WWDC 2019: How to Build the Best Product Strategy for iOS 13, watchOS 6, and iPadOS

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iOS 13, watchOS 6, iPadOS — What impacts and opportunities do product owners really need to know about everything Apple unveiled at WWDC 2019? Read on.

While Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is always exciting and informative, the WWDC 2019 conference was particularly jam-packed with new updates, capabilities, and ideas worth knowing about. Of course, most product owners don’t have the time to sift through four days’ worth of video presentations, or the hundreds of reaction articles that come out in the weeks that follow.

That’s exactly why Distillery has pulled together summaries of many of the most important updates from WWDC 2019. We’ve watched it and read it so you don’t have to.

With that in mind, what do product owners really need to know about iOS 13, iPadOS, watchOS, and the other new capabilities unveiled at the Apple WWDC 2019? And what impacts and opportunities do all these changes mean for product strategy and development? Finally, what does your business need to do to be ready for iOS 13’s release this fall? Read on.


Sign in with Apple

What is it? This is Apple’s new single sign-on (SSO service) protected with biometric two-factor authentication, a feature that largely hasn’t been adopted by other SSO services. It offers users with Apple IDs two options: either log in using their actual email addresses, or auto-generate a unique email address. Sign in with Apple ultimately wants users to be able to use it anywhere — on all iOS devices and apps, the web, and even on Android or Windows.

What does it mean? It means more privacy and security for users.If users elect to have Apple auto-generate a unique address, website or application developers/owners won’t receive their actual email addresses. Apple will serve as an intermediary, forwarding any emails from the developer/owner to users’ actual email addresses. Importantly, Apple has sworn that it will never track or profile users. In addition, there’s no password to forget or steal.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities? 

  • Required implementation. Any product using third-party authentication will be required to add Sign in with Apple. It’s available cross-platform as a JavaScript SDK.
  • Verified authentication. Sign in with Apple alleviates the need to use third-party authentication options.
  • Improved product UX. It’s convenient, fast, and entirely respectful of users’ privacy. Apple is not only protecting users’ email addresses but giving them confidence that they won’t be profiled or tracked. In addition, when using Sign in with Apple, developers can be certain they’re receiving verified email addresses, so it’s no longer necessary to send email verification messages.

Location Privacy

What is it? iOS 13 gives users more fine-tuned control over location data shared with applications. Now, users can choose whether to grant applications one-time access, or access anytime the app is used. They’ll be notified when an app is using location data in the background, and new controls and API changes will keep apps from non-consensually accessing location data while users are on WiFi and Bluetooth.

What does it mean? Through all these privacy changes, Apple is positioning itself as the tech giant that really cares about ensuring user privacy. Now, it’s truly up to users to decide how much location information they’d like to share. Also, the ongoing notifications keep location privacy top of mind and in users’ control.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Ensuring app support for all modes. Make sure your app supports all location-sharing modes (e.g., “always allow,” “only while the app is active”).
  • Careful evaluation of product location data strategy. How will your planned or existing product be impacted if users are hesitant to share location data? If your app requires ongoing access, how can you create UX and messaging that helps users feel secure?

Data Privacy for Kids

What is it? Any apps in the kids’ category of the App Store are no longer permitted to include any third-party advertising or analytics software. This wasn’t announced on stage at WWDC, but it’s an important policy change worth understanding.

What does it mean? Apple’s strengthened commitment to privacy extends to making sure children are protected from outside tracking and targeted advertising. Previously, Apple’s guidelines were much more lax, banning only “behavioral advertising” based on user activity. So it was actually pretty common for app developers to integrate data-tracking software, even in kid-focused applications.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Required compliance. If developers don’t adhere to these guidelines, their apps will be removed from the App Store. They could even face permanent expulsion from Apple’s Developer Program.
  • More user researchGoing forward, product development efforts for kids’ apps are likely to rely more heavily on actual user research.
  • The ability to showcase your app and business as respectful of kids’ privacy. Apple is differentiating itself from the competition by taking actions to ensure true privacy and security for users. Following their example will not only keep your kid-focused app on the App Store, but align you with Apple as a privacy champion.


Voice Control for Mac

What is it? The latest version of macOS, Catalina, allows users to control their Macs entirely with their voices. (Apple has indicated that this change is also coming to iOS.) They’ve improved dictation and editing features, and created more comprehensive commands that enable voice to open and interact with apps. Grids and numbers can also be used to allow users to work in apps.

