WWDC is almost here — and this year, Apple has more to talk about than ever. That's because WWDC is Apple's software show, and Apple now has four distinct operating systems to discuss: iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS.
As always, bits and pieces of Apple’s plans have leaked out over the past few months, so we have some idea of what’s to come. A lot of it has to do with Siri. Like a lot this year, which should be interesting after months of bot and AI news from basically every major player in tech. For a full preview of what to expect, read on below.
WWDC’s main event kicks off Monday, June 13th at 1PM ET / 10AM PT. The Verge will be covering the event live from San Francisco, so you can follow along with us for all the news.
Siri: It really looks like Siri is going to be the star of this year’s WWDC. That’s for two reasons. One, it’s supposed to launch on the Mac. And two, it’s about to get a lot more powerful.
Let’s start with the latter. Last month, The Information reported that Apple was going to start opening up Siri to all third-party apps. That means any developer would be able to integrate their app with Siri, letting people get a lot more done on their phone with voice control.
This is something people have been waiting a long time for. To get a sense for why it’s a big deal, all you have to do is look at Amazon’s Alexa, which has allowed third-party integrations since last July. Alexa now has over 1,000 ways of interacting with third-party apps, and people seem to be loving it. You can talk to Alexa to hail an Uber, order a pizza, and even play games. It’s very possible Siri will be the exact same way this time next year.
The other big Siri update is Siri on the Mac. 9to5Mac reports that Siri will be built in to the next version of OS X. It’s supposed to let you do just about everything you can do on the iPhone and iPad, like open apps, gets answers to questions, and handle basic tasks like sending a text message. Newer Macs are supposed to support always-on "Hey Siri" support, so you won’t even have to click to activate it.
As for that Siri speaker you may have heard about? It may well be in the works, but don’t count on it just yet. That project still sounds at least a little ways off.
Apple Music: One year after launch, Apple Music is in store for its first revamp. Both Bloomberg and 9to5Mac report that Apple Music will be getting a broad design overhaul meant to simplify its interface. 9to5Mac says that means shifting over to a black-and-white UI that puts more emphasis on album art. Apple is also supposed to be putting a heavier focus on the personalized "For You" section to help people find new music.
One other big change is something you’ll be seeing less of: Apple Music’s Connect section. Apple made a big deal about this during launch, saying it would let you connect with musicians who could share music and status updates — sort of like they could on every other social network. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a success. And now 9to5Mac reports that Apple’s more or less getting rid of it, removing the section and pushing artist updates onto their individual pages.
Apple Pay: You may get a couple more ways to pay in the next version of iOS. In March, Recode reported that Apple is working on enabling Apple Pay payments on the web, so that you wouldn’t have to slog through entering a credit card and billing information every time you wanted to buy something on mobile. The feature is supposed to arrive by the end of the year, so WWDC would be the likely time to announce it, unless plans have changed.
The other possible Apple Pay upgrade comes through iMessage. On The Jay & Farhad Show, former 9to5Mac (and future Bloomberg) reporter Mark Gurman said he’s heard that iMessage may soon support person-to-person payments over Apple Pay. Gurman warned that this isn’t a sure thing — but it's at least something that Apple’s thinking about.
iOS: It sounds like iOS’s biggest new features are the upgrades to Siri and improvements to Apple Music discussed above. But there are also rumblings about smaller changes happening across the board. Also on The Jay & Farhad Show, Gurman discussed hearing that there would be a number of small design tweaks across the operating system, making it a bit more colorful, adding rounded edges in some places, and updating a few icons.
Gurman also said that iOS’s Photos app would likely get new editing features. Some of those might be more advanced photo editing tools, but the bigger focus is supposed to be on functionality that rivals the app Skitch, which lets you annotate images with drawings, arrows, and text. It’s supposed to be an extension of the Markup feature Apple has already introduced in Mail; now, it’ll reportedly be built into Photos and perhaps even become available inside of any app.
OS X: Siri is supposed to be this year’s big upgrade to OS X. But the operating system is also said to be getting one other major change: a new name. It’s looking a lot like OS X will be renamed MacOS this year, bringing it in line with the functional-but-uninventive naming scheme used by iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.
This will actually be OS X’s second name change. The operating system used to be called Mac OS X, but in 2012, Apple dropped the "Mac" and began calling it, simply, "OS X." Now four years later, Apple's bringing back the Mac and dropping the X. Was any of this really necessary? Was any of this a great idea? I’m not convinced, but apparently Apple’s marketing department was.
As for other OS X changes, it looks like we’ll have to wait to find out. Its Photos app could get some of the new features announced for iOS, Gurman suggests. But there hasn’t been much in the way of other features leaking out.
tvOS and watchOS: We’re almost certainly going to hear about updates to tvOS and watchOS on Monday. But as for what we’ll hear? Apple has actually managed to keep details on these two projects a secret, so whatever’s coming should be a complete surprise this year.
Apple’s tvOS is less than a year old, so it’ll likely still be getting basic new features meant to polish up the platform. That’s largely the same situation watchOS is in, at just over one year old; Apple is still trying to built out core features and simplify existing ones to make the operating system easier to use. So it’s likely that both will continue to focus on refining and building out the basics.
No hardware: Sorry, Cinema Display fans. 9to5Mac reports that Apple isn’t planning to unveil any new hardware — be it MacBooks or fancy displays — at WWDC this year. That makes the event a bit less fun, but it’s not exactly a surprise: Apple has been refocusing WWDC as a software show for quite a few years now, saving its hardware announcements for the fall. So if you’re interested in new iPhones, iPads, and the revamped MacBook Pro we’ve been hearing about, you’ll have to hang tight.
Apple Car: Oh come on. Give it a few years.