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HomeTechnologyThe apps that Apple Sherlocked at WWDC 2024

The apps that Apple Sherlocked at WWDC 2024

Apple has been on a spree of late, announcing a host of new features for its various devices earlier this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).

But a lot of those features were already available to some extent on Apple devices through third-party apps. So, just like the past few years, we will examine the ideas that Apple “Sherlocked” in this year’s updates.

But what do we mean that Apple “sherlocked” something?

In the late ’90s, Apple launched a search app named Sherlock for macOS 8 that you could use to search the web and files on local systems. Now, a company called Karelia Software already had a $29 search app called Watson, with features like plugins for better internet search. In 2002, Apple released Sherlock 3 with features similar to Watson, making Karelia’s app redundant. Since then, people in tech circles have used the term “Sherlocking” whenever they want to refer to a new feature from Apple that does the same thing as an existing third-party app.

Feature: The new password app

Sherlocked apps: 1Password, LastPass, BitWarden, Proton Pass

Apple is launching a new standalone password manager for iOS 18, iPadOS 18, macOS Sequoia, VisionOS, and Windows. You did have a password manager until now, but it was contained inside a sub-menu in the Settings app.

This new app will essentially do the same thing as third-party password managers, which might see fewer new users as some people might just choose to use the in-built password manager now. However, most third-party apps in this space also offer apps and integrations across Android, Windows and Linux, and can store other information like addresses and credit cards.

Feature: Call recording and transcription

Sherlocked apps: TapeACall, Truecaller

Apple has finally introduced native call recording and transcription inside the Phone app. While apps like TapeACall and Turecaller have offered call recording for a while now, you had to call another number to activate that. The reason for this was that Apple didn’t allow third-party companies to access its calling stack.

Feature: Voice transcription

Sherlocked apps: Otter, AudioPen,

Apart from call transcription, Apple will also offer voice transcription in apps like Notes with the upcoming updates. This takes up the space apps like Otter, AudioPen, and had occupied so far.

Still, third-party apps can do various other things — Otter, for instance, is great for transcribing meetings and video calls, and the AudioPen and offer AI-supported summaries and formatting capabilities. So users will have to choose how much functionality they want out of voice transcription services.

Feature: Mirroring iPhone on Macs

Sherlocked app: Bezel

Apple’s new updates will bring the ability to mirror your iPhone on Mac, letting you control your phone remotely. Users will be able to get iPhone notifications on your Mac device, and easily drag and drop files, photos and videos between devices.

Image Credits: Apple

So far, you had to use Bezel to do this, but it required plugging in your iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch using a cable to mirror the device. The app’s developer has said that with Apple’s update on the horizon, they will evaluate their next steps.

Feature: Window tiling on Mac

Sherlocked app: Magnet, Rectangle

This isn’t exactly a revolutionary feature since Windows and Linux have let you tile windows for years now. On Macs, you had to use third-party apps like Magnet and Rectangle to get the operating system to easily arrange windows in different ways.

Image describing tiling in macOS Sequioa
Image Credit: Apple

Apple is finally baking in this feature into the upcoming MacOS Sequoia, but third-party apps might still be able to retain their users by offering better customization features like different size options for windows, the ability to rearrange workspaces with one shortcut, hiding windows on the edge of the screen, and pinning an app to a side.

Feature: Custom emojis

Sherlocked app: Newji

Another upcoming feature is the ability to create new emoji using prompts and the new AI engine. You can type in prompts like “A fox as a DJ” to create a new emoji. Until now, you could use an app called Newji to do the same thing.

Feature: Custom maps

Sherlocked app: Alltrails

Apple Maps is getting an update as part of iOS 18 that will let U.S.-based users explore national park trails, create custom routes, and save them for offline use. You had to use Alltrails to do all of that so far, but this app’s advantage might be that it already has a community. Plus, it offers routes beyond national parks in other countries, too.

What lies ahead

It’s worth remembering that Apple has to strike a balance here: It has to keep up with the competition from Google and Microsoft, but at the same time, it does make money from the App Store, so it can’t just add features that kill off third-party apps altogether. That said, some of these Sherlocked apps might survive by offering customized or enterprise solutions, but some small-scale indie apps will eventually lose users to Apple.

Image Credits: Apple

One curious anomaly this time is Apple’s Writing Tools suite, that’s being powered by the company’s AI. The App Store currently has dozens of email and note-taking apps that let you change the tone of a written passage, rewrite it, reformat it altogether, or summarize some text. You may even count Grammarly as a Sherlocked app now that Apple’s providing proofreading features as well.

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