What does it mean? For users who either can’t — or don’t prefer to — use more traditional inputs (e.g., keyboard, mouse, touch), writing and using applications via voice just became easier and more efficient. This is a clear step forward for accessibility, effectively removing or lowering barriers to usage for users with motor limitations.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Expanding your product’s user base. Can your existing or planned macOS app use these new capabilities to allow control entirely via voice? You now have the potential to serve an underserved market.
  • Opportunities to dream up new products that embrace these capabilities. This update changes what’s possible with voice control. What possibilities can you imagine?

SiriKit Media Intents

What is it? SiriKit Media Intents are new in iOS 13, which means that Siri’s capabilities have expanded yet again. With iOS 13’s SiriKit, users can now ask Siri to tune to their favorite radio stations and play other audio (e.g., music, podcasts, audiobooks).

What does it mean? Users can control audio in a whole new way, including searching, stating preferences (e.g., “I like this song”), adding to playlists, and controlling play (e.g., “shuffle,” “play at double speed”). To take advantage of these new capabilities, however, users must speak the right SiriKit Media Intents, and developers must include the right intents and search terms.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • The need to embed the right search terms and Siri Intents. Your app must be programmed to make the most of these capabilities. You’ve also got to make sure your app helps users to quickly and clearly understand which intents they should use to activate which functions.
  • Enhanced UX for audio-based apps. Give users a new way to control how they interact with your product.
  • New opportunities for CarPlay apps. iOS 13 also gave CarPlay an overall better look/feel and improved UI. SiriKit Media Intents can be used to create apps that better support CarPlay.

UX Design And Engineering

Dark Mode

What is it? Apple’s Dark Mode provides a dark color scheme UI option that’s ideal for low-light environments and better for eyes.

What does it mean? Dark Mode can save battery life and make it easier for users to continue using their phones at night or in dark environments. All apps linked against the iOS 13 SDK will be assumed to support Dark Mode. Third-party developers can use an API to implement Dark Mode in their apps.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Dark Mode UI options for your apps (duh). The API will make Dark Mode implementation pretty simple. That said, you’ll want to test your UI in both light and dark appearances, both when adopting Dark Mode and when adding new features. In addition, it’s probably a good idea to adopt “Colors” in “Asset Catalogs” (available since iOS 11) if you haven’t already.
  • Improved UI. Many users will simply prefer the aesthetics of the Dark Mode UI.
  • Improved accessibility. For some users, Dark Mode will be appreciated as an accessibility feature. Light text against a dark background makes text easier to read, especially in low light.
  • Opting out. If you’re linking your app to iOS 13 SDK but Dark Mode doesn’t make sense for your app, it will be possible to wholly or partially opt-out.


What is it? SwiftUI is an entirely new framework built in Swift. It lets developers share code between Apple’s different platforms. It also lets them write significantly less code, instead, using a more natural, declarative, Swift syntax. It also has a “live development” mode.

What does it mean? Apple is taking a massive step in unifying development across platforms. It’ll be much easier to build new apps — or rewrite existing apps — to run on all Apple platforms. In the short term, developers and product owners are likely to use Project Catalyst to bring existing apps to the Mac. But we anticipate that SwiftUI will be the standard choice for building Apple platform UI in about two years’ time. In our view, SwiftUI is one of the most exciting announcements to come out of the Apple WWDC 2019. SwiftUI goes hand in hand with the Combine framework for working with asynchronous events. We’ve already been using reactive frameworks for a couple of years, but it’s great to see that Apple also thinks it’s a great way to build apps.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Greatly simplified app development workflow. If you start developing a new app now — and you can afford not to support iOS versions below iOS 13 — you can move forward with SwiftUI to build your app for all Apple platforms.
  • Faster, easier, more intuitive development. The framework solves many of the common pain points of building UI. It’s declarative and highly composable, and reports indicate that it’s really fast. It will eliminate a ton of boilerplate.
  • Increased productivity. SwiftUI’s live preview feature lets you see the changes to the UI while you’re editing the code, which should be an enormous boost to productivity.

Apple Ecosystem

watchOS 6

What is it? watchOS 6 is an updated operating system for the Apple Watch that has its very own App Store. During WWDC, Apple showcased new watch faces with more personalization options and health features, as well as more native apps (e.g., calculator, Audiobooks, voice memos). They also debuted the Taptic Engine, which powers silent, tapping notification of the hour directly on your wrist. They’re also promising extended runtime for apps designed for session-based use.

