WWDC 2022, A Tangible Demonstration of Care

I’m writing this from my hotel room in San Jose on the last day of WWDC 2022. What a week it has been. This was my 14th(!) WWDC and it will be one of the most memorable.

As I wrap up my week I was trying to think of a concise theme for this year:

This year, more than any I can remember, WWDC was the tangible manifestation of Apple’s genuine care for developers, and their desire to facilitate us to do our best work.

The last two years have been extremely challenging in so many ways, but relevant to this week, it has been difficult to really feel part of the developer community I cherish being a member of. Watching WWDC in my office at home was nice (and in some ways better) but it lacked a magic that can only be captured in-person. This year that magic was back.

I’m leaving Cupertino feeling recharged, enthusiastic and excited for a busy summer ahead.

I’m going to walk through the week and relay my thoughts regarding it below, but before I do I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone at Apple who made this week possible. Clearly a tremendous amount of thoughtful effort went into this week and it showed in countless tangible ways. Thank you!

My Experience

When Apple announced they were going to do a hybrid, one day event for WWDC I must confess I was slightly skeptical. Having attended so many in-person WWDC’s in years past I wondered if it would be possible for such a short event to feel worth it at the end of the day, or whether watching a pre-recorded keynote would feel awkward in person.

I can happily report that any skepticism I felt was completely unfounded and this year’s event was an overwhelming success.

The Developer Center

On Sunday afternoon, we had the opportunity to tour the newly opened Developer Center at Apple Park. This building was created with the explicit purpose of providing an optimal space for Apple to help developers. It includes a variety of workshop, education and conference spaces. All of which have been carefully constructed to provide for highly effective, in-person interaction.

What is most striking to me, however, is how this space was crafted to make developers feel at home when visiting Apple. My understanding is that while working on-site at the Developer Center, developers will be given credentials that allow them to come and go as they want and have free roam of their workspaces. This is a space were developers are guests, and welcomed guests at that.

It is perhaps a bit corny to say, but I got a bit emotional touring the Developer Center. It felt like the physical manifestation of something I’ve felt, but never been able to tangibly experience. It is easy for Apple to say that they care about developers…but it is another thing entirely to demonstrate that care with action.

This building must have cost Apple a fortune to build. Every detail of its construction was crafted to optimize the experience of developers working here. Even to the degree of the subtle acoustics of the rooms, or the way they bring in natural light but in a way that still provides for confidential discussion.

This building represents the very best of Apple’s relationship with its developers. They genuinely want us to succeed and know that our success is symbiotic with theirs. If we both do our best work, we both benefit.

It is easy to take the cynical view of Apple’s developer relations. That we are just interchangeable cogs in a machine to them. I have to say, I wholly reject that view. I have had too many great interactions with folks at Apple who want nothing more than for me to make wonderful products. These people truly care about developers, and will go to great lengths to demonstrate that. The Developer Center is a tangible, physical manifestation of that. I can’t wait to see how it is used going forward.

Keynote Day

This keynote was special and (hopefully) unique. It was the very first time the broader Apple developer community was able to get together in-person after two years of needing to make do with virtual connection.

The event itself was held on-site at Apple Park. A space that if I’m being honest I never thought would have been opened up to non-employees. They opened up the colossal airplane hanger-like doors of Caffè Macs, and then spread out chairs on one of Apple Parks spacious lawns.

After a light refreshment breakfast, the real show began. Tim and Craig came out on stage to welcome us all to Apple Park. That first moment when I saw them in person was really special. It felt like the precise moment of a new beginning, the start of a new chapter. We are back, and a connected community again.

We then watched the keynote presentation, which was pre-recorded and being streamed out live to all the world. This felt fine to me. Honestly I can say that having sat in the room for ‘live’ keynotes before and watching something pre-recorded, this was better. Unless you happened to be in the first few rows, either way you are watching it on a screen. The pre-recorded format lends itself to tight, concise and clear communication which an on-stage presentation can sometimes struggle to achieve.

This year was jam packed with announcements. I have a busy summer ahead, that’s for sure.

Hands-on

My particular attendance of WWDC this year was as a member of the media, so after the keynote I was invited to the hands-on area. I had no idea this was coming.

After the video wrapped I was asked to follow along with a group of media folks. I know the layout of Apple Park well enough to have a sense that the direction we were heading could only lead to one place…and after a short walk my suspicions were confirmed. We were going to the Steve Jobs Theater.

As soon as it came into sight I am not exaggerating to say that I felt emotionally overwhelmed. This is a special place for me. Both because of its namesake, but also because of the impact the announcements made from here have had on my life. This is a singular space, and to be invited to visit it was a moment I will cherish.

