The run-up to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference every year is filled with a frenzy of speculation. Will we see a new Siri? An Apple TV? Apple Car?!
Out of the pack of rumors, some stand above others as particularly implausible, or just straight dumb. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things we shouldn’t hope to see, or should hope not to see.
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New Macbook Air
The Macbook Air last saw a major update four years ago, so by computer standards, it should be drawing a pension by now. The Air used to be the jewel in Apple’s lineup, a (relatively) affordable computer that was all the laptop most people needed.
Right now, it’s looking a little long in the tooth. The screen resolution is pathetic (not even 1080p), and the large silver bezels around the edge look dated. By any logic, the Air should be due an update, but we’re almost certainly not going to see one.
See, the smaller 12-inch Macbook now occupies the ‘computer for the 99-percent’ niche that the Air used to. Only, it has a much better screen, and it’s thinner. Apple wants to make the Macbook the laptop for almost everyone, and the Pro (which will probably see some updates to make it better and thinner) will be the upgrade for anyone needing more power than the Macbook’s Core M processor.
It’s a shame for anyone (like me!) who swore by the old Macbook. But from Apple’s perspective, putting the Air out to pasture is the clever move.
Odds are, the Air will either be killed off completely, or a slightly spec-bumped 13-inch model (faster processor, same body) will stay around as the cheapest Macbook.
Apple Watch 2
Every other Apple product is on a frequent refresh cycle, but don’t expect to see a new Apple Watch at this year’s WWDC. There’s a few reasons, but we’ll start with the most obvious: the hardware in the original Apple Watch is still absolutely fine. With the components available right now, Apple would be hard-pressed to make the Watch thinner, more powerful, or better in any way just by changing the hardware.
Think about the first iPhone: straight after it launched, it had some gaping hardware problems, like terrible battery life or no 3G. A refreshed model was an obvious move to keep iterating, and keep improving the hardware.
The Watch is very different. It was launched as a more mature technology, with software that didn’t quite live up to the potential of the hardware. There’s microphones, an accelerometer, and a heart-rate sensor, all of which aren’t being fully utilized right now. So, if you’re looking for upgrades to the Watch, look instead to a new version of WatchOS.
iMessage coming to Android
A last-minute rumor from MacDailyNews claims that Apple will be bringing iMessage to Android at this year’s WWDC. This would be possible — and fantastic for almost everyone! — but unlikely to happen. iMessage is one of the standout features of iOS, and one that Google has yet to copy successfully for Android (not for a lack of trying, mind you).
What would bringing iMessage to Android accomplish for Apple? Sure, there’d be more people using its messaging service, but Apple would make zero revenue from it. (Assuming it doesn’t charge for Android app downloads, or strike a licensing deal with smartphone makers.) Apple makes its money from selling iPhones, where it makes a cool $450 in profit for every device sold. One thing that keeps iPhone users loyal is iMessage: if you and all your friends use it regularly, it hurts to give up when you transition to Android.
Sure, Apple brought Apple Music to Android, but that’s a paid service that benefits from having more users. Unless Apple strikes some kind of deal that would make revenue from iMessage on Android (not impossible, just unlikely), this rumor is likely to remain just that.
New Thunderbolt display
My favorite rumor (because I desperately hope it will come true!) is a new Thunderbolt display with a discrete graphics card inside. I think I can trace the origin of this idea back to a 2013 Slashgear post from Chris Davies, which envisaged a new Thunderbolt display with some kind of GPU tucked inside.
Since then, the idea has gotten even better, and the time is ripe. The 12-inch Macbook is a beautiful computer, but woefully underpowered for any kind of graphics-intensive application. It would be fantastic to plug your tiny laptop into a 27-inch 5K display when you want to do some desk work, but there’s no way the onboard Core M graphics would handle that.
But imagine if your 5K display had a discrete GPU inside. The time is perfect for this: Nvidia’s new graphics cards are (relatively) cheap, and efficient enough that they can fit inside a display without needing some special cooling system or outrageous power supply.
The connectors are also all there. USB-C can happily handle an external GPU, so you’d only need to plug into the special Thunderbolt station with one cable.
So now that you’re convinced a Thunderbolt Display with a GTX 1080 is the missing link in your life, here’s the bad news: Apple probably won’t be making one. 9to5Mac originally reported that Apple was working on a new Thunderbolt display last week, but quickly backtracked, with sources saying that we won’t see a new display at WWDC. 9to5Mac is normally good on Apple rumors, and for the site to backtrack so unequivocally makes me think we’re not going to see anything at WWDC. Of course, there’s always hope for the future.
Apple TV with a camera
So we’re almost definitely going to see an upgraded Siri at WWDC, and odds are there will be some kind of new device for Siri to live in your home. It might look like Amazon’s Echo speaker, but other people have suggested it’s going to be an Apple TV with always-on voice recognition, and an always-on camera.
It’s that last part that unnerves me. Smart home devices are already creepy as hell — the FBI is suspiciously quiet about using the Amazon Echo to spy on people — and an always-on camera would be the epitome of that. According to CNET, this is what the device will look like:
“The device would be “self aware” and detect who is in the room using facial recognition technology. That would let the device automatically pull up a person’s preferences, such as the music and lighting they like, the sources said.”
I mean, that sounds kinda useful in an incredibly first-world-problem way. But is it worth being perpetually tracked around your own home? Nah.
Rumors about Apple building a standalone TV are about as old as the internet itself, and come up every time Apple does an event. The Apple HDTV almost always comes hand-in-hand with rumors about Apple making its own pay-TV system to challenge Comcast and TWC.
Apple has a very big R&D budget, and there’s some serious money to be made in TVs and TV content. I have no doubt that somewhere in Cupertino, behind a door with many locks, there is an Apple HDTV prototype. Hell, maybe Cult of Mac‘s source really did see it. But Tim Cook will not be whipping the cloth off a 55-inch 4K Apple TV on stage next week.