It’s that time of year again: No, not Christmas, but very close for Apple fans! Apple is holding their Worldwide Developers Conference again next week, and that means that they will be letting us see some of what they’ve been working on. Typically, as they’ve done for the last few years, they show a preview of the upcoming iOS and OS X versions that get released a few months later, as well as demoing some of the new hardware. Since as of yet, there haven’t been any leaks of what to expect at the show, I figured I would post my predictions for what may be presented. So with that, here are some of my expectations for WWDC 2016.
Let’s look at this by category, starting with the iPhone. iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were released this past fall, on the usual iPhone refresh cycle. In addition to those, Apple released the iPhone SE even more recently, just a few months back now. Considering those releases and the usual timing of phone updates, I think it’s virtually guaranteed that we will not see any iPhone hardware update news. If they do bring out a new phone, I think it will catch everyone off guard, and it would likely cause a whole bunch of complaints from the people who bought in to the 6S cycle, only to have the cycle cut short early, very similarly to what happened with the 3rd and 4th generation iPads, where the 4th gen iPad was released less than a year after the 3rd gen one. That made a lot of the early adopters upset! I should know – I was one of them!
Speaking of iPad, should we expect to see any iPad hardware refreshes? I think that’s doubtful. The past fall, the released the 12.9“ iPad Pro (with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessories) and iPad mini 4. They elected to not introduce an iPad Air 3, but rather delayed the update to the 9.7” iPad until just a few weeks ago, when the released the 9.7" iPad Pro to replace the Air. So, much like with iPhone, the iPad hardware lineup doesn’t have anything more than a year old yet and due for a refresh.
Of course, iPhone and iPad will likely still play a central role in the WWDC keynote, as if this show follows the routine from the last several years, we will get a preview of iOS 10. This is an easy prediction to make, and I’m not going to go into details here about what I think or hope iOS 10 will contain. I’ll save that for another post!
Same hardware story for Apple TV. It just came out last fall, and considering how the Apple TV 3rd gen went for several years without a refresh, there’s no way they’d refresh the current Apple TV 4th gen this soon. Developers are still getting used to writing apps for tvOS, so I can’t see a good reason why they’d need to upgrade the hardware.
For Apple Watch, I’m a little unsure. They announced the Watch well in advance of it’s release – I believe a Fall announcement for a Spring release? Then at the last WWDC, they announced watchOS 2 already. For sure, we will get a preview of watchOS 3, but I am curious if that will shed any light on what the Apple Watch 2 itself might contain, or if they might do an early reveal of that as well. I’m very hopeful, as I’ve been holding off buying a Watch until version 2 comes out, but I suspect that we’ll be seeing more of what the Watch will be able to do, rather than the Watch itself. I’ll just have to keep waiting! Oh, and probably new watch straps, to keep with fashion trends.
Finally, let’s consider the Mac lineup. The new 12“ MacBook was released a while ago, with the single USB C port that created such a stir. However, the rest of the MacBook Pro line didn’t get much of an update. The CPU’s got a recent speed bump, but nothing major. One rumour is that Apple may bring the 12” MacBook styling to the MacBook Pro lineup. If they did that, I suspect they’d have to increase the number of ports available, as it wouldn’t be much of a Pro device with such limited connectivity. The iMac also got an update last year with the 5K retina display, so that one may also get a speed bump, but probably nothing revolutionary.
The operating system for the Mac will likely get a big part of the show as well, and if rumours prove correct, it’s going to have its name changed from OS X to MacOS. There has also been some debate about the syntax of the name, with all the other Apple OS names starting with lowercase letters, though the argument is that the Mac is a proper and trademarked name, and should rightfully remain capitalized. Anyways, that’s just the name. What it will actually bring to the Mac will likely be working towards more of a constant user experience across Apple’s mobile and desktop devices. Of course, the big rumour that should hopefully prove true is that Siri may be coming to the Mac.
Beyond Apple’s mainstream hardware and OS systems, they have a few other things that could possibly get some of the spotlight at this WWDC. Recently, Airport routers have been disappearing from Apple Store shelves. When things go out of stock at Apple Stores, that a good indication that a refresh is coming soon. However, in this case, it might just be a matter of recently changed FDA rules, and hopefully they will be brought back soon. Every year, people also pine for upgraded Retina Thunderbolt displays. There has been recent talk that standalone 5K displays containing their own GPU’s may be on the verge of showing up, but those rumours have also been shot down by a few people. New Beats devices could get released as well, especially with the back to school season soon upon us, though I don’t think Beats devices have ever been given any presentation time at these keynotes. They’d probably just be a silent refresh on the website or a news release.
One final rumour involves a new piece of hardware, which would be really cool if true, though I have my doubts. The rumour is a device that has a speaker, mic, and camera, and runs an always-on Siri that can act as a sort of hub for the home. I suppose they could integrate the Beats technology into the speaker functionality, though I can’t see this being anymore than a since standalone device, as opposed to a collection of speakers that you can customize for your room, like Sonos. Maybe something closer to a Beats Pill? Then the camera could supposedly perform facial recognition so that Siri knows who is present in the room. Combining this with the tech that allows the iPhone 6S to distinguish between voices could really help with the device’s awareness. This hub device could integrate with all the devices in your home, and issue commands to them individually, such as telling the Apple TV to turn on a movie, or telling your iPhone to dial a contact. Plus, it would tie into iCloud, so that you could dictate notes or make calendar appointments, etc. With the recent surge in popularity of Amazon’s Echo device with Alexa, something like this from Apple may attract a big audience.
So, those are my predictions for WWDC 2016. It sounds like this year is going to be a big year for software, with less attention on new hardware. Either way, our Apple devices are going to learn some new tricks in the coming months, and that is exciting!