Apple CEO Tim Cook and his senior staff made this a software-focused keynote, with macOS 10.14 Mojave, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12 announcements in addition to iOS 12. There was no new hardware, though – last year's conference gave us a first look at the HomePod, as well as the iPad Pro 12.9 and iPad Pro 10.5.
A lot was on the line for Apple for WWDC 2018. Google wowed us with its Google IO keynote and groundbreaking demos last month. Apple software had a lot to answer for, including the many annoying iOS 11 problems.
It wasn't the biggest WWDC 2018, and some attendees we talked to referred to it as 'underwhelming'. But what was delivered refined iOS 12 and other OS updates.
For developers, WWDC offers a chance to get an idea of what they’ll be working with in 2018 so they can start planning. They can download the iOS 12 developer beta 1 right now.
iOS 12 and ARKit 2.0 confirmed
Apple kicked off proceedings with a quick look at iOS 12 and its features for the first time at WWDC 2018, among other software sneak peeks.
iOS 12 – Performance is key
iOS 12 was due to see an intriguing home screen redesign and tweaks to core apps like Mail and Camera, according to several leaks, but that’s been shelved in favor of stability and performance improvements.
Apple is instead looking to make the iPhone faster and more responsive than it's previously been. It's doing that at WWDC, all the way back to the iPhone 5S.
It's set to work with all the same devices that can already handle iOS 11. Apple says keyboards on the aging iPhone 6S Plus, for example, will fire up 50% faster than previously, with the camera ready to snap 70% faster, showing Apple isn't giving up on older devices. App loading in general is now twice as fast with iOS 12.
On the one hand, iOS 12 sounds less exciting due to its security and performance focus. On the other hand, it needs that. iOS 11 problems like the awful-sounding 'black dot' bug were PR for Apple and an unpleasant experience for users.
ARKit 2 features
Augmented reality and Apple's ARKit development platform was also showcased, with Apple teaming up with Pixar to develop a new file format for sharing AR content.
Showing off the benefits of the digital and physical worlds merging was a new app called Measure, letting you use AR to see the size of items just by dragging a finger across them when your camera is pointed at them. Apple demonstrated sizing up a suitcase and a photograph for framing.
Brands like guitar makers Fender and Lego are also on board, with the toy giant showing off an impressive demo that let previews of physical sets appear on your table top. The Lego demo, using two iPads, also took advantage of ARKit 2.0's multiplayer support options, with both players sending little Lego Minikit folk strolling around an augmented reality Lego town. Leaning into a Lego building would also let you see through Lego walls to see what the inhabitants inside were up to.
The Photos app got a smart update with a new enhanced search option. A 'For You' tab, making suggestions on what you can possibly do with the photos you have saved.
Suggestions can include anything from making a looped Live Photo (think a GIF), or using machine learning to suggest who's in your photos so you can share them. This facial recognition feature will, however, rely on using the iCloud Photo Library, so you may have to boost your storage settings to take advantage.
Siri gets smarter
Siri was well in need of an update, and it got one. A new feature, called 'Shortcuts', integrates with apps to build bespoke voice commands. An example given used the Tile Bluetooth tracker, letting you create a voice command like "find my keys" to activate the Tile app locator feature.
Such features will be identified with an 'Add to Siri' option within apps, while you can also train the voice assistant to trigger a series of commands with custom commands – for instance, setting up a routine that would both message a spouse and adjust a connected thermostat when you tell Siri you're "heading home".
Siri will also make suggestions from the lock screen, letting you know what's in the vicinity, and will also give you prompts to inform colleagues if it appears you're running late for a meeting. When it knows you're in a cinema it can remind you to put your phone on silent.
Stocks, News, Books and Voice Memos
Two become one here – the Stocks and News apps will now combine, bringing the app your rich uncle loves alongside the one that tries to collate all your favorite news sources into one place. Stocks is coming to iPad too, for all that big-screen stock action you've been craving all these years. Right? Right...? Oh.
Voice Memos are also coming to iPad, synced automatically over iCloud. Which is a bit better than big-screen stocks. Oh man. That Stocks action though...
In an interesting development, at least in terms of branding, the iBooks app is now simply 'Books'. Could Apple be slowly distancing itself from that iconic 'i' branding?
Do Not Disturb and Grouped Notifications
We're all spending a little too much time on our connected devices, right? Apple thinks so too, so it's expanding its Do Not Disturb features, such as grouped notifications, while you'll get more options for addressing notifications from the lock screen. You'll also be offered a 'timer', to limit screen time for kids. And big kids too...
Memoji – your personalized emoji
No one could have predicted the popularity of the beast-themed Animoji messaging option. But Apple's going one step further with 'Memoji' – personalized, animated emoji that can be designed to look like you (or, at least, how you'd like your Messages buddies to see you). Freckles, glasses, hairstyles – you get the picture. In fact, you become the picture.
