Given the general lack hype and excitement surrounding iOS 12, you might be forgiven for forgetting that WWDC 2018 is just a few days away. Set to kick off at the San Jose Convention Center this coming Monday, Apple will kick off its annual developers conference with a keynote address highlighting all of the new software the company plans to release over the next few months. Though iOS will obviously take center stage at WWDC, the company will also spend time discussing some forthcoming updates to macOS, watchOS and tvOS.
While Apple has done a solid job of keeping software leaks at bay over the past few months, a number of interesting reports regarding Apple’s software plans have managed to leak out over the past two to three weeks. If you haven’t been paying too much attention to some of the scattered WWDC tidbits that have made their way through the Apple rumor mill recently, we’ve put together a little preview to help give you an idea of what to expect when Tim Cook and co. take the stage next week.
Up to bat first, we have iOS 12. A new iOS release is always exciting but iOS 12 might be somewhat underwhelming as far as forward-facing features are concerned. Due to a number of high-profile iOS and macOS software bugs that emerged in late 2017, Apple reportedly decided to push back a number of its more ambitious iOS features — such as a revamped home screen — to iOS 13. In effect, iOS 12 might be akin to a Snow Leopard release in the sense that many of the changes will focus on improving overall system performance and stability.
That said, a handful of iOS 12 rumors have emerged in recent weeks. Most notably, iOS 12 will reportedly give developers more access to the iPhone’s NFC chip. As a practical matter, this might soon enable iPhone owners to use their devices as virtual transit cards and as digital keys for hotel rooms.
ARKit was a huge part of Apple’s WWDC presentation last year and this year Apple plans to take its augmented reality plans even further. As highlighted by Bloomberg yesterday, ARKit 2.0 will enable developers to provide users with far more immersive experiences.
As part of new software called “ARKit 2.0” internally, the company has been planning a new mode that would let users play AR games against each other in the same virtual environment. Another mode allows objects to be dropped into an area and virtually remain in place. The features will be a prelude of what’s to come from an Apple AR headset planned for as early as 2020.
Other iOS 12 features that will likely make the keynote include a range of new Animoji characters and, rumor has it, the ability to incorporate Animoji’s into FaceTime calls.
Though certainly not a sure thing, there have also been rumblings that iOS 12 might introduce FaceID support for when the iPhone X is held in landscape mode. While Face ID works flawlessly 99% of the time, trying to get the iPhone X to recognize your face while lying down is nothing short of frustrating.
macOS updates typically aren’t as exciting as iOS updates and this year shouldn’t be any different. While there have been reports regarding a somewhat secret initiative that would allow iOS apps to run on macOS — and vice versa — John Gruber of Daring Fireball recently opined that such a feature won’t see the light of day until 2019 at the earliest.
“There is indeed an active cross-platform UI project at Apple for iOS and MacOS,” Gruber wrote a few weeks ago… “I’m nearly certain this project is not debuting at WWDC 2018 in June, and I doubt that 2018 was on the table in December. It’s a 2019 thing, for MacOS 10.15 and iOS 13.1 I would set your expectations accordingly for this year’s WWDC.”
The only macOS rumor of any note we’ve seen suggests that the Mac App Store might get a brand new look and feel, similar to how the App Store was graced with a redesign with iOS 11.
With watchOS 5 on the horizon, the most intriguing rumor we’ve seen claims that we might finally see support for third-party watch faces. A few weeks ago, data strings found in an watchOS beta included a log message that reads: “This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen.”
Though there’s no guarantee that third-party watch face support will be included in watchOS 5, announcing it at WWDC would make sense given that it’s been a heavily desired feature for quite a few years now.
Alas, watchOS rumors, much like macOS rumors, have been unusually scarce in recent months. But if history is any indication, we can probably expect to see some interesting enhancements to the device’s health and fitness tracking features.
If you thought that macOS rumors were few and far in between, rumors regarding the next iteration of tvOS have essentially been non-existent.
As evidenced by paltry sales, Apple’s HomePod didn’t exactly strike a chord with consumers upon its release a few months back. Though the device’s acoustic performance was widely praised, its $349 sticker price likely drove many prospective buyers towards more affordable smart speakers from the likes of Amazon and Google.
Amid reports that HomePod sales are incredibly weak, there have been a handful of reports claiming that Apple at WWDC may introduce a more affordable HomePod model in the $150-$250 range. It’s also possible that Apple at WWDC may add some more Siri functionality to the HomePod. Somewhat embarrassingly, Siri on the HomePod is far less functional than Siri on the iPhone.
Updated iPhone SE (it’s a long shot)
Though Apple in the past has introduced new hardware at WWDC, rumor has it that new iPads and MacBooks will not be part of this years keynote address. Nonetheless, there’s a slim chance we might see Apple introduce an iPhone SE 2 next week.
While there’s no doubt that Apple plans to roll out a next-gen iPhone SE sometime in the near future, the device is something of a niche product and it remains unclear if such an unveiling would be worth making at WWDC.