Next week, Apple is throwing its biggest event and keynote of the year: the annual Worldwide Developers Conference 2018. Tim Cook and other Apple execs will take the stage for roughly two hours of announcements on June 4 at 10 a.m. PT, detailing the next year in Apple software and some updated hardware.
It’s been a tough year for Apple, as the company’s flagship phone, the iPhone X, failed to live up to the world’s extraordinary expectations. So far, the media has been treating WWDC 2018 with tempered excitement, as Apple is rumored to be focusing on stability and performance rather than an onslaught of new features. That means we’re likely to see Apple making its existing assets–ranging from Animoji to Siri–richer and more ubiquitous across its devices. We may also see Apple fix a major pain point with its software: the fact that Mac OS and iOS require users to buy (and developers to update) the same app twice. It’s also possible that Apple will emphasize other aspects of its existing products–like their ability to protect your health and your privacy in the connected world.
Apple is reportedly planning a lot of major changes to iOS, ranging from a completely new home screen design to revamped photos and media sharing. But according to Bloomberg, Apple has delayed all of those updates for next year’s iOS 13, while iOS 12 will simply double down on stability and security instead.
So what new features, if any, will we get in iOS 12? Animoji on Facetime chats, not just Messages, for starters. It’s easy to imagine Apple leaning in hard to animoji, pushing the future of face-to-face communications as a real-time Snapchat filter. Meanwhile, under the hood, Apple’s augmented reality tech ARKit and machine learning system CoreML are both likely to get some upgrades, which is good news for any AR app developer. Right now, CoreML offers developers an easy way to integrate 15 areas of AI superpowers into their apps, including image recognition, style transfer, and face detection. Apple is likely to expand upon those.
Mac OS 10.14
For the most part, the updates to Mac OS don’t look to be any more razzle-dazzle than what’s going on with iOS 12. We’re talking about some minor updates to Safari and Photos. Animoji on your laptop via Facetime. Furries are finally getting their day in the sun!
The potentially more exciting update would be the introduction of long-awaited universal apps that could work seamlessly across Mac OS and iOS (though there’s some debate as to whether this will be announced at WWDC or later this year). Right now, developers have to build apps for both of Apple’s platforms distinctly, and consumers can get sucked into buying apps again and again as a result. After the update, iMacs and Macbooks would literally be able to run iPad apps, and a platform called UXKit will allow developers to design a single piece of software to run cross-platform. Aside from solving a lot of user confusion, this platform agnostic approach to apps could enable developers to be more creative about the interplay of their apps across various screens, and usher in an era where there’s actually some advantage to owning both an iPhone and an iMac.
Apple Analyst Gene Munster spends plenty of time talking smack about Siri in his latest predictions, pointing out that the original voice assistant has fallen behind all others in the industry. That’s news to no one. But what would be news is Apple integrating Siri into what he calls a “$250 Beats-branded option that does not compromise HomePod’s $349 price point.” Yes, Munster says Apple could be making another smart home speaker.
But given that Apple has fallen so far behind with Siri, most people agree that WWDC offers Apple an opportunity to at least attempt a turnaround with new features and announcements. Apple is unlikely to catch up with the Google Assistant’s sheer range of capabilities, but don’t be surprised if Apple introduces a few surprising Siri twists that will at least keep you entertained for the remainder of the keynote.
Privacy and “Digital Health”
It’s possible we may see some other news come out of WWDC: WatchOS and tvOS should get updates, a new iPad could arrive, and Macbooks and Macbook Pros may or may not get a refresh. New iPhones are generally saved for the fall, but some media buzz (perhaps born from nothing but the otherwise quiet line up) suggests this year may be an exception with the introduction of a low-cost iPhone SE2.
But what will be more interesting is watching how Apple positions itself in relation to its competition right now. With all the news around GDPR–and Google and Facebook’s own alleged failures at meeting its standards on day one–it’s easy to imagine Cook doubling down on Apple products as privacy products that put the user first. Munster believes Apple could lean into this narrative even more by introducing more digital wellness tools akin to what we saw from Google at I/O. Bloomberg suggests that this initiative will be called Digital Health.
Given that WWDC looks pretty quiet in terms of typical unveilings, Apple’s features around privacy and well-being could be the most exciting announcements of the day. And at a minimum, they may be the most necessary.