There we got to be hands-on with the new MacBook hardware, which was nice, but if I’m honest I mostly just stood back and relished being in the space. Trying to really take it in and appreciate the opportunity.

Interview for Under the Radar

On Tuesday, Marco and I were invited to interview Serenity Caldwell and Andreas Wendker for Under the Radar.

On a personal level this opportunity was a very meaningful recognition of years of work. Marco and I have been talking about the life and experiences of being an indie iOS developer for nearly seven years now. Being asked to participate in one of only a handful of public appearances by Apple employees means a lot to me.

The interview itself went great. Our usual format is just Marco and I talking back and forth so I wasn’t sure how pivoting into an interview would work. But Serenity and Andreas put us at ease and I think our discussion ended up covering some really important topics that came out of this year’s WWDC.

You can listen to the show here.

The Format

I really hope this format continues next year for WWDC. The hybrid model seems to capture all the very best attributes of WWDC and package them together.

Session Videos

The session videos and release approach is demonstrably better than the old in-person presentations. These are tight, concise descriptions of the new APIs that are just as long as they need to be. They are able to be published with searchable transcripts from the start, which is great for accessibility but also just for productivity, as I can easily jump to relevant sections of the videos.

Digital Lounges

The digital lounge experience involves a custom Slack workspace that is setup into separate categories for different platforms or technologies. Then throughout the week there are events like Q&As, watch alongs or challenges. This format reminds me in the best way of one of my favorite parts of the old in-person Labs experience. Where I’d go along to a Lab to ask a specific question, but end up being part of a broader discussion with other developers who were asking questions I hadn’t even thought to ask.

This format is great too because it lowers the perceived barrier to entry compared to a 1-on-1 lab. Thinking back to my earlier self, I found going to a Lab really intimidating (even though the Apple Engineers were always incredibly kind and gracious). This more casual, group format, however, provides a way to get much of the same information and access without feeling at all on the spot. Plus, I got to benefit from the collective thinking of the whole community.

1-on-1 Labs

The Labs back in the old in-person format were my favorite part of WWDC. Once I got over my initial anxiety about attending them I found them to be the most impactful part of my week. Both in terms of being able to get my questions answered but also in getting to have a personal interaction with the engineers who have built the tools and APIs I rely on.

It is great to be able to thank them in-person for their work and to feel the palpable enthusiasm radiating from them as they talk about their work. For so much of the year they are toiling away in secrecy, this is their chance to discuss what they care about and their excitement is contagious. I always leave a lab feeling excited and equipped for the work ahead.

This is the third year of the online format for labs and on balance I’d say that I prefer this format to the in-person style. The old labs format involved a lot of waiting around in line, trying to find the right person to help you. This format, where I have to ask my questions/topics ahead of time, has meant that all my appointments are with the exact right engineer who can help me directly. I can also more easily prepare for the lab and have all my questions/demos/prototypes ready to screen share and maximize my time during the lab.

Closing Thoughts

As I look forward to a busy summer full of Lock Screen widgets, I feel really motivated and encouraged by this week’s experience. It captured the very best of what WWDC can be, moving the format forward in lots of meaningful ways.

In-person is different, and allows for interactions and serendipity that just isn’t possible fully online…but that said, providing a full, rich virtual experience that is accessible to the whole community is also important. Apple had a difficult task of threading the needle between those two poles. They did a tremendous job combining them both and ended up in a place that I think provides the best of each, without compromising on either.

David Smith




On This Day, Air Quality and Pollen Widgets

I just rolled out three great new features for Widgetsmith.

On This Day

I’ve added a new type of widget that has turned out to be my new favorite. It is simple, it shows you a random picture taken on the current day in years gone by. This relatively simple concept has totally changed the enjoyment and fun I see on my home screen each day.

It is really great to relive some of my favorite moments captured by my iPhone, but done as a rolling timeline of my life. This is obviously nice on anniversaries and birthdays where you tend to have lots of great photos. But what I’ve found is that it is even more fun to get timely reminders of seasonal things: First flowers of Spring, playing in the last snow.

It also feels like watching my kids grow up. Seeing pictures from when they are small but getting bigger each year.

Air Quality & Pollen

Just in time for the pollen season in the Northern Hemisphere I’ve added a new category of widgets and tools to display Air Quality and Pollen data. These provide highly localized observations about the quality of the air you breathe.

The data is powered by BreezoMeter, which is the same provider as used in Apple’s own Weather app…so you know it is accurate.

For Pollen data, you can even see a detailed breakdown of the type of plants that are causing the most pollen to be in the air. Which is huge for me because Oak and Maple are particularly challenging for me, so I can plan accordingly when those are bad.

