We’ve already run down much of what can be expected from iOS 9, OS X 10.11 and Apple Music at the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference, and now it’s time to run down what 9to5Mac’s editors want to see at the conference. You can find our hopes below, and stay tuned for our comprehensive roundup of what to expect at WWDC.
Big Media Changes:
Unlike most WWDCs, 2015 seems to be at a point where Apple is squaring up a lot of big media changes. It seems pretty clear that Apple has its Beats Streaming product ready for primetime. Apple TV was reportedly pulled from the WWDC docket but it will still see some time as the hub for HomeKit and a growing number of apps.
Beats/Apple Music will grab some headlines with its all-star celebrity DJ mixes and exclusive content. Apple Music will likely be a premium of $9.99 with the first month free. Integration into iTunes on Mac and iOS/watch apps will be a key differentiator.
iOS 9, OS X 10.11, & Hardware:
Mac and iOS hardware-wise, our expectations are low. We’ve just seen Apple’s new MacBook lineup and iMac refresh. We’ll likely see the next version of Mac OS X 10.11 which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. If it follows years past, it will act more like and interact better with iOS. Our Own Mark Gurman has reported that this year’s Mac OS X update will focus on stability which frankly was a little lacking in Yosemite.
iOS will also see an upgrade to v9 (almost a decade?!) and also see the same focus on bug squashing, optimization, and stability. I hope to see a lot of focus on the iPad this year with the reported split screen mode and other new features to make it less of a consumption-only device and more of a laptop replacement. With Apple’s TV off the docket, perhaps the company will fast track the professional level iPad Pro 12-inch device?
The Watch iOS variant should also see a big upgrade which will allow developers direct access to the myriad of sensors, some of which may not even be operating to their full potential.
Apple Photos needs to respond to Google’s unlimited free uploads. I’m not saying Apple needs to match Google but they need to make theirs either less expensive or better so that there are at least a few reasons to choose Apple over Google.
Watch OS Updates:
I’ve been using the Apple Watch for a few weeks now, and while I think the hardware is solid, the software needs some work. With WWDC coming up, Apple could be preparing to announce some Watch OS changes in addition to the native application SDK.
I’ve already reported that Apple is working on new “smart leashing” tools like Find my Watch, Heart Rate monitoring improvements, and third-party complication support, but here’s what my wishes are for future Watch OS software updates. I think that the sensors and the Activity + Workout apps need to be better connected.
I’ve already stopped wearing my Apple Watch to the gym because it is a chore more than a tool to help me with the workouts I do. The Workout app only supports a couple of common machines at many gyms, has no support for treadmill inclines and speed, and is just genuinely inaccurate in my experiences. I think the core of the Workout app is nice, but it needs new options and greater accuracy to work for more people. I also think the Workout app and Activity app need to sync better, so that exercise data from the Workout app actually transfers properly over to the Activity app.
I also think that app icons on the Watch home screen are generally difficult to hit when moving quickly. Perhaps the Watch should leverage its motion sensor to make app icons bigger during fast movement. I also think that the Watch’s notifications feature needs work. Notifications need more granular options that are separate from the iPhone, as well as a way to have certain types of notifications re-appear if you missed them.
The Watch could also benefit a lot from additional Apple-designed watch faces and the ability to install faces from third-party developers. While Apple won’t want to clog up the Watch by allowing anyone to submit a watch face to the App Store, perhaps Apple could partner with high-end fashion brands (those that don’t necessarily sell their own watches) for additional faces.
There are a few small obvious improvements Apple could make to its own Watch apps, too. Matching the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, it would be handy to include a native Reminders app on the Apple Watch, complete with a Glance for quick access. While the Apple Watch is built for quick interactions, a full-on dialer for the Phone app could be helpful for people. Additionally, the ability to attach pictures from the built-in Photos app would be nice, and Mail should have the ability to navigate mailboxes other than the main inbox, as well as to send quick replies via Siri.
Apple Watch improvements:
While I’m not exactly expecting this improvement anytime soon, I would like to be able to sync and play audio from more sources on the Apple Watch. It has 8GB of storage for Watch OS, apps, syncing up to 2GB of iTunes music, and up to 75MB of photos, but my watch still has 5.4GB available.
You can already use Bluetooth earbuds with the Apple Watch to go for a run without your iPhone and still listen to music, but I’d like to be able to do this with music saved offline from Beats or Spotify. I’d especially like to be able to sync podcasts to the Apple Watch for the same reason. Apple hasn’t made a podcast app for Apple Watch and I prefer Instacast anyway, but it’s the only reason I bring my phone with me on workouts now.