What does it mean? Since users will be able to buy and install apps directly on their watches, it’ll be easier to market watch apps. More importantly, watch apps will operate independently from the iPhone. Apple has promised new developer tools and a new native UI framework, too.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Watch-only apps. Developers will no longer have to build companion iPhone apps for watch apps. And, with the new developer tools and framework, it’ll be easier to build watchOS 6 apps.
  • Better watch application UX and performance. Developers will be able to configure apps specifically for the watch.
  • More use cases for audio-based watch apps. The AVFoundation framework powers streaming audio, so the playing field just expanded exponentially for watch apps integrating media.
  • Potential to capitalize on extended runtime. WatchKit offers background sessions that let apps keep running even if users have stopped interacting with them. Check out Apple’s summary of session types with expanded opportunities.


What is it? iPadOS is a dedicated operating system for the iPad. As showcased at WWDC, it offers up several new workflow-enhancing capabilities. Users will now have the ability to use multiple apps in split view or slide over and to open/view two windows of the same application simultaneously. An exposé function provides a quick view of everything users have open. A refreshed home screen allows users to add widgets. In addition, it’s now possible to connect iPad Pros with external hard drives, USB drives, and SD card readers, and the Sidecar functionality allows the iPad to serve as a secondary display for a Mac. iPadOS also provides true desktop-quality browsing for websites.

What does it mean? The experience of interacting with an iPad finally got its own name. Apple is sending the clear message that working on an iPad is a distinct experience from working on a Mac or an iPhone and should be treated as such by product development teams.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Improved (and opportunity-expanding) widget UX. Widgets have been available on the iPad since iOS 8, but until now they’ve only run as part of its Notification Center. Since widgets can be added to iPad home screens, they’re more convenient to access and use. That makes them a more important consideration in product development.
  • Expanded opportunities for productivity-focused products. For a few years now, we’ve seen a trend of the iPad being used more and more by people and businesses as a productivity tool.  For some people, iPads have replaced laptops. That’s why product owners will be smart to implement app features that capitalize on the new capabilities — things like multi-window support, drag and drop, widgets, and keyboard shortcuts.

Project Catalyst

What is it? Catalyst is an Apple framework designed to help developers bring existing apps to the Mac more easily. For developers working in Xcode, it’ll be as easy as checking a box to automatically create certain fundamental features in the Mac versions of their apps. This is Apple’s short-term answer for helping iOS developers design and build for Macs. (For their longer-term answer, see SwiftUI above.)

What does it mean? For the first time, developers can build a single app that can run on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It’ll be easier than ever to expand to a new Apple device platform.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Increased distribution with minimal effort. Have an iPad app that isn’t seeing as much use and interest as you’d like? You can use Catalyst to convert it to a macOS app.
  • Increased interest in designing for different platforms. For example, we anticipate that Catalyst is likely to raise developer interest in designing for macOS.
  • Potential team integration and refocusing. Product owners no longer have to invest in creating separate teams (or retraining current teams) to develop apps for other Apple device platforms. Instead, you can use the same team to build for all of them. Or you could merge teams, allowing them more time to focus on new feature development (e.g., merge your iOS and macOS teams and ask them to design more features for the iPad).

AR and Machine Learning

ARKit 3

What is it? ARKit 3 is the latest incarnation of Apple’s AR platform. As shown at WWDC, it includes several new features. People Occlusion provides more realistic layering, allowing AR content to pass behind and in front of users. Improved Face Tracking allows tracking of up to three faces at once, and new motion capture capabilities let you use motion and poses as AR inputs. It’s possible to use the front and back cameras to simultaneously track both the user and their world. Live collaborative sessions were also enhanced. Finally, Reality Composer and RealityKit, unveiled in conjunction with ARKit 3, offer a range of improved tools that make it easier to create interactive AR experiences.

What does it mean? Apple plans to be in the AR game for the long term. They’re making a big, strategic investment in AR by making it easier for developers to create more immersive, realistic AR experiences. ARKit 3 even makes it possible for developers without a ton of AR/3D experience to prototype and build AR experiences.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Native ARKit integration. An Xcode app and tool allows native integration.
  • More room to play. If you’ve been toying with adding AR in your app, the barriers to entry just got much lower. With these tools, even less experienced developers can experiment with and build AR. Apple’s AR glasses, in development for years, are expected as early as 2020…
  • Live collaboration opportunities. ARKit 3 allows multiple people to collaborate live on a shared world map. While Apple’s onstage example of Minecraft Earth wasn’t very inspiring, the opportunity is still a big one.
  • Easier motion capture. Motion capture used to be hard work. Those days are quickly vanishing.

