Reading between the lines of Apple’s WWDC announcements

There’s only so much information one can digest in a single sitting. Even a week after Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference wrapped up, we’re still sifting through the details of the company’s announcements. And that’s before the deluge of users even installing the public beta.

But beyond just the features that Apple has included (or hasn’t) in the next versions of its software platforms, there’s also a lot to glean from these announcements about the company’s future plans. In some cases they’re obvious; in others, you just need to read between the lines a little bit. As I pored over Apple’s website, I noticed a few things that made me think about what the folks in Cupertino might have in store.

Passage to India

Browse through the list of features for iOS 13 and iPadOS and something might catch your eye: an entire sub-heading devoted to improvements specifically for India. This includes everything from an Indian English voice for Siri to support for all 22 of India’s official national languages to new Indian fonts and typing prediction for Hindi. That’s a big deal, especially since the only other country that Apple has singled out like this in the past was China, which is one of its major markets.

ios13 feature listApple

New features for India were listed on stage, but if you blinked, you missed them.

Tim Cook’s spent a lot of time in recent years talking about Apple’s interest in India. No surprise there: the country has one of the largest populations in the world and is rapidly building out its technological infrastructure, making it one of the few remaining major untapped markets for new Apple customers. The biggest roadblock so far has been the country’s restrictions on companies that want to do business there, including manufacturing products in India itself.

A couple years back, I spent some time in India, and while Apple products were around, they were certainly far less common than those from its competitors. Ultimately, features specific to India will make less of a difference than the legal hoops the company must jump through to do business there and making sure that its products are competitively priced for the market, but these features do ensure that when Apple’s devices eventually surmount those hurdles, they will be good citizens.

3D Touch and go

A year or so ago, I noted that rumors suggested 3D Touch wouldn’t be included in the next iPhone, and while that didn’t bear out for the iPhone XS, there are further indications that Apple may getting ready to give the technology the old heave-ho.

iphone6splus 3dtouch phone 100613492 origSusie Ochs/IDG

3D Touch only ever appeared on certain iOS devices, which may have hindered its adoption.

Specifically, the list of features for iOS 13 and iPadOS list two items that got my attention: Peek and Quick Actions. Previously, both of those functions have been accessed via a 3D Touch press on devices that support the feature; elsewhere, they were unavailable. But in iPhone and iPad users of all devices will be able to use these by pressing and holding. Add in the iPhone XR, which uses a similar-but-slightly-different “haptic touch” feature for the flashlight and camera shortcuts on the lock screen—also 3D Touch controlled on those iPhones that have it—and you start to see the writing on the wall.

3D Touch has always been unevenly distributed amongst Apple’s products and, I’d argue, confusing and badly implemented in most cases. All of those factors have slowed its adoption by users, who can’t count on it appearing everywhere they want to use it. (It would be as if only certain Macs supported control-clicking for right menus.) Plus—and here’s the kicker—the hardware to embed the pressure sensitivity into devices’ displays is reputedly expensive, one reason that it’s likely never come to the iPad or the less pricey iPhones.