APPLE WATCH

What to expect from Apple’s 2018 WWDC developer conference

On Monday, June 4, Apple will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. Thousands of app developers, a few members of the media, and Apple employees will stuff into the McEnery Convention Center for four days of discussions, classes, and updates on the latest updates to Apple’s various software platforms. Apple’s executives will kick off proceedings on Monday morning with a keynote address—here’s what we might learn:

New software

It’s almost a certainty that Apple will provide updates on new software at WWDC. Expect to learn more about iOS 12, watchOS 5, and whatever part of Yosemite National Park it decides to name macOS after this time—maybe macOS Half Dome?

Specifics what on what Apple will release are hard to come by. But a report from the Information (paywall) suggests that Apple will loosen its restrictions on the NFC chips in its phones (which are currently pretty much only used for Apple Pay), and developers will soon be able to use them for other functions, such as unlocking doors or cars.

There’s also a report from the Wall Street Journal (paywall) suggesting Apple is looking to get back into the advertising business. It launched the iAd platform in 2010, where app developers could insert Apple’s technology into their apps and users would be shown programmatically placed ads in the app. It didn’t catch on, and Apple has scaled back its advertising ambitions since then to focus on ads in its App Store. But growing profit margins in that business have apparently rekindled Apple’s interest. It’s reportedly working with Pinterest and Snapchat to launch its new ad product, and it’s entirely possible that it debuts at WWDC.

Bloomberg reports that there will be updates to ARKit, the framework the company released last year to help developers build augmented-reality apps. The new version will include the ability for multiple users to share an AR experience on multiple devices at once. Bloomberg also adds there will be more integration between Apple’s Mac and mobile operating systems announced during the keynote.

Chilling out

Rumors suggest that one of the biggest updates Apple will announce for iOS 12 is what it’s calling “Digital Health.” This will be a suite of tools that help iPhone owners use their phone less, similar to what Google announced at its I/O developers conference last month. The next version of Android will have a dashboard that tells users how much they’re using apps and suggest users take breaks, as well as functions to switch off all notifications, and a “wind down” feature where the screen will turn monochrome after a set time to encourage users to put their phone down and go to sleep. It’s not clear what exactly Apple will do or whether it will launch exactly the same sorts of tools, but “digital wellbeing” has become a popular phrase in Silicon Valley of late. Given that so much of Apple’s business revolves around sales of apps and services these days, it will be interesting to see if it commits to making us less addicted to our phones, even if there’s a financial incentive to do the opposite.

New iPads?

At last year’s conference, Apple introduced a new 10.5-inch version of the iPad Pro. It’s probably the best iPad Apple has ever released, but there are rumors that the Pro line is going to get a refresh as the regular iPads did back in March. The next version of the iPad will apparently have even thinner bezels—the space on the front that’s not the screen—than last year’s model, along with facial recognition technology, perhaps mimicking the design of the iPhone X, if rumors are to be believed. Even though this is really an event for developers and the software they use, it’s entirely possible that Apple drops another iPad update during Monday’s keynote, instead of saving it for the autumn when it will likely unveil its next iPhone and Apple Watches.

One more thing?

Apple actually debuted a bunch of hardware at last year’s event, including the first look at its (rather underwhelming) smart speaker, the HomePod. We could see updates to Apple’s computers—there are rumblings of a refreshed MacBook Air in the works—but Bloomberg suggests that’s unlikely. Still, there’s always the possibility of some surprises, and much of last year’s keynote revolved around virtual and augmented reality, so perhaps there will be some new hardware to back up all the software advances. Apple has, after all, been working on a set of smart glasses for a few years now—perhaps WWDC will be the place to show off its work.

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