Apple hasn’t done squat so far this year. As other companies release their big new superphones, Apple has quietly hibernated in its Cupertino cave, occasionally emerging to remind us that big things are on the horizon. But talk is cheap, and our patience is wearing thin. Six months of no big announcements is a lifetime in the world of technology—Apple only has a Beats acquisition to show for it. Luckily the rumor mill has been working overtime, giving us a pretty good idea of what to expect heading into next week’s WWDC, which kicks off on June 2.
As per usual, we know Apple is going to talk about changes coming to iOS and OS X. But it sounds like Tim Cook has other big plans for next week’s party, including some mysterious new hardware. That could mean anything from Apple’s fabled iWatch to a MacBook Air with Retina. (We’re hoping it’s the former, especially since Apple is expected to unveil its new Healthbook initiative.)
Apple executives have talked a big game over these past several months, and now it’s time to put up or shut up. Will Apple’s upcoming WWDC be remembered for propelling the company into exciting new territory? Or will it be more of the same? Here’s what we can expect on June 2.
OS X 10.10
One of the bigger rumors we’ve heard heading into next week’s event is that Apple’s mobile update, iOS 8, will take a backseat to OS X 10.10. According to 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman, Apple is preparing to introduce a big redesign that’s all about unifying its desktop and mobile platforms. That doesn’t mean OS X will perform like iOS, but it’ll look similar with tweaked icons, a flatter UI and less skeuomorphism, which Apple has worked to extricate from its software since Scott Forstall was canned.
Apple has already said it has no plans to merge iOS and OS X. But it will focus on creating an experience that’s similar across all platforms, making it easier to jump from one to the other. Jony Ive, in charge of Apple’s industrial design, has also been put in charge of Apple’s software future, and the upcoming changes could be the biggest update we’ve seen yet.
Updates to iOS have become the biggest focus of Apple’s WWDC in recent years, and this year might be even bigger than the last. We’re not expecting to see any design tweaks—not as significant as last year. But we might get a glimpse at some big new features, including the introduction of Healthbook, described as Apple’s comprehensive health initiative.
The wearable market has dipped into what’s possible in the health market, tracking your steps, heart rate and more. But Apple’s Healthbook feature will supposedly take that to the next level by allowing users keep track of things like their nutrition, hydration, bloodwork, and more. For how advanced technology has gotten in the last few years, how we take care of ourselves is still relatively old school, and Apple is looking to change that.
You’re able to keep track of the health of your phone, your computer, your car. so why is there no easy way to do that for your body? Of course, the body is the most complicated piece of technology imaginable, but by utilizing the latest advancements with an easy-to-use software platform, we might be able to take control over how we feel—or at least why we’re feeling bad. By using something like Healthbook, humans might not only be able to live longer, but live better.
Now, Healthbook will only be as good as the physical products that come out with it, such as an iWatch (or other third-party accessories). But it has the potential to bring health into the mainstream, potentially giving you and me the tools for quality living. Technology, along with many other factors, has a way of becoming detrimental to our health, so it’s great to see companies (like Samsung) finally taking our health seriously.
Other Changes in iOS 8
Aside from Healthbook, we’re not really expecting major changes to iOS 8. There have been reports claiming we’ll see Maps improvements, a standalone iTunes Radio app (which may be bolstered by Apple’s purchase of Beats Music), and other smaller changes, such as updates to Notifications and iMessage. In addition, Apple may also introduce new Text Edit and Preview apps, along with voice-over LTE support, and even speed enhancements to the overall operating system.
This one could go either way. There’s little doubt Apple will introduce a revamped Apple TV at some point—way more likely than a full-blown HDTV. It’s just a matter of what will be different about it. The Apple TV moved on from being just a hobby long ago, and with other companies moving forward in the set-top box market, Apple will no doubt be looking to separate itself from the pack.
