It’s time once again for Apple to hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, where it showcases the latest versions of its operating systems for iPhones, Macs, watches, tablets, and TVs.
But what innovations does Apple’s new software bring and is the company planning big surprises? Hardware maybe or even – dare I say it – a VR headset? We’ve combed through the rumors to get an idea of what to expect when Apple’s keynote premieres on June 6 at 1pm ET / 10am PT, and here’s what we found:
iOS and iPadOS 16 could get a fresh coat of paint and better notifications
Prominent Apple rumor reporter Mark Gurman has predicted that iOS 16 will come with “fresh Apple apps,” though it’s a little unclear whether that means new apps from Apple or a new look for existing apps. Gurman also predicts “new ways of interacting” with iOS — I hope that’s a reference to interactive widgets.
For iPadOS 16, he specifically pointed out multitasking improvements that could make the lineup a little better as a laptop replacement.
It’s also possible that Apple will overhaul the notifications system, which could mean the company builds on the Focus modes introduced with iOS 15.
While Apple almost certainly won’t say anything about the iPhone 14, the software features and APIs the company is talking about at WWDC usually offer at least a hint of what its future hardware might look like. If Apple starts telling developers to prepare for a dynamic status bar, that would be a very strong indication that the rumors of the iPhone 14 Pro dropping the notch are correct.
Gurman has also said that iOS 16 could bring an always-on lock screen. That also feels like something that might be tied to the next-gen iPhone, but will have hints of it in the code and APIs. If his predictions of the lock screen getting “widget-like capabilities” are correct, I’d take that as a pretty strong indication that the iPhone 14 will have an always-on display. (In theory, the iPhone 13 Pro’s LTPO screen could also be fine for this particular feature, but Gurman predicts it will be exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro.)
One thing worth watching is which devices are supported by iOS 16 – the iPhone 6S has received six updates, but that will eventually end. Also, keep an eye out for mentions of accessibility updates recently announced by Apple. While they’re already pretty thoroughly detailed, they’ll likely get at least a mention and possibly even a demo. (It would be great to see someone actually using live captions or door detection.)
New versions of watchOS and macOS
As usual, there aren’t many rumors about watchOS, but Apple has been pretty consistent with what it adds to the Apple Watch each year: some new fitness/health features, new workouts to track, and new watch faces. 9to5Mac also reports that there could be an iPhone-like power saving mode that would offer more usability than the current power reserve mode (which basically just shows the time).
We could potentially see the accessibility features Apple previewed earlier this month, including expanded Assistive Touch gestures that let you move your fingers to do things like end a call, take a photo, and control media or to do workouts. Apple also showed off a mirroring mode that lets you see and control your watch’s screen from your phone. Apple said these features will appear in software updates this year, and it seems likely to mean they’ll be in watchOS 9.
As for what the next version of macOS will bring, rumors have been few and far between. There is speculation that it could get the iPhone’s Focus Mode feature and that it could be called macOS Mammoth. Other than that, the only thing we really expect is support for…
Two new Macs
The current rumor (also by Mark Gurman) states that Apple will introduce at least two new computers “around the middle of the year”. That prediction came along with a whole list of computers Apple is reportedly working on, including a new Mac Pro, a completely refreshed line of laptops, and a Mac Mini or two.
Rumors of a redesigned MacBook Air have been circulating for a while, and Apple has promised to unveil a Mac Pro powered by Apple silicon. The latter definitely seems ripe for a WWDC announcement. It’s the conference where Apple gathers a large chunk of its pros and enthusiasts (e.g., the folks who would love a Mac Pro), and it would be odd if it teased the hardware at one event and not the next would announce.
As one of Apple’s most popular computers, the Air wouldn’t look out of place either. On the other hand, a Mac Mini wouldn’t either, especially given the rumors that Apple wants to equip it with an M2 Pro processor.
Oh yeah, about that…
The M2 could make its debut
In the report detailing the potential Macs in the works, Bloomberg also said they will likely feature Apple’s next-gen silicon. While there aren’t many details on what kind of improvements the M2 will bring, what better place to discuss all the technical details than at a developer conference?
As Apple continues to pump out new variations of its chips, they were all extensions of the M1 design it announced over a year and a half ago. The company said it’s done rolling out new M1 chips, so it seems possible that new computers will have to come with a new generation of chips (although prominent analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted the new Air might have an M1 chip).
Apple could announce its long-rumored AR/VR headset
Okay, maybe you shouldn’t exactly “expect” this — it’s more of a “don’t be surprised if it comes up” pick. Pretty much every year people predict that Apple will show off a headset that is currently rumored to be capable of virtual and augmented reality, with an array of cameras (to transmit real-world video), a chip, which is about as powerful as a Mac and dedicated software called RealityOS.
It never really happened, but rumors are circulating that Apple is on the verge of announcing one after years of supposedly chaotic development. According to this report from a couple of weeks ago, Apple’s board of directors recently got to try out the headset, something that has historically happened just before consumers see it.
That report states that Apple plans to launch the headset at WWDC, but there may have been delays that would prevent it. However, Apple could always tease it – some people suspect it has already done so, including a person with glasses in its Memoji iconography for the show.
At the very least, you should expect Apple to be talking a lot about AR and VR. It’s clearly a focus for the company, even if it’s unwilling to show off the hardware. And who knows? Maybe 2022 will be another One More Thing year.