We’re just a few days away from WWDC 2020 — Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. This year, Apple is expected to unveil the next major releases of its operating systems, such as iOS 14 and macOS 10.16, as well as new hardware.
Read on as we recap everything to expect at WWDC 2020 next week.
WWDC 2020 is all online
This year, WWDC kicks off on Monday, June 22. This is later than usual, but there is a reason: Apple has shifted WWDC to be a completely online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While WWDC generally consists of thousands of developers congregating in San Jose, California, that’s not the case this year.
WWDC 2020 will kick off with a Special Event Keynote at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. This event will stream “directly from Apple Park” and be available to watch via Apple’s website, the Apple Developer app, the Apple TV app, and YouTube. Following the Special Event Keynote, Apple will hold its annual Platforms State of the Union address. This will take place at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET and will be available on-demand via the Apple Developer app and Apple Developer website.
Interestingly, it sounds like some of the WWDC 2020 Special Event Keynote will be live — likely with more pre-recorded videos than usual — but the State of the Union address will be released all at once on-demand. This is just one of the many changes we expect at WWDC 2020 due to the new remote format.
Other than the Special Event Keynote and the State of the Union, WWDC this year will include 1-on-1 developer labs, more than 100 engineering sessions, and more. You can read more about how Apple plans to implement the 1-on-1 developer labs here. Finally, the annual Apple Design Awards usually take place during WWDC week, but this year Apple has pushed them to June 29.
The flagship announcement at WWDC this year will be iOS 14. Apple unveils the latest version of iOS during its developer conference every year to give developers ample time to adopt new features and optimize their apps before it’s released to the public in the fall.
This year, Apple has reportedly changed the way it tests software so that features can easily be enabled and disabled based on their stability. Essentially, features that are not ready to ship can be more easily removed while testing continues. iOS 13 was widely criticized for its instability, which resulted in iOS 13.1 entering beta testing before iOS 13 was even released.
What can we expect in iOS 14? This year, 9to5Mac had access to an early iOS 14 build that revealed some of what’s on the docket for WWDC 2020. One of the major changes that we expect this year is a more customizable home screen. This could come to fruition in two different ways.
First, the iOS 14 home screen is expected to add a new list view option. This new page will include a list of all application icons, making it easier for users to see all of their installed apps at once. There will be sorting options, Siri suggestions, and more. The goal is seemingly to make it easier for users to find apps without having to search through their entire home screen grid.
Secondly, early iOS 14 builds indicated that Apple is working on home screen widgets. Whether or not this feature makes its way into the final version of iOS 14 remains to be seen, but the widgets would be customizable and support being moved around the screen similar to app icons.
Moving on from the home screen, iOS 14 is also rumored to bring a major new focus on augmented reality. 9to5Mac has reported that Apple iOS developing a new augmented reality application internally referred to as “Gobi.” Apple is believed to be testing this new AR platform Apple Stores and Starbucks, so people would be able to use the iPhone or iPad camera to learn more about a product or to see a menu.
As we wrote earlier, iOS 14 comes following the buggy release of iOS 13 last year. A recent Bloomberg report indicated that Apple’s focus with iOS 14 this year will be on performance and stability. This means there might not be as many new features this year as there were last year, but things should more stable and more reliable across the board.
Apple is also said to be considering the ability to set third-party web browsers and email apps as natives. If this comes to fruition for iOS 14, users could set something like Chrome or Gmail as their default applications instead of Safari and Mail.
Last but not least, a major flagship feature of iOS 14 — or maybe even iOS 13.6 — is expected to be CarKey. This feature will allow users to unlock and control their car using iPhone and Apple Watch. 9to5Mac expects CarKey to work for locking, unlocking, and starting cars using the iPhone in place of a physical car key or key fob.
