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iOS 16, iPadOS Desktop Mode, New Macs? What to Expect From the WWDC 2022 Keynote

Image: Unsplash, Dmitry Chernyshov

Apple’s annual developers conference—WWDC—is approaching fast with the keynote address set for 10 a.m. PST, Monday June 6. Unlike other Apple events, WWDC focuses on Apple’s platforms like macOS, iOS, iPadOS, audioOS, and watchOS as a whole. Software and development tools take center stage, with live demonstrations showcasing new APIs and platforms rather than a product centric approach.

Typically, new versions of macOS and iOS are announced in a beta state, seeing a full release sometime over the next year. While new Mac hardware isn’t a given at WWDC, there is a likely chance this year for a few product refreshes. The internet is buzzing with rumors and renders of a new MacBook Air, as well as an AR headset. Let’s dig in.

iOS 16

An always-on lock screen would save having to unlock to check a widget. Image: Unsplash, Jeremy Bezanger

Just as iOS 15 was announced during last year’s keynote, iOS 16 will be formally unveiled next week. Mark Gurman from Bloomberg suggests that iOS 16 will bring an always-on display to the iPhone Pro and future iPhone models, however, the feature may only be available on displays that support variable refresh rates.

By slowing the frame rate of rendering to one frame per second, an always on display would conserve battery life. With an always-on display, widgets could find their way from the homescreen to the lock screen and users could do a simple task like check a calendar without having to unlock their device and launch an app.


iPadOS 16

iPadOS is expected to undergo major UI changes. As detailed in a Medium post by Michael Long, Apple has been filing patents with regards to how a tablet UI would transform when docked with a keyboard, similar to the Microsoft Surface’s “desktop” and “tablet” modes.

An Apple patent depicting a tablet docked to a keyboard base. Note the desktop-style UX.

What is interesting about the patent is the UX rendering included, which details a desktop with resizable windows depicting a mobile screen docked with a keyboard. In addition, Steve Troughton-Smith posted on Twitter that UI scaling options are coming to iOS as recently discovered in an update to WebKit.

Universal Control, a method to allow the sharing of a keyboard and mouse between macOS and iPadOS devices is now widely available with the release of macOS 12.3, and with it the iPad is becoming more desktop-like. Personally, I’ve been waiting for a replacement for my PowerBook Duo, and hope this rumor is real.

Will New iPhones be Unveiled at WWDC 2022?

iPhones are most often introduced during the autumn months of September and October, with a few exceptions. With the iPhone SE 3 being recently released, I don’t predict any iPhone hardware changes coming at WWDC or a new iPad.

New Macs Possible

The MacBook Air is overdue for a product refresh with the current iteration being released over 500 days ago. Darvik Patel shared beautiful (and widely circulated) renders of what a new MacBook Air could look like, complete with iMac colorful finishes and a revised Magic Keyboard with TouchID.

An Artist’s take on what a new MacBook Air could look like. Image: Darvik Patel

At this time it is unknown what will power a new MacBook Air. Some rumors have been suggesting that the M2 processor will be paired with a MacBook Air launch, while other rumors state that the M2 family will occur when processor dyes shrink from 5nm to 3nm. With CPU branding, Apple has been unpredictable and has released 4 variations of the M1 over the last 18 months, which includes the M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra. 

In November 2020, Apple formally announced the transition to its own in-house CPU design for the Mac after years of success with its iOS devices. The Intel-to-Mac transition is still ongoing, with Intel Macs still supporting the latest releases of macOS. Apple stated that the transition away from Intel hardware would take 2 years to complete, and we are three quarters of the way there.

A new Mac Pro powered by M1 Ultra is a possibility, and would be warmly received by the developers in the crowd at WWDC, but might not arrive until later this year. The current Mac Pro is approaching 3 years in age but, fortunately Apple has been refreshing internal components such as the GPUs and storage regularly since the introduction.

Today Apple still sells an Intel Mac mini, and Intel Mac Pro. The 27” iMac was discontinued in March 2022 with no direct replacement.

Gaming

Expect Apple Arcade to take the stage with a renewed focus on Apple-cross-platform experiences. Apple Arcade is an aggressively priced subscription service that brings popular games from all genres to iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS.

By some metrics, Apple is the world’s largest gaming company, and the secret to that success is AppStore revenue. During the Epic Games v. Apple trial, Epic made a compelling claim that the AppStore generates as much as 45 billion dollars annually in profit (not revenue), though Apple disputes the math on the total sum, they are not quick to offer any insight on what the numbers actually are. If true, this would make Apple the most profitable gaming company in the world.

Rumors have been floating around that EA and Apple were in talks on the possibility of an acquisition, given that many AAA studios have been snapped up by the likes of Microsoft and Sony. The company managed to secure a deal with Nintendo to bring Super Mario, Pokemon, and Pikmin over to iOS in 2016. And, rumors of poaching console developers this year suggests Apple is slowly pushing further into traditional gaming. 

Reality OS

We saved the most hotly contested rumor for last. Will Apple introduce a new product line at WWDC2022? For years stories have circulated online and in-print detailing the development of an AR headset. The most enthusiastic rumors coming just days ago as Apple registered the trademark “realityOS”. Recently, The Information and Ars Technica ran extensive reports on behind-the-scenes stories on the development of Apple’s entry into AR headsets, dating all the way back to 2016.

An Apple AR headset could achieve mass-market appeal but there are a few obstacles that need to be overcome. An AR headset would be expensive to produce with onboard processors, high resolution displays, and motion tracking cameras and Apple is most likely waiting out for these components to drop in price before ramping up production. With an M1 processor now available inside the inexpensive iPad Mini, onboard computing rather than tethering is quickly becoming a likely outcome.

At WWDC2019 Minecraft Earth was unveiled with an extremely impressive live AR demo, showing off the capabilities of the iPhone and iPad. By developing AR experiences for iOS devices, realityOS has a much greater chance at, well, becoming a reality, by having a library of excellent content to launch with. But, even the best-selling videogame of all time was unable to keep the momentum alive for AR on the iPhone, Minecraft Earth was officially discontinued in 2021.

I think what is more likely is that RealityOS might be introduced to serve as a development platform to continue interest in AR experiences for the iPhone and iPad. 

What is on your WWDC wish-list? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Arthur Ditner
the authorArthur Ditner
Over the past fifteen years, Arthur Ditner has worked in post-production in a variety of roles including colorist, editor, and dailies producer. He has had the pleasure of working with some of the top directorial talent in Canada, and has traveled the United States building remote dailies labs supporting network television series. He plays bass guitar on occasion and resides near Toronto.
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2 Comments

  • Let’s hope iOS 16 fixes the Focus bug.

    In Focus settings, Share Across Devices” is LOCKED to OFF because I do not use Two-Factor Authentication. I cannot turn it on. I’m fine with that, I want it to be off. In Focus settings, it reads “Focus syncing REQUIRES Two-Factor Authentication.
    Nevertheless, Focus IS syncing with my other devices anyway. Sharing the Focus settings across my devices is a major inconvenience for me. I am now FORCED to use the silent switch on my iPhone. This means that emergency calls, and Favorites cannot get through to me.