Tuesday 16 January 2018

Five things to watch for at Apple's WWDC 2017

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicks off on Monday. Photo: PA
Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicks off on Monday. Photo: PA

Adrian Weckler in San Francisco

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicks off on Monday, June 5, at 6pm. Will the company launch a new Siri speaker, as rumoured? What about updated MacBooks and iPads? And what new features does it plan to unveil for the iPhone through iOS 11? Here are five things to watch for.

1. Siri Speaker

One of the most talked-about new potential products from Apple is a Siri speaker. Indeed, according to multiple reports, the device is already in production in Apple's factories. The speaker will be a direct rival to both the Amazon Echo and Google Home gadgets. In other words, it will be a speaker that can also be used as a smart home hub and which responds to voice commands. Wireless speakers are a booming tech category at present and if Apple announces this at WWDC this year, it's likely to be an instant hit.

2. New MacBooks

There's a widespread expectation that one or more of Apple's MacBook line of laptops will get beefed-up engines, if not any fundamental redesign. The main thing we can safely expect to see is the inclusion of Intel 'Kaby Lake' processors, the latest and most powerful generation of chips. However, there is a good chance that an updated line of 12-inch MacBooks will be announced, with a reasonable possibility of a new MacBook Air too. The MacBook Pro line isn't expected to see any major redesign as Apple launched its most recent update to the flagship laptop range last October.

3. New iPad Pro

While some companies are scaling down their tablet ambitions, Apple is bullish about the long term future of its iPads. To this end, there is a widespread expectation that it may announce a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro model that is slightly bigger than its traditional 9.7-inch machines but smaller than its flagship 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This new machine, it is rumoured, may have a large display because of slimmer bezels, meaning the overall size of the tablet would be almost identical to existing 9.7-inch models.

4. iOS 11

WWDC is the main event for Apple to announce new software features for iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs. Although Apple has kept a tight lid on what might be introduced, expect to see more social-oriented features for iPhone apps such as Messages. One rumoured new development, for example, is group FaceTime calls -- this would move Apple's own phone feature into territory previously dominated by services such as Skype or Google Hangouts. If Apple goes ahead with a new iPad Pro model (as is rumoured), we might see some new business-friendly features in that direction, too. New iOS features announced in June tend to be released in September, around the same time as Apple does its annual iPhone launch.

Whatever it's set to announce, it has done a good job keeping the new features under wrap. Unlike hardware gadgets, there aren't as many supply chain leaks to inform analysts and press about what is being made.

5. Apple Watch

We're not expecting a new Watch to be announced, but it's likely that we'll see some new features for its software in the form of WatchOS 4. Battery life could be a key motivational issue, here. Most users get around two days on an Apple Watch, but making it to three days at some point would give the gadget a real boost. It's a safe bet that some of the new features announced with iOS 11 will also be available to WatchOS 4.

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