First and foremost, WWDC is a developer event. Heck, it’s right there in the name (Worldwide Developers Conference). Like I / O, Build and rest, the show has traditionally been a venue for getting a whole bunch of software devs under one roof to discuss the intricacies of the company’s various platforms. Of course, the “roof” part has changed a bit during pandemic lockdowns, but the core of the show remains the same.
The company’s operating systems will be the centerpiece for the week, starting with the kickoff keynote on Monday, June 6 at 10 am PT. That means we’re almost certainly going to hear the latest on iOS / iPad OS, macOS and watchOS, as well as some wildcards like tvOS.
WWDC hasn’t historically been a huge event for hardware, but we’ve been surprised before. After all, it’s well positioned between the company’s spring and fall events, which makes it an ideal stage to announce some new stuff.
With all that in mind, here’s what we know, what we think we know and a little wild speculation thrown in for good measure.
iOS / iPadOS 16
As always, we’re starting with the no-brainer here. We’re definitely getting a peek at the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. The first look at iOS 16 will likely arrive with an early developer beta – meaning if you have an Apple dev account, you can get access, not long after the keynote (download at your own risk, of course).
Sarah recently wrote about some early rumors originally published by Bloomberg. Per early versions of the operating system, which were produced under the code name “Sydney,” expect a fairly big upgrade here, following significant changes from iOS 14 and 15. The biggest changes are apparently in store for the lock screen, notifications, Messages and Health.
As we noted, Apple has not fully utilized the lock screen in previous upgrades. It’s really just the domain of the date and time. This update could bring some widgets to the real estate, by way of the “Today View,” including key bits of information like weather, calendar entries and shortcuts to favorite apps, beyond the existing camera and flashlight buttons. Sarah notes:
This change could be beneficial to app developers who support widgets, as it gives them another shot at grabbing users’ attention in a high-profile area. Plus, it would give the homescreen customization app developers a way to extend their offerings. That is, users could now download full theme sets with sets of widgets designed both for the lockscreen and homescreen, along with matching wallpapers and icon themes.
The features appear to be setting the stage for a version of the iPhone 14 with the sort of always-on display currently offered on the Apple Watch and some Android handsets. You’ll have to wait until the fall event to get a look at those devices, of course.
A new version of the Messages app is said to be getting more social functionality, as well as new audio messages functionality. The iPhone’s Health app is also reportedly getting some new features, though those are still TBD at the time of this writing.
iPadOS, meanwhile, could be getting multitasking improvements designed to make the tablet operating system more competitive with laptops. That could include an improvement to the way iPads handle application windows for a more desktop-style experience that could further separate the OS fork from its mobile counterpart. This could ultimately shape up to be a big year for iPadOS, which has largely been served as a kind of larger screen version of iOS since the company first separated the two exactly three years ago, tomorrow.
Now that the iPad Pro and Air are both rocking the same M1 chip introduced for Mac, the timing is right to further unlock some of the tablets’ potential here. While it’s true that some have already switched from laptop to tablet, the iPad currently leaves much to be desired as a daily driver. If Apple ends broadening the devices’ capabilities on that front, however, the question remains just how blurry the line will get between iPadOS and macOS, going forward.
We’re working with the extremely fun potential name Mammoth here. The potential name for lucky macOS 13 is among those for which Apple applied for a trademark some years back. In addition to being an extinct elephantid, Mammoth is also a region of the Sierra Nevada, which is in keeping with the last few macOS versions. Early rumors of the new OS aren’t the most exciting in the world, but will include a long-awaited update to the Settings app, as well as revamps to some key Apple apps.
That second bit makes sense, as the company is further blurring the lines between iOS and macOS for developers and users alike. The list potentially includes old standbys like Mail, Safari, Podcasts and Notes.
watchOS 9 and tvOS 16
Things start getting even thinner here. watchOS is expected to get some key features like new faces for the larger display, as well as an improved low power mode. Honestly, that second one is important. Battery is still a big issue with the Apple Watch compared to the competition. Hopefully software improvements coupled with a larger battery can help make the device more competitive on that front when the Series 6 rolls around.
tvOS remains a big question mark, especially after the operating system got virtually no love at last year’s event, beyond the addition of spatial audio. Likely we won’t see the long-rumored debut of homeOS, but tvOS will probably be getting some key home automation updates nonetheless.
Here’s where things get (even more) fun. With the move to first-party silicon, the new Macs have been coming in hot over the last couple of years. After the release of M1 and its (many, many) subsequent iterations, word is that the newer, more powerful M2 chip is around the corner. If that happens, it will almost certainly bring new hardware. A new MacBook Air has been rumored, as it has a long-awaited camera upgrade stuck inside a MacBook Air – style screen notch. Fun, if less-founded rumors have pointed to iMac-style colors for Apple’s thin and light as well.
A new Mac Pro isn’t on the list, but that would be an interesting wrinkle – especially considering what Apple would have to execute on the chip front to really pull apart from the pack. Ditto for a new version of the bygone iMac Pro.
If Apple really wants to make a splash, it will offer a glimpse at its long-rumored headset. AND trademark application for realityOS seems to suggest that the AR / VR wearable combo could be announced sooner rather than later. The company has also been rumored to be showing the system off to shareholders. All signs point to a 2023 release, however, which would mean – best-case scenario – nothing more than a “one more thing” style glimpse at what’s to come.
As ever, TechCrunch will be bringing the news to you as it happens.