Apple WWDC 2024 – 13 things we learned including what Apple Intelligence is and why a Calculator app can be exciting

Vision Pro, iOS 18 and Apple Watch shots from WWDC 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple WWDC 2024 keynote is always one of the highlights of the tech calendar, and this year's edition was bigger than most. That's because, as widely predicted, Tim Cook used the occasion to reveal Apple Intelligence – arguably the biggest development in Apple-land since… well, the reveal of the Vision Pro last year. 

As well as the big AI-related news, the nearly two-hour Apple event was absolutely packed with detail on everything from iOS 18 to the latest macOS to iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS. 

You can check out our WWDC 2024 live blog for full info on everything that was announced, but if you want the highlights then here are the 13 biggest announcements from WWDC 2024.

1. Apple Intelligence is coming soon…


(Image credit: Apple)

Let's start with the big one, then. Apple Intelligence is Apple’s new family of AI features, which will thread its way through every Apple platform and even work with third-party apps. It'll be entirely free, and available on iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia via their respective betas, then fully rolled out later this year.

It approaches AI in a very Apple way, which means privacy first, and most features work on the device you're using, without sharing to the cloud. When you need more power, Apple has a Power Cloud Compute option for complex requests, but Apple’s cloud still focuses more on privacy than any AI we’ve seen so far. 

Among the many features on offer you'll get access to generative writing, generative image creation, and third-party API tools, in addition to the massive upgrade coming to Siri (see below). Apple was a little late to the AI party, but it'll be fully up to speed soon.


♬ stellar (Sped Up) - .diedlonely & énouement

2. But not everyone will get to use it

Exciting though Apple Intelligence is, it will only be available on iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, and iPad and Mac models using the Apple M1 chip or later.

This is understandable, given that it needs powerful Apple silicon to work, but will be disappointing for anyone who owns a standard iPhone 15, any iPhone 14 or earlier model, or indeed an Intel-based MacBook. Expect sales of the rumored iPhone 16 range to benefit considerably…

3. Siri got a huge update – and now comes with added ChatGPT


(Image credit: Future)

Apple's voice assistant has been treading water for years, but Siri will finally get the makeover it so badly needs in iOS 18. That includes a visual refresh, with the assistant now a glowing light around the edges of your iPhone's screen. 

But Siri has also been given a much-needed brain transplant. It'll have 'on-screen awareness' to make it work better with apps – and if it can't answer a question, you can plug it into ChatGPT-4o's model for free, cloud-based wisdom. The bad news? The new Siri is powered by Apple Intelligence, which means that as stated above, you'll only get it on the latest iPhone 15 Pro models, or iPads and Macs that have at least an M1 chip. Still, it'll be a nice perk when we do upgrade.


♬ original sound - TechRadar

4. Custom emojis with generative AI will ruin communication


(Image credit: Apple)

Oh boy. If you thought emoji use was bad before, just wait for Apple’s new feature that enables you to just tell your iPhone/iPad/Mac what cool new emoji you want, and it’ll create it for you using generative AI – so there will truly be one for every occasion. 

Some will be adorable, some will be surreal, some will be disturbing, obviously. Will we love this feature? Or, more likely, will it be the moment when… hmmm, how to describe this? 'Hey iPhone, make us an emoji of a man in a leather jacket jumping his jetski over a shark.'

5. iOS 18's new updates look pretty sweet

iOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

As expected, Apple revealed its next major software update, iOS 18, confirming that big changes are headed to core iPhone apps including Mail, Messages, Maps and Photos.

Mail, for instance, will soon be capable of categorizing your emails and providing easy-to-read digests, while the Photos app is being unified into a single view comprising a photo grid and a dates grid. 

iOS 18 will soon let you react to messages using any emoji in the Messages app, and you'll be able to schedule messages to send at a convenient time in the future. Significant customization improvements are also coming to the Home Screen and Control Center.

6. The next macOS got its California-themed name

macOS 15 logo

(Image credit: Apple)

We also found out the name of macOS 15: Sequoia. Despite the big reveal at the keynote, it wasn’t too much of a shock that Apple went for this. For a start, modern macOS releases have all been named after Californian landmarks or places – previous editions have been called Big Sur, Ventura, Monterey and Sonoma. Sequoia, named after a national park in Sierra Nevada, continues this tradition.

Internet sleuths also spotted ahead of WWDC that Apple has trademarked a number of potential names: Redwood, Grizzly, Mammoth, Pacific, Rincon, Farallon, Miramar, Condor, Diablo, Shasta… and Sequoia. As well as its name, we also found out that it’ll be coming out ‘this Fall’ (so September or October 2024), with a developer preview available right now.

7. Apple Vision Pro is going global

Vision Pro launch

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

As our Vision Pro review makes clear, Apple's mixed-reality headset is a special piece of kit that really has to be experienced. Thus far, it's only been available in the US – but that's changing now.

