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WWDC 2016 preview: Everything Apple plans to unveil next week

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:18PM EST
WWDC Preview And Rumors

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There’s something intangibly different about WWDC this year, in large part because Apple has managed to do a decent job of keeping product leaks to a minimum. Whereas Apple’s big WWDC announcements in years past were spoiled in the days and weeks leading up to the event, WWDC 2016 is less than a week away and we still have only a cursory idea of what type of surprises, if any, Apple has in store for us.

Sure, we know that we’ll see previews of iOS 10 and OS X 10.12, and sure, it’s a safe bet that Apple has some interesting Siri announcements to make, but any information beyond that has been somewhat hard to come by. That being the case, WWDC this year will either be a subdued affair or chock full of surprises. Hopefully it’s the latter.

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Set to kick off on Monday, June 6, we’ve put together a detailed WWDC preview to help give you an idea of what to expect once Tim Cook and co. take the stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco next week.

Siri APIs

According to reports, Apple at WWDC will deliver a number of Siri-oriented announcements. Chief among them, rumor has it that Apple this year will finally offer developers a dedicated SDK, thereby paving the way for third-party app integrations.

Because Apple currently has Siri locked down, its functionality is somewhat limited, especially when compared to what’s possible on the Amazon Echo and with what Viv Labs demonstrated not too long ago. With developers finally being able to access Siri APIs, Siri will become incredibly more powerful. Imagine, for instance, using Siri to order an Uber or a pizza.

iOS 10

It will be fascinating to see what type of surprises Apple has in store for us with iOS 10, all the more so given that iOS 10 rumors thus far have been few and far in between.

From what we’ve been able to gather thus far, some of the changes Apple plans to implement with iOS 10 include the following:

  1. The ability to remove stock apps – this should be a welcome change for users who can’t stand the fact that iOS apps like “Stocks” and “Game Center” can’t be removed.
  2. Dark Mode – there’s also been some buzz that Apple with iOS 10 will introduce a Dark Mode feature. Given that OS X already supports Dark Mode, this rumor isn’t outside the realm of comprehension.

With respect to Dark Mode, some concept images depicting what that would look like on iOS hit the web earlier in the week.

Money transfers via Apple Pay

Apple Pay adoption may still have a lot of room to grow, but as anyone who has used Apple’s mobile payment service can attest, the feature is an absolute game-changer.

While Apple Pay today can be used to pay for items in-store and via the web, rumor has it that iOS 10 will see Apple bring Apple Pay to the next level with the introduction of person-to-person payments.

While details are scarce, we’ve seen rumblings that Apple at WWDC will announce a new service that will let iOS users leverage Apple Pay to transfer money to other iOS users. While apps that support this functionality already exist on the App Store, a homegrown solution from Apple would make the entire process that much more seamless. Notably, Mark Gurman said during a recent episode of the On The Jay & Farhad Show podcast that person-to-person payments will be tightly integrated into iMessage.

Apple Music revamp

Since launching last summer, Apple Music has been doing quite well. Last we heard, Apple’s streaming music service already has more than 13 million subscribers. All in all, this is a rather impressive figure given how many bugs and UI problems plagued the service at launch.

In the months following Apple Music’s debut, Apple slowly but surely got around to addressing many of the service’s most glaring usability errors. Unfortunately, though, a number of frustrating UX issues remain.

At WWDC, however, Apple is expected to unveil a completely revamped Apple Music app. According to reports, the next-gen version of Apple Music will be much easier to navigate, more intuitive to use, and will feature tighter integration with iTunes. Furthermore, the upcoming version of Apple Music will reportedly feature expanded radio options.

In conjunction with a retooled interface, Bloomberg noted last month that “the changes will be accompanied by a marketing blitz to lure more customers to the $10-per-month streaming service.”

Amazon Echo competitor

Even though WWDC will have a decidedly software-focus, as is normally the case, The Information last month reported that Apple has been working on a standalone device designed to compete with the Amazon Echo and the recently announced Google Home.

With a number of new Siri announcements on the agenda, there’s a small chance, however slight, that we might see Apple introduce a new piece of AI-powered hardware next week.

We’ve also seen rumors suggesting that Apple, instead of a stand-alone device, will simply integrate Siri into a next-gen version of the Apple TV.

Revamped Photos app in iOS 10 and OS X 10.12

According to reports which surfaced earlier in the year, Apple has plans to retool the Photos app in both iOS 10 and OS X 10.12 and add a number of compelling new features. Unfortunately, details surrounding what type of features Apple has in mind remain scarce, but some rumblings suggest that we’ll see enhanced editing tools and performance improvements.

Siri will get a whole lot smarter

With companies like Google, Amazon and Viv making incredible strides in AI, Siri has lagged painfully behind. In fact, Siri today almost seems stunted when compared to other intelligent assistants currently out on the market.

Not to fear, Apple at WWDC may unveil a next-gen version of Siri that is actually worth getting excited about. According to reports, the next version of Siri will be based on technology Apple brought in house when it acquired an AI company called VocalIQ last year.

That being the case, it’s believed that the next-gen version of Siri will be context-aware and will able to process multi-layered queries.

Tech Insider noted a few weeks back:

For example, imagine asking a computer to “Find a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and WiFi that’s kid-friendly.” That’d trip up most assistants, but VocalIQ could handle it. The result? VocalIQ’s success rate was over 90%, while Google Now, Siri, and Cortana were only successful about 20% of the time, according to one source.

VocalIQ remembers context forever, just like a human can. That’s a massive breakthrough.

Let’s go back to the Chinese restaurant example. What if you change your mind an hour later? Simply saying something like “Find me a Mexican restaurant instead,” will bring you new results, while still taking into account the other parameters like parking and WiFi you mentioned before. Hound, Siri, and any other assistant would make you start the search session over again. But Vocal IQ remembers. That’s more human-like than anything available today.

What’s more, we’ve also seen reports that the next version of Siri will be better at understanding prompts, thereby addressing one of the more common complaints about the software.

Siri will finally come to the Mac

The next iteration of OS X will more than likely include support for Siri, a feature which will likely be positioned as a flagship feature. According to reports, OS X 10.12 may feature a Siri icon in the menu bar that will spring into action when clicked. Additionally, users will probably be able to configure keyboard shortcuts to activate Siri. And last but not least, Siri on OS X will support the “Hey Siri” feature Apple introduced with the iPhone 6s, provided of course that the Mac in use is connected to a power source.

As a final point, MacRumors last month received word that the dock in OS X 10.12 might be graced with a dedicated Siri icon, per the photo below.

WatchOS 3

Might we see Apple introduce WatchOS 3 at WWDC? It’s certainly possible. While rumors surrounding WatchOS 3 are pretty light, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the next iteration of WatchOS deliver minor battery life and performance improvements along with maybe a new watchface or two.

At the same time, one would hope that WatchOS 3 will include a slightly more friendly interface that requires less of a learning curve to master.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.