What else to expect in iOS 14:
- HomeKit in iOS 14: Face recognition, Apple TV audio, Night Shift for lights
- iOS 14: Major accessibility features, Alipay Apple Pay, wallpaper app integration, more
- iOS 14: CarPlay wallpapers, deeper Apple Store integration in Maps
- ‘Find My’ features found in iOS 14 code include new notification triggers and AR mode
- iOS 14 code reveals Apple working with BMW on futuristic ‘CarKey’ iPhone feature
- iOS 14: Keychain password manager to gain new 1Password-like features
- Leaked iOS 14 screenshot shows new wallpaper settings, beta code reveals Home screen widgets
- iOS 14: Apple developing ‘Clips’ feature for using apps without requiring full downloads
- iOS 14 to include built-in translator in Safari, full Apple Pencil support on websites
- Exclusive: iOS 14 to include overhauled Podcasts app with ‘For You’, bonus content, more
The important thing to keep in mind is that the availability of these rumored features could always change. If Apple feels a feature is not ready for primetime this year, it could be delayed until a future version of iOS 14 or even until the next major release of iOS 15 in 2021.
There is so much more that has been rumored for iOS 14, and you can read our full breakdown of those rumors here.
Last year, Apple separated the iPad from iOS by introducing iPadOS 13. Since the introduction of iPadOS last year, it gained a massive new feature with iPadOS 13.4 recently, adding support for trackpad and mouse input. This year, we expect Apple to continue its focus on making the iPad a more powerful platform for productivity.
Many of the changes coming iOS 14 will also come to iPadOS 14, such as new augmented reality features, enhancements to the Keychain password manager, and a revamped Podcasts app. We also expect a variety of new features for power users, but details here remain unclear.
One rumored iPadOS 14 feature has been full Apple Pencil support on websites. This means iPad owners could use the Apple Pencil not only to scroll and touch but also to draw and markup with all its capabilities in Safari and other browsers.
Other details on iPadOS 14 are unclear as of right now, but we expect to learn quite a bit more at WWDC starting next week.
This is expected to be a big year for the Apple Watch as well. watchOS 7 will bring a variety of improvements to the platform, including new health features, a new Kids mode, and more.
As usual, watchOS 7 will add new watch faces. Perhaps most notably, Apple appears to be planning a new Infograph Pro watch face with a built-in tachymeter. This continues Apple’s trend of bringing analog watch characteristics to the digital Apple Watch. There is also expected to be support for creating personalized watch faces based on shared albums from the Photos app, as well as a new digital watch face called International.
Kids Mode in watchOS 7 will include a variety of features designed to make it easier for parents to manage Apple Watches used by children. This will include the ability to set up and manage Apple Watches for kids using a parent’s iPhone, as well as managing which applications kids can use during certain hours of the day.
The Apple Watch has become a fitness and health-focused device over the last several years, and that’s expected to continue with watchOS 7. Apple is developing a new Apple Watch feature for detecting blood oxygen levels for the first time, a feature that would be able to monitor your information and send you a push notification if the number falls below a certain threshold.
The first-party Sleep app on Apple Watch leaked in a screenshot last October, and 9to5Mac has exclusively reported many of its features. The Sleep app will monitor your sleep using different sensors and metrics, including heart rate, noises, and movement. It will also help users remember to charge their Apple Watch before bed.
One thing to keep in mind is that it’s unclear which watchOS 7 features might also require new Apple Watch hardware. History suggests that some of these features are likely to be hardware-tied, and if that’s the case, we don’t expect Apple to even announce them until this fall — not at WWDC.
You can read our full roundup of what to expect in watchOS 7 at WWDC 2020 right here.
For the Mac, Apple will introduce macOS 10.16 at WWDC this year, serving as the follow up to macOS Catalina 10.15. One of the features of macOS 10.16 is expected to be a new Messages app. 9to5Mac has found evidence in iOS 14 that Apple is working to completely replace the Messages app on macOS with a Catalyst version. In other words, this means Apple will bring the same Messages app from iOS and iPadOS to the Mac.
