The biggest Apple event of the year, Worldwide Developers Conference 2021 (stylized as WWDC21) kicks off on June 7 and will be an online-only affair this year. “WWDC21 kicks off with the unveiling of exciting new updates coming to all Apple platforms later this year,” says Apple. But this year, the developer conference won’t be just about Apple’s software ecosystem, as rumors point to the debut of some highly anticipated hardware too. Excited? Here’s everything we expect from WWDC 2021:
Of course, the center of attention will be the software that runs the business on over a billion iPhones. Tentatively called iOS 15, there’s not much we know about Apple’s plans regarding its smartphone OS. However, as per a Bloomberg report, a huge makeover of the notification system is coming with iOS 15.
Starting with iOS 15, the report mentions that users will be able to customize notification behavior based on their current situation. For example, they can set the notification preference to send an audible alert – or not – depending on what they are doing. Users will reportedly be able to set ‘status’ profiles such as driving, working, sleeping, or create an altogether custom usage scenario, each with its own unique way of handling notifications.
The aforementioned upgrade will come to life in the form of a new menu that appears on the Lock Screen as well as the Control Center and will allow users to quickly switch between profiles. Moreover, users will also be able to enable automatic replies for each profile, which is going to be a convenient addition. Right now, automatic replies work only when users are driving, but iOS 15 is going to give it a major upgrade.
Apple is reportedly also eyeing a major change to iMessage to make it more competitive in the face of competition from rivals such as WhatsApp. Not much is known about the specifics, but some ‘social’ aspects will be added to it. Additionally, a dedicated menu that informs users about apps that are quietly collecting user data might also be announced.
Is iOS 15 going to expand the scope of default app behavior, allowing users to pick a third-party option instead of an Apple product? I’m not holding my breath for this one, actually. And from Apple’s past actions, I’m not too hopeful either. What I would love is a more refined Settings app that doesn’t look like a maze for the average iPhone user. And then there is the pipedream of an intuitive native app icon customization solution.
There’s more to WWDC 2021 than just iOS 15
However, iOS is not the only platform that is getting some love from Apple. As per the aforementioned report, Apple is also introducing what is being called ‘the biggest overhaul to the Home Screen’ design in over a decade with iPadOS 15. More importantly, the next iteration of Apple’s tablet OS will allow users to add widgets on their tablet’s Home Screen. Additionally, it will also allow users to replace the entire app grid with widgets.
However, I think that iPadOS is the platform that now needs an overhaul and new features that can fully milk the raw firepower offered by the M1 chip inside its new iPads. We expect to hear announcements about more pro-grade apps being optimized for the iPad family to make full use of the raw firepower they bring to the table.
Is Apple finally ready to unlock the true potential of its tablet OS now that it has all the raw processing power at its disposal to handle anything you throw at with ease? We’ll find out soon! However, if you’re not particularly optimistic about the aforesaid argument, maybe you’ll relate to this ‘Why I’m not upgrading to the 2021 iPad Pro‘ story.
Let’s talk about wearables now. Actually, watchOS 8. The leaks have been scarce about the changes coming to the Apple Watch ecosystem. However, you can certainly expect new watch faces and some UI tweaks to jazz things up. Apple might also introduce some new accessibility upgrades and wellness features concerning mental health.
Lately, some rumors have been pointing towards the arrival of a stress monitoring feature or panic attack detection that will combine data received from heart rate and SpO2 sensor on the Apple Watch to create a stress profile and help users relax with guided exercises and meditation. We’ve already seen stress-monitoring come to life on smartwatches based on RTOS, although not particularly fleshed-out.
Alright. What about macOS at WWDC? Unfortunately, the leak arena has been uncharacteristically mum about new features coming with the next big Mac software upgrade. Apple has made the switch to naming major macOS upgrades after California landmarks. So, your guess is as good as mine regarding the name of the next macOS update. Jacinto, Gorgonio, Cascade, Golden Gate? Well, let’s wait it out on this one!
WWDC 2021 will be a hardware showcase too?
A MacBook Pro at WWDC? Apparently, YES!
It’s in the name. Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The event has historically been the Apple Christmas for software ecosystem announcements, but things might be a bit different this year. As per leakster Jon Prosser, at least the highly-anticipated MacBook Pro refresh will make an appearance at the event. Here’s a quick recap of what the new machine will be all about:
Starting with the design, the Touch Bar is going away, and MagSafe is reportedly making a comeback. More importantly, the upcoming 14-inch (code name J314) – and likely a 16-inch (J316) too – MacBook Pro will bring back the HDMI port and SD card slot.
Another huge upgrade will likely be a mini-LED display. I dearly wish that Apple finally warms up to the idea of a touch-sensitive display on the MacBook Pro. We’ve already seen the mini-LED display make its way to the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and it is only fitting that Apple’s ambitious MacBook Pro refresh also evolves from the Retina era and makes the upgrade to Retina XDR display that offers better contrast and deeper blacks for a more eye-pleasing visual experience.
On the inside, we hear that the new M2 (or M1X, as per certain reports) will be a lot powerful than the M1 and has already entered production. The second-generation Apple chip inside the MacBook Pro will reportedly have a 10-core design, with eight of them being high-performance cores while the other two are efficiency cores.
More importantly, the Apple silicon inside the upcoming MacBook Pro models will have up to 32-cores, which means it can chew through demanding tasks like graphics designing and video editing with ease. RAM capacity, on the other hand, will go up to 64GB. However, it won’t be surprising to see Apple go all the way up to 128GB. Needless to say, this machine will be a beast (at least on paper), and of course, expensive too!
Apple is also rumored to be working on new true wireless earbuds tentatively called AirPods 3. Leaked schematics suggest an aesthetic overhaul that flaunts an in-ear design with scope for using ear tips and a much shorter stem. The design is heavily inspired by the AirPods Pro, however, Active Noise Cancellation likely won’t be a part of the package.
AirPods 3 will reportedly come equipped with an in-house chip that will bring quick pairing to life. Additionally, support for Spatial Audio will also be a part of the package. And if Apple’s promise of an improved music listening experience with Spatial Audio working in tandem with Dolby Atmos is anything to go by – now that Apple Music has gone lossless, for FREE – the AirPods 3 will at least be good enough for blasting your favorite Nickelback tracks. Sorry, I meant Adele. Really!
However, if the AirPods 3 don’t make a grand debut at WWDC 2021, keep an eye on the Beats Studio Buds that have already received the US FCC nod and have been spotted in the code of an iOS beta build. They have a stem-less design with a much smaller profile and in-ear design. They will reportedly bring noise cancellation to the table. And if priced below the AirPods Pro, they can prove to be a solid option for those in the market for a pair of premium earbuds.
We’ll be covering WWDC 2021 as it happens in real-time, so stay tuned to Pocketnow for all the updates. And just in case you miss out on the live event, head over to the Pocketnow YouTube channel where a round-up of all the key announcements will be up for your hearing (and viewing) pleasure with hot takes from the inimitable Jaime Rivera. And trust me, you don’t want to miss that!