WWDC 2020 is set to start in a few hours time and it is promising to be a big one this year. The Coronavirus pandemic did cast an uncertainty over Apple’s annual developer conference. Now we know that Apple is doing an online event with the promise of opening the doors to a large set of developers. With Google deciding to cancel I/O 2020, there is not much reference point to work with. Apple is likely to present this year’s WWDC from Steve Jobs Theater with no real developer audience. Microsoft did virtual Build 2020 where it felt like going into the homes of each and every presenter. Also Read - Apple to announce own Mac chipset at WWDC 2020
Apple, known for its precision, might have something better on the cards. There is a lot to consider when the event does not take place at a venue like Moscone West or Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Since there won’t be a real developer community in attendance, we will have to see how Apple’s seasoned executives present the new platform developments. Don’t be surprised when Craig Federeghi (also called Hair Force One) announced a brilliant new iOS feature but there is gasp or laughter or applause in the audience. Also Read - Apple starts mass production of the new AirPods Studio; could be announced at WWDC
Aesthetics aside, the second thing to consider is whether Apple will address the concerns of big name developers. Apple started last week with an announcement that “App Store drove over half a trillion dollars in commerce in 2019”. Soon, it got embroiled in controversy leading to an image emerging as that of an enforcer with its App Store. This has led to class action lawsuits and is being investigated by European Union as well. WWDC is the platform for Apple to address those concerns. Now, let’s talk about the keynote and platform updates. Also Read - Apple announces WWDC 2020 virtual event will start on June 22
WWDC 2020: When is the keynote
Apple’s virtual WWDC 2020 is being held from June 22 to June 26. The keynote is scheduled for 10:00AM Pacific Time (or 10.30PM IST) on June 22. The keynote is expected to focus on key platform developments coming to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS this year. If you are an Apple enthusiast then you should be watching for hardware announcements as well. It is not clear whether Apple will announce new devices at WWDC but we cannot rule out the possibility of iPad Pro-esque iMac Pro and new iPads at the event. You can watch the keynote on Apple’s website and also on YouTube. Alternatively, you can watch the livestream via the link embedded below.
Will iOS become iPhoneOS?
Since the launch of original iPhone in 2007, Apple has only brought incremental UX changes to its mobile operating system, popularly known as iOS. This year, we could see big changes and a possible rebranding to iPhoneOS as well. This rebranding makes sense after iPad got its own platform named iPadOS at one hour and three minutes into the keynote at WWDC last year. With 1.5 billion active devices, the iOS is central to Apple’s success and it is time for the iPhone maker to make big ticket changes.
By big ticket, we mean changing the way iOS looks on your iPhone. According to 9to5Mac, Apple is planning to add the option for list view in addition to the usual grid of apps. You might say that this has been the case with Android for years but Apple might let you sort them in a number of different ways. There are also rumors of Apple adding support for movable widgets to iOS this year. The company has already added widgets to the home screen with iPadOS. Now, Apple might let users pin widgets wherever they want. For longtime iPhone users, this will be a radical change.
One of the rumors that even die-hard Apple fans would want to see come true this year is support for third-party apps as default. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Apple is considering an option to let iOS 14 users set third-party apps as default. This could mean replacing Safari with Chrome and Mail with Outlook. Apple’s own apps have failed to live up to the competition in some areas. As an option to set default of your choice will bring cheer among iPhone users who struggle juggling between Apple’s own apps and their counterpart.
While there is a request for Apple to bring iMessage to Android, the messaging system itself is set for updates. The company is expected to add a mentioning system similar to Twitter within Apple Messages. This may not be a deal breaker when you do direct messaging with a person. However, this could change the game for those who converse in group chats. You will be able to nudge your friend in a group chat by mentioning their name directly. Apple is also planning updates for its own apps like every year.
This year, we could see Safari be able to translate web pages like Google Chrome. Josh Constine notes that Apple is planning a new augmented reality app called Gobi. The app will reportedly come with new experiences developed in collaboration with brands like Starbucks. Constine goes on to mention that Find My app will get an update where users can tap into AR to find their lost devices. Apple is far ahead of competition in the augmented reality world and this year, it might turn the volume to 11, literally.
