WWDC: Three awesome new Apple features that also protect your privacy


Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on  Monday in San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple critics are already bummed that the company didn't release a new TV or shiny iDevice during its 2014 keynote at the World Wide Developers' Conference. But WWDC has always been mainly about the software, and for fans of iOS and Mac OS X, there's actually a lot to like.

Some of the biggest changes take place under the hood. And this time, Apple has released a handful of software features that promise to improve security without sacrificing ease of use, which is often the tradeoff when it comes to protecting your data. Here's a sampling.

Mindblowingly huge e-mail attachments. The next version of Apple's operating system, Yosemite, will support attachments that are up to 5 GB in size. The attachments will be stored on iCloud and encrypted. Other Mail users will see the files just like any other attachment, but non-iCloud users will see a link that takes them to a download page. It's not clear why you'd need to send a DVD's worth of material by e-mail, but now you can if you want — and they'll be kept safe from prying eyes.

A fingerprint sensor API. Last year, Apple introduced a hardware update to the iPhone that let users sign into their Apple accounts and unlock their devices just by pressing their thumb to the built-in sensor. Now, Apple's making that same hardware available to developers, meaning you'll soon be able to log in and make purchases with your fingerprint on third-party apps, too. The fingerprint itself won't be directly accessible to the apps and will continue to be stored in a special locker inside Apple's A7 processor, said Apple execs. It's another step toward a future where the password no longer has to be memorable (and thus, easy to hack) to be useful.

Support for third-party keyboards. If you've ever used an Android device, chances are you're familiar with virtual keyboards like Swype, a lightning-fast way of entering text. Now, after years of forcing people to use the keyboard that came with the iPhone, Apple is allowing other keyboards onto iOS. This could create potential security vulnerabilities, however. So to protect consumers' privacy Apple will make it so that users can choose whether to give the keyboard systemwide access.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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