Apple's World Wide Developers Conference. WWDC. Dub Dub if you're OG. It kicks off June 7, 2021 — virtually, because 2021! So, what are we going to see?
Mostly software, mostly
WWDC mostly focuses on software. Mostly. Some years, there's only software. Other years, like the last two years, we get sneak previews of Apple Silicon Macs or the new Mac Pro, and then once in a while, like 2017, Apple just fires everything. New iMacs. The iMac Pro, a new MacBook Pro, a new iPad Pro, all the pros, and the Home Pod.
This year, I still think we'll see some hardware this month, either at an event or just dropped in press releases over the next couple of weeks. And who knows, maybe that'll even include some new, more powerful, more Pro M-series Macs. But I also wouldn't be surprised if Apple just held fire on those, or at least some of those, until WWDC in June, which has been a bit of a home for Apple's more Pro-level, pro-pleasing hardware in the past. But more on that in no-longer Intel hot minute.
Now, the way the software works is that once a year in the fall, just after the current versions go into full release, Apple starts working on the next versions. Greg Jozwiack's — Joz — his marketing org pushes down features they think are important to stay competitive and relevant in the market, things they think will make the iPhone or Mac or whatever more compelling to customers — to sell more. And Craig Federighi, his software engineering org, individual contributors can suggest features they think would be cool as well, and then the SVPs get together, sort through it all, figure out their priorities, their resources, their timelines, and what they think they can get done for the next big beta at the next WWDC in June.
There haven't been a ton of rumors this year, but some people are pointing to new dev icons as hints of a possible new redesign. And while it's been so long since the great flattening of iOS 7, and I'm itching to get some texture and photorealism back, dev icons are just never a good indicator of what the OS will look like. Not back when the Dub Dub app made everyone think iOS 6 would go silver, and not now when Music for Artists or App Store Connect makes everything think iOS 15 is going embossed.
I do hope Apple leans into customization for iOS 15. The Siri Shortcuts hack was super popular, but it's way too much overhead, so having a proper ThemeKit and IconPicker system would be so much better. And just let us put those icons anywhere we want on screen; you're not our design dad.
And, hey, now that we have picture-in-picture, I wouldn't say no to side-by-side… or top and bottom… apps.
For iPadOS 15, I know so many of us want widget and App Library parity with the iPhone. It's trickier because the iPhone Home Screen doesn't rotate, so the grid doesn't change, where the iPad grid changes completely from portrait to landscape, but whether Apple just pins different or goes full-on dynamic, those widgets need to break out of that sidebar.
And I'm never going to not ask for multi-user on iPad either.
We'll also get new privacy and security features because Facebook is going to have to complain about something now that all their App Tracking Transparency has been shot…
watchOS will undoubtedly offer more fitness and health features, maybe even those mental health features we've heard talked about for a while.
What I'm most hoping for from watchOS 8 is for it to go fully, finally iPhone-free. Just like the iPhone shed its Mac and Pac iTunes tether back with iOS 5, having Family Setup get a web portal or whatever so anyone who wants an Apple Watch and just an Apple Watch can get and use just an Apple Watch would be terrific.
For tvOS, most of what I want is just new hardware. An updated A14X beast of an entertainment and gaming machine on the high end and, yes, still, an Apple TV express stick on the low end because TV app for Tizen is… quaint, but being able to plug and play everything from TV to Music to Arcade would be fantastic. Especially when Arcade inevitably joins Game Pass and Stadia on the stream.
That and WebKit for tvOS so I can look up stuff on the big screen web, and a communications stack so I can share apps, respond to messages, you know, every device other than the Apple TV can do. There are rumors of FaceTime, so just green and blue app everything at this point.
Also, all the audioOS stuff, so any new features coming to AirPods, especially Pro and Max, like spatial audio last year, and HomePod mini as well. Plus HomeKit in general. And, yeah, Siri, which honestly just still needs an extreme consistency and reliability makeover.
For macOS 12 — and yes, after over a decade at 10, macOS is now incrementing every year just like the other operating systems, although I'm still low key livid Apple didn't go with macOS 16 last year instead of 11 to preserve the Macs big sibling status over iOS. I mean, show some respect!
But what I would all caps love here is to finally get hand-off fully operational for media. Continuity was announced with iOS 8 and still, over half-a-decade later, so much still feels like a second-class Mac citizen in general, but specifically, I can get up from my Mac and continue an iWork or email on my iPhone or iPad, or even tap to transfer from an iPod mini, but for a movie or show, I still have to manually find the app, launch it, tap the content, hit play, and hope and pray it's synced location… like an animal.
That and get Shortcuts all Catalyzed over the Mac already.
The bigger question is if we'll see rOS, Apple's reality operating system, pre-announced at the show. Apple could easily stick to talking about ARKit, the augmented reality frameworks they've been developing for a few years now, but if a virtual or mixed reality headset is really at all imminent, maybe we see start seeing those actual seeds this summer?
And, of course, the M1X — or whatever Apple calls the higher-end silicon — for the 14 inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, space black Mac mini, and iMacs, small and hopefully large. It might take until the fall for some of them, of course, especially the highest-end ones, but I need those higher performance, higher capacity Macs so damn now.
Beyond the keynote, Dub Dub extends out the entire week, from the State of the Union keynote to all the sessions about all the frameworks to the labs for developers. What are you most looking forward to?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.