Google I/O is done, and so is Microsoft Build — that means Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is the last high-profile software showcase for at least a month. If you’re one to take Apple at its word, this year’s WWDC is shaping up to be the “biggest and best yet,” which leads us to the obvious question: what does the company plan to show off this year?
Short answer: a lot. We totally get it if you’d rather be surprised, but if you don’t mind spoilers about what we’re expecting to see once WWDC kicks off, we’ve got you covered.
WWDC will begin on June 7th with a keynote at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern, where Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s execs will walk us through some of the biggest changes going into iOS, iPadOS, macOS and more. These addresses typically last a shade over two hours, so be sure to block out plenty of time. (Oh, and don’t forget to carve out time to watch our reviews editor Cherlynn Low and UK bureau chief Mat Smith dissect the day’s news after the keynote over on our YouTube channel.)
Of course, there’s much more to WWDC — after all, the show runs through June 11th. There’s just one catch: while WWDC is technically free to attend, it’s only open to registered developers who have shelled out the $100/year fee. That means the event’s many sessions, deep dives, and one-on-one developer labs are off-limits to the public. At the time of publication, Apple is still keeping its full list of sessions under wraps, but don’t worry — we’ll keep you abreast of any big developments that turn up after the keynote.
iOS got a pretty substantial revamp at last year’s WWDC — expanded widget support, a new App Library, App Clips and limited support for changing default apps were just a few of the changes found in iOS 14. Reports suggest we might be looking at a quieter year for the iPhone, but we’d still expect it to get the lion’s share of attention.
The juiciest details we’ve seen so far come from Bloomberg, which claims that — among other things — Apple has revamped the way notifications work in iOS 15. You’ll apparently be able to set an iPhone to deal with incoming notifications differently depending on what you’re doing — say, when you’re driving or sleeping. Bloomberg also suggests that iOS 15 can be set to automatically respond to messages depending on which of those statuses you’ve set. It sounds almost like a spiritual successor to away messages from the AOL Instant Messenger days. As a nerd who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, that’s very exciting.
We’ve also heard that Apple might be gearing up to show off a new look for the iPhone Lock Screen, which would make sense if they’re planning to push the concept of “statuses” or “availability”. That also dovetails with rumors that the iPhone 13 could embrace an Android-style always-on display, a feature that’s only possible because Apple started using OLED screens in iPhones last year.
Now, considering how vocal Apple is about its focus on privacy, I can’t say I’m surprised that the company seems to be building on the App Tracking Transparency work that debuted in the recent iOS 14.5 release. For iOS 15, Apple has reportedly built a feature that shows users which apps are subtly collecting information about them. We’ve also heard that Apple is planning to flesh out iMessage with more social features to help it compete with platforms like WhatsApp, but who knows if that’s going to be ready in time for the update’s fall launch.
Apple has already highlighted a handful of interesting accessibility features coming to iOS 15, including a feature that plays soothing background sounds like rain, crashing waves, babbling brooks, and what Apple calls “bright” and “dark” noise. That might not sound like a big deal, but for people who get distracted very easily — like many of us around here — this might be the iOS 15 feature that gets the most use.