David Smith




Widgetsmith 3.0: Spring Collection & Weather Tool

Today I’m announcing the launch of Widgetsmith 3.0. This update is focused around two new themes that I intend to lean into with the coming releases: Seasonal content and Powerful Tools.

Seasonal Content

Right from the start of its quite unexpected rise to popularity, Widgetsmith’s core ability has been to allow you to take control over the look and feel of your iPhone’s homescreen. I want to build the tools you need to customize and personalize the look to be exactly what you’d like. To that end I’m going to start rolling out new aesthetic collections at the start of each season. The first being the 2022 Spring Collection:

While I’m no expert at fashion, I have recently tried to become a student of it. Prior to this work it has always felt rather arbitrary that each season fashion designers can declare a new set of colors and looks as “in”. The more I explored this space, however, the more I come to appreciate that while yes the seeds of the choices are largely arbitrary…the goal is not to somehow divine what the trends are going to be. Instead, the goal is to provide a fresh, harmonious starting point from which to reset from.

To that end I’ve put together a collection of new colors and themes for Widgetsmith that I believe work well together and should hopefully provide a fresh starting point from which people can update their iPhone aesthetic. It isn’t so much prescriptive as inspirational in nature.

Additionally, I’m thrilled to announce the addition of a handful of new fonts. When Widgetsmith initially launched it only provided the built-in system font options. Now I’m going to start working with type designers to provide a rich variety of options to make your homescreen really look sharp.

This initial set is by the extraordinary type designer, Matthew Butterick. (My personal favorite is Advocate)

I intend to release a new collection of Themes roughly every three months. Providing a rolling set of inspiration from which you can update your own look.

Powerful Tools

Another new goal that I have for Widgetsmith is to make the experience of tapping on a Widgetsmith widget more useful. Right now, when you tap on a widget you just open the app, but I can do better. This update includes the first two of these new tools, with many more planned in the coming months.

Photo Album Tool

Firstly, I’ve made it so that when you tap on a Photo Album widget you will be shown a browser containing the most recent photos shown in that widget. This screen includes an option to Favorite a photo, or even to create a new single photo widget from it.

Personally, I’ve really enjoy this as a way to explore my older photographs. I have a large album widget set to show All Photos in my photo library. Then whenever I see one I like, I pop it open and mark it as a favorite. This has really helped me to rediscover a number of photographic gems that had been lost to the end of my photo library.

Weather Tool

When tapping on a weather widget, I’ve also now made it so that it will launch into a powerful, graphical weather tool. This is customized to match the location you have configured in the widget. This makes checking the weather super convenient.

This weather tool provides an Hourly, Daily and Radar view. Each of the graphical views can be smoothly transitioned between Temperature, Wind, UV and Cloud Cover graphs. My goal is find a good balance between information density and clarity. I want you to be able to see ALL the weather data you want in a single view, but without overwhelming you with data.


This tool is a love letter of sorts to the app, Weather Line, which was acquired a year ago and is set to be shut down this month. While designing my own weather tool I found that kept tending towards features and choices reminiscent of those Weather Line had taken. It was really ground breaking in some of the UI paradigms it created. I’ve taken the concept in my own direction but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this influence, and thank Ryan et al. for the work they did here.

David Smith




Sleep++ : Introducing Readiness Score

Today I’m delighted to announce the release of Sleep++ version 4.5. This update adds a long requested feature, Readiness Score.

What is Readiness Score?

There are a number of dedicated fitness trackers that seek to provide you with an indication of how “rested” or “recovered” you are each night’s sleep. My goal is to bring this to automatic sleep tracking on the Apple Watch.

This score is based on three measurements that have been found to generally correlate with how restorative your sleep was:

  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV): This is a measurement of how consistently your heart is beating during periods of restful sleep. The less consistent each beat of your heart is, the better the indication that your body is restored. Highly consistent heart beats are often an indication that your body is still in a higher stress mode and thus unable to engage in repair and restoration. HRV is a highly personalized measure, so I establish your personal baseline for comparison.

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR): This is a measurement of how often your heart is beating while you are in periods of restful sleep. The lower this value is the better it is an indication that you are in restorative sleep. Since your RHR will fluctuate with your fitness, as well as your nightly recovery, I compare your RHR to your 30 day moving average to allow it to adjust to your current fitness.

  • Restful Sleep Duration: This is simply the total amount that you sleep each night where you appear to be calm and restful. If you aren’t sleeping enough in a night you are unlikely to have given your body sufficient time to repair and restore itself. For Sleep++’s readiness score I compare your sleep duration against your nightly sleep goal to establish your baseline.

