As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference approaches on June 5, the big news and driver of most rumors is whether the company plans to announce a mixed-reality headset. But this is a conference for developers after all, which means the company still has an obligation to detail improvements it’s making to its most critical operating systems: iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS.
In a nutshell, it sounds like the updates will offer a few major changes and a lot of refinements. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman described Apple’s plans for iOS 17 specifically as “fixing bugs and improving performance,” and it seems like the company could apply the strategy to all of this year’s updates. From the rumors and reports we’ve seen, that lines up — with only a few exceptions.
Tweaks to the Lock Screen, App Library, and Notification Center
Last year, iOS 16 brought major new personalization features to iPhone’s lock screen. Based on one leaker’s claims on Weibo (via MacRumors), it sounds like iOS 17 could add even more options, like the ability to change the font size on the lock screen, display the lyrics for songs playing in Apple Music, and share customized lock screens.
The operating system will also reportedly let users rename folders in the App Library (apps are currently sorted by their App Store category) and include changes to the Control Center, which offers quick access to controls for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and volume. What Apple could end up doing with the Control Center hasn’t leaked in detail other than that the improvements will be “major,” according to MacRumors, but one imagines if the company is suddenly comfortable letting the lock screen be fully customized, the same logic could be applied to as underloved a feature as Control Center.
New Built-in Apps
Also, in the cards: more built-in apps. Apple’s last major addition to the suite of applications on iOS and iPadOS was Freeform, a collaborative whiteboard and design app. This year, The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is planning on including a new journaling app that could offer deep integration with the company’s other services. For example, your journal entries could auto-populate with a recent phone call, or you could write a post around an Apple Music song you’re listening to.
In a new report, Bloomberg writes that the journaling app isn’t meant to be part of the company’s health initiatives, but instead an extension of the social elements already in Apple’s operating systems, like sharing your location with friends in Find My. Apple is planning on expanding its health offering in at least one significant way this June, however, by bringing the Health app to its tablets with iPadOS 17 and adding tools for tracking your mood and vision (perhaps a place to store a prescription).
Sideloading — In Europe
Thanks to the EU’s Digital Markets Act, Apple’s been forced to open up its mobile operating systems and end the App Store’s monopoly on software distribution and sales. To do that, Apple is reportedly introducing a method to sideload apps in iOS 17. Based on what Bloomberg has learned so far, sideloading will likely come with some disincentives for developers like “mandating certain security requirements,” requiring that Apple “verify” apps, and charging some kind of fee.
And don’t expect the option to be available outside of Europe, either. Considering how critical the money the company makes on each App Store transaction is to its overall business, sideloading is not likely to become standard until it legally has to.
WatchOS Interface Overhaul
Apple introduced the Apple Watch Ultra last year, signaling at least some interest in expanding what its smartwatches can do all on their own. That new hardware wasn’t accompanied by a dramatic rethinking of how watchOS should work, but apparently, watchOS 10 will address the issue.
The biggest change is rumored to be an updated interface for watchOS, which some leakers have claimed would basically bring watches more in alignment with iOS and iPadOS, including software elements like folders. It’s not clear if that would make sense for a wearable, but there’s a lot of screen real estate on the Ultra, and it would make sense that Apple would try to use it better than with just a few extra complications and watch faces.
There are plenty of unknowns in regards to what other software improvements Apple might have in store for WWDC 2023 — including, what, if anything, is changing in macOS — but it does at least seem like there’ll be things to look forward to in June that don’t require you to strap anything your face.