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iOS 16, notifications, and Macs: what to expect at WWDC 2022

What will Apple’s next OS bring?

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Illustration depicting several Apple logos on a lime green background.
Kristen Radtke / The Verge

It’s once again time for Apple to hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, where it shows off the latest versions of its operating systems for iPhones, Macs, watches, tablets, and TVs.

But what new features will Apple’s new software bring, and is the company planning any big surprises? Hardware, perhaps, or even — dare I say it — a VR headset? We’ve combed through the rumors to get an idea of what to expect when Apple’s keynote premieres on June 6th at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, and here’s what we found:

iOS and iPadOS 16 could get a new coat of paint and better notifications

Noted Apple rumor reporter Mark Gurman has predicted that iOS 16 will come with “fresh Apple apps,” though it’s a little unclear whether that means new apps from Apple or a new look for existing apps. Gurman also predicts “new ways of interacting” with iOS — I’m hoping that’s a reference to interactive widgets.

For iPadOS 16 he specifically pointed to multitasking improvements that could make the lineup a little better at being a laptop substitute.

It’s also possible that Apple will overhaul the notifications system, which could mean that the company’s building on the Focus modes it introduced with iOS 15.

WWDC usually sets the stage for September’s new iPhone

While Apple almost certainly won’t say anything about the iPhone 14, the software features and APIs the company talks about at WWDC usually offer at least some hint as to what its future hardware could look like. If Apple starts telling developers to prepare for a dynamic status bar, that’d be a very strong hint that rumors about the iPhone 14 Pro ditching the notch are correct.

Gurman has also said that iOS 16 could bring an always-on lock screen. That also feels like something that may be locked to the next-gen iPhone but that there’ll be hints about in the code and APIs. If his predictions that the lock screen is getting “widget-like capabilities” are correct, I’d see that as a pretty strong indicator about the iPhone 14 having an always-on display. (In theory, the iPhone 13 Pro’s LTPO screen might also be okay for that particular feature, but Gurman predicts it’ll be exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro.)

One thing that’s worth watching is which devices are supported by iOS 16 — the iPhone 6S has gotten six updates, but that’s bound to end at some point. Also, keep an ear out for any mentions of the accessibility updates Apple recently announced. While they’ve already been pretty thoroughly detailed, they’ll probably at least get a mention and possibly even a demo. (It’d be great to see someone actually using live captions or door detection.)

New versions of watchOS and macOS

As usual, there aren’t a ton of rumors about watchOS, but Apple’s pretty consistent with what it adds to the Apple Watch every year: some new fitness / health features, new workouts you can track, and new watch faces. 9to5Mac also reports that there could be an iPhone-like low-power mode that would offer more usability than the current power reserve mode (which basically just shows the time).

Apple Watch mirroring with iPhone
Apple has already shown off a slew of upcoming accessibility features.
Image: Apple

We could potentially see the accessibility features that Apple previewed earlier this month, including expanded Assistive Touch gestures that’ll let you move your fingers to do things like ending a call, taking a picture, and controlling media or workouts. Apple also showed off a mirroring mode that lets you see and control your watch’s screen from your phone. Apple said that these features will be coming in software updates this year, and it seems likely that means they’d be in watchOS 9.

As for what the next version of macOS will bring, the rumors have been very few and far between. There’s speculation it could get the iPhone’s Focus Mode feature and that it may be called macOS Mammoth. Other than that, the only thing we’re truly expecting to see is support for...

Two new Macs

The current rumor (also coming from Mark Gurman) is that Apple will introduce at least two new computers “around the middle of the year.” That prediction came alongside a whole list of computers that Apple’s reportedly working on, including a new Mac Pro, an entirely refreshed laptop lineup, and a Mac Mini or two.

The 2020 M1 MacBook Air sitting on a desk with a long-exposure light effect happening in the background.
Apple’s current M1-powered MacBook Air could be on its way out.

There have been rumors of a redesigned MacBook Air floating around for a while, and Apple has promised to introduce a Mac Pro with Apple silicon. The latter definitely seems ripe for a WWDC announcement. It’s the conference where Apple gathers a big chunk of its pros and enthusiasts (e.g., the folks that would love a Mac Pro), and it’d be weird if it teased the hardware at one event and didn’t announce it at the next.

As one of Apple’s more popular computers, the Air wouldn’t be out of place either. But then again, neither would a Mac Mini, especially given the rumors that Apple’s looking to equip it with an M2 Pro processor.

Oh yeah, about that...

The M2 could make its debut

In the report that detailed the potentially in-progress Macs, Bloomberg also said that they’re likely to feature Apple’s next-generation silicon. While there aren’t a ton of details on what kind of improvements the M2 will bring, where better to go over all the technical details than at a developer conference?

While Apple’s continued to pump out new variations of its chips, they’ve all been expansions of the M1 design it announced over a year and a half ago. The company said that it’s done introducing new M1 chips, so it seems possible that new computers would have to come with a new generation of chips (though noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the new Air could still have an M1 chip).

A drawing The Information made of Apple’s headset based on what it’s heard.
A drawing The Information made of Apple’s headset based on what it’s heard.
Image: The Information

Apple might announce its long-rumored AR / VR headset

Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t exactly “expect” this one — it’s more of a “don’t be surprised if it shows up” pick. Pretty much every year, people predict that Apple will show off a headset, currently rumored to be capable of virtual and augmented reality, featuring an array of cameras (for passing through video of the real world), a chip that’s about as powerful as a Mac, and dedicated software called RealityOS.

It’s never actually happened, but rumors are swirling that Apple’s getting close to announcing one after years of reportedly chaotic development. According to this report from a couple of weeks ago, Apple’s board of directors recently got to try out the headset, something that historically happens shortly before consumers get to see it.

That report said that Apple was planning on introducing the headset at WWDC but that there may have been delays that would prevent that. Apple could always tease it, though — some people suspect it’s already done so by including a person wearing glasses in its Memoji iconography for the show.

At the very least, you should expect Apple to talk a lot about AR and VR. It’s clearly a focus for the company, even if it’s not ready to show off the hardware. And who knows? Maybe 2022 will be another One More Thing kind of year.

Saying this is a headset hint is probably a stretch — unlike saying that it looks like the poster for 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
Saying this is a headset hint is probably a stretch — unlike saying that it looks like the poster for 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
Image: Apple