Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is about to kick off. On Monday, June 8th, company executives will take the stage at San Francisco’s Moscone Center to provide their annual roadmap for Apple’s software, services, and devices.
Traditionally, Apple has used the conference to introduce major upgrades to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch operating system iOS, as well as the Mac operating system OS X, along with new services. Of course, 2015 will be no different. Apple has been preparing a new version of iOS 9 codenamed “Monarch,” a release of OS X 10.11 codenamed “Gala,” a new streaming Apple Music service based on Beats Music, and updates for the Apple Watch.
Over the last several years, we have provided advance reports on the lion’s share of announcements that will be made at WWDC, as well as a comprehensive roundup ahead of the event. Read on for our roundup of what’s coming, along with fresh new details not found in our earlier reports.
iPad Air 2
iOS 9, codenamed “Monarch” after the ski resort, may well be the most important topic of the conference. Hundreds of millions of people use iPhones and iPads every day, and Apple has realized that it’s time to step back from focusing on significant feature changes to improve the core experience. With iOS 9, Apple is preparing fixes, under-the-hood improvements to reduce app sizes, and better support for older devices. But new features aren’t entirely absent.
User Interface + New Font:
According to a source who has used iOS 9, the new OS looks “very, very similar to iOS 8.” However, we are told that some of the colors have slightly shifted across the system, including on select app icons. Apple has also redesigned the iOS version of Siri to have a color wave form akin to the UI of Siri for Apple Watch. Apple has also planned to tweak the interface with the new San Francisco typeface from the Apple Watch. We are told that the font on OS X and iOS is slightly rounder and feels “less digital” than on the Apple Watch as it is completely optimized for larger displays. The OS X and iOS variant may be called “San Francisco Rounded.”
Performance, Quality & Stability Improvements + Bug Fixes:
With many under-the-hood changes geared toward usability, speed, and efficiency, iOS 9 is set to improve the overall experience for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users. Apple’s engineering teams have focused sharply on fixing bugs, improving quality, reducing crashes, and shrinking file sizes across the system. As we were told in February, there is a “huge focus” on ensuring improved stability for the user with iOS 9.
With iOS 9, Apple plans to make its first major changes to the Maps app since its user interface was overhauled in 2013 with iOS 7. The most significant change will be the addition of a mass transit directions service. This feature will allow users to navigate bus routes, subways, trains, and to the airport via the Maps app, similar to how it functioned when Google provided data up until fall 2012. The pair of screenshots above indicate how the Transit feature will likely appear, albeit with slightly updated fonts. There are additional Transit View and Trip Planning modes for the Maps interface. The feature will be first usable in China, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Berlin, and Paris; Apple is working on data for Tokyo and Boston, amongst other cities.
In addition to Transit, Apple has been developing a few other new features. With a project codenamed “Gardar,” Apple has been using minivans equipped with advanced camera systems to take still pictures of business storefronts across the United States. Apple had planned to begin replacing Yelp photos in the Maps app with these storefront stills with iOS 9, but it is unconfirmed if the transition is ready to begin next week. Apple has also been developing a new Browse Around Me mode as part of the Proactive initiative (discussed more below) that will recommend local businesses around you in the Maps app. Lastly, Apple has been testing a new augmented reality mode in Maps, but that feature may not yet be ready for prime time.
“Rootless,” iCloud Drive, and “Trusted WiFi” Security Improvements:
From our earlier article on iOS security upgrades:
– Rootless: To prevent malware, increase the safety of extensions, and preserve the security of sensitive data, Rootless will prevent even administrative-level users from being able to access certain protected files on Apple devices. Sources say that Rootless will be a heavy blow to the jailbreak community on iOS.
– iCloud Drive: In order to make its syncing apps more secure for consumers, Apple is in the process of converting core applications such as Notes, Reminders, and Calendar to an iCloud Drive back-end, away from the IMAP-based back-ends of iCloud, Gmail, or Yahoo accounts. This will improve content syncing across devices, including better end-to-end encryption and faster syncing.
