The major topic of conversation in the lead up to WWDC, was will any of it be live? Will this one day format featuring the Keynote, State of the Union and Apple Developer Awards be the way WWDC is run going forwards? I guess we won’t know until next year, but it looks like we have a few things to look forward to this year too!
The majority of rumours around updates to iOS this year focus on support for the rumoured forthcoming iPhone Pro. The iPhone Pro is set to move from the notch to dual hole punch camera and sensor, in addition to receiving an upgrade to its Pro Motion display. Last year the iPhone’s Pro displays were updated to support 120hz, but this year they will also be updated to throttle down all the way to 1hz like the Apple Watch, enabling an always on display without the draw back of significant power consumption. To make use of this I am expecting to see improvements to the lock screen, notifications and widgets, to bring the experience closer to using watch complications.
The major area holding back iPadOS from being the computer for the rest of us, is its lacklustre support for multitasking and larger external displays. Now that both the iPad Air and iPad Pro now have the same internals as the MacBook Air and iMac, with the M1 SOC, and indeed a USB-C port, it’s certainly isn’t the hardware that is holding it back.
This year I expect to see iPadOS get full external display support beyond just mirroring , allowing unrelated windows to be spread across both the internal and external display. I would be surprised to see the ability overlap windows like macOS, but if this is limited to when connected to a keyboard and trackpad it is a possibility.
Information regarding this years macOS update is few and far between, but with the transition to Apple silicon occupying a number of Apple’s engineers for the last few years maybe this will be a small release, with mainly cosmetic changes and the migration of more apps from iOS using Catalyst and SwiftUI.
New and updated watch faces, new workout types … isn’t that what we get most years?
Shortcuts in reality was the biggest change to macOS last year, and indeed it’s becoming more and valuable on iOS as its triggers and actions our expanded. I expect shortcuts to see a number of improvements, with the ability to run them globally using a keyboard short cut on both macOS and iPadOS being top of my wishlist.
HomeKit and homeOS
The HomeKit ecosystem isn’t as large as either or Amazon’s or Google’s, but I’m a big fan of its reliability and local network support, and for the couple of devices I have purchased that don’t support HomeKit I have managed to bridge them across using Homebridge. That being said, the Home app is cumbersome to navigate, taking way to many to interactions to find anything, so if the device you are looking for isn’t in the current screen you end up feeling frustrated or having to ask Siri, which isn’t always an option, but to be fair has been reasonably reliable whenever I use it.
Moreover with the imminent launch of Matter (it has been imminent for a while now, with support for it present in the HomePod mini and iOS 15) it feels like Apple are going to double down on the Home and try and use its privacy focus to regain some ground on its compertion .
I expect to see support for more device types, with additional support in shortcuts.
Will they or won’t? If they do, will the initial version be aimed at consumers or priced as developer preview? On the latter question, I don’t think its Apple’s style to release something priced prohibitively so the majority of their customers can’t afford it. On the flip side. making it available exclusively to developers, akin to a transition kit might makes sense for a new hardware category, although they didn’t for the Apple Watch or iPad. That being said, I think we are still too early, although I would expect to see additional AR features announced and be available to developers in the latest versions of iOS and iPadOS.
WWDC has leant heavily into it being a developer conference for the last few years, with announcements focusing on the software ecosystem. The exception to this rule is the Mac Pro, which Apple already alluded to during the last keynote that it is the final Mac yet to be updated to Apple Silicon. I would expect to see an unveiling of the new Mac Pro as a bit of crowd pleaser at the event, with a release at the end of the year. The Mac having made to Apple silicon first, namely the MacBook Air, will have to wait too later in the year for a hardware refresh.
SwiftUI on paper is great, in fact if all you are doing is simple bits of UI it is. The problem is as soon as you step outside of its comfort zone you end up having to drop back to the platform libraries, which always feels in elegant even if you are only trying to support 1 platform. Moreover, even thought SwiftUI encourages small views, the way you structure apps, in particular navigation, means you end up with a heavily intertwined app akin to the Storyboard UI approach that proceeded it. This isn’t so bad for a solo developer working on an app with 20 screens, but a team of 10 working on 100 screens … that’s not so fun.
I am expecting SwiftUI to receive a major update to help iron out a number of the edges, in addition to improving the tooling in general … and not making macOS development with SwiftUI feeling like an after thought.