Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, is fast approaching, so now is a great time to catch up on what the company is expected to announce at one of its most revealing events of the year. In fact, some think that WWDC is the most exciting event on Apple’s calendar. Wired’s David Pierce reports that while there will be no new iPhones, iPads, watches, or MacBooks announced at the event, WWDC will be the most exciting event that Apple holds this year.
That’s because WWDC is the event where Apple shows off all of the new ways you’ll be able to use its phones, tablets, and watches in the coming months. The announcements at WWDC matter if you own an Apple product, because you’ll soon see some of the changes they introduce firsthand, and they matter if you don’t own an Apple product because of the gravitational force that Apple seems to exert on the tech world.
WWDC kicks off on June 8 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the same venue where Google recently held I/O, its annual developer conference, and announced a dizzying array of new projects and products. Up next is Apple’s turn, and it’s expected to reveal much-awaited details about its new mobile operating system, just as Google shared the details of Android M, the next generation of its popular OS. But the next version of iOS, while exciting, isn’t close to everything that Apple has in store. Ahead of WWDC’s keynote, here are the announcements that Apple is expected to make at this year’s WWDC.
iOS 9 is the most exciting and most sure announcement that Apple’s expected to make at WWDC. It’s expected to look and feel different from past versions of the mobile operating system, and will even borrow from the Apple Watch. The font that Apple created for the watch, called “San Francisco,” is expected to be used across the new version of iOS. Support for ForceTouch, the Apple Watch feature that senses the level of force that you exert on a screen or a trackpad, will likely be added to the operating system in anticipation of the company’s new iPhones and iPads.
As Tech Cheat Sheet recently reported, an important focus of iOS 9 will be optimizing and stabilizing the mobile operating system. The new release will fine-tune features that have suffered bugs in iOS 8, and will improve compatibility for older iOS devices. iOS 9 is expected to be compatible with devices that use Apple’s A5 processor, and could offer even better performance on those devices than iOS 8 does. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to investors that the firm expects split screen iOS apps, mass transit directions in Maps, and an app for HomeKit connected home devices to appear at WWDC.
But the headlining new feature is rumored to be an initiative codenamed “Proactive.” According to a report from 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman, the feature will leverage Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Passbook, and third-party apps to create a Google Now competitor that seems a natural evolution of Apple’s Spotlight search feature. It’s an initiative that involved the acquisition of several small developers and the integration of core iOS apps. Gurman notes that while Apple has positioned Siri as an intelligent personal assistant since the 2011 launch of the iPhone 4s, Proactive will go much further to integrate your data.
OS X 10.11
Apple’s new operating system for Macs, expected to be called OS X 10.11, is also expected to be announced at WWDC. Apple has already overhauled the platform’s design, so there aren’t likely to be significant changes on that front. But the new operating system is likely to include the same Maps updates as iOS 9, and another OS X-related rumor indicates that the Mac OS could feature an iOS-inspired Control Center with easy controls for WiFi, Bluetooth, volume, and more.
The biggest feature of the operating system upgrade is expected to be a security system called Rootless. Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that while OS X 10.11’s upgrade list may be slimmer than iOS 9’s, Apple has been working on major enhancements to the security of the operating system. Rootless is described as a “huge,” kernel-level feature for both OS X and iOS. Rootless will prevent even administrative-level users from accessing certain protected files on Apple devices in order to prevent malware, improve the safety of extensions, and secure sensitive data.
With OS X 10.11, Apple is also expected to convert many of its core apps to an iCloud Drive backend. What does that mean for you? The transition will make the process of syncing these apps more secure. Apps like Notes, Reminders, and Calendar currently use an IMAP-based backend to sync content across devices, and Apple will transition the process to iCloud Drive to take advantage of its better encryption and faster syncing.
Apple is planning on launching a new music streaming service to compete with Spotify, Pandora, and the array of other competing services that have taken root among users. But Ben Sisario reports for The New York Times that Apple’s streaming service is afforded a major advantage by the company’s sheer size and reach, which may enable it to dominate in a quickly-growing market.
Apple’s much-discussed streaming service is expected to combine on-demand streaming with streaming radio at a cost of $9.99 per month, like most other competing services. The on-demand portion of the service is also expected to incorporate your local library to consolidate all of your music into one place, but Wired reports that it’s the radio service that’s the most unique part of the streaming service. Apple has hired DJs and taken cues from Beats Music. Drake and Pharrell, as well as Apple employees like Zane Lowe, could be among the DJs.
Apple is reportedly still in negotiations with record labels, which is the subject of some controversy among industry watchers. MacRumors reports that despite the fact that the company is still working on completing deals for the service, it’s on track for an introduction at WWDC and a launch a few weeks later in June in a few different countries.
Along with the new streaming service, Apple is also rumored to be planning the introduction of a revamped version of iTunes Radio. iTunes Radio would complement the new service and give people a way to listen to music for free. It may include more local content, and stations that are created and hosted by DJs.
Though Munster expects that Apple will announce a new Apple TV, not everyone is in agreement about whether the set-top box will make an appearance at the event. But there’s a pretty good consensus over how Apple will update the set-top box. Munster notes that the Apple TV hasn’t seen a meaningful update since early 2012, and writes that he expects Apple to preview new Apple TV software at WWDC and to ultimately launch the new Apple TV hardware in September or October.
The new Apple TV is expected to incorporate Siri, HomeKit, and an Apple TV App Store. Those additions would enable features including the ability to control a smart home, to browse content channels, and to ask Siri for answers. Piper Jaffray also expects Apple to announce a new streaming content service that will include major networks like ABC, CBS, ESPN, AMC, TNT, and TBS.
But it’s likely that we won’t see any Apple TV announcements at WWDC, since forging streaming deals is difficult and time-consuming and the hardware may not be ready for a fall launch. Brian X. Chen reports for The New York Times that Apple has postponed the launch of the new Apple TV, “partly because the product was not ready for prime time, according to two people briefed on the product.”
Apple Watch updates
Apple Watch updates related to the new version of iOS are also expected from WWDC, and the watch will get its first real software update. Wired reports that rumors point to a Find My Watch feature, along with updates that improve the security of the device itself. Apple could also plan to add back some of the fitness-related features that it dropped before the Apple Watch’s initial launch.
For now, the Apple Watch is limited to running apps on a paired iPhone, using extensions for the Apple Watch to enable watch wearers to access them from the wrist. But Apple will change that at WWDC when it gives developers the tools to build apps that run natively on the watch and don’t require a paired iPhone to work. App developers will also gain greater access to the watch’s hardware, including its sensors and the Digital Crown. Once developers have time to work with the new tools, native apps will reach Watch users.
Munster expects that WWDC will also shed some light on Google’s future as the default search engine in Apple’s Safari browser. Apple’s search deal with Google expires this year, and there’s been much speculation over whether or not Google will remain the default search engine. While Apple may not make an official announcement of its decision at WWDC, it’s likely that we’ll see the search provider during Apple’s demonstrations at the event.
Apple could also announce some updates to Swift, its programming language. New apps, updated apps, and HealthKit or HomeKit announcements could also be on the agenda. The first round of HomeKit-compatible devices were just unveiled a week ahead of WWDC, and a HomeKit app for controlling devices, called “Home,” may be unveiled with iOS 9. Apple could make some Apple Pay-related announcements at WWDC, such as the introduction of a new rewards program. The company could also introduce an expansion of the payments service to some additional countries.