Luke's lean list of what to expect from WWDC 2021

Craig Federighi Wwdc 2020 Privacy
Craig Federighi Wwdc 2020 Privacy (Image credit: Apple)

With WWDC 2021 coming up in a matter of weeks, I have been racking my brain about what I think Tim Cook and company will strut out onto the virtual stage and announce — I've come up a little blank. We know that WWDC focuses on software — although hardware does make an appearance from time to time — so obviously, one can expect to hear all about the newest versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS, but rumors and details about what those updates might be have been pretty scarce this year.

With all that said, I wouldn't classify my expectations for WWDC 2021 as low but rather as lean. Sure, Luke's lean list makes a great title, and the alliteration makes me smile (I am a writer, after all), but it also rings true. I expect WWDC to be a bit lean this year, with a few "star" features and many minor updates that will give developers new tools to use in apps and software, but maybe not as exciting for the average consumer. Here's Luke's lean list of what to expect from WWDC 2021.

iOS 15

How to use widgets on your iPhone Home screen (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

Last year's iOS 14 was a pretty significant update to the iPhone's software. It added Widgets, the App Library, a compact Siri UI, the Translate app, and App Clips were all introduced in iOS 14. It gave consumers and developers a ton of new tools to dive into and play around with, so what's in store this year?

It's been reported that notifications will be getting a "significant" upgrade in iOS 15, including the ability to change the behavior of notifications depending on what you're doing. I think this will probably be the biggest front-facing feature in iOS 15.

The ability to change your notification settings by bringing up a menu to tell your phone you're working, driving, sleeping, or something else will be far more useful than just choosing Do Not Disturb to cover all situations. When you're working, there may be some notifications you want to hear and see — your boss messaging you on Slack, perhaps? But, you might not need to know what memes your friends are sending in the group chat in the middle of the workday.

On top of that, I expect many minor updates to the core apps on iOS like Maps, Siri, Messages, etc. What those changes will be, I'm not too sure.

iPadOS 15

iPadOS 14 (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

I think iPadOS 15 has the potential to make the biggest splash at WWDC 2021, mainly because the iPad Pro (2021) is so dang powerful that iPadOS 15 could really make some cool changes to make use of that power.

The new notifications from iOS 15 would likely also be included in iPadOS 15, and it seems like the iPad may finally get access to using widgets across the entire Home screen. It was weird that iPad OS 14 limited widgets to the "Today" view, unlike the iPhone. There has been the suggestion that Apple wasn't necessarily happy with the way that widgets looked on the iPad, due to even the smallest widget looking fairly large due to the much larger screen, but it certainly plausible that after a year of tinkering, they have figured out a way to do it. It would be cool if you could customize the size of the widgets to your liking, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that feature.

I had mentioned before that iPadOS 15 could be the key to unlocking the potential in the iPad 2021, but the news has been quiet on what iPadOS 15 might bring to the table to make my prediction true. We know multitasking is a huge pain point for people on the iPad Pro, and now would certainly be the best to make it better since the M1 chip should have more than enough juice to revamp a lot of the software. I don't know what's exactly in store, but I'm expecting big things for iPadOS 15.

watchOS 8

Apple Watch Se Watch Faces (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

You can always count on more watch faces when watchOS gets an update, and I expect the same will hold for watchOS 8, but in terms of major features, I'm a little fuzzy on what may be in store for the Apple Watch.

I think the biggest feature I find plausible to be included is some stress monitoring app or capability. With Fitbit and other wearables now offering stress monitoring, it only makes sense for Apple to jump on board the trend. There are a few ways I could see Apple implementing something like this. Personally, I would like to see a revamp of the Breathe app into a more robust mental health-focused app. Heck, I could even see Apple offering a guided mediation service, like Headspace or Calm, in the future. I doubt that would be in watchOS 8, but perhaps watchOS 9 will have Mental Health+? I guess I'll have to hold on to that idea for another year.

tvOS 15

Best Apple TV of 2021 (Image credit: iMore)

Perhaps, I'm a little cynical when I say this, but I expect the tvOS section to go by pretty quickly. I feel like the launch of the Apple TV 4K (2021) was pretty quick and didn't offer anything terribly exciting. The new color calibration was certainly nice, but nothing super ground-breaking, and I expect the same for tvOS 15.

I will say this, I could be very wrong. The Apple TV has been on a pretty old chip for a while, and now that the new Apple TV 4K is packing the A12 Bionic, Apple may have huge plans for a redesign of the tvOS. It certainly couldn't hurt the sales of the newest Apple TV 4K, especially if Apple is hoping to get people to upgrade from the old Apple TV 4K.


Macos Big Sur Preview California Wallpaper Hero (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

Once again, I expect macOS to be lacking any absolutely "huge" new features, as last year's macOS Big Sur was a pretty big update. Of course, I'm sure there will be new features, but details, rumors, and speculation on what those might be are pretty sparse, so I'm drawing a big blank on what could happen for the Mac at WWDC 2021.

Apple Wwdc21 Newsroom Article Tile (Image credit: Apple)

It's entirely possible that a notification update (like I expect to see on iOS) could be coming to the macOS. The trailer and press image Apple used for the WWDC 2021 shows a Memoji looking at an open MacBook with the date Jun 7 on the calendar app reflected their glasses. The app has 21 notifications in the image. Likely just a reference to the date, June 7, 2021, but perhaps it's a tiny hint.

What do you expect from WWDC 2021?

Are you excited for WWDC 2021? Let us know what you expect next month in the comments down below.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.