– Trusted Wi-Fi: Last on the security front, we are told that a new feature dubbed “Trusted Wi-Fi” is in development for release as soon as later this year, but that it could be pushed back to next year’s iOS release. Trusted Wi-Fi would allow iOS devices to connect to authorized wireless routers without additional security measures, but would instate a more heavily encrypted wireless connection for non-trusted routers.
iPad Split-Screen Apps:
First planned for iOS 8.0 and later iOS 8.1 last year, split-screen iPad apps will likely debut with iOS 9. This feature will allow a user to run two iPad apps side-by-side and share content between them. For example, a user can have a Pages document open on one side with a web browser page open on the other. Apple has also been working on allowing two of the same apps to be open. For example, a user may want to view two separate Safari tabs side-by-side.
As shown in the video above, Apple would like the side-by-side apps feature, a signature advantage of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, to work in 50%/50%, 33%/66%, and 25%/75% splits. Users will likely be able to choose how they want their display proportioned depending on the apps used. Apple has designed the feature with the iPad Pro in mind, but this enhancement may still appear for current iPad models with iOS 9.
iPad Multi-User Mode:
Apple has been working on a new feature for the iPad that allows multiple users to share the same device without sharing content. Similarly to how multi-person login works on the Mac, each user will have an individual account with their own media, documents, applications, calendars, contacts, emails, and messages. Unfortunately, we’re told that the feature is not ready to launch with iOS 9.0, but is still in the works. As the feature is still in development with a focus on education and enterprise markets, it’s unlikely that it will be announced at the conference next week. Perhaps it will launch alongside the larger, 12-inch iPad Pro later this year or next year.
Improved Legacy Device Support:
While iOS upgrades typically add features and user-interface enhancements, they tend to slow down older iPhone models for a variety of reasons. For iOS 9, Apple has re-organized some of its iOS engineering practices to ensure that older iPhones don’t become sluggish with the upgrade. Instead of developing iOS 9 with features that get pulled for older devices, Apple instead built iOS 9 to be compatible with older devices, only adding features that will not slow down a given device. Apple has paid particular attention to ensuring that iOS 9 runs well on A5 devices such as the 2011 iPhone 4s and 2012 iPad mini.
We’ve heard that Apple is planning on soon expanding Apple Pay to both the United Kingdom and Canada, with Lloyds Bank a partner on the U.K. side. Perhaps Apple will make these announcements at WWDC.
Apple is planning to announce a new application called Home, which makes this week’s launch of the first HomeKit devices less than coincidental. The new Home app will allow users of approved HomeKit accessories to create virtual rooms, set up and install accessories, and find new ones for their homes. The app will work with the Apple TV so that customers can access and control their devices from outside their homes. The Apple TV serves as a remote gateway hub for HomeKit.
Swift 2.0 + Smaller Apps:
From our earlier story on the Swift changes:
Since Swift is still evolving as a development language, Apple previously did not include Swift programming “code libraries” within iOS. For this reason, developers who choose to write App Store apps with Swift must include the code libraries inside each of their apps. Consequently, App Store applications written in Swift carry approximately 8MB of additional code, and the more Swift apps you have, the more storage space you lose to code library copies.
With iOS 9, we are told that this will change: Swift’s code libraries will be pre-installed within the new iOS operating system. This means that Swift applications updated for iOS 9 will require less space and consume less data when downloaded over a cellular connection. Users with lower-capacity iPhones and iPads or non-unlimited cellular data plans will see at least small improvements over time.
Google Now Competitor, Proactive, Built-in to Spotlight:
While Apple has positioned Siri as an “intelligent personal assistant” since the fall 2011 launch of the iPhone 4s, a feature codenamed “Proactive” may go much further to integrate with your data. To begin with, Proactive could become a new layer within the iOS operating system, replacing the pulldown Spotlight menu currently found on the iOS Home screen, that acts as a competitor to Android’s Google Now feature.
Within the new Proactive screen, users will have a dedicated Search Bar at the top to access the established features of Spotlight: users will still be able to search for names, launch apps, and find audio tracks. Sources indicate that Proactive will include a greater emphasis on displaying news stories as search results, and will more reliably display news results when you search for information, including news on current topics and famous people.