Better Apple TV Remote:
This next one is an easy one and shouldn’t require a keynote to deliver. The Apple TV Remote app on Apple Watch is fine but not great. It’s more convenient than finding the actual clicker, and easier in some situations than using the iPhone Remote app, but it’s lacking in two key areas. First, even though its an Apple-made app and isn’t limited by the constraints placed on current third party watch apps, it doesn’t make use of voice input for search.
If you need to type anything on your Apple TV, this means swiping up/down/left/right one character at a time. My second complaint is that you cannot use the Digital Crown to scroll through channels or lists on the Apple TV. After using the Digital Crown on the watch for a short amount of time, it’s only natural to expect this behavior on Apple TV when using the Remote app. It just doesn’t work that way yet, but it should.
iCloud Drive iOS App:
Finally, I would really like to see an official iCloud Drive app from Apple on iOS 9. While the Mac has a clear view into iCloud Drive directly in Finder, using iCloud Drive on the iPhone and iPad isn’t as straightforward. You can access certain files in certain apps, but there is no single directory for browsing and managing your files on iOS. Dropbox pulls this off quite well with its iOS app so there’s no reason Apple couldn’t match that. Limited apps from third party developers have tried to remedy this on their own, but only Apple can create a first class experience for iCloud Drive on iPhones and iPads.
I don’t want to take any of Apple’s nearly-inevitable WWDC announcements for granted: a stable OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 (especially with Proactive) both sound great, for instance, and obviously would have a major positive impact on my daily device usage. But apart from a new Apple TV, which appears to have just been nixed for WWDC, these are the two announcements that would make me excited rather than just satisfied:
Upgraded iCloud + iCloud Photo Storage:
Google, Amazon, and Yahoo now offer users a ton of free cloud storage space for photos — 1TB is the minimum, with “unlimited” as Amazon and Google’s offering. iCloud’s 5GB already felt cramped before the 1TB and unlimited offerings became available. A bold move on this front from Apple would radically increase my happiness with iCloud services, and enable me to stop considering moving photos (or other files) over to Google.
Watch OS Updates Such As Apps, Watch Faces + UI Enhancements:
The first couple of days with an Apple Watch can be painful, and I’d really like to see Apple fix the initial setup issues and UI oddities to make the experience better for new users. Third-party apps are also so hobbled right now that they’re barely worth the time they take to launch. But I would be glad to wait months for both UI fixes and real apps if Apple added a bunch of cool watch faces to the Apple Watch, and let third-party developers create them. Different material and band choices are nice before you make a purchase, but after you have the Watch, what will really make it “yours” is software customization. Just like selecting Lock Screen wallpaper for your iPhone, being able to pick the exact face you want for the Watch is the key to that.
Apple, unlike Google, likes to save most of their consumer-facing announcements for events like WWDC. While Google gives us a steady stream of updates on its products throughout the year, the Cupertino company’s annual conference is one of the most exciting days of the year for new product launches. There’s always a mind-blowing level of hype going into WWDC, and Apple very often delivers to some degree.
Performance Improvements, Not New Features:
And while this year the company has many big announcements in store, it’s going to be different than almost every other WWDC in a few ways. Like Google did last week at I/O, I think we can all agree at this point that Apple is going to be introducing a very iterative update to its mobile operating system this year; and that’s what I want more than anything else. Now that iOS has most definitely caught up in terms of raw features over the last couple of years, it would be nice to have an iOS that’s polished and dependable.
Also, as someone who uses Google Now on a daily basis, going back to Siri in its current state seems almost impossible. While Siri’s voice recognition has gotten better over the years (it once was one of the feature’s biggest drawbacks versus Google’s offering), Proactive sounds like it’s exactly what Siri needs. Deeper integration with apps, proactive suggestions, and a Siri API. They’re all coming, and for the times that I do use my iOS device, they would be really awesome to have.
The same goes for the desktop experience. As someone who uses OS X Yosemite on a daily basis, I was more than ecstatic to see the drastic redesign and huge list of new features that Apple brought to the table last year. But general system-wide tweaks and improvements, like optimizing for better battery life, the introduction of a “Control Center” like iOS, and performance improvements would be welcome. I’m not sure how I feel about the San Francisco font choice quite yet, but I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.
A Chromecast Competitor:
But what I really hope to see from Apple at WWDC this year is the Cupertino company truly take on the Chromecast (and Android TV). Google has spent a couple of years now building out its presence in the living room, and the Apple TV is just a paltry offering in comparison. While it doesn’t make sense *not* to buy a Chromecast (considering it’s $35 and often comes with $100 free stuff), the Apple TV is a hard sell unless you’re one who’s 100% neck deep in Apple’s ecosystem and have never touched another company’s services. “TV Kit” is going to be a great addition, but Apple really needs some “there’s no reason you don’t have this” hardware like the Chromecast, in my opinion.
