What to expect from Apple's WWDC keynote next week

Don't hold your breath for new hardware this time.

Updated ·4 min read

Apple's grand convocation of geeks -- also known as the Worldwide Developers Conference -- is set to kick off next Monday smack in the heart of San Francisco. We'll be liveblogging the keynote starting at 1 PM Eastern/10 AM Pacific, but really, who wants to go into a situation like this blind? No one, that's who. Curiously enough, the rumor mill has been churning more quietly than usual. It's tough to say whether Apple is doing a better job keeping its juicy WWDC details under wraps or if this is just a low-key keynote compared to previous years. We do know some things, though, so take a few moments to get caught up -- and be prepared for some possible last-minute surprises.

Another year, another version of iOS, right? Well, maybe not. Apple Music is widely expected to get an overhaul that trims down the visual clutter. 9to5Mac also points to the inclusion of new 3D Touch gestures and a new "Browse" tab that replaces the lackluster New section that's currently there. Too bad the social network-y Connect is apparently going to live another day -- maybe people are more eager to "interact" with artists than we thought.

Apple Pay is also expected to work in-browser, tapping into your stored payment information to complete online transactions. Google said it was working on the same feature for the forthcoming Android N release at I/O -- let's see who can get there first. Speaking of payments, one of the more out-there rumors we've heard is that this iOS update will bring with it the ability to send money to people using Apple Pay. It's not a new idea, but it's not impossible, either. A move like this would almost certainly get people using Apple Pay as a sort of Venmo replacement, but making money off those transactions is a tricky proposition.

Otherwise, iOS 10 is shrouded in mystery. Apple is rumored (and it's a pretty flimsy rumor, at that) to announce iMessage support for Android users on Monday. And noted Apple reporter Mark Gurman pointed to the possibility of a tweaked iOS interface, including "updated notifications." What does that mean though? No idea. Stay tuned for more on Monday.

Details on Apple's new OSX update are pretty scarce. To start, the company might reveal an improved version of its Photos app for Macs. It's about time -- although the app has gradually gotten more tolerable, it still lacks some of the niceties that old-school iPhoto had. More importantly, Apple's digital assistant is finally expected to make the leap from iPhones and iPads to Macbooks as part of OS X 10.12 [insert California landmark here], an update that's expected to drop later this fall. If that name feels a little unwieldy, well, you're not alone. Recent reports also suggest Apple will also rebrand its desktop operating system macOS, dropping the "X" that's been part of the platform's name since 2001.

The macOS moniker first made an appearance in the company's Earth Day 2016 promotional materials, and WWDC would be an ideal place to announce the shift in branding. Still, it seems like a big change to announce alongside what seems like an incremental update.

The Apple Watch has received a steady stream of software updates over the past year, the most recent of which arrived around three months ago. The timing seems ripe for another major update -- watchOS 2 was first announced a year and two months after the Apple Watch's launch -- but the rumor mill has been terribly quiet. The same could be said about Apple's tvOS: We got the sweet revamped Apple TV last year, and the software powering it doesn't seem like it's going to receive a major upgrade. In fact, Apple pushed out a beta build of tvOS 9.1.1 just days ago (spoiler: It's just security enhancements) so don't expect much stage time devoted to this stuff.

Price cuts and rumors have fueled dreams of new devices at WWDC, but it might be best to stay pessimistic. Mark Gurman recently suggested that there wouldn't be any new hardware at WWDC at all, a revelation that should only come as a shock if you forgot what the show was called. In recent years Apple has gotten more comfortable revealing new machines at WWDC, but it's certainly not a guarantee; the last time Apple used this event to unveil new Macs was back in in 2013.

There's also no denying that the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro lines are due for refreshes -- the latter is rumored to get an OLED touchbar later this year -- but don't expect any news on Monday. Gurman also said the standalone 5K monitor we've been hearing about isn't going to be unveiled at the event either; for now, the only way to get an Apple screen of that caliber is to buy an iMac. That said, Apple? Please prove us wrong about this.

iOS 10

WWDC 2016: What should you expect?
WWDC 2016: What should you expect?

A new Mac OS

watchOS and tvOS

About that hardware...