Apple WWDC 2016: what we expect to see

All the operating systems you can eat, maps, and health - and new shiny things too?

Apple WWDC 2016 takes place from Monday 13 June

WWDC 2016 is rampaging towards us.

Apple’s dev conference will kick off on 13 June, and apparently promises “exciting reveals” that will give devs opportunities to make “the most innovative apps in the world”. (And also yet more to-do list makers. Because you can apparently never have enough of those.)

But what exciting reveals will we see? We just don’t know. Stuff isn’t psychic and someone nicked our TARDIS. But rumours abound, giving us hints regarding what’s to come. Just don’t ask Siri — it’ll merely point you at the website, the lazy bugger.

Hello, macOS!

Is Apple going back to the future?

All signs point to the OS X name being consigned to history, and Mac OS making a triumphant return. This will likely be styled as ‘macOS’ or ‘MacOS’ (spaces are out, judging by watchOS, tvOS and iOS) and so one of those will say ‘hello’ — again.

Beyond that, Siri is the most likely big new feature, and would build on the Mac’s existing voice-command smarts. There are also rumours of further integration with iOS devices, such as using an iPhone to unlock a Mac or buying something in Safari with Apple Pay.

A smarter iOS

The rumour mill’s been oddly silent on iOS, bar Apple letting you hide stock apps in iOS 10, and unveiling a HomeKit hub. With that, you’ll be able to command your heating to turn on while driving home, like some kind of futuristic tech wizard. Well, present-day tech wizard, since this isn’t really new tech; still, baking it into the OS should boost usability, convenience and reliability.

Beyond that, we’re mostly in wish-list-land, in part due to watching Sam Beckett and Federico Viticci’s excellent iOS 10 concept video. We really want a customisable Control Center, system-wide night mode, a Finder-like Document Picker on iPad, and for the Split View app selector to not be a bag of hurt. Make it happen, Apple!

Apple TV bullishness

Apple TV - or rather the Siri-powered new version - may well be a big focus of WWDC 2016

We expect Apple to be bullish about Apple TV, now it’s no longer a ‘hobby’. Expect flashy new features to be previewed, and for Apple to beam about lovely games and apps, while ignoring the problem of sluggish adoption by developers.

The big rumour is Apple TV will become an Echo-like home speaker, powered by Siri. This seems an odd decision, tying such functionality to a device attached to a telly, rather than it being suitable to place anywhere.

We’re not convinced about a hardware reveal, but it’s likely Apple will give Siri some love, given the competition. And if rumours about a Siri API prove accurate, developers will be gleefully running about yelling “You can’t be Siri-ous” before the comedy police arrest them for making such a terrible pun.

The all-new Apple Watch!

Will we see a new Apple Watch at WWDC?

Well maybe. An ongoing rumour has been that Apple will unveil the next Apple Watch at WWDC. Predictions have banged on about it being thinner, although that in itself is baffling, since the device’s thickness allows for a larger battery and makes the digital crown usable.

But if Apple can give Apple Watch a kick up the bum, we’re all for that. We also expect to see evolution of watchOS, although our wish-list is effectively two items: make it so apps actually launch before the heat death of the universe, and let users assign alternate functions to the second button.

But not much other hardware

People get over-excited when any Apple event comes round, and scream “APPLE IS DOOMED!” at the top of their lungs when the company doesn’t overhaul its entire product line. Every. Single. Time. But WWDC only rarely has hardware reveals.

Don’t expect Apple to show you an iPhone 7, because it won’t. However, savvier people paying attention to technical stuff may be able to infer how Apple’s hardware will evolve. (For example, previous WWDCs included news about Split View and responsive app layouts, respectively foreshadowing a larger iPad and more varied iOS device sizes.)

Apple Music remixed

We like Apple Music but a year in it’s still a mess. Integration with existing collections and uploading of tracks is unreliable, the interface is confusing, and social network Connect needs unplugging.

Rumours abound about the service getting a major overhaul this WWDC. We just hope the announcement isn’t as convoluted and messy as it was last year, even if that was appropriate for the service we ended up with.

Maps gets more street

Is Apple about to open up Maps?

While exploring the WWDC website, we discovered an embedded map. “How absolutely not thrilling,” you might say. But Apple’s mapping service has to date been limited to apps. So we hope this heralds Apple opening up Apple Maps a bit more.

We’ve also heard rumblings that Apple will unleash its own Street View, zooming to the spot Google was at nine years ago. (And, yes, we’re laying on the snark, but we do want Apple Maps to succeed. It’s great when driving in the car. It just needs to rapidly get better at everything else.)

Another health kick

Will ResearchKit see some more love?

Apple’s main WWDC graphic has led to people attempting to decode its ‘cryptic message’, imagining all kinds of new Apple apps. We’re not so sure, since the ‘hello’ lines all seem to refer to a specific existing iOS app. (‘Self-combusting selfies’ is Snapchat, and ‘6 seconds of fame’ is Vine.) This probably therefore refers to a new Siri API.

But nestled in there is ‘workout in my living room’. This got us thinking. Tim Cook is big on personal health, and perhaps Apple could augment its existing health app, turning a means of recording into something that also helps you exercise with specific workouts.

Elsewhere, we expect — or at least hope — to hear more about ResearchKit and HealthKit, Apple’s frameworks for improving people’s health and fitness. You might balk at Apple saying it changes the world, but those frameworks really do hold so much potential for improving the lives of millions of people.

Stuff that gets developers excited

Some developers will gather here in two weeks

This last point should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: WWDC is Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. You’ll notice the word ‘developers’ in there. That’s because it’s a conference for developers. Although Apple broadcasts the keynote and makes other information readily available, its main focus and concern is about making new things for the people who make the things you use.

You’ll doubtless hear pundits rage that the keynote was boring, or offered nothing new or exciting. In all likelihood, they’ll be wrong. They just won’t have understood that while they themselves may not be excited about a new API, developers worldwide will already be frantically scribbling down notes, figuring out how to use it to make amazing apps and games.