These three values are then combined into a single numerical score from 0 to 100. With 100 indicating that all three measures are pointing you towards a highly restorative night. And 0 indicating that your body appears to have been really struggling during the night. Additionally, each composite value, and its comparison to baseline, is shown for reference.

It is important to treat this value as an indicator and not a clinical measurement. While there is substantial research to indicate that these three factors generally correlate with your sleep performance, they can be impacted by a wide variety of factors that can reduce their precision. The idea here is to give you a general sense of how prepared your body is and for you to then use that to make healthy choices for your day.

Using your Readiness Score

I have found that generating this score is helpful to me in two main ways: identifying poor habits and regulating my daily exertion.

Identifying Poor Habits

In working with the beta testing group for this feature I heard from several users that this score helped them quantify the impact of certain habits on their night’s restoration. For example, I heard from several folks that they could clearly see a connection between drinking alcohol and a lowered readiness score the following day. Similarly, drinking caffeine or eating large meals right before bed can negatively impact your body’s ability to sleep effectively.

What you do with that impact is up to you, but it is often helpful and motivating to be able to see a numerical impact from a behavioral choice. The negative case is often the most pronounced, but I have also seen benefit from identifying positive habits as well. Where if I really try to setup a good nights sleep (consistent bedtime, reduce screens before sleep, dark room, etc) I can affect a positive change as well. Which is super encouraging.

Regulating your Daily Exertion

Your ability to engage in high intensity activity is meaningfully impacted by your previous night’s sleep. This can be with regards to exercise, adventure or just normal life. The more rested you are, the more strain and challenge you are capable of effectively undertaking.

What I have found is that my Readiness Score gives me a good indication on which days I should “crush it” at the gym and which days I should “back off.” If I try to really workout with intensity on a day with a super low score I am often frustrated with my ability to perform and have sometimes even found that I am more prone to injury. Conversely, when I have a day with a high Readiness Score it is an opportunity for me to try and really make the most of it and get some work done.

This regulation of your activity level has really helped me to keep a more consistent exercise regime where I don’t get frustrated by the off days as much, and really can make fitness gains on the good days.

Conclusion

Your readiness score is available immediately after each night’s data is analyzed. Simply tap in the top right corner, on the heart shaped icon.

I have found Readiness Score to be super helpful during its development, and I hope it will help you too. It has altered how I think about my sleep and fitness regime, and encouraged me to make meaningful changes to improve my health.

Sleep++ is free on the App Store.

David Smith




Wearing an Apple Watch in Glencoe

A little while back I wrote about how I wished there was an Apple Watch that got battery life similar to what an “adventure watch” could get. In my case I was comparing it to the Coros Apex Pro, which gets battery life that you measure in days, rather than hours.

Well, I just got back from a trip up to the highlands of Scotland where I went on a 3 day hiking & wild camping trip. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to put the new 45mm Series 7 Apple Watch through its paces and see how it performs as an adventure watch.

My hope going into this trip was that it would do reasonably well. While it only has a rated battery life of 7 hours for outdoor GPS workouts…these tests are performed with the screen’s super bright Always-On display active. I wondered if turning this off (via Theater Mode) would mean that it would be able to last significantly longer than what it was rated as. I also put the watch in Airplane Mode, in case that helped too.

The result was surprisingly solid. For a day where I tracked a 16mi hike over the course of 5½ hours, the watch only used around 27% of its battery. This was using the built-in workout app with route recording active. So it uses around 1.7%/mile. On my second day I put it in ‘Power Saving Workout’ mode, which doesn’t record heart rate data as quickly. This used 23% for a 14mi hike, or around 1.6%/mi…which was actually less of a difference that I’d have guessed. So I just left it in regular workout mode from then on.

For comparison the Coros watch I was wearing on my other wrist did the entire 3 days/45miles of the trip using only 20% of its battery (around 0.4%/mile) so still dramatically better.

What gives me some excitement about this experience is that it seems clear that an Apple Watch can already make a solid companion for a long backpacking trip. When I set off I was expecting to have to charge it completely every day, but in reality it is more like every third day. Which gets it under my threshold for consideration for use. Especially since bringing it means that I now have a fully programmable computer on my wrist.

For me this meant that I could write a watch app to display UK Ordnance Survey maps right on my wrist with live GPS and compass information. This made wayfinding way simpler and less cumbersome.

It is becoming clear to me that Apple has chosen to spend their battery budget on illuminating a power hungry Always-On display. This makes sense, and I love the display on the Series 7 in daily use—there is now hardly any difference between the ‘dimmed’ and ‘bright’ display modes. Delightfully, an unpublicized corollary to this is that if you turn off the display, the possible battery life is now massive.

David Smith