Despite Apple CEO Tim Cook teasing that Apple would introduce new products “across 2014,” so far this year the company has simply released a cheaper version of the iPhone 5c in select markets, marginally faster MacBook Airs, and the 2012 fourth-generation iPad at a lower price.
But on Monday, June 2nd, Apple will make major announcements that will indicate the immediate future of its two major platforms: iOS and OS X. The Cupertino company will share details behind the changes in iOS 8, a redesigned Mac operating system, and perhaps even new hardware.
Over the past several months, we have exclusively reported the majority of the news to expect next week and you can find our extensive roundup (along with new details) below:
iOS 8 “Okemo”
Succeeding the major revamp that was iOS 7, iOS 8, which is internally codenamed Okemo, will focus on feature and design enhancements across the system. Many of the design choices made in iOS 7 will see subtle tweaks and apps such as Maps will see major feature improvements. Apple is also focusing on integrating health data into iOS 8 with a new Healthbook app, and will focus on improving the system overall with dramatic performance boosts. Unfortunately, while Apple has been working on several new features for iOS 8, several sources say that some of the new enhancements are running behind and may not be introduced at WWDC or shipped until next year. Sources also say that Apple is only finalizing which features make the cut for the first iOS 8 beta tomorrow (just two days before the keynote).
The Activity section can track steps taken, calories burned, and miles walked. The Weight tab can track a person’s weight, BMI, and body fat percentage. The current health accessory marketplace includes wireless weight scales, so it is likely that Healthbook will receive its data from those types of products. Both of those aforementioned tabs will have an interface with graphs and charts so that users can track their fitness progress over daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly views. Our earlier reporting on Healthbook goes into further detail about why the application is critical and how it could interact with future Apple wearable devices.
Another important element of Healthbook is the Emergency Card function. The Emergency Card is a single place for users to store information about themselves. The Emergency Card can keep a person’s name, photograph, birthdate, blood type, organ donor status, emergency contact information, weight, and a list of medication prescriptions. This Emergency Card function could save lives and provide emergency technicians, nurses, hospitals, and doctors with vital information about patients in emergency situations.
For iOS 8, Apple is planning to overhaul its previously bug-riddled in-house mapping software. The updated application will retain the same user interface introduced last year with iOS 7, but it will be updated with improved mapping data, better clarity, and important new features.
In addition to more reliable and plentiful data, the updated app is said to include tweaked cartography, clearer labeling, and improved notation of bus stops, train stations, and airports.
The improved data also makes way for a major new feature: public transit directions. Apple won’t be the first to this feature (Google has had it for several years), but the addition is a change in direction from when former iOS chief Scott Forstall said in 2012 that Apple would leave transit to third-party developers.
Thanks to several acquisitions of transit specialist companies, iOS 8’s Maps app will have transit functionality deeply embedded for several cities around the world. Transit will allow people to navigate using buses, trains, and subways, and will include improved navigation to nearby airports.
The transit feature will be integrated as both a new view (in addition to Standard, Hybrid, and Satellite), and as a new option alongside walking and driving for directions. While transit will be integrated, Apple will still be able to point users to third-party transit apps like it has done since iOS 6’s launch. Transit directions will work for both future trip planning and immediate navigation.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that transit will be ready to ship alongside some of the other iOS 8.0 features. It is highly likely, sources say, that transit could be pushed back to next year. However, an announcement at WWDC is still possible, but unconfirmed.
For iOS 8, Apple is considering breaking out the Music app’s iTunes Radio functionality into its own standalone application. As a tab in the existing Music app, iTunes Radio has not received a promoted presence on iOS, and this has likely deterred growth for the service in terms of advertising revenue and usage.
As a standalone application, users will be able to more quickly access iTunes Radio. Psychologically for users, iTunes Radio will be its own app competing with the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. The benefit for Apple, however, is that iTunes Radio will be pre-installed.
