WWDC 2019: Apple Takes On Google, Facebook With ‘Private’ Single Sign-On

Apple has introduced a single sign-on feature intended to rival social media sign-ins, as part of a broader effort to bolster its reputation for protecting users’ privacy.

Industry watchers have to date taken Apple’s privacy claims with a grain of salt, since its iPhone and iPad devices place few restrictions on the tracking activities carried out by apps running on them, such as those of Facebook and Google.

Nevertheless, Apple has been aggressive in seeking to distinguish itself from search and social media rivals whose business models are based on advertising.

The new Sign-in With Apple feature continues that trend, giving users the option of logging in using their Apple ID and their device’s built-in security features.

iOS 13 running in Dark Mode on the iPhone. Image credit: Apple

Single sign-on

Apple makes much of the fact that it doesn’t track its users, and in addition to that, the new feature will give users the option of hiding their email addresses.

If they choose the option, Apple will create a random email address and forward messages sent to it to the user.

CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber said on Twitter the new sign-in feature could give Apple more control over users’ relationship with the web, and was also a “great marketing vehicle” for Apple’s privacy stance.

The analyst firm’s Ben Wood added that the feature would “concern rivals, particularly Facebook and Google, as their single sign-in solutions allow them to track and monetise users’ web activity and tailor advertising”.

“You can bet Apple will push this hard,” Wood added.

Location blocking

iOS 13, introduced at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 2019 and set to roll out this autumn, is to include other privacy features, including an option to force apps to ask every time they want to use location information.

They are to be blocked from using other markers such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals to locate users.

Apple software chief Craig Federighi said Apple’s view is that privacy is a “fundamental human right”.

iOS 13

At the conference, Apple introduced Apple Music, Apple Podcast and Apple TV desktop applications that are set to supplant the 18-year-old iTunes.

A new Dark Mode in iOS 13 is designed to make content easier to view in low light, and a new version of Apple Maps introduces a Street View-style virtual tour feature.

The Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps can now locate Apple devices even if they are offline, using Bluetooth signals.

The Apple Watch has become more independent, with its own app store, and is to receive new apps including a menstrual cycle tracker and a noise level alert to warn users when they’re around noises that could damage their hearing.

Apple is to give the iPad more laptop-like features with its own OS update, now called iPadOS.

The latest Mac Pro, launched at WWDC19. Image credit: Apple

Mac Pro

Apple introduced a new Mac Pro workstation supporting an Intel Xeon chip with up to 28 cores, and a 32-inch LCD monitor with a Retina 6K display and a 1,000,000:1 “Extreme Dynamic Range”, or XDR, contrast ratio.

The new workstation, which users on social media were quick to compare to a cheese grater, due to the prominent grid of circular air vents covering its front and back, is to be priced starting at $5,999 (£4,732) for the most basic model with an 8-core processor, with the Pro Display XDR costing $4,999.

However, the display doesn’t include a stand, which is to sell for an additional $999 when the hardware becomes available in the autumn.

Apple said the workstation could be fitted with optional wheels for added portability.

The Pro Display fited to its $999 stand. Image credit: Apple
Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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