The annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is where Apple show off their latest work on their operating systems and host sessions catered towards developers. It kicks off on the 7th June with the main Keynote in which we expect iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12, watchOS 8 and tvOS 15 to be revealed. Like last year, WWDC will be an online-only event and will feature a week of pre-recorded videos detailing the updates throughout Apple's platforms.
At WWDC last year, Apple made some significant updates to their platforms in which we got brand new Widgets and a complete design overhaul for macOS. Unlike previous years, rumours have been hard to come by as Apple has clearly doubled down on preventing such leaks, and only helps to build anticipation even more!
We have heard about some rumours that have cropped up from Mark Gurman, well-known in the industry for sharing inside knowledge on Apple's workings. Read his article here:
Based on this, we can expect some fairly substantial updates to iPadOS to bring it more in line with features the iPhone got last year. We should expect to see Widgets being able to be placed anywhere on the iPad Home Screen, not just in the Today View panel. Apple should also be adding the App Library feature, introduced in iOS 14, last year to iPad. This feature allows users to free up Home Screen space and only show apps in the nicely organised App Library.
If rumours are to be believed, we should also expect to see some improvements to notifications and the Lock Screen. As part of this, we may get the ability to customise Do Not Disturb (DND) and system sounds depending on the user's current status. At the moment, setting iOS devices to Sleep Mode automatically enables DND, preventing notifications from showing up. Driving Mode does the same but will automatically respond to messages to say the user is driving and will respond when they get to their destination. We could see an overhaul of this and get modes for being at work or a custom category of the user's choosing, alongside the existing Sleep and Driving modes.
Also rumoured are additional privacy improvements on top of the 'nutrition labels' announced last year and the iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changes. For apps ignoring the ATT requirement, Apple is rumoured to be working on a feature that calls out these apps to the user to show they may be being secretly tracked.
Elsewhere, we should expect to see more minor updates to macOS, watchOS and tvOS and potentially some iMessage improvements. The first betas are usually distributed to developers after the Keynote and allow them to be thoroughly tested before a final release in September alongside the launch of new iPhones.
After hearing little rumours this year, it's been left up to our own imagination as to what we want to see from Apple's next suite of updates so here's a top 5 list:
1.1 Significant iPadOS Improvements
Since announcing the transition away from Intel based processors on their Mac lineup at the last WWDC, Apple released new Mac devices with the Apple M1 chip that performance-wise blows the competition away, including previous generations of the Mac. Now, Apple has recently released the new iPad Pro with the same powerful chip. These new iPads have so much power just waiting to be unleashed so we would hope to see some big improvements to iPadOS so the new chips can really be taken advantage of.
Apple clearly has big plans for the iPad after renaming the iPad version of iOS to iPadOS at WWDC 2019 so to properly level up the computing experience of the iPad, we'd love to see multi-user support. This would enable families or companies to share an iPad so that each user has access to their own files, photos and more. To further level up the iPadOS experience, multiple windows support would be most welcome. At the moment, you can currently use two apps side-by-side in Splitscreen mode, with a third in Slideover. You can now buy a keyboard with trackpad for iPad so it makes the perfect sense to allow the user to have freewill over how many windows they show and where. With the optimisations in iPadOS and a minimum amount of 8GB RAM in the new iPad Pro devices, they can more than handle multiple windows.
To really push the power of the new iPad Pro, we'd really love to see some of the pro tools Apple has on Mac brought over to iPad for the first time. Adding Xcode for developers, Logic Pro for musicians and Final Cut Pro for videographers would be most welcoming to many and really allow users to take advantage of the powerful M1 chip. Whilst they're at it, a weather and calculator app wouldn't go a miss either which still hasn't been added to iPad yet after all these years…
1.2 New Mac Hardware
So far Apple has released Macs containing the M1 chip that are more catered towards the general consumer as opposed to developers and other professionals who demand more power.
Rumours have indicated that we could expect to see some new Mac hardware at WWDC this year, namely replacements for the MacBook Pro. Instead of using the M1 chip, the new MacBook Pro will likely be using a second generation or higher performance version of the chip – we'll presume M2 for now. The chip improvements alone to the new MacBook Pros would bring unprecedented performance gains to Apple's top spec laptops. However, we're also expecting to see a redesigned chassis too with a potential return of the SD Card slot, HDMI port and MagSafe charging port which were axed in the last major redesign.
The new MacBook Pros would likely come in 14" and 16" sizes if rumours, again from Mark Gurman, are to be believed. Read the article here:
The design will closely resemble the design language currently used in the iPhone 12 line, introduced by the 2018 iPad Pro, featuring flat sides and rounded corners.
1.3 SwiftUI Improvements
Announced at WWDC in 2019, SwiftUI has quickly been adopted and allows developers to build apps in a completely different way. Developers previously used UIKit on iOS and tvOS, AppKit on macOS and WatchKit on watchOS to build their apps but SwiftUI allows you to build once and deploy anywhere. On each operating system (OS), SwiftUI will adopt the look and feel of the platform so it looks native on each OS. Behind the scenes, SwiftUI is linking up to the older frameworks (and some custom new ones) to display elements on the screen.
SwiftUI has been created in a way that makes it much quicker to build apps as there is far less code to write and is state based so the views respond automatically to changes in data. For accessing some features, like the camera, SwiftUI doesn't have a way of doing it yet so we have to use older frameworks and link them up together. Last year for example, Apple added a SwiftUI native way of displaying maps and year, we'd love to see even more frameworks and functionality brought over to SwiftUI to make it even easier for developers to build apps.
1.4 TestFlight for Mac
TestFlight is a part of App Store Connect that allows developers to distribute beta versions of their app. Available for iOS (plus watchOS), iPadOS and tvOS, the next logical step would surely be for macOS. With a renewed interest in Mac app development thanks to SwiftUI and the M1 chip, now couldn't be a better time to release TestFlight on Mac.
Having TestFlight for Mac would be incredibly useful for developers to get useful feedback for their macOS apps before it gets released to the public. At the moment, there is no clear-cut solution for developers to test apps on Mac and a native Apple way would surely be better than any third-party solution. Obviously, the Mac isn't as locked-down as other Apple platforms which is likely why Apple has yet to introduce it here.
1.5 Widgets Improvements
Widgets were introduced at last year's WWDC. Currently, they allow developers to create a view containing some content relating to their app and made viewable from iOS/iPadOS Home Screens and the macOS Notification Centre. These replaced widgets that could be added to the Today View and enabled basic functionality to occur within them – these widgets do not.
When a widget, or button within it, is tapped, the app must be opened, before performing any specific function. What we'd really love to see is the requirement for the app open requirement to be scrapped and instead enable the widget to perform a specific action when a button is tapped. Obviously, interactivity would still be limited, but it would result in an overall much better user experience if basic actions could be performed without the app being opened.
So there you have it, we've shared what we want to see from WWDC 2021 and some of the potential features that are rumoured to be coming. We'll be watching along live on the 7th June to see what surprises Apple has in store for us!