How Apple plans to rev up its OS software at next week's WWDC 2019

By Mark Gurman, May 28 2019

Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference will kick off on June 3, with the tech giant planning to unveil new software features across the board.

No Apple operating system will emerge untouched from the keynote speech. Here's what to expect for your iDevice of choice.

What’s coming for iOS 13

Codenamed Yukon, the refreshed operating system for iPhones and iPads includes tweaks and new features across several apps, including features originally planned for last year.

The company is also already working on iOS 14, codenamed “Azul,” for 2020. That release is expected to support 5G wireless network speeds and new AR functionality for next year’s iPhone.

The software, for the second year in a row, will speed up the devices and reduce bugs. There will be user interface tweaks, including a new animation when launching multitasking and closing apps. The widgets that appear to the left of the home screen will also have a cleaner look.

A Dark Mode, a black and grey-heavy interface optimized for viewing at night, that can be enabled in Control Center, the panel for quickly accessing settings.

The company is testing a new keyboard option that allows users to swipe across letters on the keyboard in one motion to type out words (Apple could choose to keep this feature internal). This is similar to options on Android handsets and it would compete with third-party iPhone apps such SwiftKey.

A revamped Health app with a new homepage that better outlines your daily activity from the day. There will be a section for 'hearing health', such as how loud you play music on your headphones or the loudness of the external environment. It also includes more comprehensive menstrual cycle tracking, vying with period-tracking apps such as Clue, Flo and Ovia.

A new feature similar to popular third-party apps Duet Display andLuna Display that will let users use their iPad as a second Mac screen with the ability to draw with an Apple Pencil, expand the viewing area, and get Mac notifications.

An updated Reminders app that better competes with the several to-do list programs available on the App Store. The new app has a main screen with four default sections laid out in a grid: tasks to be done today, all tasks, scheduled tasks, and flagged tasks. Each section has its own different-colored page that users can add items to.

A new feature in Screen Time, Apple’s tool for controlling device usage, will let parents limit who their kids can and cannot contact at certain times.

For example, a parent could make it so their kid can’t contact anyone but them during the evenings. Apple was criticized recently for removing multiple third-party parental-control apps from the App Store, but the company said it yanked the software due to security and privacy concerns.

A refreshed Apple Books app will encourage users to read more by way of an updated progress tracker and a new rewards system.

iMessage gets an upgrade with a WhatsApp-like enhancement that lets people set a profile picture and display name, and choose who sees it. There’s also a dedicated menu in the conversation view to send sticker versions of Animojis, the virtual characters that users can control with the latest iPhone and iPad cameras, and Memojis, which are virtual representations of users themselves.

An updated Maps app will make it easier to set frequent locations, like home or work addresses, and then navigate there. Users will also be able to create groups of frequent places and add a photo to them. The current interface for navigating to suggested or past destinations can sometimes be confusing. This will increase competition with Google Maps and Waze apps.

Apple is combining the Find my Friends and Find my iPhone services into a new, single app, internally called 'GreenTorch'. This could go along with a physical beacon to attach to non-Apple devices like a backpack, which would challenge Tile, which makes similar iPhone-tracking dongles.

The built-in Mail app will be updated with the ability to mute individual threads, block incoming email from certain contacts, and will have simpler folder management.

A new system-wide Sleep Mode that will tie into an upgraded version of the Bedtime tab in Apple’s Clock app. The Bedtime feature lets users input the time they fall asleep and when they want to wake up. The software currently tracks some sleep patterns, but the new version will be more extensive and could integrate with future Apple sleep-tracking devices, like a new Apple Watch.

The Sleep Mode, when enabled in Control Center, turns on Do Not Disturb, darkens the Lock Screen, and mutes all notifications.

An upgraded Home app as part of the company’s smart home push will be more integrated with security cameras and have the ability to view past recordings

Apple is also planning to let the HomePod speaker respond to different users’ voices, creating a much requested multi-user mode.

