Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is now less than a week away. The conference kicks off on Monday, June 3 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California and will run until Friday, June 7. Though the weeklong conference is packed with events and workshops for developers, most folks who aren’t engineers are primarily interested in the conference’s opening keynote.
That’s because it is during the keynote that Tim Cook and other executives will showcase the software enhancements coming to the operating systems of all of Apple’s major devices. This gives both developers and users a preview of what they can expect by the fall when the company will officially release these upgrades.
As usual, Apple has remained tight-lipped about what it will unveil at 2019’s WWDC. But thanks to leaks from confidential sources over the past several months, we have a pretty good idea of what’s next for Apple users.
Without a doubt, the star of WWDC will be iOS 13, the next iteration of the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. And rightly so, as iOS is by far Apple’s most used operating system. Here are some of the major features to expect:
- System-wide dark mode: Apple finally added a long-requested dark mode to MacOS last year and all signs point to a similar feature coming to iOS 13 this year. Many people find such modes–with light characters on a dark background–to be easier on their eyes than the typical black-on-white look.
- Sleep mode: Over the last several years, Apple has tried to make the iPhone less intrusive, as evidenced by features such as Do Not Disturb and Screen Time. iOS 13 is rumored to continue that focus with Sleep Mode, which will be activated via a toggle in the Control Center. Once enabled, Do Not Disturb will be automatically engaged, the Lock screen will dim, and all notifications will be muted.
- A redesigned volume control: This is such a small tweak, but something users have been clamoring for for years. Currently, when you change the volume on an iPhone, a massive overlay appears, blocking most of the screen—very annoying if you are watching a video. The newly redesigned control is expected to hog less space.
- iPad-only features: The iPad is also expected to receive new features tailored to its needs in iOS 13. Specifically, it’s said to be getting the ability to display multiple windows in a single app using a tabbed interface and stackable windows. Such features are designed to improve the multitasking abilities of the iPad, making it more similar to a laptop. The iPad is also expected to gain a new three-finger gesture that will allow users to undo or redo an action. Finally, the iPad is rumored to be getting mouse support in iOS 13. However, this feature is said to be an accessibility feature intended for people who can’t use a touchscreen.
- Messages improvements: Apple’s Messages app is one of the most popular apps on iOS. In recent years Apple has focused on adding more “fun” additions to the app, such as Animoji and the ability to send messages with animated effects. But this year’s update to Messages is rumored to be more useful. Users will reportedly be able to select a profile picture and a display name that will then be shown to the people the user chats with. (Currently, your recipients see whatever name they’ve saved for you in their contacts.)
- Noise level monitoring: A welcome feature in the Health app in iOS 13 will be the ability for the iPhone to track the volume of the device when you listen to music. This could enable the iPhone to warn you when you are listening to music so loudly it could permanently damage your hearing.
- A revamped Files app: iOS’s Files app lets you quickly view all of the documents you have saved in iCloud, as well as compatible cloud storage systems such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Rumors have said that Files will get a major overhaul in iOS 13, but what it will look like remains a mystery.
Of course, these are just the major feature improvements rumored to be coming to iOS 13. There are said to be dozens of smaller improvements and tweaks coming to the OS, including a new swipe keyboard, redesigned Find My iPhone and Reminders apps, Mail enhancements, and more.
Apple will also introduce the next version of MacOS at WWDC. If the company maintains its current numbering system, this will be MacOS 10.15. However, here’s hoping Apple ditches the “10” versioning system and just calls it MacOS 11 or bumps the number up to match that of iOS and calls it MacOS 13. As for what to expect in the next MacOS:
- Cross-platform apps: Last year Apple ported some of its own iOS apps to the Mac, including Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos. This year, the company is rumored to be extending the ability to developers to easily port their iOS apps to the Mac. At this time, that will reportedly include only iPad apps, not iPhone ones. However, this is a step in a multi-year journey Apple is rumored to be taking. iOS 14 should add iPhone/Mac cross-platform apps.
- A new TV app: This is one of the few things on this list that has been confirmed by Apple. The company has said that the next MacOS will include a new TV app designed to let users view content from streaming services, movie and TV purchases from the iTunes store, and Apple’s upcoming streaming video service right in the app.
- Individual Music and Podcast apps: Apple is said to be launching stand-alone Music and Podcast apps on the Mac, just like iOS already has. This means users will open the Podcast app to browse, download, and listen to their podcast library. It’s not clear if the new Music app will only be a front end for streaming Apple Music or if it will be taking over iTunes’ responsibility of organizing a user’s entire library.
- Revamped Reminders and Books apps: Like iOS 13, MacOS 10.15 is also said to be getting a redesigned Reminders app. What that makeover entails remains unknown. For the Books app, Apple is said to be adding tracking features that encourage reading.
Other new features of MacOS 10.15 reportedly include being able to use the iPad as an external display, a new Find My iPhone app, Siri Shortcuts, and the ability to use the Apple Watch to authenticate various password-protected operations on the Mac.
Speaking of the Apple Watch, Apple is expected to unveil the next version of its operating system: watchOS 6 (again, let’s just rename this watchOS 13 for consistency, Apple). While fewer new features are apparently coming to the Watch than to iOS devices and Macs, they are some important ones:
- Apple Watch App Store: Perhaps the coolest Apple Watch rumor is the wearable gaining its own App Store. This means you’ll be able to browse and download Apple Watch apps right on your Watch. Currently, you need to use the iOS App Store and download iPhone apps that also have Apple Watch apps embedded in them.
- New health features: It’s clear Apple thinks of the Apple Watch as a health-focused device. With that in mind, the company is rumored to be adding ambient noise and volume alerts. These will tell you when the noise around you or the volume in your earphones is so loud it could damage your hearing. There’s also rumored to be a new “Cycles” app for tracking menstruation cycles and a new “Doses” app that reminds you to take medication.
- New productivity apps: WatchOS 6 is also set to gain a new Calculator app as well as a Voice Memos app, allowing you to record conversations right on the device.
New watch faces and complications are also rumored to be part of watchOS 6, including complications that show rain data, the level of ambient noise, the battery life of hearing aids, and information about audiobooks.
There have been zero leaks about what is coming to the Apple TV, suggesting that no major new features are in store. It seems like the company is focusing all its TV efforts on its upcoming TV+ streaming service, which is expected to launch late this year.
But hey Apple, if you’re listening, there are a lot of people who would love to see picture-in-picture on their Apple TVs. Just FYI.
New Pro hardware?
While WWDC is primarily a software-driven event, Apple does occasionally unveil new hardware. Back in 2017, the company confirmed that sometime in 2019 it would be launching a new Mac Pro as well as a new Apple display. It’s not clear if these will make their debut at WWDC. Given how much software Apple will have to discuss, I’m guessing no.
At most, I expect Apple to give us an update on these new professional machines, with a vague statement they will be “launching by the end of the year.” Sorry, pros, we know you want new professional-level machines–and while they are on their way, don’t expect them next month.