Below the search bar will sit a new user interface that automatically populates with content based around three key parts of iOS: Apps, Contacts, and Maps, effectively a considerably upgraded version of Siri’s existing “digital assistant” functionality. For example, if a user has a flight listed in her Calendar application and a boarding pass stored in Passbook, a bubble within the new Proactive screen will appear around flight time to provide quick access to the boarding pass. If a user has a calendar appointment coming up, a map view could appear with an estimated arrival time, directions, and a time to leave indicator based on traffic. Proactive will also be able to trigger push notifications to help the user avoid missing calendar events. Even with these new notifications, however, the existing Notification Center apparently isn’t likely to see major changes.
Beyond Calendar integration, the feature will be able to integrate with commonly used apps. For example, if an iPhone user typically opens the Facebook app when he wakes up around 9AM, a button to access Facebook will start to appear for the user around 9AM. If the user calls his mother every Tuesday at 5PM, a bubble to “Call Mom” could appear around that time every Tuesday. As this feature integrates deeply with a user’s contact list, it is likely that the Recent Contacts menu introduced to the top of the Multitasking pane in iOS 8 will be relocated to Proactive’s interface. Lastly, Proactive will be able to display restaurant suggestions and ratings around breakfast, lunch, and dinner times in Proactive, changing based on the user’s location.
Last year, Apple revamped its Messages app with new audio message and photo sharing controls, Find my Friends integration, and improved synchronization with iMessage on other devices. This year, Apple has been preparing a couple of much-requested features: Read Receipts on a contact-by-contact basis and for group chats. This means that users will be able to, for example, allow a parent to see if their message has been read but keep the message status ambiguous for a work colleague. As for group chats, users will be able to see which individual users within a conversation read each message. Of course, these will likely be options, so if you don’t want these features, you don’t have to enable them.
Apple Pay for Canada:
After launching in the United States last fall after the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus debut, Apple is preparing to expand Apple Pay into new countries. While Apple is in talks with banks across China and the United Kingdom, Apple’s Passbook team has also been developing the necessary iOS 9 resources for Apple Pay to work in Canada. It is unclear if Apple will announce the expansion at WWDC, but it will likely occur by the fall, which is when iOS 9 is scheduled to hit all recent iPhones.
Force Touch Support:
While Apple won’t add Force Touch functionality to existing iPhones via iOS 9, the new operating system will lay the groundwork for new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models in the fall that support the new display technology. iOS 9 will include a Force Touch API for developers to integrate the functionality into their own apps, and Apple will use the technology to enhance drop down menus, the Maps and Music apps, as well as system-wide controls. Since Force Touch is tied to new hardware, it’s unlikely to be mentioned on stage next week.
New Keyboard + Fixed Shift Key:
Sources say that Apple has been toying with new keyboard designs for the iPhone and iPad with iOS 9. At least one design includes a slightly taller keyboard with no portrait mode editing controls on the iPhone, while the tint of the keyboard’s color may also be slightly changed. Likely to the joy of many iOS users, Apple will once again change the Shift key, ensuring that deciphering when the key is in Shift mode or Caps Lock will be as straight forward as the pre-iOS 7 days.
OS X 10.11
After a major user-interface overhaul last year with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Apple will match iOS 9 and go back to the basics with OS X 10.11. Apple’s next Mac software upgrade will focus on core enhancements to usability, performance, and security. The new OS is internally codenamed “Gala,” after the apple, but the marketing name based on a place in California is yet to be revealed. There will, of course, be some new features, including Control Center. The upgrade will also likely bring the Mac software in line with iOS by bringing over the aforementioned Maps and iMessage improvements.
User Interface + New Font:
The OS won’t be without additional interface changes, though. Much like iOS 8 did following iOS 7’s release, OS X 10.11 will clean up some of the untouched corners of the Yosemite design overhaul. Additionally, matching iOS 9, the new interface will likely pick up the San Francisco typeface across the system from the Apple Watch.
