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What to expect from WWDC 2024: iOS 18, macOS 15 and so much AI

Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference is kicking off Monday at 10am PT/1pm ET with the standard Tim Cook keynote. While last year’s event will go down in history as the event that finally introduced the world to the Vision Pro, the company hopes to make WWDC 2024 even more memorable as it finally lays out its generative AI plans. Some things we can expect: a major Siri refresh, Mail with an injection of Apple’s Ajax LLM to provide email reply suggestions, and even a new look (and new features) for Apple Photos.

Here you will find information on how to stream the event live.

WWDC’s opening salvo differs from other Apple keynotes in that it kicks off a weeklong online and in-person event running from June 10 to 14. The company started opening things up more to the public during the pandemic, but it’s important to remember the reason for the season: like Google I/O and Microsoft Build before it, the real purpose of the event is to showcase the latest developer updates.

AI everything

Image credits: Apple

Concerns that Apple has fallen behind in gen AI have been enough to prompt Cook to promise big things in terms of shareholder conversations. In fact, the CEO made the decision to comment on future plans. In May, he promised the company would “break new ground” in generative AI, adding: “We believe this will unlock transformative opportunities for our users.”

Will Apple’s attempt to break new ground indeed be groundbreaking? I expect it to hold great promise for developers, highlighting how generative AI will impact future versions of the company’s various operating systems – with a focus on iOS. Rumors about Apple’s approach to the world of large language models have been circulating for some time.

Early reports suggested that the company was meeting with Google about possible Gemini integration for iOS. That would be a huge win for Google, with the model playing a key role in two operating systems that together account for 96% of the global mobile operating system market. However, more recent reporting points to a partnership with OpenAI. Like I/O before it, I expect to be tired of all the AI ​​talk by the time the company is done.

Following the collapse of its electric car project, Apple has reportedly redeployed some employees to its internal generative AI efforts. Considering how fresh that news is, it’s safe to say the company is still lagging behind the competition there. With that in mind, I expect a lot of the AI-related news to come from the OpenAI deal.

iOS 18 with more AI

iPhone 15 Pro Max on a MagSafe charging stand with AirPods Pro 2
Image credits: Darrell Etherington

In addition to that partnership, expect iOS 18 to be the centerpiece of the event. A lot is riding on what is reportedly “one of the biggest iOS updates – if not the biggest – in the company’s history.” In fact, it’s getting so big that Sarah took time out of her busy schedule to gather the rumored updates. I don’t want to repeat her work, so I’m going to distill some rumors here. Read her story for more.

  • Siri is getting a long-awaited overhaul, thanks to Apple’s generative AI work. The update makes the smart assistant more capable with the ability to instantly edit photos, delete emails and other daily tasks. The update is also said to bring improved voice, notification summaries, and an advanced version of Siri for Apple Watch.
  • AI will also infiltrate the Safari browser for more intelligent searching, Notes for summaries and Voice Memos for transcriptions (something Google has been promoting for a while).
  • Generative AI is even coming to emojis, allowing users to customize and create their own emojis in Messages.
  • Apple is also said to be relaxing layout restrictions, allowing users to place icons and widgets wherever they want on their home screen.
  • Even Mail is getting new AI-enabled features, like asking Siri to make emails sound more professional and suggested email responses generated by Ajax.

Apple has announced that RCS (Rich Communication Services) is coming to Messages, to make Android users feel a little less bad – still a green bubble, mind you. Reports suggested it would arrive last fall, but that ship has clearly sailed. This coming fall, on the other hand, seems like a good bet, especially with the whole DOJ thing looming.

macOS 15 debut

Image credits: Brian Heating

Every time Tim Cook says “AI,” an investor gets wings. While iOS will undoubtedly be the big focus of the operating system, Apple still has news in the works for the desktop. We get the official name for macOS 15. What’s the most AI California place name? Alameda? Alcatraz? RodAI drive?

Many of the iOS updates should also make their way to macOS, including those in Siri, Notes, and Safari. Apple’s office apps are also said to be getting a generational AI boost. That includes assistance in Pages, Keynote, and developer environment app Xcode.

System Settings will continue Apple’s long-standing project to turn macOS into iOS, with a design refresh. Apple should also overhaul some key accessibility features. And don’t forget the most exciting update of all: some major design changes to Calculator – the most used app, but somehow never cross my mind.

Hardware updates

L-R: Space Black MacBook Pro, Space Gray Touchbar MacBook Pro
Image credits: Brian Heating

While major hardware updates have been showcased in recent years, due to developments in Mac silicon and last year’s headset preview, WWDC is not a hardware event. In fact, the latest buzz from the rumor mill points to a keynote presentation that requires very little hardware. Bloomberg now even suggests that the event will be completely devoid of new hardware.

Keep in mind that almost exactly a month prior to WWDC, Apple made the unusual choice of hosting a standalone virtual iPad event. The May 7 program debuted new versions of the iPad Pro and iPad Air. To the chagrin of many, AI did not play a major role in the event. After all the fuss about models like GPT and the big fuss that Google has made about the Gemini integration in Android, Apple must come out with a swinging performance next week.

That said, the new M4 chip just debuted on the iPad. MacBooks with the chip and its more powerful siblings can’t be far away. That includes the upcoming iPhone A18 chip, which the company will almost certainly claim is “the most advanced smartphone chip for AI” or something equivalent.