Google Photos Competitor:
While the privacy concerns are obviously worth considering, Google recently sold me on its new Photos service. Free unlimited storage at quality that’s good enough to be indistinguishable to the human eye? As a previous user of iCloud Photos (and I hit my storage limit within a couple weeks), I saw the benefits of never having to worry about online storage space again more than enough convenience to make up for my concerns that Google was going to use my data inappropriately sometime in the future. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I want Apple to be more competitive against Google in this area.
Finally, although it’s definitely wishful thinking, I would love to see Apple embrace other platforms. Bringing iCloud Drive and some of its other apps to Android would be great. Google recognizes that not all of its customers want to always use their hardware platform, and they’ve brought Google Photos to iOS. It would make sense for users, especially in 2015 when most have devices across several platforms, that Apple would let users upload photos, for example, directly to iCloud Drive from their Android device.
iOS 9 and OS X 10.11:
The iOS and Mac updates look to be smaller in scale than previous years with a focus on performance and stability, but I still think there will be a handful of flagship features for both platforms. Alongside the Proactive notifications features 9to5Mac has already reported on, I think Apple needs to modernize the lock screen. I’d love for iOS 9 to let me put some Today widgets on the lock screen or maybe have an entirely new type of app extension to mimic the complication ‘widgets’ seen on Apple Watch. Although I get less and less confident every year that this will happen, I want iOS 9 to ‘finish’ the work that began with iOS 7. There are some parts of iOS design which are fantastic and other parts which are lackluster. Some development effort dedicated to fixing these rough edges would be greatly appreciated — popovers and alert views are key parts of the OS that just look bad. A new font gives Apple a good opportunity to spruce up some of these elements as they will need some modification anyway to work with San Francisco’s different character and spacing metrics.
Apple Watch SDK:
For Apple Watch, I want WWDC to bring a new SDK for developers alongside some significant first-party party improvements. The SDK will allow developers to create truly responsive and interactive apps like Apple has shown is already possible with its apps. WatchKit apps are slow and boring due to the API limitations. The native SDK should enable a lot more variety and frankly make third party apps something I want to use regularly on the Watch. Ideally, apps should be allowed to store data locally on the disk (such as podcasts) and update with a corresponding iPhone app in the background like how the Activity and Mail apps work, although this is by no means a certainty.
As such, I hope Apple’s next version of Watch OS will do more than add support for the third-party native SDK. I’d love for some more variety in watch faces and basic improvements such as adding complications to the Solar face are easy low hanging fruit. I don’t expect Apple to allow third-party faces any time soon so I’m also looking forward to Apple adding some more first-party ones, maybe the Photo and Timelapse that were shown in September but did not make into the final shipping version. Adding some smarter sleep behavior would also be greatly appreciated. For example, the Watch should never kick me back to the watch face if a timer is actively running.
In terms of hardware, I don’t think we’ll see much from Macs. A Mac Pro is due and would be welcomed by WWDC’s developer-centric audience, but Apple has shown no signs of rushing out improvements to that product line on a timely basis. I would like to see the Apple TV hardware revision with up-to-date internals (no more single-core A5 thanks) and a better non-infrared remote. Apple’s streaming TV package by all accounts is not ready to go though. As a final prediction, which I think is less likely but still makes a lot of sense, Apple could announce the new iPad Pro at the event. This justifies the existence of split-screen multitasking in iOS 9. Case leaks have shown that the hardware is nearing mass production, so it could be shown as a ‘sneak peek’ with a release in a few months time. There’s not really a cannibalization factor, so Apple can announce in advance with little downside. Announcing before fall also sets up sales into education and business, the former of which generally order well in advance of the new school term starting.
A Standalone TV Service:
It’s been rumored that Apple is working on a refreshed Apple TV with a new subscription service package that would offer users the ability to cut the cord on cable TV, but they only have one shot to get it right. In order to avoid being like Sling TV or other subscription packages on the market, we really need granular control over channel packages. One size does not fit all.
Sling TV for example, offers a handful of packages with mixed channel varieties throughout, but that’s not the best way to go. Some would like to choose between a mix of individual channels to suite their style. It’s unlikely that Apple will have every popular channel available at launch, but I feel like they have an opportunity to do it right the first time. Its success will be dependent on the initial channel offering. If I’m expected to leave cable behind once and for all, the best way to do this is with a wide variety of channels available and granular control over which ones I can subscribe to.
iCloud Drive for Android:
Recently at Google I/O, we saw a big step forward in cross-platform integration and unity. Google is offering unlimited photo storage for users on iOS and Android using its Photos app. I’d love to see Apple expand the opened doors for cross-platform activity. The best opportunity to do this would be with an iCloud Drive app. Apple already offers iCloud integration on Mac OS X and Windows, but I think an app in the Android space would be a great way to broaden this integration.
