is another opportunity for all the partners and retailers to acquire more users, and acquire valuable user and retailer information.

A question…will this service be in the US only, or will Apple expand it to other countries?

1 Like

It occurs to me that the next-gen CarPlay may be coming out of Apple’s efforts to develop their own car? If this new CarPlay is going to be a user interface for an putative AppleCar, then they might figure that it’s a good idea to roll it out early so people have a chance to get used to an Apple interface for all things driving.

1 Like

This is a good idea, and it looks like Elon Musk is considering adding CarPlay for Tesla:

They’re not doing either of those, they’re eating such costs. And they earn by charging merchants, when a buyer uses it. It’s limited to just $1K too, and is a US-only feature.

Apple still won’t charge interest or late fees; it will eat the cost rather than risk being seen as preying on those with difficulties.

2 Likes

Yes, I’m with David on all three of these points.

I’ve been using Miro as a shared whiteboard/feedback spot with my photography students, it’s excellent and it has emerged as a shared file space which was far more usable and interesting to navigate, leave comments on, re-arrange and group than a shared Dropbox or OneDrive folder. I had begun to think of the infinite canvas as a more interesting metaphor than the desktop. I see huge potential here for a future OS interface.

Handoff, please, now… Teams handles this excellently, I have often had a Teams (audio!) meeting while on the move using my iPhone and ended up at my desk and resumed on my Mac all seamlessly handled. I get tired holding phones up and my iPad in a stand or my iMac is far better for lengthier chats.

Shared Tabs will be great for our upcoming ‘application to College’ season… Already my wife and I and our kids use shared Notes for Christmas lists and so on. I share Maps location groups when we are heading off on vacation or for trips with them too. Shared Tab Groups will be great for all of these.

3 Likes

Any thoughts on Customize Spatial Audio, Tommy?

Well, I’m loving Spatial Audio on the songs that are mixed for it, I’m definitely curious about it improving.