WWDC is right around the corner. Next Monday (June 22), Apple will hold an event at Apple Park where it will unveil a series of major changes to its platforms and services, alongside major updates to its various operating systems. Here, I've tried to gather a comprehensive list of what you can expect based on various reports, as well as what I've been hearing from some little birdies.
This year's WWDC is especially unique, as there will be no in-person audience. While the conference will take place online, my understanding is that the event will take place live, from the Steve Jobs Theater, like any other Apple event. (Though, I could be wrong - lets say 3/5 confidence on this one. It would make more sense to pre-record it, in my opinion.)
iOS 14 (and iPadOS 14)
As always, the most likely and the most anticipated announcement at this year's WWDC is a new version of iOS. Recent reporting has indicated that this will be an 'S' year, focusing on stability improvements over major design and functional changes. Indeed, I believe this to be the case, however to a lesser extent than previous stability years (in particular iOS 12).
Here's my understanding of the major new features, as of this point:
While this has been heavily rumored for the new watchOS, I've not seen it mentioned as much when it comes to iOS 14, despite it being heavily intertwined.
This new mode, which can be enabled in Control Center, will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb, turn on your set alarm for the day, and can limit you from using apps until you disable it. In tandem with an Apple Watch, it can also track the duration and quality of your sleep.
My understanding is that internal builds of iOS 14 allowed for the use of widgets on the Home Screen. These allowed the user to, for example, have a 2-block weather widget that dynamically showed data and was interactive. Another example is a user could have a music player on their home screen in place of the Music app.
This feature is definitely coming to iOS sometime in the future, however, I do not know for sure if it will be present in iOS 14 or saved for a later release.
Once again, Apple will add a series of new features to the iOS Messages app. These features were first reported by MacRumors, and include the ability to direct @ messages to people in a group conversation, new settings for managing conversations, better distinctions between multiple people in large group conversations, and the ability to retract messages.
iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS are all getting a new app called Fitness, that will allow users to easily view and download fitness videos and guides, keep track of progress, and maintain routines.
As the great Mark Gurman at Bloomberg first reported, you'll finally be able to set 3rd part defaults in iOS 14. This means that, for example, you could set email links to automatically open in Outlook instead of Mail, or set Chrome as your default browser instead of Safari.
Defaults will be manageable through a panel in the settings app. Developers will be given a series of new APIs to make their apps compatible with the various default types and will make them recognizable with the system as defaults.
While iPadOS remains a renamed version of iOS, there a few features I expect to be exclusive to iPadOS 14. These include full Apple Pencil support in Safari, and a new feature that can convert handwriting into text.
Here's some other stuff I think you can expect in iOS 14:
A series of enhancements to CarPlay
An updated Find My app
The rumored 'CarKey' API
An updated Apple Maps app
A series of major updates to HomeKit
Support for all devices that support iOS 13
My friend Jon Prosser seems to believe that Xcode is coming to the iPad, and while he has an impeccable track record so far, I'd be very surprised if this is correct. What sounds more likely to me is a dramatically improved Swift coding environment that can handle larger projects on the iPad, which I've heard some whispers about.
watchOS 7 will include the aforementioned Sleep features, as well as new watch faces/customization options, a 'kids' mode, and support for the CarKey feature.
Apple has been working on blood oxygen detection in watchOS for many years, and it appears the feature may be ready for this Fall, however will likely also require new hardware. Thus, don't expect to see this until September (or whenever they announce the iPhone/Apple Watch this year).
This year's macOS update will be overshadowed by the already reported announcement that the ARM transition is upon us. While there will be new software enhancements this year, including a new Messages app, I'm going to focus on two platform related announcements that are coming:
Apple will announce a series of enhancements to the Catalyst framework at WWDC, that allows developers to easily port iPadOS apps to the Mac. The most notable new change will be the ability to port iPhone-only apps to the Mac as well.
There will also be a number of stability improvements, as well as improved APIs that can convert iOS-style elements into macOS-appropriate ones, based on what I've heard.
Finally, Apple does plan on eventually allowing Mac developer to transition apps to iOS via Catalyst, however I don't expect to see this until next year.
The ARM Transition
Yes, this is happening, and while I have lots of thoughts about it as a Mac developer, here's a quick rundown of what I think will actually happen at WWDC:
The ARM transition will be announced, and will have significant benefits that won't be evident from the announcement. These benefits will become clearer once hardware launches.
Apple will publicly tease that the first ARM Macs are coming in the first half of 2021.
Developers will be able to purchase some form of transition kit, likely a modified Mac mini.
This will not be a difficult technical transition for developers
This is mostly speculation based on what I've read and heard about the transition. Stay tuned for much deeper analysis of this particular announcement.
Apple is certainly announcing new iMacs at WWDC - the only question is whether these are a general refresh or next-generation, redesigned models.
Indeed, Apple is working on the first iMac redesign since 2012, but my understanding is that these were not supposed to arrive until later in the year. A refreshed iMac with updated internals was supposed to be announced this past spring, but was delayed due to coronavirus. I could see Apple previewing the new iMac with a Fall launch alongside a smaller refresh, or scraping the smaller refresh altogether and launching the new iMacs earlier than expected in late July or August.