The new OS X will include some new features for Mac users. We’re told that Apple has been testing Control Center for the Mac, which will bring a new menu that swipes left from the Mac’s display. Using a transparent overlay akin to that for Notification Center on the right side, Control Center will house quick options for brightness controls, volume, media, and toggles for shutting down or putting your Mac to sleep. If Control Center does indeed arrive on OS X, it will bring a larger sense of similarity between both iOS and OS X, matching two core layers of the fundamental Apple software experience.
“Rootless,” iCloud Drive, and “Trusted WiFi” Security Improvements:
Apple is also planning to introduce the “Rootless,” iCloud Drive, and “Trusted WiFi” iOS security improvements discussed above for the Mac, though the timetables will vary by feature. Unlike iOS, sources say that Rootless can supposedly be disabled on OS X. Even with this Rootless feature coming to OS X, sources say that the standard Finder-based file system is not going away this year.
Besides new major OS upgrades on both the iOS and Mac sides, Apple is preparing to unveil its long-awaited Beats Music-based streaming service at WWDC. The service will likely be deeply integrated into an iOS 8.4 update, and it will launch in late June. To support the new service, Apple is also prepping updates including iTunes 12.2 for OS X and Windows, and an update for the Apple TV. Below, we provide in-depth details on the features, pricing, and country availability for “Apple Music” and the new iTunes Radio.
From our earlier Apple Music at WWDC Roundup:
Cloud Streaming + Features:
The Apple streaming music service will debut as a key component of Apple’s redesigned Music application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The new Music app takes several cues from competing services and Apple’s own music player on the Mac, iTunes. The Music app has two main sections: “My Music” and “Playlists.” Both of these sections will be populated by music stored on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and in the cloud with the new streaming service.
In lists of tracks, the Music app indicates which songs are stored solely in the cloud and which are also stored for offline playback. Like with the existing Beats Music app, users will be able to search the entire iTunes library and then pick tracks to stream, add to their library and add to playlists. The new search option is universal so it can search both cloud-based tracks and those stored on the device itself. With the new Music app, users will have a new drop down menu to organize their content by Artists, Albums, Songs, Music Videos, Genres, Composers, and Compilations.
Across the top of both sections will be Recently Added views for both individual tracks and playlists. Leveraging the Beats Music acquisition, the Playlists section will likely deeply integrate custom playlists from artists and mixes from different activities such as driving and jogging. When a user launches the new streaming app for the first time, she will be greeted with an array of bubbles connected to different genres and artists.
The new Music app also adds a Mini Player across the bottom of the screen, an enhanced Now Playing view, and Up Next so users can adjust the order of song playback. Based on which buttons the user selects, her own streaming service app will be populated with different types of tracks. While the core of the app will be based on features and content from Beats Music, the application will drop the prior black and red theme and use an entirely Apple-designed look.
New iTunes Radio
Aside from introducing the major new subscription service, Apple will launch a thorough upgrade to iTunes Radio. Launched in 2013, iTunes Radio has acted like a simplified Pandora, mostly serving as a tool for customers to sample songs and then buy them in the iTunes Store. The new iTunes Radio, however, will combine custom DJ’d stations with the classic Pandora-like view. This classic view will gain the ability to skip music an unlimited amount of times, while the new stations will be powered by celebrities.
Reports have indicated that the following artists are in the cards to create their own iTunes Radio stations: Apple’s own Dr. Dre, Drake, Pharrell Williams, David Guetta, and Q-Tip. It is possible that Apple is also in talks with other gold Apple Watch wearers like Kanye West and Beyonce, but that has not been reported. Earlier this year, Apple hired multiple BBC programmers, including the famed DJ Zane Lowe, to build new pre-programmed iTunes Radio stations. The iTunes Radio section will also receive a complete user-interface overhaul to match the new streaming service and Music app.
After shuttering the failed Ping music social network at the end of 2012, Apple is using its new streaming service as an opportunity to slowly integrate some social functionality back into its Music app. As we reported last month, the new Music service will integrate a feature called “Artist Activity.” This feature will allow artists to use a back-end platform similar to iTunes Connect to manage their own pages. These pages will allow artists to share samples of their own music, music of other artists, exclusive videos, and promote their own tours. Unlike Ping, users will not have their own music profiles, but they will be able to “Like” and comment on posts from artists using their iTunes login information.
