Apple’s developer conference beginning on Monday will move the company closer to a future in which the iPhone is no longer the central cog for other products and services.
CEO Tim Cook and other leaders will make a keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California to unveil updates of Apple’s operating systems and a new approach to apps.
The changes will showcase Apple’s new generation of devices and software: Apple Watches that are more independent from iPhones, iPads with software that reduces the need for a laptop, apps that run on any Apple device, and growth areas such as augmented reality and personal health-care management, according to people familiar with the plans.
While the developer conference is software-focused, the company often sprinkles new hardware announcements in at the event. This year, Apple won’t show off a new Apple Watch or iPhone hardware until later this year, but has considered previewing the new Mac Pro at the conference.
When Apple launched the Watch in 2015, it was positioned as the next major product after the iPhone. But sales haven’t reached iPhone levels and the Watch still relies on the handset. After adding cellular connectivity support to the device two years ago, the company will use its next software update, watchOS 6, to further break it free from the iPhone by adding an on-board App Store, new apps like a calculator and voice recorder, and new messaging features.
iPad as PC replacement
Apple has pushed the iPad as a laptop replacement for years. But many pro users have noted that while the hardware is capable enough, the software is still behind. WWDC will reveal new efforts to bridge that gap. The company plans enhancements to the home screen and new features around using multiple apps at once to help the iPad satisfy more of your computing needs.
Unified app strategy
Developers will get new tools to build iOS apps for Mac laptops and desktop computers, essentially unifying Apple’s app ecosystem. This follows last year’s roll-out of iPad versions of Apple’s News, Voice Memos, Home and Stocks apps on the Mac. The expectation is that single versions of all apps will eventually be able to run on every Apple device. As part of the shift, more underlying technologies will also merge.
“The transition might not be finished for a couple of years, but this is the strongest push Apple has made toward the unification of its two platforms,” said developer Steven Troughton-Smith. “Apple and developers can put more effort into one version of things instead of having to build everything twice.”
“Developers can put more effort into one version of things instead of having to build everything twice.”
Apple is also ensuring its own core apps are up to scratch after letting some languish in favor of system-wide features. The company is readying major revamps of the Reminders and Health apps and tweaks for Maps, Messages, Apple Books, Home and Mail. It’s also planning to merge Find my iPhone and Find my Friends into a single app.
Since getting into augmented reality in 2017, Apple has added new AR features to its iPhone and iPad software annually. But until Apple launches its AR glasses, the technology, which superimposes 3D images over views of the real world, is unlikely to take off. At first, the headset will probably need an iPhone for certain tasks. Internal versions of iOS 13 have begun to add technology that supports a future headset, according to people familiar with its development. Apple is unlikely to talk about this publicly at WWDC, but the moves indicate the company is ramping up development of the glasses, which could be showcased as early as 2020.
End of iTunes
iTunes has been the way Apple users listen to music, watch movies and TV shows, hear podcasts, and manage their devices for almost two decades. This year, Apple is finally ready to move into a new era. The company is launching a trio of new apps for the Mac — Music, TV, and Podcasts — to replace iTunes. That matches Apple’s media app strategy on iPhones and iPads. Without iTunes, customers can manage their Apple gadgets through the Music app.
Health care has become a fundamental part of many Apple products. For this year, beyond the revamped Health app for iPhones, the company will push into monitoring hearing health — how loud the external environment is and how loud you’re playing sound on your device or headphones. It also plans more comprehensive menstrual cycle tracking on iPhones, and a pair of health apps for the Apple Watch: menstrual cycle tracking and pill reminders. There will also be a new Sleep Mode for Apple mobile devices and better support for hearing aids. —Reported by Mark Gurman, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP