Here’s What To Expect From WWDC 2021

Here’s What To Expect From WWDC 2021
Contributor: Victoria Song

There are only two things we absolutely know for sure about WWDC21. The first is that the all-virtual developer’s conference will kick off June 8, at 3 a.m. AEST. The second is we’ll hear what the company’s got in store for the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and its other software platforms.

Other than that, Apple’s notoriously secretive. The only hint in the invite email sent out to journalists was that the company would announce its “latest software and technologies.” That’s OK. The Apple rumour mill never stops buzzing, so don’t worry. We’re not completely in the dark. Sure, there are bound to be some surprises, but so far, here’s everything you may see on Monday.

Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Are We Getting iOS 15?

iOS 14 was a huge update, introducing privacy labels, widgets, picture-in-picture, the App Library, and more. That makes sense, considering 2020 was an all-around Big Year for Apple. But big changes are a hell of a lot of work, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple kept things iterative this time around.

A recent Bloomberg report contends that iOS 15 will bring changes to notifications. Specifically, the ability to set preferences based on your current status — i.e., if you’re driving, sleeping, working, etc. Also rumoured is the ability to set custom auto-replies, which sort of sound like the away messages of yore. Users will purportedly be able to adjust these notification preferences via a new menu that will be accessible from an updated Lock Screen and Control Centre.

Other iOS 15 rumours include updates to iMessage to better compete with WhatsApp, tweaks to Dark Mode, and potentially, the ability to log food in the Health app. It also appears Apple isn’t letting up on privacy. iOS 15 might include a new privacy menu that lets you see exactly what data apps are collecting on you. (Sorry, Facebook.)

Another thing you can expect to see are new accessibility features. In honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple announced a slew of new features coming to the iPhone and other Apple gadgets. These include expanded support for hearing aids, background sounds to help those with sound sensitivities, as well as enhanced image descriptions in its VoiceOver screen reader for blind and low-vision communities. While these updates are definitely on the way, Apple was a bit vague about whether some would come in further iOS 14 updates or if we’d have to wait for iOS 15. Still, WWDC21 is a good place to highlight these efforts further.

The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo)

OK, What Can You Tell Me About iPadOS 15?

According to that same Bloomberg report, Apple is planning “the most significant update” to the iPad’s Home Screen since the very first iPad launched in 2010. Apparently, that means better widgets — as in, you’ll reportedly be able to replace the entire app grid until it’s widgets and widgets only.

You can also expect some of the updates to iOS 15 to make their way over to the iPad. That includes potential updates to iMessage, notification controls, and any new privacy features. We also know, thanks to Apple’s accessibility update, that iPadOS is also slated to get support for third-party eye-tracking gadgets so you can control the device with just your eye movements.

Other than that, there’s not much chatter about iPadOS. However, you can’t rule out the fact that Apple just released new M1-powered iPad Pros. In Gizmodo’s review of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (the one with the purty miniLED display), we noted this device was overkill. The hardware simply outpaces what iPadOS can currently offer. However, we wouldn’t put it past Apple to release the hardware first, and then surprise us all with some new updates that really make use of the new M1 chip and unlock the iPad Pro’s full potential.

Cool, But What Devices Will Likely Support iOS 15 and iPadOS 15?

According to The Verifier and iPhoneSoft, you’ll need a gadget with the A10 chip. Meaning, anything older than an iPhone 7 won’t be supported. This isn’t terribly surprising, as, well, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus first launched in 2015. It also means the first-gen iPhone SE won’t be compatible.

We don’t concretely know anything about which iPads (other than the latest ones) will likely support iPadOS 15. That said, if we’re going by the iPhones, our guess is that iPads on the A9X or older might not make the cut. Then again, no devices were dropped in the switch from iPadOS 13 to iPadOS 14, so we’ll have to wait and see.

The M1 MacBook Air (Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo)

What About macOS?