A New Apple Display:
Finally, it would be great to see a new Apple display released, but I have many doubts about this. I’m not sure Apple would release a 4K/UHD display since they’ve already made the jump to 5K and unfortunately, a 5K display would not be supported across Apple’s entire MacBook lineup. It’s unlikely that Apple will launch a display that only works with a few select MacBooks over a dual-Thunderbolt/DisplayPort cable setup.
An Apple record label?
It seems like most people agree Jay-Z squandered the Tidal music launch by bringing out a bunch of billionaires to cry about not making enough money through other services. Consumers didn’t care and the service itself isn’t anything to brag about.
What a perfect opportunity for Apple to do what no other music streaming service has done: embrace independent artists and musicians as a community with features that empower them to offer fans exclusive content.
And there are signs Apple might do it. The company is planning social features for artists that will allow them to not only have control over their own presence on the service, but also interact with fans and offer up free content on the fly. That would be an even bigger deal if you imagine Apple extending that service beyond just the major labels. A true hub for smaller and independent artists is something that would set Apple Music apart from the competition and show Apple’s allegiance to musicians and the creative community. It would also be a major stepping stone towards artists that might want to drop the major labels and market their own material entirely through Apple Music.
But not just for artists. The social features will hopefully extend into making the new Apple Music streaming service a more social experience for users too. That includes the ability to like, comment, and share posts being made by artists.
Apple is also reportedly working with Drake and others big name artists to act as DJs of some sort for the service. Everyone is already doing this: offering guest playlists curated by celebrities. But I hope Apple’s approach takes it a step further and doesn’t just offer playlists. They hired BBC’s Zane Lowe not too long ago, so I’m hoping the new service at least comes with exclusive live radio shows much like Zane Lowe’s old BBC Radio 1 program. It’s my preferred way to listen to music and could be a big draw for the service.
A service for us, not just the same service that’s better for the most popular and wealthy artists we’ve already been giving our money to for years, is the approach I hope Apple takes, especially in light of the failed opportunity to do so by Tidal.
Apple’s streaming music service has been reported on extensively since the company’s acquisition of Beats. At WWDC this year, we should see the final product unveiled at long last. Earlier this year, I broke down specifically what it would take for Apple Music to make me switch from Spotify. At the time, I mentioned that Apple Music must have excellent local file support, well-designed apps with a focus on curation, exclusive content, competitive pricing, and a killer radio function.
As Jordan touched on and I mentioned earlier this year, Apple also has the opportunity with its service to develop a strong relationship with artists like no other company has ever done. Thanks to iTunes, Apple is no stranger in the music industry and that home court advantage will certainly come in handy when negotiating for Apple Music.
Apple Watch Improvements:
I was almost equally excited for Apple to unveil a refreshed Apple TV at WWDC as I was for Apple Music, but now that it has reportedly been axed from the agenda, most of my focus moves towards Apple Watch and the improvements that can be made to it. The launch of an SDK, which should occur at WWDC, will greatly improve the functionality of Apple Watch and allow developers to create apps truly designed with the wrist in mind. Apple can also make a variety of improvements to Watch OS. I for one would like to see Apple re-add the ability to track heart rate while the arm is moving, as that was a unique feature of the device and was removed without any comment. Downloadable watch faces will also be a nice and welcomed addition that will make the device more customizable, as we are currently forced to settle for Apple’s pre-installed designs.
iOS 9, OS X 10.11, & Hardware:
As far as iOS 9 and OS X go, there’s not much I can add that hasn’t already been mentioned. The bug fixes will certainly be welcomed and there’s a lot Apple can do with iCloud to make it both more stable and more of a competitor to the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive, both of which I use more regularly than iCloud at this point. I would love to see some enhancements to Dark Mode on OS X. It has the potential to be a really cool and useful feature, but Apple seemingly launched a half-baked version of it with Yosemite and hasn’t addressed it since.
Hardware-wise I don’t expect to see anything, especially now that the Apple TV has been nixed from WWDC and saved for later this year. The new 12-inch MacBook is the best laptop Apple has made in my opinion and the company also just released upgraded iMacs and Retina MacBook Pros. There is always the possibility of a slight upgrade to the Mac Pro given that this is a developer focused event. Perhaps Apple will address and/or unveil new Beats hardware in conjunction with Apple Music, but that seems unlikely and not well suited for a developer conference.