Monday, June 22, 2020

Predictions for Apple WWDC 2020: iOS 14, new Macs and a 'one more thing' surprise

Usually, I begin these WWDC prediction pieces with a fun and trivial guess as to how many times Apple CEO Tim Cook will say 'good morning' interrupted by thunderous applause. On average, it ends up being three times. This year, the Apple WWDC 2020 keynote is going to be very different: just one solid and overdue 'good morning'.

The WWDC 2020 livestream later today is the only way to experience Apple's annual developer conference due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There will be no tickets for the next generation of developers, no media jockeying for unique stories and fewer than normal laughs at Apple execs' dad jokes (sorry, Craig 'Hair Force One' Federighi).

Yet I expect Apple WWDC 2020 to continue with other staples: our first look at major software refreshes, the debut of brand new Mac hardware, hints as to where Apple is going with the iPhone 12, and maybe even a 'one more thing' surprise.

WWDC 2020 is hours away, but the predictions are here for you to enjoy right now.

Opening: diversity, face masks, and app revenue

10:00am PST (local time): Apple's WWDDC keynote always starts with an opening video, and it usually lasts between two and four minutes. I did the calculation, and that's an average of... three minutes. The videos are often funny (WWDC 2015 spoofed the movie Birdman pretty hard) and also pro-developer (WWDC 2018 satirized nature documentaries with 'The Developer Migration').

The events of the first half of 2020 demand something different.

The events of the first half of 2020 demand something different: a WWDC opening video that allows Apple to address and encourage diversity among the developer community and its own ranks; what it's done so far, and what it still needs to do.

10:03am PST: This will be the first time that Cook will be able to talk about Apple's support of Black Lives Matter from a grand stage. He'll also be able to address what the company has done in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as supplying N95 masks and designing face shields for frontline healthcare workers.

10:06am PST: Apple loves diving into WWDC with big numbers early on. That usually means reminding everyone of its vast developer count, tallying the apps available in the App Store, and boasting about how many people have iOS 13 installed over the latest version of Google's Android operating system.

Apple has increasingly been under fire for its 30% revenue cut from App Store app purchases and in-app transactions, as well as its ability to block apps for violating vague rules. Cook could either strongly defend Apple's case for creating the App Store environment, or give in a little to appease antitrust investigations. I don't see the latter happening.

Apple bundle for News, Games and TV 

10:10am PT: Apple's conference announcements may start by giving subscribers a break via a previously rumored bundle, first uncovered by Bloomberg

Apple has been bullish on its services, which have helped make up for sliding iPhone sales. This new source of profit will have even more appeal if the company bundles Apple News Plus, Apple Music and Apple TV Plus into one flat rate. I'd also like to see iCloud storage prices fall, but I want that every year and never get that wish.

Apple iPad Pro 2020

Apple software refreshes and new content

10:15am PT: Right at the fifteen-minute mark, Apple may get into what we're all here for: the first glimpse at software upgrades for our existing devices. And the updates typically launch in developer beta form following the WWDC keynote.

The rundown order in which they're unveiled is always different, but Apple's all-hands software push is predictable, so expect to see iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, watchOS 7, and macOS 10.16.

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14

10:16am PT: iOS 14 could start things off – kind of. There's a rumor that the name will be changed to iPhoneOS 14. Expect Craig Federighi to helm this announcement.

Fun fact: Apple's mobile operating system was 'iPhoneOS' for its first three iterations until it didn't make sense when the iPad arrived using the same software. With last year's iPadOS 13 fork in Apple's iOS scheme, Apple's pivot back to iPhoneOS makes sense for everyone – except the always-forgotten iPod touch users out there.

iOS 14 leaks point to new home screen app widgets, an iPad-like app switcher for the iPhone interface, overdue Podcast app enhancements, a built-in translation tool, and a 'Clips' feature that lets you try snippets of apps without downloading them in full. I'm also keen to see if Apple upgrades all iOS 13-compatible devices to iOS 14.

watchOS 7 to debut sleep tracking

10:40am PT: iOS demos – if iOS 14 is indeed first up – take up a significant chunk of time. watchOS 7 could be next, and the predictions there are even easier to make. Apple VP of tech Kevin Lynch will likely take the stage at this point.

Apple's watchOS 7 update is due sleep tracking, something rumored for watchOS 6 last year but reportedly didn't make the cut alongside the standalone watch-based App Store. The company's hesitation may have to do with battery life concerns for people wearing the watch 24/7. Expect watchOS 7 to tout battery saving perks for this reason, along with the usual slate of new Apple Watch faces.

Apple TV Plus content and tvOS 14

11:00am PT: Apple TV Plus and tvOS 14 go hand-in-hand. Apple has to convince the current subscribers of Apple TV Plus to re-up in November (most are probably on that free year-long trial care of buying a new Apple device). To make that happen, it needs to produce new content – or at least buy fresh video content. The pandemic has forced Apple to pause production on shows such as The Morning Show season 2.

We could see a new Apple TV 4K at this point or, at the very least a new Apple TV remote.

macOS 10.16, new iMac and ARM-based Mac roadmap

11:20am PT: Surprisingly, this year's Mac rumors have nothing to do with Apple's next computer software update, macOS 10.16. There have been very few operating system leaks so far. Instead, I'm expecting Apple to make big news with its plans to switch from Intel chips to custom ARM-based Mac chips.

That's not to say ARM-based Macs will be out this month or even this year. This is more of a 2021 thing, according to analysts. But making this bold (some would say 'brave') announcement at WWDC 2020 will give developers enough time to prepare for the inevitable switch (like Steve Jobs did when Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel chips at WWDC 2005).

Intel will still show up in existing Mac upgrades until that happens. Look for the iMac 2020 27-inch to show up at WWDC, with stock now dwindling for the last iteration at that 27-inch size. 

While I'm unsure if the 23-inch version will get the same upgrade, I do expect an overdue redesign that hopefully looks closer to the Pro Display XDR used by the Mac Pro 2019.

One more thing?

11:40am PT: Apple WWDC usually lasts two hours, and at the end we could see Tim Cook return to the stage for a 'one more thing' surprise announcement. Really, it's what the world needs right now.

Apple AirTags could be that surprise you didn't know you needed, especially if you haven't tried the similar Tile tracker. It's incredibly handy in a pinch. Clipping a small circular tag to your keys, bike or suitcase could help you track down the location of a lost item using your iPhone or asking Siri "Where's my suitcase?".

Apple AirTags sound neat enough to take up the last twenty minutes of demo time and a great way to end WWDC 2020 if they use Augmented Reality (AR) to help you track down your lost keys in between two couch cushions.

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