What to expect at WWDC24: Big iOS changes, more Vision Pro, and so much AI

What to expect at WWDC24: Big iOS changes, more Vision Pro, and so much AI

Enlarge / The logo for WWDC24.


Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, kicks off in Cupertino, California, next week. As always, it will start with a livestream keynote on Monday morning at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern. We’ll be in attendance reporting on the event, so let’s take a moment to take stock of what we expect to see next week.

But first, let’s note something we don’t think we’ll see: Due to some peculiarities about Apple’s upgrade cycles, as well as a push toward the M4, we’re not actually expecting any major hardware announcements at WWDC this year.

That’s OK, though, because it looks like it’s going to be a big one for software news. iOS has seen relatively modest updates in the past couple of years, but that’s about to change.

AI in the spotlight

Most of the rumors leading up to WWDC have been about Apple making plans to announce tons of generative AI features for its platforms. Part of that is because AI is the hot topic right now, so anything about that is bound to get some coverage. However, according to leaks reported by Bloomberg, The Information, and others, it looks like Apple is going to make a conscious effort to reposition itself as a leader in AI.

Apple was already doing neat things with machine learning in iOS and elsewhere, like features that make image editing easier, smart recommendations, and more. But there have been major new developments in models lately that allow for many new options, as we’ve seen from others like OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft.

We don’t know many details about exactly what Apple will do here beyond it being a focus. The company has published several papers related to new large-language model chatbots, major Siri improvements, image generation, and more, but it’s hard to tell what will become user-facing features.

Possibilities include auto-generated summaries in apps like Mail, new ways to block ads or interact with websites in Safari, GitHub Copilot-like code editing assistance in Xcode, clip art generation for iWork documents, more conversational and larger-scope answers from Siri, new image editing features, expanded accessibility features, new transcription capabilities, and more.

Apple has reportedly been in talks with companies like OpenAI and Google (it even sounds like a deal has already been reached with OpenAI) about augmenting Siri and other parts of the iOS or macOS experience with an external AI chatbot. Apple has reportedly experimented with its own chatbot, but it’s unlikely that one would be far enough along to be a strong alternative to the likes of ChatGPT. At a minimum, expect Apple to partner with at least one company (probably OpenAI) as a provider for out-of-scope answers to queries asked of Siri or in Spotlight.

There have been rumblings that Apple could offer users a choice of multiple AI providers or launch an AI App Store, but we don’t know for sure how it will all take shape.

iOS and iPadOS 18

iOS 18 (and its close sibling, iPadOS 18) will roll out later this year alongside new iPhones, likely in September or October. But WWDC is the first time we’ll get a look at the major features Apple has planned.

Typically, Apple announces most new iOS features during the upcoming keynote, but it might save a couple that are related to as-yet unannounced iPhone hardware for later.

The rumor mill this year points to an overhaul of both Control Center and Settings, plus the aforementioned inclusion of numerous new machine learning, LLM, or image -generation features. One rumored example of how AI could be used in iOS described a new home screen that allows users to quickly recolor app icons to create a consistent color palette across their phone. Apple might even allow users to place icons wherever they want, addressing the irritating “wobble mode” home screen management that we’ve criticized in our iOS reviews for years.

Expect big new features for Messages, too, like new text effects and formatting options. There’s also a strong possibility that Apple will go into detail about RCS support in iOS. Generative AI could allow users to create custom emojis or stickers, too.

There were also a few rumors that Apple will make some visual changes to iOS, borrowing a bit from the visual language we saw in visionOS this spring.

Oh, and one more thing: iPadOS is finally getting a calculator app. We’re not sure why that took so long, but there it is.

Post Comment