The Catalyst technology allows developers to port their apps from iOS to macOS. While Apple has already introduced several Catalyst apps, such as Voice Memos, Podcasts, and Home, none of the native macOS apps have been replaced by the iOS version yet.
iMessage has gained several new features since 2011, including extensions, stickers, and message effects. But most of this is not available to Mac users, as macOS still has a basic version of the Messages app that only works to send and receive messages. Bringing the iPad version of Messages to the Mac will allow Mac users to access those newer features.
It’s possible that Apple has other new apps for the Mac planned this year as well, or perhaps improvements to the existing Catalyst apps such as Podcasts or Apple News. Other than this, however, there is little evidence of what to expect with this year’s macOS 10.16 update. We’ll have to wait until WWDC next week to learn more.
What will this year’s version of macOS 10.16 be called? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, so let us know your ideas down in the comments.
Rounding out Apple’s major platforms is tvOS 14 — which powers the Apple TV as well as the HomePod. Much like Apple Watch, one rumor circulating is that tvOS 14 will add a dedicated Kids Mode for the first time. Kids Mode would allow Apple TV owners to set up a separate account for their kids, with control over which applications can be used.
Screen Time has also been rumored for tvOS 14, following its expansion to the Mac last year. Screen Time on tvOS would presumably allow users to track where they spent the most time watching content, as well as how much overall time they spent watching TV per week and per day.
Finally, 9to5Mac expects tvOS 14 to include a new permanent audio output option for Apple TV streaming boxes. For example, a user could permanently select HomePod stereo pairs as the default audio output without manually choosing the AirPlay 2 target each time.
There are clearly other areas of tvOS that need improvements, including the TV app itself. Whether or not Apple has any other improvements planned for this year remains to be seen, but we will learn more at WWDC next week.
When will these updates be released?
In general, Apple releases the first developer betas of its new software versions immediately following the WWDC keynote. Public betas generally follow sometime later in the summer. At WWDC 2020, we would expect Apple to follow that same precedent, but given the online nature of WWDC, things could be different.
This means it’s likely we will get the first developer betas of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, macOS 10.16, and tvOS 14 on Monday, June 22 — but it’s not guaranteed.
Other software updates
Aside from the major platform updates this year, Apple is also still making improvements to iOS 13. Currently, iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6 are both in beta testing with developers and public beta users. iOS 13.6 makes a few minor tweaks, including a new setting for automatic software updates. There’s also a new Health app feature for tracking health symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, wheezing, and more.
More notably, iOS 13.6 includes the groundwork for Apple News Audio Stories as well as additional evidence of CarKey. The Apple News Audio Stories feature has been rumored for a while now and would allow users to listen to audio versions of stories from major news publications.
In iOS 13.6, Audio Stories is not enabled for everyone, but 9to5Mac has been able to access the feature. This could indicate that Apple plans to release Apple News Audio Stories with iOS 13.6 as opposed to iOS 14.
Once you choose an audio story to play, the app shows a media player, just like the one in the Podcast app, that lets you rewind 15 seconds, skip to the next story, or even adjust playback speed. While the Audio tab shows up for all users, only Apple News+ subscribers will have access to full stories. If you are not a subscriber, you will only be able to listen to previews of the stories.
On iOS 13.6, if you go to the Privacy information for Apple Wallet, Apple details several paragraphs about adding a car key to the Wallet app. This information is not shown in prior releases of iOS, so it could be that Apple plans to launch CarKey with iOS 13.6 instead of waiting for iOS 14.
When will Apple release iOS 13.6 to the public? It’s unclear at this point, but if it officially announces features like Apple News Audio and CarKey at WWDC, it’s not out of the question that iOS 13.6 is released to the public relatively soon after the Special Event Keynote.
Moving on from the software releases, rumors have also indicated that Apple will introduce a redesigned iMac at WWDC this year. There are also rumors that we could get a new 23-inch iMac at some point this year, but it’s unclear if that will happen at WWDC or later.
The new iMac will reportedly feature much slimmer bezels as well as an all-SSD lineup, ditching the Fusion Drive. It will also include Apple’s T2 security chip for the first time in an iMac, as well as new Navi GPUs from AMD.