As of Thursday, June 13, customers in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore will be able to pre-order the Vision Pro, with devices shipping from Friday, June 28. Those in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK will have to wait a little longer, but will be able to pre-order from June 28, with devices available from July 12. 

How much will it cost? Well, we know that in the UK it will start at £3,499, and based on the US price – which is also $3,499 – we'd expect it to retail at around AU$6,349.


♬ original sound - TechRadar

8. visionOS 2 will turn your 2D images into Spatial Photos

Alongside a global launch for the hardware, Apple announced visionOS 2 on the software side. The standout feature is that the headset can now turn your flat pictures into spatial photos, using machine learning. 

Spatial images have depth that makes them feel more like you’re viewing a memory than looking at a regular photo does, and this is a huge win for those of you with overflowing iCloud libraries.

When the visionOS 2 update rolls out later this year, other features you’ll unlock include travel mode being able to work on trains (alongside planes), while your Mac virtual display will get a lot bigger, with the max size being like having two 4K displays sitting side by side. There will also be new hand-gesture controls, which should allow you to quickly navigate to the settings menu, home view, and other useful tools.

9. iPadOS finally has a calculator!

The Math Notes feature in the iPadOS Calculator app revealed at WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest cheer of the night came not for the Vision Pro or iOS 18, but from… the Calculator app on iPadOS 18. Yes, really.

In fairness, the iPad has never had a native Calculator app, with users instead having to make do with third-party options, a fact which has inspired more than a few memes at Apple's expense over the years.

The new Calculator app is more than just a scaled-up version of the iOS app, though. Extra features include a resizable window and a sidebar that lists recent calculations. But better still is the new Math Notes integration.

This works with the Apple Pencil, allowing you to write equations that will be solved immediately once you write an equals sign. You can then make changes to various elements of the equation and see how the results change in real-time, plus turn equations immediately into charts and more. It looks pretty impressive.  



♬ original sound - TechRadar

10. watchOS added a few neat upgrades

an image of watchOS 11 Smart Stack

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Watch's operating system watchOS 11 will bring in a few nifty upgrades over its predecessor. While, rather disappointingly, it's not stacked with AI tricks, watchOS 11 will offer more intelligent widget stacks that should make using the Apple Watch’s display more convenient. 

It also introduces a new Vitals app that can help users understand how well one’s body responds to and recover from stress. Meanwhile, the new Training Load score uses an algorithm to generate a score based on how well a person is responding to training, by harnessing metrics such as average heart rates and resting, combined with one’s age and weight data. 

Apple hasn’t revamped watchOS that much, but the 11th iteration leans on evolution and should make wearing one of the best Apple Watches even better.

11. People will hear you way more clearly when calling from AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 are getting a Voice Isolation feature, which promises to massively reduce wind noise and other loud sounds from the mic when you call someone using them. Given how good the noise cancellation on AirPods Pro 2 is, we’re looking forward to seeing how well this works. Other AirPods miss, sadly – it needs the mighty power of the Apple H2 chip, currently unique to AirPods Pro 2.

12. tvOS hasn't been entirely forgotten

The Enhance Dialogue feature in tvOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

Unsurprisingly, tvOS wasn't exactly the main focus of the WWDC 2024 keynote, but it did get a few new features to enhance your Apple TV experience.

The most interesting of the tvOS 18 updates looks like InSight, the company’s own take on the X-Ray feature used by Amazon Prime Video, which displays onscreen info about actors, characters, and background music in movies and shows. 

The Apple TV 4K’s Enhance Dialogue feature, meanwhile, is getting an AI boost to make voices sound clear across a range of devices, and subtitles will get a similar treatment to generate onscreen text when muting or scanning back through programs. 

Last but not least, the Apple TV 4K will now be able to output images in the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio format for better compatibility with 4K projectors.

13. Apple Photos took a leaf from Google's book

Safe to say that iPhone owners have been jealous of Magic Eraser on the the Google Pixel range, and fortunately Apple is finally fixing this – and it's not just on iOS, but will be within Photos on iPadOS and macOS as well. 

With a new Clean Up feature you'll be able to circle to intelligently remove an object or even a person from the background. Furthermore, search is getting much smarter within the Photos app, making it easier for you to find photos that you care about.


♬ Storytelling - Adriel

You might also like

Marc McLaren
Global Editor in Chief

Marc is TechRadar’s Global Editor in Chief, the latest in a long line of senior editorial roles he’s held in a career that started the week that Google launched (nice of them to mark the occasion). Prior to joining TR, he was UK Editor in Chief on Tom’s Guide, where he oversaw all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage. He's also a former editor of the tech website Stuff and spent five years at the music magazine NME, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun. He’s based in London, and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and pretty much every other type of gadget you can think of. An avid photographer, Marc likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). He also enjoys live music, gaming, cycling, and beating Wordle (he authors the daily Wordle today page).

With contributions from