This week, there was news from one company that pretty much drowned out all the rest, and that company goes by the name of Apple. This week was the first virtual World-Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), the annual meeting where Apple announces new software updates, and developers can meet and listen to Apple engineers describe the future of Apple products. Most Apple enthusiasts prefer to watch the initial keynote, where the big announcements are made, and this year’s keynote did not disappoint; it was pre-recorded, and really well-produced. You can watch the entire video here. But if you really just want the highlights, here are my biggest takeaways, and why I think lawyers should care.

(A warning before I start: I’m an Android fan, and a lot of the features mentioned below have existed in Android phones for some time now, so I tend to get a bit snarky when Apple announces these amazing new features. I’m sure they WILL be amazing, because Apple is nothing but thoughtful when it rolls out new features – I’m just glad Apple users get to enjoy the same things I’ve enjoyed these past few years…..)

iOS 14 is in the House

The big news at most WWDC events is usually the new features coming to iOS, the iPhone operating system. And this year there were indeed some pretty big announcements, the biggest in the form of….widgets? Instead of boring rows of apps on your home screen, you can now place widgets that show your calendar, the weather, sports scores, or more. This was previously available in the Notification Center, but coming to the home screen is pretty huge. Android has offered widgets for years, but Apple’s widgets look elegant and polished, and should be fun to use.

iOS 14 is also introducing an App Library, a gallery that shows you all of your apps, grouped by category (again, something Android has had for a while now). Some of the other features include:

  • More varied memoji – now your memoji can wear a facemask or be age-appropriate
  • Dedicated map view for cycling and electronic vehicle users – to alert you to increases in elevation, or let you know where that next charging station is along your route.
  • Digital Car Key – a new way to lock and unlock your car with your phone, although this is just available for BMW 5 Series owners so far.
  • App Clips – similar to Android’s Instant Apps, these are like “mini apps;” you won’t need to download a full version of the app to get access to its functionality.
  • Handwriting to Text – this is what I’m most excited about. Available on iPadOS, you can use your Apple Pencil to write in any text field and have your handwriting converted to text

Why lawyers should care My friend Jeff Richardson gives his usual great rundown of the latest iOS features in Why lawyers will love iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. I think the biggest new development for lawyers is the iPad’s Handwriting to Text – the ability to have your handwriting converted instantly to a format that you can turn into a letter or a document just seems incredibly powerful for lawyer productivity. But collectively, all of these features are important to lawyers, because they represent, each in their small ways, better ways to work. Having your calendar available as a widget on your homescreen will save you time in opening your calendar app; knowing where your next charging station is will help make sure you get to that deposition or hearing on time. You may not use all – or even many – of these features. But you owe it to yourself to try some of them out, to see if any of them can make your current digital life a bit simpler.

New Silicon

Probably the biggest announcement Apple made at WWDC was about something lawyers probably care very little about: silicon chips. For years, Apple has used Intel-manufactured computer processors in its computers. Now, Apple is going to be developing its own ARM chips, moving away from Intel. If you want to nerd out on the business details, read Apple, ARM and Intel from Ben Thompson.

Why lawyers should care If you don’t care who makes the processors in your Macs, you should care how this is going to affect you going forward. This is going to impact lawyers (and everybody else, really) in two major ways:

  1. The transition to the new processors will take about two years to complete, and in the meantime there will be some overlap between devices with Intel processors, and Macs with the new chips. So if you are planning a Mac purchase in the next year or so, you will want to ask the right questions to make sure you are getting a device that suits your needs and is built for the long haul.
  2. Perhaps most important, Macs that run on ARM-based processors can also run iOS and iPad apps, side by side with your Mac apps. Just think about that for a minute – right now there are around 1.8 million iOS and iPadOS apps in the App Store, and you’ll be able to run all of them on your Mac. So what we’re seeing is a bit of the “iPadification” of the Mac, but not completely; no Mac has a touchscreen – yet. Could this mean we could see Macs with touchscreens in the next few years? We’re closer to finding out.
Watch Out! More Tracking Features

I continue to be amazed at the features Apple can pack into its Apple Watch. The new WatchOS 7 is adding a ton of new tracking features, including:

  • Sleep Tracking – with a Wind Down mode
  • Hand Washing – it will be able to detect when you are washing your hands, and for how long. Very handy in a pandemic!
  • Dance Tracking – because dancing is a form of fitness too…right?

Jeff Richardson has a more detailed run-down in Why lawyers will love watchOS7, so give that a read.

Why lawyers should care If you’re an Apple Watch user, you know why you should care. Take advantage of those new features!  But even if you’re not, the amount of information watches and fitness trackers are capturing about our daily lives is mind-boggling. There are privacy-related issues that come from the collection of so much personal information, but more importantly these watches are discovery goldmines, which litigators will no doubt seek to plunder in lawsuits where physical movement becomes relevant.

The bad news is that none of this new software is out yet – expect to see final versions arriving later this Fall.