The interface for the standalone iTunes Radio application is said to be nearly identical to the one found inside of the iOS Music app and its Home screen icon is a terrestrial radio graphic atop a red background.
The functionality of iTunes Radio will also be akin to its iOS 7 Music app counterpart. Users will be able to browse their history, purchase streamed tracks, locate Featured Stations, and create and manage stations based on songs, artists, and albums. Apple previously considered releasing iTunes Radio as a standalone application in iOS 6, but due to problems with striking record label deals, the company ultimately pushed the launch back to iOS 7.
Apple has previously removed functionality from the standard iOS Music (formerly called iPod) app and separated functionality into standalone apps. For example, Apple moved playback for movies, TV shows, and music videos from the iPod app into a separate Videos app with iOS 5. With iOS 6, Apple began promoting Podcasts as its own App Store app and removed playback from the Music app. In early 2012, Apple re-located playback of iTunes University content to its own app.
The considerations also make sense in light of Apple recently adding more functionality to iTunes Radio, such as news from NPR and ESPN. With iOS 8, it is also possible that Apple will introduce locally-targeted advertising to iTunes Radio, according to The Information.
Sources say that Apple is considering removing the Game Center application from iOS and OS X. Instead of centering around the (little-used) Game Center app, the functionality will be found solely inside in apps that have integrated the social gaming service. Just last year, Apple completely redesigned the Game Center app for iOS 7 to remove the green felt and casino theme from the Scott Forstall era. Recently leaked iOS 8 screenshots did, however, show the Game Center icon.
Apple is developing versions of the Mac operating system’s Preview and TextEdit applications that are optimized for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The applications are said to not be designed to actually edit PDFs, images, or text documents.
Instead, the apps are built to serve as tools to view Preview and TextEdit files stored in iCloud by OS X. Apple added iCloud synchronization for Preview and TextEdit with OS X Mountain Lion, but has not yet released iOS counterparts to actually view the synchronized content.
The applications are said to still be early in development, but they are being considered for release later in the year. It is currently uncertain if the new pieces of software will be ready to ship with the upcoming iOS 8, but it is a possibility.
Instead of using fully functional Preview and TextEdit applications on iOS, users will be encouraged to use the PDF management and editing functionality in the free iBooks application from the App Store and manage other documents via the iWork suite’s word processing application Pages. The apps will also bring improved feature parity between the two Apple operating systems.
According to sources, Apple has planned for iOS 8 to include a new iPad multitasking feature, but the debut of the functionality could be delayed. These people say that the feature will allow iPad users to run and interact with two iPad applications at once. Up until now, each iPad application either developed by Apple or available on the App Store is only usable individually in a full-screen view. NYT‘s Brian X. Chen claims the feature won’t be unveiled at WWDC as it is not yet ready.
In addition to allowing for two iPad apps to be used at the same time, the feature is designed to allow for apps to more easily interact, according to the sources. For example, a user may be able to drag content, such as text, video, or images, from one app to another. Apple is said to be developing capabilities for developers to be able to design their apps to interact with each other. This functionality may mean that Apple is finally ready to enable “XPC” support in iOS (or improved inter-app communication), which means that developers could design App Store apps that could share content.
iPad as Mac Display
Sources say that Apple has been testing a new feature for iOS that allows customers to connect an iPad to a Mac for use as an external monitor. Sources warn that the feature may not be ready for iOS 8, but it has definitely been in testing. This functionality is akin to offerings such as AirDisplay on the App Store (picture above by Matt Gemmel). The strategy is part of Apple’s work on iPad split-screen multitasking: differentiating the iPad’s feature-set from the iPhone and making the tablet more productive.
iOS in the Home
Apple is planning to integrate iOS devices with smart hardware in homes, as first reported by the Financial Times and corroborated by our sources. The program is an extension of Apple’s MFi Accessory program. Customers will be able to tell which devices can be controlled by iOS devices based on specific Apple-provided branding. For instance, Apple’s iOS update could unlock iPhones to more easily connect to and setup connected home devices like Nest thermostats and Hue lightbulbs. Overall, it appears this functionality is basic and that Apple has larger ambitions for the future connected home.
