On June 8, 2015 at 10 a.m. PT, Apple executives, developers, and the press converge at Moscone West in San Francisco to kick off a week of announcements and sessions at the 2015 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that point the way to the company’s future. The Rocket Yard is set to provide readers with a variety of WWDC articles; today we’re launching our coverage with a preview of what may be announced at this year’s event.
One of the most likely announcements at WWDC will be that of the annual update to iOS, in this case iOS 9. While a number of developers and some consumers are begging Apple to make iOS 9 a stability and bug fix release, the company needs to move forward with new and exciting features to maintain its momentum in the market. So what can we expect from iOS 9?
Rumors have it that there will be a new lifestyle management feature named “Proactive.” Somewhat similar to Google Now, Proactive is expected to replace the Spotlight search in iOS with deeper search capabilities and an all-new user interface that will display content from third-party apps, Contacts, and Maps, giving users a way to essentially navigate their daily schedules.
To do this, Proactive would display an upcoming calendar event or an upcoming flight at an appropriate time for the user to take action. Proactive allegedly learns from a user’s daily habits, so someone who always checks in on Slack first thing in the morning would have that app displayed for quick access upon awaking.
Other rumored features of iOS 9 include improvements to the Maps application. An augmented reality view would allow users to see names of businesses on a block simply by viewing it on the display, a “Browse Around Me” point of interest system may give iOS users a better idea of what businesses and sights are near them, and transit directions may finally make it to iOS.
Force Touch is beginning to make waves at Apple, having debuted on the Apple Watch and now expanded to the Force Touch trackpads on new MacBooks. It’s expected that iOS 9 will add developer tools for Force Touch, pointing the direction to future iOS devices that will support the feature. Many industry pundits expect iOS 9 to have a new systemwide font first seen on the Apple Watch — San Francisco — and the operating system may finally add split-screen multitasking for using and viewing two apps simultaneously.
Other things we’d like to see? How about “Guest Mode” for iOS, making it simple to let a friend use your device temporarily without worry that they’ll change all of the settings on your iPad or iPhone. Continuity for iTunes would be impressive in iOS and OS X; handing off tunes that are currently playing on your Mac to an iPhone.
OS X 10.11
Of course, if iOS gets an update, then so does OS X. OS X 10.11 isn’t expected to have many groundbreaking new features, but instead will focus on stability improvements, bug fixes, and system-level security features.
The latter is rumored to be a new kernel-level system called “Rootless” that should help wipe out malware by preventing access to protected system files.
Currently, Apple’s Notes, Reminders, and Calendars apps on Mac are based on the Internet Message Access Protocol — IMAP. IMAP has been around in various forms since 1986, so Apple may decide to both improve inter-app communications and security by moving from IMAP to a proprietary iCloud Drive-based system.
One feature that many iOS users love is Control Center, which makes frequently-used controls available with a gesture. Some bloggers are anticipating Control Center for Mac, which would provide immediate access to Do Not Disturb, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and music controls. Like iOS 9, San Francisco may become the default systemwide font for OS X 10.11.
The Apple Watch is a new device, so it’s unlikely that Apple will announce any new versions of the smartwatch. However, expect to see announcements about the availability of native Apple Watch apps by this fall, which will endow the device with more power and speed. What that will take is a completely new developer kit, allowing companies to write apps directly for the Watch instead of requiring a companion iPhone app.
Content is King, HomeKit Launches
Since Apple unveiled iTunes many years ago, the company has created devices — iPod and Apple TV — and services to sell content and generate revenue. One of the most prevalent rumors is that Apple will finally unveil a new Apple TV set-top box, providing support for Siri for control and searches, an App Store for purchasing and downloading apps and games, and more.
In order to buffer streaming content more smoothly and store apps, the new Apple TV will have much more storage as well as Apple’s A8 system-on-a-chip.
The new Apple TV won’t be used just for storing, streaming and displaying content; it’s also expected that the Apple TV will become a hub for HomeKit-enabled home automation devices. Properly integrated with those devices, Siri voice control could be used to not only control and monitor the home, but to enhance home security as well.
HomeKit was announced one year ago at WWDC 2014, but not much has happened since then. Apple may take the stage at WWDC 2015 to announce the official launch, including announcements of HomeKit-compatible hardware.
HomeKit is a framework for allowing connected locks, thermostats, switches, and other hardware to interface with iOS devices. Part of the overall picture may be the introduction of a “Home” app in iOS 9 for controlling HomeKit devices.
One oft-repeated rumor states that Apple will launch its highly-revamped streaming music service as WWDC. Basically a rebranding of the existing Beats Music service, the streaming capability will be built into iTunes and the iOS Music app. Pricing for the all-you-can-eat, ad-free music streaming service is expected to be in the range of US$7.99 – $9.99 per month.
To go along with Apple’s new Apple TV, Apple will most likely announce a new streaming TV service. Apple is working with content networks like CBS, ABC and Fox on the service, which will launch with about 25 channels and be available for $30 – $40 per month. The service will be very popular with “cord cutters” who want to be released from expensive cable TV offerings.
Finally, with Google’s recent announcement of the free Google Photo service, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple drastically cut the price of its storage plans for iCloud Photo Library.
Apple Pay is becoming more popular and supported every day, with over 300 banks and other financial institutions providing credit and debit cards that work with the contactless payment system. WWDC 2015 would be the perfect venue for announcing new retail partners, as well as something to attract more users — like a rewards program.
Apple may also announce that Apple Pay will expand to countries other than just the USA at WWDC 2015. Canada and China are both high up on the company’s list.
While Apple usually holds onto iOS device announcements until the fall, we might see an announcement or two of new Mac and home-related hardware at WWDC.
Apple’s recent release of the Retina Display 12-inch MacBook showed that it has mastered the art of putting the most computer into the smallest space. Although no rumors of such a device have surfaced, one areas where Apple could use that expertise is in a new Mac mini. The last form-factor change happened in 2010; Apple could release an even more compact and energy efficient device in a much smaller box that could be mounted on the back of a Retina Display monitor. There may also be a surprise “speed bump” announced for the fastest and most powerful Mac: the Mac Pro.
As mentioned above, the Apple TV is long overdue for a redesign.
More than just about any other Apple event, WWDC announcements often provide Apple developers, support personnel, and customers with a roadmap to what they can expect to blossom forth from Cupertino in the next twelve months. The event will be livestreamed, so be sure to be watching at 10 AM on June 8 for what’s sure to be a fascinating look into the near future.