For a while now we’ve been hearing that a new Apple TV would feature games and apps, with implementation similar to the Fire TV. Even more than that, however, the Apple TV will allegedly be more fully-featured, giving users Siri control, and possibly partnerships with some big content providers, such as Time Warner Cable. A report from Bloomberg a few months back claimed Apple was in negotiations with content providers over distribution agreements, though it’s unclear how advanced that talks were. The same report said the Apple box would launch in April, but obviously that has come and gone.
Interestingly, Apple’s purchase of Beats might actually play a role in the company’s Apple TV future, with Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson claiming Jimmy Iovine would be a crucial part in securing those content deals. The Apple TV is likely in the works—we know that—and there’s a chance it won’t be anything like the one we’re familiar with now. But will it be enough to differentiate from the current crop of set-top boxes?
Is this just a fable? A myth? A story someone jokingly dreamt up to torture Apple fans? The nascent wearable market is still relatively untapped despite there being a slew of smartwatches and fitness trackers. But that could all change if Apple really does decide to announce an iWatch. Wearables might finally go mainstream if Apple can get it right.
Apple has been scooping up a lot of wearable talent over the past several months, giving us that little glimmer of hope that an iWatch does indeed exist. If Apple is going after health like the rumors claim, there’s a good chance the iWatch will tie heavily with Healthbook—but how deeply? Will the iWatch simply be a smartwatch that feeds users notifications? Other big companies have attempted to define the smart watch market before, but haven’t really pushed it into future territory. It looks like Google might be the first to do that with Android Wear, but Apple might have its say next week, too.
Apple executives have said that it will definitely enter new product categories this year, which is why people are still holding onto the iWatch myth. But given the hype surrounding wearables, there’s definitely pressure on the company to introduce something life-changing, something we haven’t seen before. If any company is capable of doing that, it’s Apple.
A recent report from the Financial Times claimed Apple will be launching a new software platform next week, giving iOS users the ability to control their home from an iPhone or iPad. Apple won’t create the products itself, but will instead create a platform that other developers can work off of, creating them specifically for Apple devices. There are already plenty of Made for iPhone gadgets out there—this will be the same idea, just with products for your home.
What’s more, Apple’s home platform is rumored to tie-in with the company’s Apple TV update, though that doesn’t mean we’ll actually see new hardware at next week’s event. Next to wearables, the Internet of Things market is seen as a new frontier for many companies—just look at Google’s purchase of Nest, and possible Dropcam acquisition. Again, if Apple can create an easy-to-use platform that consumers can easily pick up and use, home automation might become a big part of the company’s future.
Beyond some major software changes, there have been some reports claiming we’ll see a MacBook Air with Retina display, and even a revamped iMac. On that note, there have been conflicting reports we’ll see a cheaper iPhone 5s and iMac, so we’ll have to wait and see what Apple announces. As for the new MacBook Air, it would certainly be a solid response to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which is gunning for Apple’s most successful laptop. Apple has already introduced high resolution displays to its Pro lineup, so the Air is definitely overdue for a makeover.
WWDC doesn’t usually introduce new hardware, though rumors suggest that won’t be the case this year. Apple could merely breeze through the announcement in the beginning, and spend the brunt of the presentation focusing on software. Apple did just bump up the Air’s guts, so perhaps we’re a little too close to that for an update. We are expecting hardware at WWDC, however, so we’ll see.
There can potentially be a lot on Apple’s plate. These are, however, all rumors, so there’s no telling what will be announced on stage by Tim Cook and Co. Many of the tweaks supposedly coming to OS X and iOS have come with the caveat that Apple could chuck the features altogether, so we might not even see something like Healthbook at all—or not until later this year. Meanwhile, the iWatch seems more like a figment of our imaginations than an actual Thing.
With no big new products since last November, Apple is perceived by some as falling behind its biggest rivals—Samsung, meanwhile, has introduced several new tablets, smartwatches, an activity tracker, and an exciting new flagship smartphone, too. Can Apple get fans excited again about what’s to come? There’s certainly a lot here to work with, and that’s not even counting the company’s upcoming iPhone 6, which we’ve seen plenty of already.
Apple executives certainly seem excited by the company’s future, but we’re done hearing Apple talk; it’s time for the company to show us why we started caring in the first place.