Shazam in Siri
Apple is also working on a song identification feature for Siri in partnership with Shazam, according to several sources. The feature would allow Siri to leverage Shazam’s database to pull up the title and metadata of a song playing from an external speaker. Siri would then be able to present the user with the ability to download the song via the iTunes Store. The mockup above by Michael Steeber is a great representation of how the feature could look. It is intriguing that Apple has chosen to partner with Shazam for the functionality since Apple already utilizes an in-house song recognition database to power iTunes Match. Bloomberg previously reported on the Song ID feature.
As part of the iOS 7 design revamp, the iPhone’s Voice Memos application was completely redesigned. Gone was the fake microphone graphic, replaced by an interactive waveform. Unfortunately, some users have complained that the redesigned Voice Memos app is difficult to navigate and that editing controls are unclear. With iOS 8, Apple will rectify this problem by improving button placement within the app.
Notification Center, the translucent drop-down menu for managing alerts may be simplified. In iOS 7, Notification Center includes a “Today” view, “All” Notifications view, and a “Missed” Notifications view. In iOS 8, Apple is considering reducing the panel to solely include the “Today” and “Notifications” views. The new “Notifications” view would combine all notifications with missed notifications, making the overall experience simpler. After acquiring the team behind the app Cue last year, Apple has likely been working on adding additional pertinent information to Notification Center, but it is uncertain if those enhancements will be ready this year for iOS 8.
Another significant addition being considered for iOS 8 and the next-generation iPhone is voice-over-LTE support (VoLTE), according to carrier sources. Currently, when an LTE-capable iPhone needs to make a phone call, the actual call is placed over last-generation networks such as 3G. With VoLTE, calls will be transmitted over the same type of network that LTE data is processed through, which can allow for benefits such as improved call quality.
Of course, carrier support is needed for this functionality. Some carriers worldwide have already rolled out support for VoLTE support. For those in the United States, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless have all announced upcoming VoLTE support. T-Mobile and AT&T have begun debuting the functionality in select markets, while Verizon Wireless is promising a larger rollout later this year.
Apple is said to be considering adding the ability for Messages threads in iOS 8 to automatically be deleted. The option for auto-deleting threads on a user’s local device will reportedly allow for deletions every month or every year. The functionality is being integrated so that the device’s storage space will not be clogged up by old Messages threads, which is a common problem among iOS users with old backups or outdated hardware. The auto-deletion will be optional, so users who never want their threads disappearing have nothing to worry about.
OS X 10.10 “Syrah”
Since focusing on releasing new versions of OS X year-after-year beginning with OS X Lion, Apple’s last few OS X updates have been fairly minor. Mountain Lion brought OS X more inline with iOS’s Scott Forstall-era design with linen and OS X Mavericks brought new power-user enhancements and performance boosts.
OS X 10.10’s changes, however, will mostly revolve around user-interface design. Apple is taking the iOS 7 design direction full-steam to OS X, as we detail below. The system is internally codenamed Syrah, but it appears that the official marketing name will either be OS X Yosemite or OS X El Cap, as indicated by the banner image shared above.
With a completely new design akin to the changes brought to iOS last year, sources say that Apple will heavily promote OS X 10.10 at this year’s developer conference. The new look will have similar toggle designs to iOS 7, sharper window corners, more defined icons across the system, and more white space than the current version. However, OS X characteristics like the Finder, multi-window multitasking, and Mission Control will not disappear in favor of a more iOS-like experience.
Apple is keeping iOS as iOS and OS X as OS X. The convergence will solely surround aesthetics and sensible feature parity. Some sources describe the new system as “extremely flat,” but just like with iOS 7, customers will become used to the new look. Some of the more surprising user interface elements, source say, are the use of line-art for some standard system icons like Finder and trash in the dock. The above image is a mockup, but it happens to somewhat match some of the OS X 10.10 descriptions provided by sources.
