What to expect at WWDC on Monday
The weekend is all that stands between us and one of the biggest news days on the annual Apple calendar.
In the days leading up to an Apple event, rumors are flying all over the place, and it can be difficult to parse through them to get a good sense of what to reasonably expect from the event itself. So let me offer some advice: It’s fun to speculate and make informed guesses about what’s coming, but it’s important to embrace uncertainty. Years ago when I worked for Apple, I can’t tell you how many times I’d talk with a customer who was unshakably certain that some new product was coming at the next event. Many times they were wrong. Or maybe the product they were waiting on did come, but not for months or years after they were expecting it to. So with that in mind, let’s manage expectations a bit.
First, remember that WWDC stands for “Worldwide Developers Conference.” The keynote itself is meant to be non-technical enough to appeal to any of us watching, but the primary purpose of the conference as a whole is get developers excited about new features and development tools coming to Apple’s various software platforms.
So on Monday we’re going to get previews of the major new features coming to iOS 16, iPadOS 16, tvOS 16, watchOS 9, and macOS 13. There’s been a lot of talk about iPadOS 16 getting enhanced user interface tools that come into play when the iPad is connected to a Magic Keyboard. True windowing has been a heavy rumor. The idea is that when you attach an iPad to a Magic Keyboard, you’d get the ability to have your apps in Mac-like distinct, resizable windows. If this is true, I’m really curious to see how Apple implements it. I have concerns about how well such a UI scheme would work on an iPad Air or 11-inch iPad Pro.
As for iOS 16, here’s Mark Gurman of Bloomberg:
Apple is planning major enhancements for the lock screen, including wallpapers that have widget-like capabilities. Further, I’m told iOS 16 builds in future support for an always-on lock screen, something Apple was originally planning for last year’s iPhone 13. This would allow the iPhone to turn down the frame rate significantly on the lock screen and display quickly glanceable information—similar to newer Apple Watches.
One thing to keep in mind with this always-on Lock Screen is that it will probably be limited to the next generation iPhones, and probably only the iPhone 14 Pro, and not the iPhone 14. It’s possible that it could come to the iPhone 13 Pro’s display since it has a variable refresh rate display, but many believe that the refresh rate on the iPhone 13 Pro’s display can’t go low enough to enable always-on. So if you’re rocking an iPhone 13 (non-Pro) like me, or an earlier iPhone, this is probably not something we’re going to get.
I’m particularly interested in see what Apple does with watchOS. I don’t have a prediction, but what I’d like to see them do is add more advanced exercise and body-status tracking like Whoop’s Recovery feature, and more advanced social sharing features. Again, I think that’s something that Whoop is doing much better than Apple at the moment. (If it sounds like I’m being hard on Apple Watch, keep in mind that while Whoop has some better specific health-tracking features, Apple Watch is a better overall wrist computing device.)
Ok, but what about hardware? We’re not going to see a new iPhone at this event, as that has been a Fall event for the last several years. We may see the announcement of Apple’s long-rumored VR headset product. (I wrote in detail about that on Wednesday, and you can read that here if you missed it.) However, I’m skeptical that Apple will announce that product at this year’s WWDC. I think when it comes, it’ll either have its own event, or be a big part of a hardware-specific event rather than a developers conference.
I think we will get some hardware, and I think it’ll be Mac hardware. The three most likely candidates are a redesigned MacBook Air, an Apple Silicon-based Mac Pro, and a higher end Mac mini running on a variant of Apple’s M1 family of chips (likely an M1 Pro). Since I’m presuming the redesigned MacBook Air will ship with Apple’s forthcoming (and thus far unannounced) M2 chip, whether or not we see it on Monday will depend on the readiness of that new chip. While I’m holding this opinion quite loosely, I think the Mac we’re most likely to see is a new Mac Pro. It’s the last Mac that has yet to transition to Apple Silicon from Intel, and it would make sense to release a niche, high-end workhorse machine at an event like WWDC. (I wrote a column recently with lots of detail on the potential timelines and details of these new Macs, and you can read that here.)
I typically release new columns on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but given that the WWDC keynote is Monday morning (or early afternoon depending on your U.S. timezone), my plan will be to instead release a recap column on Tuesday morning. Sometimes there are late pre-event leaks, so if something juicy comes out, I may sneak out a column over the weekend. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what Apple has in store for us on Monday, and to writing all about it afterwards!
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