Platforms State of the Union

Description: Join the worldwide developer community for an in-depth look at the future of Apple platforms, directly from Apple Park.

  • Can set default mail and browser client
  • 3rd party accessories can join Apple’s Find My network. More info such as how to apply and draft specifications are available at

Apple Silicon

  • All Apple systems apps, including professional ones such as Xcode have already been ported to Apple Silicon
  • Adobe Creative Cloud apps, Microsoft Office app suite, and Unity have already been ported to Apple Silicon and work great
  • Apple is designing new SoCs for the Mac
  • Coming to all lineup in ~2 years top
  • Booting from external drives, kernel drivers, booting linux

Why Transitioning to ARM?

  • better performance per watt
  • More secure
  • Same tech stack as Apple mobile devices
  • Apple owns it
  • Longer battery
  • High performance GPU architecture
  • dedicated neural engine

Getting Started

  • Developer Transition Kit: to start working on bringing support to ARM mac, Apple is offering a development kit, which is a mac mini running on A12Z Soc, 16GB memory, 512GB SSD.
  • Universal App Quick Start Program: developers can apply for the Developer Transition Kit and more resources via

Universal Apps

  • Universal apps work the same way as 32bit/64bit apps worked previously: when installing to a specific device the correct app slice will be downloaded/installed.
  • To build an universal app (supporting both Intel and Apple Silicon), Xcode has a new target called Any Max (Apple Silicon, Intel) which will build the app for both platforms
  • Apple expects a few weeks of engineering effort to adapt apps to Universal Apps Apple Silicon

Rosetta 2

  • Run Intel optimized apps in Arm macs
  • Most apps will be translated at installation, some during the first launch
  • Apps that dynamically load code will be translated on the fly
  • Developers can run an app via Rosetta by selecting the associated target, all Xcode capabilities still work fine
  • Extensions and DriveKit can also be build as Universal Binaries and Universal Drivers: Rosetta 2 cover those that are not yet build this way

Virtual Machine

Running iOS and iPad OS Apps on Apple Silicon

  • While Catalyst helped running iOS/iPadOS apps on a Intel Mac, iOS and iPadOS apps are binary compatible with Apple Silicon, meaning that they work without any change to the binary.
  • iOS and iPad apps do not get all the customizations that catalyst apps have (think Touch Bar, custom menus, ..)
  • All iOS and iPad apps will be available on the Mac App Store (only for Apple Silicon Macs), as long as the app developer has opted-in into this (no further purchase required).

macOS Big Sur

  • New look closer to iOS and iPadOS (as written above, Apple Silicon macs will be able to run iOS/iPadOS apps, which make this design direction understandable)
  • Control and Notification Centers are built in SwiftUI
  • Notification content can be customized the same way as iOS and iPadOS
  • New Sidebar and update toolbar make the UI bigger and more…touch friendly?
  • Apps can define their own accent color via NSAccentColorName
  • New photo permission (allow access to only a few selected photos or all photos)
  • Mac Catalyst has new improvements and more customization to make UIKit apps more native


  • Sidebar: two-column layout, with a swipe it becomes a three column layout, even on portrait mode. It uses current components like NavigationView and List
  • Picker Updates:
    • DatePicker and UIDatePicker: we can now choose a day from a calendar (no more scroll wheel), this component comes also in a compact size (depending on the screen available)
    • EmojiPicker: shows up with the same shortcut as macOS (⌃⌘space)
    • ColorPicker: similar to Xcode color picker
    • ContextMenu have gotten lighter and more fluid
    • PencilKit has gotten some enhancements such as stroke information via the new apis: we can now read angle, pressure attributes and more for all user strokes.



  • need to be written in SwiftUI
  • as they’re on the home screen, they need to be very performant, no live update possible, they’re Archived SwiftUI views (we can think of them as a displayed JSON file that we can update, but it’s user interactive).
  • All of this work thanks to a new WidgetKit framework, structured around timeline entries, each containing a SwiftUI archive with time of the entry and relevance score.
  • When the widget is displayed, no code is run, just our most relevant entry will be shown.
  • Apps can control which entry to use at what time
  • User can create stacks of widgets (to flip through), and iOS offers a Smart stack widget, which will display the most relevant widgets based on the current widget relevance
  • Widgets can provide customizations/settings (without having to go throughout the main app), the settings will be displayed by long pressing on the widget, we need to tell widgetKit what are the possible configurations of our widget.

App Clips

  • light and fast mini apps
  • The card shown in the home screen before opening our app clip contains metadata of our app submitted to the App Store.
  • While displaying the card, behind the scenes iOS is downloading the App Clip
  • App Clips don’t show up in the home screen, but do show up in the App Library
  • App clips can be launched via link, app clip code
  • must be less than 10MB
  • Part of the apps
  • App Clips can show notifications within 8hours of opening one
  • Apple offers an API to make sure the location of where the app clip has been launched is where we expect
  • App clips are new targets in our main app
  • App Clips can be run/tested on Xcode (like other app extensions)


  • SwiftUI can be used for build complication
  • Each app can show multiple complications in each Watch Face
  • Like for other SwiftUI views, we can now have complication previews


  • Refreshed design with the new macOS 11 components like the new Sidebar and toolbar
  • Document tabs
    • Xcode tabs can now contain anything, files, test result etc.
    • We can drag a folder in the tab bar and all the files of that folder will open
  • Testing
    • UI Tests can now read velocity of animations, hitches, and more
    • New StoreKitTest framework, and Store Transaction Manager to use when debugging StoreKit-related events
  • SwiftUI Tools
    • Previews have new toolbar on top of each preview to make changes as if the preview was a view itself
    • code completion up to 12x faster
    • projects views and modifiers can now appear in the Xcode library via a LibraryContentProvider protocol
  • Swift Packages
    • supports assets, localization, and binaries
  • SwiftUI
    • completely additive only changes
    • no migration required for “SwiftUI 1.0” apps
    • The new color picker is build in SwiftUI
    • faster launch and layout
    • smaller code size and memory usage
    • Stacks behave more like a List by prepending them with with Lazy (e.g. LazyVStack)
    • New grid component via LazyHGrid, LazyVGrid, and GridItem
    • MapKit and AVKit support

Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃

Written by

Federico Zanetello

Federico Zanetello

iOS Engineer with strong passion for Swift, minimalism, and design. When he’s not busy automating things, he can be found writing at FIVE STARS and/or playing with the latest shiny toys.