There seems to be a lot of new features on the card this year. Apple is expected to introduce a new fitness app complete with guided workout videos. This service could be a challenger to Peloton and Nike Training Club in the US. For other features, we don’t need to look further than the recent builds of iOS 13. Apple will reportedly let users unlock their car using the CarKey feature. 9to5Mac even reported that BMW will be the first to implement this feature. While we might not see an Apple Car officially, at least we will be able to unlock our cars using Apple devices.
What happens to iPadOS?
When Apple announced iPadOS at WWDC last year, it could have been easily dismissed as an old operating system with a new name. The difference between iOS and iPadOS was so minimal that it did not really warrant that new platform name. However, a year later, the iPadOS is proving to be non-iOS in ways beyond the scope thought about earlier. To make it really unique, Apple recently added support for cursor and trackpad as well. Tim Cook and Co. want to phase out Macs in favor of iPad and this is their golden moment to make that happen. If not immediate, we will see those signs at WWDC once again this year.
Again, 9to5Mac spotted new Mac-style cursors in leaked iOS 14 code. This will bring a desktop-style user experience to iPad whenever someone uses the device with a keyboard and trackpad. In other words, Apple could uplift its own Magic Keyboard in a big way at WWDC 2020 this year. The Apple Pencil is also expected to do things that Samsung’s S-Pen is capable of. Thanks to PencilKit, you will be able to write in any physical text field. We should see both iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 developer beta become available as soon as the keynote ends. The public preview could arrive a few weeks later.
Apple ARMs the Mac
We would say that iOS and iPadOS will be a curtain raiser for Apple’s big reveal at WWDC next week. At WWDC 2020, Apple is expected to officially announce the switch from Intel to ARM for Mac. It means the future Mac devices will come equipped with Apple’s own chipset based on ARM architecture, replacing the Intel processors currently powering them. It will be a big blow to Intel, which is struggling to keep up with demand and renewed competition from AMD. For Apple, it will be nothing short of a homecoming. Finally, Apple will have end-to-end control on its Mac ecosystem.
To show that it is serious, Apple might even introduce a radical new iMac Pro, which will look like a giant iPad Pro in an iMac enclosure. The company is also reportedly planning a switch from Fusion drives to SSD-based storage. But the hardware will fade away when Apple delivers the message – adios Intel. It is not confirmed that Apple will use A-series CPU. However, the architecture powering iPhone and iPad could be used with probably more cores and advanced design. This will be the first major switch for the company since early 2016 when it switched from PowerPC to Intel processors.
There is a lot that we still don’t know yet. For beginners, Microsoft tried the switch from Intel’s x86 architecture to ARM for Windows. The easiest way to put it would be that it did not go well. In order to run programs designed for x86, Microsoft relied on emulation. Think of it as programs running in their own virtual environment. Those who tried the idea were left wondering if this would ever work. There was a clear disconnect between the platform and architecture powering it. Can Apple find a better solution?
We will have to wait and see what Apple does to macOS so that it works like a first party client on ARM. However, the big question is whether developers embrace this switch. Apple has not really been kind to Mac and has even alienated some serious developers and programmers. With this switch, Apple stands to risk further pushing them away or bringing them to an unified platform where one code can be deployed across iOS, iPad and macOS. If you are a desktop aficionado then this would be the moment to watch.
Apple watchOS, tvOS and everything else
What Apple has in watchOS is the only real wearable computing platform. There is no other platform that works in the same way that watchOS does. Kevin Lynch and his team are expected to introduce watchOS 7 with new features including Kids Mode. This allows you to manage your child’s Apple Watch in addition to your own from your iPhone. If you have been following the progress seen with watchOS, it is pretty much certain that Apple will have a slew of health-related features next week.
One of the key things coming this year seems to be proper sleep tracking features. Apple might also add an option to measure a user’s blood oxygen levels. In addition to new features, we might see improvements to ECG features, an attempt to make it more accurate. Apple Watch is the crown jewel under the leadership of Tim Cook. He has repeatedly said that Apple’s biggest contribution will be in health. We might see Apple throw breadcrumbs in this vision of a so-called healthOS.
There are a lot of other questions on the cards including whether Apple will announce a big refresh for tvOS. There is also the question of whether we will see new developments around AirTags, the challenger to Tile Mate. Then there is HomePod and Siri, which still lags behind Alexa and Google Assistant. We will be watching whether Apple can do to Siri what Google has done to Assistant without scraping through a lot of data. Last but not the least, any signs to indicate that iPhone 12 is on track for September will be welcome.