In terms of a physical redesign, this will mark the first change to the iMac since 2012 and the first front-facing change in a decade. In 2012, the iMac was given a new casing that tapers down on the sides, but this design feature can only be seen from the side. Looking head-on, the iMac has not changed in a decade.
The current rumors suggest that the iMac will feature “iPad Pro design language” with display bezels similar to the Pro Display XDR. It appears that Apple is looking to extend the iPad Pro design language across more of its product lineups, including the iPhone 12 coming this fall.
The new iMac has been rumored and available supply of the existing 27-inch iMac is running low. These are both strong indications that a new model is on the way. Be sure to check out Jeff Benjamin’s “Back to the Mac” series for more details.
Apple is rumored to have other product updates in the pipeline, but it’s unclear if these products will be announced at WWDC this year. In general, Apple keeps product unveilings at WWDC limited to ones that relate to developers, so it’s likely that Apple is also saving these announcements for the fall.
First, 9to5Mac has reported that Apple is developing a new Apple TV with more power and perhaps even a new remote. The upcoming Apple TV is likely to feature at least Apple’s A12 chip, which is a dramatic improvement from the current A10X Fusion processor. We also heard the new Apple TV might get HDMI 2.1 with Auto Low-Latency Mode and increased storage, with 64GB and 128GB options.
Apple is expected to release AirPods Studio at some point this year. These are over-ear headphones from Apple with features such as head and neck detection, custom equalizer settings, and noise cancellations. AirPods Studio have been rumored for several, and reports currently indicate that they are scheduled for a release in 2020 for $349.
Apple is also believed to be developing a smaller HomePod that is around half the size of the current product. The current HomePod is a great sounding music player but is very expensive compared to the competition. If the HomePod were smaller and more affordable, it might appeal to those who would currently opt for Amazon Echo device.
Finally, we are also still awaiting the release of Apple’s AirTag item trackers. What this means is that you’ll be able to attach Apple’s physical item tracker to any belonging, such as your wallet, backpack, keys, and more, and then track those items via the Find My application on Mac and iOS. Evidence within iOS suggests that these item trackers will be called “AirTags” and integrate with augmented reality features to help users easily find their lost items.
ARM Mac transition road map
Perhaps most importantly of all, Apple is expected to officially confirm its plans to transition the Mac lineup to custom ARM processors. Apple has seen incredible success in using custom ARM processors in the iPhone and iPad, so it only makes sense for it to extend that to the Mac as well.
Bloomberg has reported that Apple is preparing a 12-core custom ARM processor that would be significantly more powerful than the current MacBook Air powered by Intel. Apple is said to have seen notable gains in GPU and artificial intelligence computational performance in MacBooks powered by ARM chips as well.
Here’s what this does not mean: We do not expect any consumer-ready Mac hardware with an ARM chip to be announced at WWDC. Instead, we expect Apple to unveil a road map for developers and perhaps offer some sort of developer transition kit hardware.
Essentially, developers need time to optimize their applications to run on an ARM-powered Mac. This is why Apple will likely announce the transition at WWDC 2020, but not release an ARM Mac to the public until 2021 at the earliest. Rumors have suggested that the first ARM Mac will be a revival of the 12-inch MacBook.
Read more about Apple’s ARM Mac transition:
- Bloomberg: Apple to announce its first ARM Mac chips at WWDC, as it starts transition away from Intel
- Comment: Apple may not reveal much about its ARM Mac plans, but wise to wait
- Bloomberg: Apple to release first ARM Mac in 2021 with 5nm 12-core Apple processor
- Ahead of WWDC, speculation over Apple’s ARM Mac transition grows
And more at WWDC 2020
Apple almost always has tricks up its sleeve for WWDC, and we expect that to be the case this year as well. This is especially true given the unprecedented nature of a completely virtual WWDC. There is no precedent to which Apple has to conform, and it’s free to switch things up if it needs to.
That being said, we expect the tentpoles of WWDC to remain the same this year, including the introduction of iOS 14, macOS 10.16, and more. What are you most excited to see? What’s on your wish list for this year? Let us know down in the comments!
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