WWDC is usually the most software-heavy event in Apple’s calendar and there’s no reason to expect anything different from the 2021 version. Those who have waited with bated breath to hear about the next evolutions of iOS, iPad, and Apple’s other various operating systems are sure to be satisfied to some extent. On the flip side, if you want to hear about the next iPhone, maybe wait a few months.
Still, the show promises to have at least a couple of cool announcements. You can watch it on Monday, June 7 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET on YouTube or on Apple’s site. Here’s what we expect to see.
iOS 15 with a dash of iPadOS
The iPhone has been the center of Apple’s universe for more than a decade, so the next iteration of iOS will certainly get plenty of exposure at WWDC 2021. Unlike most of the other OS upgrades we expect to see at the show, we actually know a few things about iOS 15.
Maybe the most noticeable change for most users will be a revamp of how push notifications work, per a report from Bloomberg. Apple supposedly plans on adding a new menu to the lock screen and Control Center that will let you set a status, like “driving” or “working.” Depending on your status, notifications could change their behavior, muting sounds or other nuisances that could distract you from the task at hand. Think of it as Do Not Disturb, but with more specificity.
Beyond that, we expect the Health app to get a food tracking menu to go along with its other fitness-centric features. Apple will also supposedly add a menu that allows users to see a list of which apps are tracking their activity, and enhancement of the recent privacy push on iPhone. Finally, Apple recently announced a bundle of accessibility options, like a VoiceOver option that will vocally describe what’s happening in a photo for users with vision difficulties. We don’t know for sure that these are tied to iOS 15, but they could and may very well be, given the lack of a firm release date.
Obviously, iOS will be a major focus at WWDC, but we’d be remiss not to mention iPadOS. Unfortunately, we don’t know nearly as much about the next iPad update, but the same Bloomberg report mentioned that it will unlock widgets for the iPad home screen as iOS 14 did for iPhones. The aforementioned notification changes will reportedly apply to iPadOS 15, too.
macOS, watchOS, and tvOS
Apple did an unusually good job of killing leaks before they got out this year because we really don’t know a lot about the other OS updates coming at WWDC — namely, macOS 12 and watchOS 8.
Starting with desktop and laptop computers, the new version of macOS is thought to be incremental in nature, according to the same Bloomberg report with the iOS and iPadOS news. Big Sur was a pretty substantial update when it launched last year, so whatever Apple shows off at WWDC might prioritize “boring” things like security updates instead of flashy new features. We’ll see.
The OS powering Apple Watch is also a mystery heading into WWDC. One possible clue is that Apple filed an application to have the Watch measure a user’s blood sugar levels, which could be very helpful to diabetic Apple Watch owners. That’s certainly not guaranteed to show up in the next (or any) version of watchOS, but we don’t have much more to go on right now, sadly. It’s safe to assume interface and accessibility upgrades are coming, but we won’t know the specifics until Apple tells us.
Lastly, it would make sense for Apple to talk about the next steps for tvOS, given the very recent reveal of a new Apple TV device. One rumor suggests Apple is adding enhanced parental controls and a Screentime feature that would theoretically work like the iPhone equivalent, but that should all be taken with a grain of salt until WWDC begins.
It’s not often that Apple announces a new operating system altogether, but we might get that at WWDC 2021. That, or someone at Apple made a typo.
A now-amended job listing from Apple repeatedly referenced “homeOS,” which doesn’t officially exist. The edited version of the listing replaced “homeOS” with “tvOS” or “HomePod,” leading some to think Apple may combine the software fueling its streaming boxes and its smart speakers into one unified OS. Combine that with a Bloomberg report from April saying that Apple plans to make a device that combines streaming and smart speaker capabilities, and you’ve got a juicy and very plausible rumor.
Again, this could all just be a copywriting mistake, but it’s fun to dream.
Possible but not likely: New hardware
WWDC is almost always a software-focused event, but hardware slips through the cracks from time to time. This may not be a huge year for hardware announcements at WWDC, but there are a few reasons to believe we’ll see something.
For starters, another Bloomberg report claims that several new Mac computers will come out this year, starting with a new MacBook Pro “this summer.” We could also see new MacBook Air and Mac Pro machines this year, along with updates to the Mac mini and iMac. That “early summer” launch window for the MacBook Pro fits perfectly with the timing of WWDC, though that’s not exactly a guarantee we’ll see the laptop during the show.
Whether or not any actual computers are shown off at WWDC, we might see the next in-house chip that powers them. Bloomberg says all of those devices will be powered by a new chip that dwarfs the M1 chip Apple unveiled in 2020 and subsequently added to some MacBooks. Some rumored upgrades include a max RAM bump from 16GB all the way up to 64GB, as well as more ports. Such a big upgrade coming so soon after the M1’s launch might be a bummer to folks who bought M1 machines, but anyone who waited could be rewarded.
One last hardware rumor that could definitely shake things up is that Apple may officially unveil Apple Glass, its AR headset, at WWDC. Apple’s been reportedly working on Glass for a while now and some of the promotional artwork for WWDC 2021 heavily features characters in very reflective glasses. That may sound like a reach, but we wouldn’t put it past Apple to drop hints like that. Don’t bet money on Glass showing up at WWDC, but be prepared for the possibility, no matter how slight it may be.
As always, WWDC could make us look like chumps by including absolutely none of the above, or the show could be exactly what we expect and, thus, pretty boring. Glass and the follow-up to M1 would be awesome to see, but we’ll settle for cool new iOS features and Tim Cook giving opening remarks in an idyllic field or something.