WWDC 2018 Preview: What to expect from Apple's biggest show of the year!

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicks off with its traditional keynote on June 4, 2018.. It's returning to San Jose, just a short distance from Apple's Cupertino home and, unless Apple surprises us with a spring event again, it could just be Apple's first keynote of the year.

Typically, WWDC is a software-and-services-only type of affair, with new operating systems and features, but nothing in the way of new hardware. Typically, but not always. Last year was the biggest exception to that rule in recent memory, with updated, Kaybe Lake versions of the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac, an A10 version of the iPad Pro, and the all-new 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

May 30, 2018: Banners are going up at WWDC 2018

It's time. It's banner time.

What is Apple saying about WWDC 2018?

Apple, as always, is talking up the big frameworks from years past but isn't letting anything slip out about what will be new and exciting.

Every year, WWDC provides an opportunity for millions of developers to learn more about how to create new experiences across Apple's platforms for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac and HomePod. A broad range of robust developer APIs, including SiriKit, HomeKit, HealthKit, GymKit, MusicKit, ResearchKit, and CoreML, give developers new ways to help users take command of everything from their health and homes, to how they get around, shop and learn. Last year at WWDC Apple debuted ARKit, and since then, developers with apps in every category on the App Store have embraced inventive ways to engage customers with virtual experiences overlaid in the real world.

iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS: All the new operating systems. All of them.

Major new OS updates are as close to sure things as we get going into WWDC. There'll be a new version of iOS. A new version of macOS. And new versions of tvOS and watchOS as well.

If past is prolog, Craig Federighi will do the honors for iOS 12 and macOS 10.14. Kevin Lynch will walk us through watchOS 5, and Eddy Cue will handle tvOS 12. (If the latter even gets any stage time.)

For software, and iOS 12 specifically, both Axios and Bloomberg have reported that some big new features have been pushed back to next year so Apple can focus on stability and reliability. That includes things like the new Home screen, design, Mail, and Photos, as well as iPad-specific updates.

So what's left? Smarter Siri. HomePod has shown Apple the cost of letting Siri languish so, with Craig Federighi now in charge, Apple has no choice but to redouble — re-quadrupal — it's efforts.

Also, more AI. It's already everywhere in iOS, from battery optimization to suggested apps, but Google isn't slowing down so Apple has to keep up.

For quality of life, which is making headlines lately especially when it comes to kids and to screen addiction, we should see better parent ntal controls and a more granular do not disturb system.

ARKit improvements should include multiperson AR. Apple is still all-in on AR and need to test it as much as possible on current products before it starts rolling out future products.

Facetime isn't getting everything I asked for in my last video, but it should be getting Animoji, because who doesn't love Animoji, right?

Apple bought Texture earlier this year and is working on adding periodicals to its subscription services. Which would be great because Apple News is still stuck in the original three countries which is, post-Google News, embarrassing. (Same for HomePod.) Let's hope the company can pull an Apple Music and get it into most regions, and onto Apple TV and Mac...

Speaking of which, macOS 10.14, rumored to be named Mojave, will be nailing down a lot of the big, under-the-hood architectural changes Apple has been going through over the last few years, everything from the new file system to the new windowing server. We've also seen hints of a system-wide dark mode and a News app. Fingers crossed for HomeKit, though.

The biggest rumor though is a cross-platform framework that would let developers more easily offer apps that work on the Mac as well as iOS. And, of course, it would be great if the Mac App Store redesign were ready alongside it.

watchOS 5 should continue Apple's push into health and fitness, as well as continue to round-out time-keeping, and improve notifications, including the new DND features. Whether or not we get sleep tracking, yoga-style workouts, persistent time, more customizable faces, a Pride Face, and independent streaming API services, we'll have to wait and see.

For tvOS 12, the TV app is becoming increasingly core to the experience Apple wants to deliver, and in addition to the eventual first-party programming, there's still a lot that can be done around news, especially given the direction its going on iOS. We're also still waiting on Dolby Atmos support. And, you know, the ability to have HomeKit do basic things like turn it on and off...

Privacy and security should also be in the spotlight, especially now that, post Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Google, and even Amazon are finally starting to get some pushback.

iPad and Mac: The hardware potentials

Apple doesn't showcase new hardware at WWDC. Except when it does. Rumors were originally hot and heavy that we would see a repeat of last year, but they have since called down considerably.

If there is any new hardware, Phil Schiller and Joz are the best in the business at introducing new atoms for all the new bits to run on, at least when it comes to iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Jeff Williams has been handling Apple Watch when it makes an appearance, and Eddy Cue — Apple TV.

This year, though, rumor has it the new MacBook Air refresh has been pushed back to the fall. Given how broken and buggy Intel's roadmap has become over the last couple of years, it's getting tougher for everyone, including Apple, to accurately predict when and even what chips are going to ship. Same with the Coffee Lake updates to MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac. Mac Pro is still further out and, while Mac mini is still being worked on, it's probably further out as well.

It's been 8 years since there's been a new iPhone at WWDC, so as much as I'd love the second generation SE, I'll only expect it when we see it. Same, at this point, with AirPower and related Air tech.

The new iPad Pros are likewise now being rumored for the fall. Along with the new design language that includes a larger screen-to-bezel ratio, as well as multi-orientation Face ID, better camera systems, and updated internals including the A11 Bionic or its successor.

Read our iPad Pro 3 rumor roundup

Read our MacBook and MacBook Pro rumor roundup

Read our HomePod 2 wishlist

Any more things?

Always more things! AirPower still hasn't shipped, along with the wireless case for AirPods.

Despite the hardware, software will still be key at WWDC. Apple's shown the company can make bold new designs and cutting-edge new features, but also work to revolutionize medical research and patient care, accessibility and privacy.

The devices will get the lion's share of media attention in June, but it's all the new Kits that'll be defining how we use those devices for the next year.

Wait, back up, when is WWDC 2018?

WWDC 2018 starts Monday, June 4 and runs through Friday, June 8.

And it'll be in San Jose again this year, right?

Right. It'll be held at the McEnery Convention Center, 150 West San Carlos, San Jose, CA.

That's in the same area as Apple's current Infinite Loop campus and only a few minutes away from the new Apple Park.

How's San Jose as a venue?

McEnery Convention Center has everything from hotels to restaurants within walking distance. Apple is also working with the city and local businesses to make sure developers have an amazing week during the show.

Based on last year, it'll be the closest thing to an Apple campus for outsiders — at least for a week.

When does registration open?

WWDC is so popular, Apple holds a lottery for the tickets. Registration for the lottery is open now.

Developers can apply for tickets from now through March 22 at 10 a.m. PDT via the WWDC website. Tickets are issued through a random selection process, and developers will be notified of application status by March 23 at 5 p.m. PDT.

You can apply here: https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/register/

Is it worth paying for a WWDC ticket?

WWDC tickets are US$1,599 each, which is a lot of money. Is it worth it? If you want to talk to Apple engineers about issues you have with your apps, go to design labs to get help with your interfaces, or otherwise consult directly with the people who make the SDK and API, then yes.

Is it worth going to WWDC without a ticket?

There are a lot of events that happen around WWDC, and a lot of people who attend without tickets. If you want to hang out and network with other people in the Apple community IRL, WWDC is the way to do it.

If you can't get to San Jose, will WWDC 2018 still be streamed?

More than ever. And not just the keynote. I think that's an area Apple really wants to keep up on, especially considering the convention center can only hold a tiny fraction of Apple's developer base.

In other words, keep your Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad WWDC apps ready.

Where can you find more information on WWDC 2018?

Right here: https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/

Rene Ritchie

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.