WWDC 2011: Favorites and Failures

Apple made some big announcements on Tuesday at WWDC, and while many people (Android enthusiasts, Apple haters, and well-balanced critics) are saying that most of the upcoming new features are, in fact, not new—that they are “unoriginal” or “stolen” or “copied” or “underwhelming” or whatever—I just think that they’re overdue. I’m not worried about the fact that most Android devices have had some of the upcoming iOS features for years now or that iCloud will not stream music like people thought it would (I have  issues with music streaming on a mobile device, but I’ll get to them later). What I care about is that these features are coming soon and that, for the most part, they look beautiful and well-implemented (specifically, Notification Center for iOS).

And I also care about the price: $29 for OS X Lion and $24.99 for iTunes Match, with iCloud for free. I think price was the biggest bombshell of the keynote, all around. Apple is building an ecosystem of devices that are relatively expensive but are coming with more and more features built-in, which, to me, helps to justify the prices.

For me, the following are the features of Lion that were underwhelming or just not that exciting:

  • Full-screen apps
  • New multi-touch gestures (though I’m sure I’ll grow to love them)
  • Launchpad (I don’t quite see the utility, because I have Alfred, but we’ll see)
  • Mission Control (although, after watching several of Apple’s videos, it’s growing on me)
  • App Store distribution of Lion (until I saw how it was going to work…)

The following are the features that made me stand up and say, “That alone is worth the $29 price of Lion!“:

  • Resume (the stand-out feature, which allows you to run Software Updates and restart your computer without losing anything you have open)
  • Auto Save and Versions (a local Time Machine that only saves the changes you’ve made to a document, not the whole document, kind of like delta updates, which I’ll get to later)
  • Mail and iCal upgrades
  • App Store distribution of Lion (my reservation was that not having an install disc would hamper diagnostics and repairs, but Apple’s thought of that and included a recovery partition, which by and large makes e-deployment a respectable option, in addition to super-easy-peasy!)

As for iOS, I didn’t necessarily care about these features:

  • Newsstand
  • Safari upgrades (maybe they’ll come in handy some day, though)
  • Game Center upgrades
  • New Multi-Touch gestures in iPad (just as above; plus, I don’t have an iPad and still don’t see a reason yet to buy one)

These, however, are pretty cool/awesome:

  • Notification Center
  • iMessage (although it’s only for iOS users, that’s no different than Blackberry’s BBM feature)
  • Reminders with geo-location
  • Camera upgrades (volume up for shutter release and double-tap home for easy access to camera!)
  • Twitter integration
  • Mail and iCal upgrades
  • Completely PC-free distribution (i.e., you don’t have to have a computer to have an iPhone anymore)
  • Wi-Fi sync while you’re charging from the wall (no more plugging my iPhone into my computer: amazing!)
  • Delta updates (only downloading the changes to apps and other files, not the whole file: priceless!)
  • AirPlay mirroring between iPad and AppleTV (not that I have either of these, but it’s a great feature)

For iCloud, honestly, there wasn’t much that didn’t get me excited. First, the idea of a completely free, over-the-air syncing system has me pretty pumped. iCloud syncs photos, apps, books, calendars, e-mail, contacts, settings/preferences, documents, and music via iTunes in the Cloud (I’m still unclear on how to sync my music that isn’t from iTunes, because I still don’t know if I’ll be taking advantage of the iTunes Match program), and it costs nothing, which is an improvement over the $99 price tag of MobileMe. And you’ll still get an @me.com e-mail account and 5 GB of storage, toward which your apps, music, etc., will not count, so it really is a reasonable amount of space.

But anyway, I can’t wait until my iPhone is completely untethered from my computer. iCloud looks to be a huge improvement over MobileMe, and like I said before, I don’t even care that you can’t stream the music. In fact, streaming music over my iPhone wouldn’t really work for me because I live in the city and take public transportation (i.e., no Internet connection in the subway station or the subway car itself, so how would I listen to my music on the way to work?). I’m not sure that I’ll use iTunes Match or the iTunes in the Cloud features, but it’s nice to know they are there. Ironically, iTunes in the Cloud is the only feature that is available immediately, if you have an iPhone 3G S and above and you download the beta version of iTunes 10.3.

Now, I’m just waiting on the next iPhone so I can take full advantage of all of this. It should be coming out when iCloud is fully released this fall. OS X Lion comes out next month and will be distributed via the Mac App Store, which you should have if you have Snow Leopard. Otherwise, it’s still unclear how you’re going to upgrade. I guess you have to have Snow Leopard first, which is still not too bad because it was also only $29, since it was an incremental/small upgrade in terms of features. Apple was nice to us back when Snow Leopard came out, and they are being extremely nice to us now, in terms of getting what you pay for.

And it’s about time.

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