iPadOS 15 to MacBooks: Everything we’re looking forward to at WWDC 2021

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What to expect at WWDC 2021: iOS 15, macOS 12, new MacBook models, and more.
Get ready for updates to five operating systems. And maybe a pair of new MacBooks.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

June 7 will be the single most important day of 2021 for Apple. It’s the start of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference where the company will ceremoniously unveil fresh operating system updates for iPhone, Mac, iPad, Apple Watch and more.

Big changes are anticipated for iPadOS 15, and some nice enhancements are also predicted for iOS 15. The improvements in macOS 12, watchOS 8 and tvOS 15 are likely to be more modest.

But the show won’t stop there. While WWDC is supposed to be about software, there’s a good chance we will see new MacBooks announced Monday as well.

Tweaks coming for iOS 15

Unlike some previous years, Apple has kept a tight rein on software leaks. That’s why we know little about what’s coming in iOS 15.

Still, unconfirmed reports indicate that Home screen widgets are about to become interactive, making them significantly more useful. In addition, the Messages application is expected to see improvements. There’ll supposedly be new controls for when notifications arrive, and users will be able to set more default applications.

Joanna Stern from the Wall Street Journal said on Friday via Twitter, “I hear there are big updates coming to Safari, Health, Maps and iMessage at WWDC next week.” She had no additional details.

While this might sound a bit underwhelming, last year’s iOS 14 was a big jump. It’s rare for that to happen two years in a row. So don’t look for dramatic iOS changes at WWDC 2021.

iPad users pin their hopes on iPadOS 15

There have been a few leaks about tweaks coming in iPadOS 15. That includes the ability to put widgets anywhere on the Home screen. Or even make a screen that’s nothing but widgets.

But users have expectations far beyond that. The 2021 iPad Pro is built around the same Apple M1 processor that’s in the latest Macs. That raised hopes that iPadOS 15 will let tablet users run macOS apps. That might be the exact same applications, or Apple could port its own professional software to iPadOS, especially Xcode.

Plus, we hear frequent calls for much better support for using external displays with an iPad.

If Apple plans to fulfill any of these expectations or hopes with iPadOS 15, the news hasn’t leaked out of the company’s Cupertino headquarters.

WWDC 2021 not a big year for macOS

Last year’s macOS 11 Big Sur brought enormous changes, including the biggest design overhaul in nearly two decades. Don’t expect anything like that at WWDC 2021.

Almost nothing about macOS 12 has leaked out, but trusted Apple tipster Mark Gurman says its changes will be far more minor than what debuted in the 2020 version.

Near silence on watchOS 8 and tvOS 15

Apple promised that WWDC 2021 will offer “unique insight into the future” of watchOS and tvOS, but that’s really all we know about what’s coming to Apple Watch and Apple TV.

There’ll undoubtedly be new versions of these operating system, but even a few days before the Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off, we don’t know what’s going to be in them. Kudos to Apple for keeping control of the rumor mill and preventing as many spoilers as it did.

WWDC 2021: And the rest

The keynote address for the conference will need to move fast to fit in everything. Beyond the new operating system updates, Apple Music with lossless audio is likely to get a mention. And there’s the mysterious homeOS that showed up in a recent job posting. This might be for HomePods, and could be unveiled Monday.

Beyond these, expect plenty of talk about augmented reality and virtual reality as Apple slowly builds toward its much-rumored VR headset and AR glasses, likely coming at some future WWDC.

‘One more thing…’

The cherry on the top of the WWDC 2021 keynote address on June 7 is supposedly going to be new 16-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro models.

These will supposedly offer major changes, including a redesigned chassis, built-in SD card reader and HDMI port and a MagSafe charger (but no Touch Bar). And they supposedly will be built around an Apple processor with 10 cores, up from the eight-core chip in recent Macs. Whether Apple will called it the M1X or the M2 currently remains unknown.

The curtain will rise Monday at 10 a.m. PDT, 1 p.m. EDT, or 6 p.m. BST. Don’t miss Cult of Mac’s guide to how to watch Apple’s big WWDC 2021 keynote on June 7.