The WWDC 2021 date has been officially announced: get ready for plenty of Apple software reveals starting Monday, June 7 when the online-only conference kicks off. But the announcement dropped with a charming image that’s both an insider joke for Apple fans and, quite possibly, a hint that the VR/AR Apple Glasses are finally coming.
Let’s start with the splash image on Apple’s WWDC 2021 website: a pink-haired Memoji’d someone staring into the glow of a laptop – itself a cheeky reference to Apple SVP Craig Federighi doing the same when he introduced the new line of M1-powered MacBooks in a launch event last November, which quickly became a meme. But the WWDC 2021 image could be another hint to what’s coming: the person is wearing glasses, and visible in the lenses are app icons.
Yes, these are just reflections of apps in the macOS Dock, as you can see in the animation that plays when you load up the WWDC 2021 site (helpfully snipped into a GIF by leaker Ishan Agarwal in a tweet).
Apple WWDC 2021 — June 7 to 11Excited to see what all they have in store for us... #WWDC21 #WWDC pic.twitter.com/elbAdpsXyQMarch 30, 2021
Animating apps-into-glasses could just be some Apple flair drawing attention to the apps therein: the Calendar app showing the WWDC date (July 7), the Xcode app icon next to it, and so on.
Or...it could be a hint that Apple Glasses, the long-rumored AR/VR eyewear, will finally be introduced at WWDC 2021.
Apple actually released several different Memoji-staring-in-a-laptop images to promote WWDC 2021, and all of them have glasses with app icons in them – note the one below for the new Swift Student Challenge, which has a Swift (the iOS app coding language) logo instead of the Calendar app icon reflected in its lenses, as well as the image on the Apple Developer website’s link to WWDC 2021.
Can’t help but notice they’re both wearing glasses with apps “in” them pic.twitter.com/n5xpifdJshMarch 30, 2021
Heck, even some higher-up Apple execs got their own announcement Memojis, like SVP Greg Joswiak. All glasses, all apps in the glasses – so that could be the coy hint that tech-augmented eyewear is coming. Even the show’s motto – ‘Glow and Behold’ – seems themed toward vision.
And a new Bloomberg report just emerged suggesting Apple will reveal a mixed-reality headset in the next several months.
So why would WWDC 2021 be a good time to introduce the Apple Glasses – especially when Apple rarely debuts new products at WWDC?
It’s all about the code
It’s true: the World-Wide Developer’s Conference is primarily for, well, developers. Typically, media only covers the keynote address – featuring Tim Cook and other execs introducing a few top-level new things coming in updates later in the year such as iOS 15 and watchOS 8 – and ignores the days of presentations focused on developers and back-end details.
If Apple has consumer-facing product announcements, it either reveals them well before WWDC (as in the iPhone SE 2020’s release last April) or in the usual September/October window alongside that year’s flagship iPhones.
But WWDC 2021 is probably the perfect time to reveal the Apple Glasses if, as rumors suggest, a model could be coming as early as 2022. The smart glasses will certainly have first-party Apple apps, but the company will almost certainly want developers to start making their own third-party apps for the devices, too. But given the form factor, Apple probably wants to give devs time to start working with the new form factor – and get test units out for early software builds.
It’s possible that Apple does play its Glasses close to the chest and simply reveal the product to consumers rather than preview it at WWDC to farm developer interest, as it did with the last radically new product, the first Apple Watch, in 2014. But perhaps the new form factor will prove so tricky that Apple needs to get its community of devs onboard early and won’t worry about tipping off the media. Perhaps Apple wouldn’t mind building hype.
Because, while we still don’t know whether an AR or VR headset version of Apple Glass is coming first, potentially in 2022, the next year might be the perfect time to launch an augmented reality device as the world starts opening up post-Covid-19 vaccine and looks to engage with public life once more.
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David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.