While the focus of OS X 10.10 is the new design, Apple will obviously include a slew of new features and enhancements. It is likely that Apple will begin porting over some of the new features found in iOS 7 but not in OS X Mavericks. For instance, it would make sense for Apple to include a new Control Center-like panel for quickly accessing options across OS X. Other possibilities include Apple finally releasing Siri for the Mac and a version of AirDrop that is compatible with iOS’s AirDrop functionality.
An improved Maps app to bring feature parity with iOS, the removal or revamp of Game Center, and improvements to the App Store app are all likely. We’re also hoping Apple brings some bug fixes and even (fingers crossed) functional Mail and iPhoto applications. It’s unclear if Apple will debut OS X 10.10 versions of its App Store apps, but updates for the iLife and iWork suites are likely in the works with the new flatter design aesthetic. We’re also curious how the operating system will handle non-redesigned applications.
To go along with major updates to the consumer side of OS X and iOS, Apple is preparing some new tools for developers to make better App Store applications.
Xcode 6 is said to be a significant update, and sources indicate that the new suite of tools will include a much improved iOS Simulator application. iOS Simulator is the application developers use to test their apps on their Macs. The new simulator is said to include improvements to handling resolutions and scaling. These changes come ahead of the next iPhone with a larger display and sharper pixel density.
Other improvements are coming to the rapid prototyping and testing of applications, and the integration of frameworks. There will also be improvements to Interface Builder that revolve around the creation of new custom user interface elements.
In addition to working on new iCloud applications, Apple is said to be researching new iCloud storage tools to make the development of cloud-integrated App Store applications for iOS simpler. Developers have long complained that building App Store apps that rely on iCloud is a complex and unreliable process. This potential future initiative would be designed to resolve those issues.
The future developer tools, which have been tabled by Apple engineers in the past, may never ship. However, Apple’s research in the Parse/Facebook and Amazon-dominated space is nonetheless intriguing. If launched, Apple’s new iCloud development tools would allow developers to further take advantage of Apple’s vision of the future of software file systems.
Sources say that Apple has been planning to unveil new hardware of some sort at WWDC, but what that hardware exactly is remains a question.
On the Mac side, Apple has several new pieces of Mac hardware in development as well as several products in need of a refresh. Here’s which Macs have been rumored or are in the works, according to sources:
- A new, smaller MacBook Air/Pro with an enhanced trackpad, no fan, slimmer design, and a 12-inch Retina display
- A cheaper line of iMacs with less-expensive display components
- A new generation of iMacs, perhaps with a Retina display
- A new Mac mini with faster processors
- A new Thunderbolt Display, perhaps with a Retina/4K panel
- Retina MacBook Pros with faster processors
Of course, it is completely uncertain of Apple is planning to debut any of the above at WWDC. Apple has said that major hardware introductions are in store for the end of the year.
As for iOS devices, it is unlikely that Apple would update the iPhone, iPad mini, or iPad Air at WWDC, but there are a few potential iOS devices that Apple could choose to introduce during the keynote:
- iWatch or a fitness band (would blend well with the Healthbook introduction)
- A larger iPad, perhaps with a Surface-like connected keyboard
- A new Apple TV (though sources say that the shipping date for the new Apple TV is either this fall or early next year)
- An ARM-powered Mac running a form of iOS
It is also uncertain which or if any of the above devices will be introduced at WWDC. Perhaps these are in store for later this year or next year.
Apple’s keynote address begins at 10 AM Pacific/1 PM Eastern on June 2nd, and Apple says that the keynote will run approximately two hours. We will be live in San Francisco providing full coverage during, before, and after the keynote presentation. Apple will also be providing a live stream via Safari, Quicktime, Apple TV, and iOS of the keynote presentation. If you are at WWDC this year, feel free to hit us up at email@example.com if you want to meet up.
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