Big Sur, or macOS 11, did a doozy and officially ended nearly two decades of the macOS X naming conventions. Well, it’s been about a year, and thanks to a recent WebKit leak, we know the next version of macOS will be… macOS 12. The new codename will probably be a California landmark, and if Apple’s trademarks are any indication, it could either be Mammoth or Monterey.

Other than that, it’s tumbleweeds — though Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says to expect a “minor” update.

But C’mon, Those MacBook Rumours!!!

Yes, yes. Although WWDC is not traditionally a hardware event, sometimes Apple likes to pull out a few gadgets to keep everyone on their toes. The transition to Apple Silicon is well underway, and the company is reportedly ramping up for what comes next after the M1.

If Apple does decide to launch some hardware, the two most likely candidates are a new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says the two computers could arrive “by early summer.” However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said the laptops will come in Q3 2021. Both have excellent track records when it comes to Apple gadgets, so really these laptops could launch any time now.

What Kuo and Gurman do agree on is the new MacBook Pros will have a revamped design. Supposedly, the Touch Bar is going the way of the dodo, there’ll be a new flat-edged chassis, MagSafe charging, and more port options. Gurman says they won’t be powered by the M1, however. No, they’ll be powered by two sci-fi-arse chips codenamed Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die.

Assistive Touch is coming. (Image: Apple)

Gimme the Deets on watchOS 8

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot that’s been leaked about watchOS 8 thus far. We can make a few educated guesses based on past WWDCs, watchOS 7, and some rumours about the next-gen Apple Watch Series 7.

Generally, each iteration of watchOS comes with some new watch faces and a few extra health- and fitness-related features and tweaks. Case in point, watchOS 7 introduced a new Dance workout type. Apple launched Fitness+, its on-demand workout service, later that year, and lo, it had Dance workouts. Speaking of Fitness+, that service is partly a showcase for what the Apple Watch is capable of, so it wouldn’t be surprising if we heard some new updates on that front. As for other health features, we wouldn’t be shocked if there were improvements to native sleep tracking, something that ties into the aforementioned food-logging in iOS 15.

More of a stretch is blood glucose monitoring. While it’s been rumoured for the Series 7 — and we know Apple’s done some research into it — that comes with a hell of a lot of regulatory hurdles.

One thing we do know we’ll see is Assistive Touch. It’s part of the accessibility features Apple teased, and it enables gesture control. As in, you can clench your fist to answer an incoming phone call or start a workout. You can watch a demo of it here, and we have to admit, it’s pretty cool.

We are curious, however, to see if watchOS 8 support will extend to the Apple Watch Series 3. Although it’s the cheapest smartwatch Apple offers, we’ve begged you several times not to buy a new Series 3. Users have reported major issues downloading watchOS 7 updates — and it’s unlikely that those will magically go away with watchOS 8.

The new Siri remote. (Image: Apple)

Aren’t You Forgetting tvOS?

There have been some spotty rumours here. The Verifier has reported tvOS 15 will get a redesign, as well as parental controls, a child-friendly mode, and Screen Time — but this publication said that last year too, so take this with a tiny grain of salt. However, there is a good chance we’ll see some significant updates here for two reasons. One, it just released a new Apple TV 4K streaming box and Siri remote. Two, Apple’s probably keen to better integrate Fitness+ and Apple Arcade.

Anything Else?

Oh yeah, there’s a slim chance Apple might announce an entirely new OS on Monday — homeOS.

Apple’s had a shitty smart home strategy thus far and is seeking to change that with the recent success of the HomePod Mini. So much so that it posted a job listing mentioning “homeOS.” Apple later removed the mention of homeOS, so this could’ve been a goof — or it might indicate some changes are on the horizon. In any case, we’ve heard rumours as of late that Apple is working on a HomePod-Apple TV hybrid gadget, but that’s most definitely not ready for WWDC.

So there you have it, folks. It’s a lot, but at least we won’t have to wait too long to find out which of these rumours pan out — and which ones don’t. In any case, we’ll be covering absolutely everything Apple announces at WWDC next week. Stay tuned.

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