Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote event – what to expect and how to watch

iOS 15, iPadOS 15, M1X Macs and enough betas to choke a hippo

And away we code! That’s Apple’s opening line for WWDC 2021, reminding people that this is, after all, a conference for developers rather than merely a means for nosey types to see what’s new from Apple.

But then there’s the keynote. There’s always a keynote. And it’s there you’ll at discover new toys Apple’s going to squirt into your devices – and more besides.

The action kicks off today at 6pm UK time (10am PDT). View the full WWDC 2021 schedule and watch online here.

What to expect at WWDC 2021

Two things. First, there won’t be many people at WWDC 2021 who aren’t Apple execs – and there won’t be audiences whooping after every reveal. Like WWDC 2020, this year’s event is a virtual one because of COVID.

Secondly, there will be lots of technical stuff that’ll make your eyes glaze over if you’re not a app/game maker. That said, the keynote always provides an intriguing glimpse into Apple’s future. But what specific things will be revealed? We’ve roused Stuff’s patented prediction platypus to find out.

iOS 15

Short of Apple going bonkers and announcing iPhones will henceforth run Android, iOS will get a revamp and a bunch of new features. Food tracking is rumoured, as are categorised notifications for sleeping, driving and working – each with automated customisable replies. And if Apple finally provides an off switch for the Home indicator, we will award the company a coveted Stuff gold star.

Additionally, Apple recently revealed a raft of accessibility updates are on the way, including built-in background sounds for focusing and custom Memoji for people who use devices like oxygen tubes, cochlear implants and soft helmets for headwear.

As for which devices will get the update, everything that runs iOS 14, apparently, apart from the iPhone 6 line and the original iPhone SE.

iPadOS 15

The latest iPad Pro is spectacular, but iPadOS is holding it back. We therefore hope to see big things from Apple during the keynote. Some features should rock up from iOS 14, including Home screen widgets and App Library (the latter being inferred from rumours you’ll be able to replace the entire app grid with widgets).

Beyond that, Apple must deliver for pro users. Surely, Xcode will finally arrive for iPad? And what about Apple’s other pro apps, like Logic and Final Cut? iPad Pro hardware now has Thunderbolt and so we won’t be impressed if iPadOS 15 doesn’t bake in full external display support (rather than mirroring). We wouldn’t say no to Files being less like a Fisher-Price macOS Finder either.

As for support, assuming an A10 processor becomes the new yardstick, that’ll mean no updates for the 2015 iPad mini, 2014 iPad Air and 2017 fifth-gen iPad.

The rest of OS

We imagine macOS, tvOS and watchOS will get updates too. Rumours about macOS and tvOS are thin on the ground, but macOS seems overdue a Health app, Apple Fitness+, desktop widgets and Catalyst apps that feel like Mac products rather than hurried iPad ports hurled on to a Mac.

Apple Watch is arguably the one to, erm, watch though, given that Apple has in recent years had a habit of doing really interesting things with watchOS. One biggie we know about is someone being able to use an Apple Watch without even touching it (from the new accessibility features), which is pretty awesome.

Other new features will presumably require updated hardware, though, such as taking measurements for glucose, blood pressure and alcohol levels – and it’s vanishingly unlikely new Apple Watch hardware will be revealed at WWDC. There might be hints in the watchOS beta code, however.

The usual bundle of betas

WWDC keynotes tend to end with developers being invited to download betas of the new operating systems. This means clever types will quickly be poking into the details of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.

For the public, Apple will open things up over the summer. As ever, be cautious with betas, because they are, after all, unfinished software. Backup prior to installation, unless you don’t care about your data.

As for when you’ll be able to install final versions, that’ll likely be in September/October for iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch/Apple TV and October/November for Mac.