Mac, iOS 8.4, iOS 9 & Android + Migration
As we first reported earlier this year, Apple plans to introduce its new music services as part of an iOS 8.4 over-the-air software update. iOS 8.4 will include the redesigned Music application that we’ve previously covered in detail. Unsurprisingly, Apple will begin pre-installing the new service with the iOS 9 upgrade this fall. Apple had considered holding back the new Music app until iOS 9, but the company felt that launching as part of iOS 8.4 would be possible.
Apple had originally planned to release iOS 8.4 following the WWDC Keynote on June 8th, but we’ve heard that it’s currently planning to release it during the last week of June. As we also first reported, the new services will be available as a new app on Android for non-iPhones. The new services will likely also be available on the new Apple TV. Apple is not yet readying a version of the new services for other platforms, like Windows Phone, due to their low marketshare.
As we reported in February, Apple is planning to release a tool for existing Beats Music customers to convert over their libraries to the new Apple-made service. A report from earlier this week said that Apple will wait until it works out the kinks of the service before releasing the tool and completely shutting down Beats. Apple will also release iTunes 12.2 for both the Mac and Windows PCs to run the new Apple Music and iTunes Radio streaming services, replacing the aging Beats Music web app.
Pricing and Free Trial
While Apple had originally planned to launch the service at $8 per month to undercut competition, record labels pushed back, and the launch price will be $10 per month. This will match the premium Spotify plan as well as the existing Beats Music plan. There has also been talk of an additional $15 tier, but we don’t yet have confirmation of that claim.
Even with the monthly subscription price, Apple will be offering a free trial, which could be for between one and three months at launch. iTunes Radio will continue to be free with ads, but a more premium package, perhaps tied to the Apple Music subscription service, will remove ads and offer unlimited skipping. The current version of iTunes Radio limits users to 5 skips per hour, per station.
For the first time in several years, Apple is focusing on ensuring that its new music offerings are widely available across the world. While Beats Music is only available in the United States and iTunes Radio is only available in the U.S. and Australia, sources say that the new Apple Music and iTunes Radio will launch in a “long list” of countries. This likely includes major regions like Canada and the U.K., and news of deals indicates that Russia may also be on the launch list.
With the Apple Watch just launching in recent weeks, it is unlikely that Apple has a major overhaul ready to go for the device’s operating system. But major changes to the way apps run on the device are coming by way of a Software Development Kit.
Native SDK for Developers:
Expect your Apple Watch apps to run much faster, smoother, and more reliably starting this fall. Apple is planning to release its first beta of the native Apple Watch SDK to developers at WWDC. These native tools will allow Apple Watch developers to make Watch apps that install directly onto the Apple Watch and can utilize sensors, the Digital Crown, and the processing power of the wearable. Currently, WatchKit apps run on your iPhone and transfer data to your Watch over Bluetooth.
Future Software Upgrades:
While Apple may not choose to use the WWDC stage to debut software upgrades to Watch OS, we have learned that Apple is preparing a Watch OS update to match iOS 9 that is internally called “Bondi.” While we do not have specifics on what is in store for that iOS 9 upgrade, we’ve reported that Apple is working on third-party watch face Complication support, improvements to the heart rate reader functionality, “Smart Leashing,” a Find my Watch feature, and more.
Besides talk of new Apple Watch software, we have heard that Apple is making headway on the development of the 2016 Apple Watch hardware and software updates. We are told that one of the top priorities within the Apple Watch development labs is to make the device independent of the iPhone, essentially untethering it. This doesn’t mean your next Apple Watch will work with Android, but it means that your Watch will be able to do far more over WiFi and Bluetooth than it can today.
Live 9to5Mac News Coverage:
As Apple will be live streaming the event, we will instead be providing up-to-date news coverage with all of the announcements as they happen, in addition to live commentary and analysis. Please follow along with us at 9to5Mac.com on Monday. The keynote begins at 10 AM Pacific/1PM Eastern time, but we’ll have coverage all day, before and after the keynote, with the latest developments.