A more organized “share sheet” interface for sharing photos and web links. The software will suggest people to send content to based on how frequently you interact with them.

The company is testing a downloads manager for its Safari web browser so users can access downloads in a single place like they can on a computer. An updated Files app will work better with third-party software.

The iPad is getting some unique features, including an updated interface for multi-tasking, tweaks to the home screen, and the ability to cycle through different versions of the same app.

Apple is planning to better integrate hearing aid support and will have a more comprehensive Accessibility settings menu on the main page of the Settings app.

What’s coming for macOS 10.15

The biggest change coming to the Mac this year is the ability for iPad apps to run on laptops and desktops.

The aim of the multistep initiative, code-named 'Marzipan', is that by 2021, developers will be able to build an app once and have it work on the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. That should spur the creation of new software, increasing the utility of the company’s gadgets.

In the first stage, expected for macOS 10.15, Apple plans to let developers port their iPad apps to Mac computers via a new software development kit.

Developers will still need to submit separate versions of the app to Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores, but the new kit will mean they don’t have to write the underlying software code twice, said the people familiar with the plan.

In 2020, Apple plans to expand the kit so iPhone applications can be converted into Mac apps in the same way. Apple engineers have found this challenging because iPhone screens are so much smaller than Mac computer displays.

By 2021, developers will be able to merge iPhone, iPad, and Mac applications into one app or what is known as a 'single binary'. This means developers won’t have to submit their work to different Apple App Stores, allowing iOS apps to be downloaded directly from Mac computers – effectively combining the stores.

The overhaul is designed to encourage app development and ultimately boost revenue, as Apple takes a cut of many app-related purchases and subscriptions.

Despite the app merger plan, Apple has said it won’t combine iOS and macOS into a single operating system.

The work coincides with the company’s preparations to merge more of the underpinnings of its hardware. Currently, iPhones and iPads are powered by Apple processors, while Macs use Intel Corp. chips. Apple plans to start transitioning some Macs to its own chips as early as 2020.

Apple is also planning bring over a couple of its own iPad apps to the Mac this year: a Podcasts app and the new merged Find My iPhone and Find My Friends app from iOS 13.

There will also be a new Apple Music app, which is being developed as a standard Mac program.

Other in-house software coming to the Mac includes: Screen Time; effects and stickers for the Messages app; integration with the Siri Shortcuts app (the company’s new service for writing your own Siri commands); the new Reminders app; and upgrades to Apple Books.

For this year, Apple has been considering debuting a revamped Mac Pro desktop computer. It’s also readying a new external monitor, codenamed J290, with high-dynamic-range support (so colors look much better).

What’s coming for watchOS 6

Apple is adding the App Store directly onto the Apple Watch so users can download apps on the go, making the device more independent. Users currently install new apps via the Watch companion application on their iPhone.

Apple is bringing the Voice Memos app from the iPhone, iPad, and Mac so users can record voice memos from their wrist.

Apple is also planning to add Animoji and Memojis stickers to the device that synchronize from an iPhone.
The Watch will also get an Apple Books app for listening to audio books from the wrist and a Calculator app.

There will be two new health-related apps for the Watch: one dubbed 'Dose' inside Apple for pill reminders and another called 'Cycles' to track menstrual cycles.

Apple is adding more watch face 'Complications' which show additional snippets of information beyond just the time. There will be one that shows the status of audio books, another showing the battery life of hearing aids, and others that measure external noise and rain data.

The company is also planning several new watch faces: a Gradient face that makes a gradient look out of a color the user chooses; at least two new X-Large faces that show jumbo numbers in different fonts and colors; a California dial that looks like a classic watch face and mixes Roman numerals with Arabic numerals; a redesigned Solar Analog watch face that looks like a sundial; and a new Infograph Subdial one that includes larger complication views like a stock market chart or the weather.

Mark Gurman
Mark Gurman

Mark Gurman

Mark Gurman covers consumer technology for Bloomberg