WWDC 2018: What to expect at Apple's developers conference

Apple will hold its 29th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 4-8 at its new home, the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose. Here's what to expect.

Apple will hold its 29th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 4-8 at its new home, the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose. Here’s what to expect.

What is Apple saying?

Short answer: Not much. Some Apple watchers may get a little pleasure unpacking the company’s statement issued when it announced the event:

"Every year, WWDC provides an opportunity for millions of developers to learn more about how to create new experiences across Apple's platforms for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac and HomePod," it said.

"A broad range of robust developer APIs - including SiriKit, HomeKit, HealthKit, GymKit, MusicKit, ResearchKit and Core ML - give developers new ways to help users take command of everything from their health and homes, to how they get around, shop and learn.”

Make of that what you will.

Operating system enhancements

Earlier this year, we heard Apple plans to change its approach to software. The new approach involves moving away from attention-seeking improvements in favor of making sure what is introduced works.

That focus on quality control will be welcome, but once you look at it, it seems hard not to see the AR-like city map in Apple’s publicity shot (above). Might this mean useful improvements in Maps and some revelations around what the company has been doing with those ubiquitous Apple Maps cars the last few years?

Whatever else, it seems reasonable to expect improvements in ARKit and better Continuity-style features designed to bind the company’s growing list of platforms. We’ll be given a look at the next iterations of iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12.

What’s coming in iOS 12?

iOS speculation currently favors:

  • New Animoji for the iPhone X
  • Animoji integration into FaceTime
  • A new Stocks app (Why? I humbly request a new Mail app instead)
  • A better version of Do Not Disturb
  • Improved parental controls
  • Stability enhancements.

Health will also be a big deal. How does Apple intend to proliferate the new heath records features within iPhones?

What to expect in macOS 10.14

The big speculation this year is around Apple’s plans to make it possible to enable a new breeds of app that will run on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Some of Apple’s own iOS apps will also be upgraded to run on all these platforms, Home being one that people mention a lot.

It also seems reasonable to anticipate improvements in FaceTIme, such as Animoji support. Apple’s focus on imaging makes it reasonable to predict new filters, masks and AI-support within Photos, while Safari will likely experience fundamental improvements around collaboration and video conferencing through the browser. It would be wise to anticipate enhancements to Metal and Mac graphics APIs with a view to creating better AR experiences. This will likely extend to some cutting-edge demos from third-party partners in the graphics, gaming, design, and AR space.

What’s coming in watchOS 5?

Apple continues to identify and refine what you can do with Apple Watch.

The company’s core message for the product remains health improvements. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to predict new sensors, support for additional Workouts and enhancements in the health-focused predictive intelligence you already find in the product.

Sleep tracking seems a certainty, given Apple’s 2017 acquisition of Beddit. An EKG heart monitor and glucose sensor are also frequently discussed.

What would make me happy? A third-party watch face store.

I suspect Apple may also want to talk a little about its work with health insurance firms in which you can get free or subsidized watches so long as you maintain fitness.

What’s coming in tvOS?

Apple’s entertainment industry chief, Eddy Cue, has told us a little about Apple’s plans for television and original content production.

Can we expect more news on this at WWDC? A little, perhaps, but I think the company will use the event to try to interest developers in new APIs that can be used to supplement existing content: sports scores and interactive commentary, for example.

Cue has hinted that new technologies for interaction and notification that he's plotting for sports TV will also apply to original content. Apple wants to create platform advantage, I imagine.

What can we expect for Siri?

SiriKit is becoming an integral user interface element. Smart money at the moment features things such as Siri integration in Photos and improvements to the Do Not Disturb feature. It also seems probable that we’ll see the varieties of third-party apps that are compatible with Siri extended. I also imagine we may see enhanced Siri integration around use of Workflow, enabling voice control for more complex apps.

What about the iPad Pro?

Apple will certainly want to improve its iPad software to make that platform an even more effective notebook replacement.

When it comes to hardware, various sources predict new models (11-inch and 12.5-inch iPad Pro models) will (like iPhone X) be equipped with Face ID, narrower bezels and much faster processors. And a redesigned Apple Pencil, perhaps one that catches what you are writing in a note when you write on any surface.

What’s new in Mac?

Apple isn’t expected to introduce a new Mac Pro until later in the year, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the company gave developers a glimpse at the new machine.

Apple knows developers need powerful Macs to build the software we all use, and as it accelerates its plans for AR on its platforms, the company really has no choice but to ensure it offers the world’s best computers to build those experiences on. Think of this as a (modular) iMac Pro on steroids. I expect the performance benchmarks to set new standards for workstation-class desktops.

Beyond the desktop, there’s plenty of speculation concerning a new model MacBook (Air?) at a lower price and equipped with a Retina Display. Might we also see a new model MacBook Pro?

What about the home?

There is some speculation Apple intends to release a smaller HomePod unit this year. I have little to add to that, though I would be interested to see a waterproof model equipped with a rechargeable battery for use in kitchens, bathrooms, and outside (or in car).

Will we really have to wait until later this year for AirPlay 2? Or will that feature (along with stereo HomePod pairing) appear in the next couple of weeks at Apple’s next anticipated spring event?

What about Apple Pay?

It seems logical to predict international roll-out of Apple Pay’s personal payments feature.

How to watch the show

WWDC tickets will go on sale March 22 at 10 a.m. PT via the event website. Demand will be high, so successful applicants will be selected at random from March 23 – only a lucky few will be given the chance to spend $1,599 on their ticket.

If you’re not at WWDC, Apple usually streams the main event keynote online at apple.com, as well as via the WWDC app on iPhones, iPads, and the Apple TV. The keynote usually circulates online soon after the show via all the usual streaming video websites.

Predicting what Apple does is not an exact science. I've deliberately avoided speculation I am uncertain about. Some improvements may never appear, while others may not appear until another time. With this caveat in mind, what do you expect to see at WWDC 2018?

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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