Core ML 3

What is it? Core ML 3 is Apple’s latest update to its machine learning framework, which lets developers integrate machine learning models into their applications. Apple’s Core ML is also a foundation for other functionalities, including natural language processing, conversion of audio to text, sound identification within audio, and image analysis. As explained at WWDC, the Core ML 3 update provides on-device machine learning support that wasn’t available before, like support for advanced model types.

What does it mean? Core ML 3 shows that Apple is still laser-focused on expanding machine learning capabilities for enterprise use. That’s where it sees the biggest opportunity, as evidenced by Apple’s integration of Core ML with SAP’s Cloud Platform SDK for iOS.

If you’re new to machine learning: The models used by Core ML result from applying machine learning algorithms to data sets referred to as “training” or “teaching” data sets. You can also feed new data into models to make predictions. This functionality can be used in a wide range of areas, from enterprise (e.g., blockchain, customer service, process automation, collaboration, health care, security) to personal usage (e.g., media and content recommendations, smart devices).

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Easier integration of machine learning into your application. A range of supported training libraries makes it easy to get models to use for machine learning. On-device models are now easier to personalize for users and optimize for app performance.
  • More privacy for users. Since personalization in Core ML 3 all happens on the device, user data stays private, never leaving the device. For example, since real-time transcription is now done on-device for some languages, an app no longer needs to send audio to the server to transcribe it. Instead, right on the device, your application can learn from the data that would be too sensitive to send to the cloud.
  • More customization for users. Machine learning helps the application customize itself. Essentially, users train the models to account for the differences between them.
  • Reduced cost of integrating machine learning. These tools make machine learning integration more cost-effective.

Vision and VisionKit

What is it? Apple’s Vision framework lets developers use computer vision algorithms to perform tasks such as face detection, text detection, barcode recognition, image registration, and general feature tracking. It can also use custom Core ML models to classify and detect objects. VisionKit — not to be confused with Vision — refers to a smaller framework that lets apps use the system’s document scanner via the iOS camera.

What does it mean? While the Vision framework isn’t entirely new, several of its capabilities and features are. And, since Apple has now opened up these frameworks for use by third-party applications, these capabilities and features are now available for developer use.

What are the product strategy impacts and opportunities?

  • Fast access to powerful computer vision modes and techniques. Developers will now be able to use best-in-class, Apple-trained models in their apps, reducing the need to invest time and resources in developing their own models.
  • Ability to integrate robust new imaging features in apps. Given the advances in text detection and recognition, apps will now be able to integrate document scanners. In addition, new Vision features enable the ability to detect image similarity and saliency (i.e., indicating the most important areas of a photo), and provide enhanced abilities for face and landmark detection.

Next Steps for Product Owners to Prepare for iOS 13

So, with all that said, how can you make sure you’re prepared for iOS 13 by fall 2019? What steps should your business’ product owners take to make sure your products are in tip-top shape?

  1. Assess Product Strategy: Given these impacts and opportunities, consider your product strategy(ies). How should you adapt or refine the strategies for your new and existing products? Which new or enhanced capabilities can you capitalize on to increase your audience, optimize performance, or expand your feature set? What changes should be made to ensure that existing apps continue to function well (e.g., Dark Mode, Sign on with Apple)? How will the upgraded tools impact your development process? What new opportunities exist to streamline that process?
  2. Align with Opportunities: The iOS 13 developer beta release is already out, and the final beta, the iOS 13 golden master, will come out a week before the final iOS 13 release (expected mid-September). So, once you’ve assessed your product strategy, the time will be right to align with and prioritize any identified opportunities. What’s the anticipated ROI on each of your short- and long-term opportunities? What’s the level of difficulty, as well as the cost-benefit analysis? What matters most to your users? Are you able to realign any resources? Where do you need help?
  3. Engage the Right Help to Move Forward: If you’ve got the right expertise in-house, wonderful. If you don’t, companies like Distillery can deliver the benefit of their expertise to help you assess, align, prioritize, and strategize the right changes, updates, or new products. If you need help with execution, you can engage a managed or project team, or augment your own team.