While the bulk of coverage from Apple’s two-hour WWDC 2024 conference was dominated by its AI revamp, the first 60 minutes of the big event was largely AI-free. During this time, the company also made several noteworthy announcements about its future strategy in other areas including iOS 18 privacy upgrades, broadened satellite capabilities and much-awaited Rich Communication Services (RCS) compatibility for messaging.

Here are five things you might have missed from the big event:

Satellite:  Apple announced plans to expand its satellite-based offering, with iOS 18 users able to send messages when they do not have access to mobile connectivity or Wi-Fi. The move builds on its announcement in 2022, when it enabled the iPhone 14 to offer emergency messaging services through satellite (via a partnership with Globalstar). Ian Fogg, director of network innovation at CCS Insight, said Apple “was setting the bar” in extending smartphone satellite connectivity to include person-to-person messaging, an offering that mobile operators and other device makers will wish to match. While Apple is yet to reveal launch details or if it will charge for the service, Fogg believes the biggest question lies in what this network innovation from Apple means for everyone else, with most “mobile operators accustomed to providing connectivity to users”.

RCS: Staying with messaging, Apple finally pulled the trigger and stated its Messages app will support RCS in iOS 18. The move was widely expected and comes after pressure from heavyweights including Google and Samsung, which have argued Apple’s support for the messaging standard will improve communications between iOS and Android users. In effectively replacing SMS, RCS is designed to enable better features including the sharing of higher-resolution images and videos, group chats and location sharing. In perhaps a sign it has adopted the standard reluctantly, Apple mentioned its RCS move in passing among many other points during its Messages presentation, giving it little fanfare. However, the news was welcomed across the operator community, with BT Group product manager Catherine Maguire, who also worked on the product’s initial offering at the GSMA, stating it was a gratifying day for those who had experienced the highs and lows of RCS over the past nine years.

Tap To Cash: “Continuing on our journey to replace your physical wallet, we’re introducing Tap to Cash, a quick and easy way to exchange Apple Cash without sharing phone numbers or email addresses,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering. The feature essentially allows two users of iOS 18 and WatchOS 11 to use AirDrop to transfer cash to each other, working in the same way the feature is used to transfer contacts, images and video.

Private apps: Among the many new features developed in iOS 18, a standout is the ability for iPhone users to lock and even hide apps. Apple claims the option to add Face ID or passcode security to individual apps can give users peace of mind when letting someone else borrow their phone. The privacy can extend to hiding a certain app, storing it away in a hidden folder in the App library. Paolo Pescatore, PP Foresight CEO, said these features, along with improvements to the iPhone Control Centres which allows developers to add controls using a new API, is all part of an underlying theme of “customisation”. “These are all undoubted crowd-pleasers. Adding security to apps is a long-awaited feature which brings iOS on par with rival platforms. One that builds on Apple’s strength in providing users with added security in mind for specific apps.”

Vision Pro: Speculation has raged since Apple launched its $3,500 Vision Pro headset about when it would extend availability outside of the US. Apple confirmed the spatial computing device will be available in Greater China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore from 28 June, before reaching the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Canada on 12 July. In September, it will also launch VisionOS 2, promising more features including the ability to create 3D images which add depth to 2D images along with capacity for a larger Mac display. Leo Gebbie, principle analyst and director for the Americas with CCS Insight, said there were no major tweaks in VisionOS 2, which “wasn’t surprising as the device only launched in February”.