What to expect from WWDC 2021: iOS 15, M2, and more

June 3, 2021 by No Comments

Apple kicks off its annual developer conference, WWDC, with a keynote presentation on Monday. As was the case last year, WWDC will be an online-only affair, but don’t let that fool you: We think this is going to be an eventful keynote. Expect multiple interesting announcements for users living in or following Apple’s ecosystem of hardware, software, and services.

The focus of WWDC is almost always on Apple’s software, and rightly so. This is an event primarily meant to engage with developers and encourage them to create new software experiences for Apple’s various platforms.

For that reason, we should, of course, expect detailed information about the new versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

But this event will also mark the halfway point in Apple’s two-year roadmap to transition the entire Mac product line away from Intel’s CPUs and towards Apple’s own, custom-designed silicon. There is good reason to believe this event will focus on the transition—a focus that may potentially include new Mac hardware announcements.

Before the show begins next week, let’s review what we know and expect at this moment. Rest assured, we’ll also be covering the action as it unfolds within our liveblog on Monday, so stay tuned to Ars to catch the news as it happens.

iOS and iPadOS

New versions of iOS and iPadOS are sure to be a major focus of the WWDC 2021 keynote.

Last year, we knew a whole lot about the new software for iPhones and iPads leading up to WWDC, thanks to numerous leaks. This year? Not nearly so much.

As was the case for a whole mess of leaks last year (and plenty this year, too) what we do know comes from Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with Apple’s plans to claim that iOS 15 will overhaul notifications, allowing users to set different rules about what kinds of notifications to receive (or block) depending on factors like time of day and location.

Bloomberg’s sources also said there will be new privacy features, like a place where users can go to see a list of apps that are collecting their data. Further, Apple plans to make changes to iMessage to make it “more of a social network,” though it’s unclear exactly what that means.

Below: The 2021, 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Apple’s M1.

iPadOS is slated to get the same home screen customization features that came to iPhones, but not iPads, late last year, including widgets you can place on any home screen page, and the App Library.

There have been other reports of upcoming features like food tracking in the Health app, but the sources weren’t as solid, so we’d suggest approaching those with a grain of salt.

Beyond all that, we don’t know much about iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, so expect at least a couple of surprises.

macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and… homeOS?

Apple will also announce new versions of macOS for the Mac, watchOS for the Apple Watch, and tvOS (or something new related to tvOS) for the Apple TV.

We know even less about what to expect from Apple’s other operating systems. macOS will likely be called macOS 12, fully leaving behind the “10.x” nomenclature after Apple graduated the platform from macOS 10 to macOS 11 last year with the launch of Big Sur.

Bloomberg’s sources in the aforementioned piece called the upcoming changes to macOS “minor,” and we haven’t seen any reliable reports about what to expect from macOS in any case. More privacy features seem like a safe bet, and this is just speculation, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple try to address criticisms that iOS and iPadOS apps running under macOS aren’t very nice to use. But truth be told, the next version of macOS remains a mystery.

The same goes for watchOS. Apple has been adding health-related features with gusto over the past few years, so more of those seem a safe bet, but there haven’t been many reports.

Perhaps the most interesting leak of late was the apparently accidental inclusion of the term “homeOS” in an Apple job listing. The term appeared to be replaced by “HomePod” and “tvOS” in the two places where it appeared, suggesting that Apple may plan to merge the unnamed HomePod software (which is already a variant of tvOS) and the TV streaming box’s software to create a unified smart home operating system.

That said, we don’t know anything for sure on that front, so we’ll have to wait and see on Monday.

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