Twice every year, Apple fans and tech enthusiasts alike have all the reasons to get excited about. One of them is, of course, the September fall event – where the latest iPhone models are launched. The other is the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which will be held this year at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, from the 13th to the 17th of June. With the sale figures of the latest flagship iPhones tapering off and most of the other new Apple gadgets and accessories (the Apple Pencil, for instance) not doing particularly well – Apple developers and software experts are looking forward to the announcements that the Cupertino tech giant makes at the upcoming conference. Here are some of the most likely announcements that will be made at WWDC 2016:
- OS X 10.12 – Codenamed ‘Fuji’, the successor of OS X 10.11 El Capitan will finally be showcased at the conference. Although the operating system is uniformly well-reviewed, the absence of Siri on it has often been a source of complaint among users. There is an outside chance that Siri might make an appearance on OS X 10.12. Another point to be noted here is that, Apple is going for a change of naming convention – with the new version of the desktop platform likely to be called ‘macOS’ (in line with iOS and watchOS platforms). The new moniker is, in fact, already present on the Apple website.
- iOS 10 – In keeping with its tradition over the years, iOS 10 will be demoed at the WWDC. Professional iPhone app developers are expecting the first pre-release beta of iOS 10 to become available immediately after the 5-day event. While the new iteration of iOS will not have many visual changes from its predecessor (iOS 9), changes are expected in the Control Center, iCloud Voicemail is likely to be present, and users will probably get the opportunity to remove/hide some of the stock iPhone apps. There will be updates in the Calendar and Photos apps, as well as Apple Maps (with Street View). An all-new ‘Dark Mode’ (in line with iOS 9.3’s ‘Night Shift’) might also be present in iOS 10.
- New Macbook Pro – The Macbook Pro line has been due for a refresh for some time now – and according to reports from online Apple development forums, two new Macbook laptop models (13” and 15”) should see the light of day at the upcoming event. The devices will be powered by the cutting edge Skylake processors, and should sport entirely new designs. The laptops will probably have USB-C support as well, enhancing their usability. There is a general contention that Apple Macbook-s are nice but just a tad underpowered – and the new models should address the issue.
- Apple Watch 2 – Probably a long shot, but WatchKit app developers do feel that there is a chance of a ‘self-sufficient’ second-generation Apple Watch to make an appearance at WWDC 2016. The instruction that all new watchOS apps HAVE to be native (from June) has further fueled this speculation. Apple Watch 2, if it is indeed announced at the conference, is likely to have cellular connectivity features. This would make it more of an independent wearable gadget, and less dependant on paired iPhones.
- New version of tvOS – Unlike the performance of the latest iPhones and iPads, Apple TV has witnessed robust sales over the past couple of quarters. It won’t be a big surprise if Tim Cook and his team decide to release an updated version of the tvOS at this year’s WWDC event. Users have clamoured for several basic features (like voice input of instructions), and the new tvOS should have many of these. Interestingly, not much has been in the news about tvOS lately.
- watchOS 3 – This one’s fairly certain, and it should be the start of the end for WatchKit. Experts from the field of app development have reported that the role of WatchKit would either be significantly diminished in watchOS 3 – or the new platform will not have watchKit at all. With apps for Apple Watch going native from June 1, all codes will be present on the smartwatch itself (and not on the paired iPhone). Given that most third-party developers still use WatchKit, this will be an interesting move. It remains to be seen whether watchOS 3 is indeed as big a success as Apple obviously envisages it to be.
- Upgrade on Apple Maps – Google Maps is still streets ahead, and improvements to Apple Maps (in a bid to catch up) might just continue at the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference. In particular, an upgraded version of Maps – with a public web API – has a chance of being released at the event. It will be possible to embed the new version of Apple Maps in publicly hosted websites and blogs. Again, not a certainty – but there is a chance.
- End of the road for Macbook Air – If new Macbook Pro models indeed arrive in a month’s time, Apple is likely to pull the plug on its line of Macbook Air laptops. The other option is, of course, revamping Macbook Air with Retina Display and the new Intel processors – but most hardware experts as well as app-makers feel that is not going to happen. In fact, with Macbook Air being killed, the line of Apple laptops (Macbook at the low-end and Macbook Pro at the high-end) will become more streamlined. To put it differently, a new Macbook Pro will do away with the NEED for a Macbook Air.
- Apple Music updates – This one is a hunch – purely from the fact that Apple had previously hosted Music-related events at the Bill Graham Civic auditorium, which is larger and has a better acoustics system than the Moscone Convention Center (the regular venue for WWDCs). Many users as well as iPhone app developers feel that the iOS music application can do with an update – and the upcoming event might be the right occasion for that.
- More secure iCloud – There was always going to be an aftermath of the recent lawsuit tussle between Apple and the FBI – and the rumored ‘Rootless’ security system (rumored to be present on iOS 10) is just that. What’s more – the Cupertino company is gearing up for a tighter, more advanced security setup for its cloud services. It has been reported that the overall infrastructure of iCloud will be brought in-house by Apple – making it more stable and reliable than ever.
- HomeKit – Apple introduced HealthKit in the 2014 edition of WWDC. Two years on, iOS app development experts feel that the company is ready to come out with the HomeKit application. The app will segregate and order home devices in separate ‘virtual rooms’, and its function will vary with the precise physical location of users. It will be something of a surprise if iPhone 7 (coming this fall) does not have a dedicated ‘Home’ icon.
- More functionality for Apple Pay – With a user base in excess of 12 million, Apple Pay is easily the most popular NFC-powered contactless payment system at present. However, a recent Bloomberg survey revealed that Samsung Pay is growing at a faster rate than Apple Pay, while Android Pay is also emerging as a strong challenger. To stay ahead of the competition, the Cupertino company would do well to come out with an improved version of Apple Pay, with person-to-person payment options being its main highlight. Rumors are rife about many other new features of Apple Pay being in the works – right from ATM transactions, to loyalty points and on-tap money transfer (phone to phone).
The 90-minute keynote session of WWDC 2016 by Craig Federighi will give us an idea about how many of the above announcements will actually be made at the event. Tickets, priced at $1500, have been distributed via a lottery system – while 350 student scholarships and 125 additional scholarships for developers with monetary constraints also being given.
2016 has already seen a major Apple event on March 21, when the iPhone SE was launched. The WWDC is only five weeks away, and for Apple fans – June 13 can’t come fast enough!