FaceTime group calling
Want to video-call three people? How about 32? Group calling in the new and improved FaceTime will let you do that, making use of a moving tile display of faces currently in the chat, floating and coming into greater prominence when someone begins to talk.
Along the bottom of the screen is a scrolling bar of users, letting you choose who takes center stage. Animoji, filters and sticker packs can also be used live.
Maybe next time – the stuff we didn't see
Expanded use of NFC chips found inside recent iPhones (iPhone 6S and newer) were rumored to include capabilities to unlock hotel room doors. It's about time Apple takes this chip beyond simply making Apple Pay payments. But we didn't see that on stage at WWDC, at least not this year.
Then there were more long-shot features: an always-on display for the iPhone X would be a great way to show off the OLED screen technology, and we had hoped that Apple would offer the ability to change cameras settings directly in the camera app instead of having to dig through one phone settings menu after another.
Unfortunately, with security and performance taking the lead roles in iOS 12, we may see the company push the more exciting features to iOS 13 (including a rumored paid subscription to a premium version of Apple News) in 2019.
watchOS 5 is on its way to your wrist
The Apple Watch 3 just came out a few months ago, with a focus on the LTE model and running, but Apple is building on its wellness-focused features even further in 2018.
WatchOS 5 will once again give you plenty of health and fitness support, bringing challenges to groups of friends for bespoke fitness competitions between pals. Yoga exercises can be tracked based on heart rate, hiking makes use of heart rate and altitude, while there's a rolling mile pace tracker for running in Workouts. All of this is great news for runners, helping them to better pace their runs.
Podcasts is also coming to your wrist, syncing your spot in audio across devices, while there's a Siri face, intelligently knowing to activate the voice assistant automatically once a fresh notification comes in.
But, perhaps most exciting of all for Dick Tracey fans, WatchOS 5 will let the Apple Watch become a walkie talkie! Working over both cellular and Wi-Fi connections, you'll get a haptic feedback alert when someone wants to have a quick chat.
Pride Edition watch band and face
Showing support for the LGBT community, there will also be a new rainbow-themed band and watch face.
Get ready for Dolby Atmos Apple TV content
Dolby Atmos object-based audio is coming to the Apple TV set-top box, bringing you overhead sounds as well as standard surround sound (provided you've got compatible Dolby Atmos speakers, of course), making Apple TV 4K the only box that's both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos certified. If you've got existing titles that support Dolby Atmos in your iTunes library they'll automatically be upgraded to support the new audio format.
The animated screensaver 'Aerial' is getting upgraded, letting Siri offer locations and info on places of interest from across the globe with a tap of the remote, as well as a high-altitude Earth cam filmed by astronauts stationed on the ISS. iEarth, if you like.
The news surrounding Apple’s push into original TV content has been mounting, but WWDC 2018 didn't offer any more info. At last year’s WWDC, Apple didn’t talk much about its television programming plans either, simply revealing the addition of Amazon Prime Video to its Apple TV app offerings.
Apple has already started toying with original content, with Carpool Karaoke as an example. It has also put more than $1 billion toward original programming, with its first efforts due to launch as soon as March 2019. So it may be holding back a little bit more information for further down the line.
What kind of content can more than a billion dollars create? Well, it can get Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller (of Starz’s American Gods) involved, and it’s gotten Breaking Bad showrunners Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg on board. Deadline recently reported Apple's plans for a new animated series called 'Central Park' with some star power behind it.
MacOS Mojave revealed, laying the groundwork for iOS app conversions
Moving from the mountains inspiring recent Mac software updates to the deserts of the Mojave, Apple's new MacOS release has been revealed, with lots of exciting new features for Mac fans. But perhaps the biggest feature of all will actually be coming to developers in 2019, with new features letting iOS apps be easily ported to Mac.
It was simply a tease at this stage, but Apple's already putting it to work with its own first-party apps. It's long been rumored, but come this time next year, expect the worlds of iOS and Mac to be more closely aligned than ever before.
Dark Mode introduced
A new 'Dark Mode', which makes all Apple first-party apps take on a darker hue, is also on the way. Easy on the eyes for late night use, it'll also be useful for photo editors and developers, with the former often preferring the punchy colors against a darker background, the later taking advantage of the more clearly visible color distinctions in code groups during Xcode usage.
Messy desktop? No problem in MacOS Mojave – it's introducing Desktop stacks, which group together related icons into piles, auto-tidying your desktop, expanding with a tap. You can also scrub through a stack with gestures to scroll to an individual file that you're seeking out.
Your desktop wallpaper can be set to change over the course of a day too – new Apple-designed options of, say, a desert panorama, will change from morning through to noon, evening and the dead of night as time in your local location changes.
Gallery View and Screenshots
Who wants more metadata? You do, that's who. The Gallery View will now give quick actions that you can instantly fire up contextual information. For instance, Finder will now have customizable buttons that could add a watermark automatically to PDFs, once set up.
Screenshotting gets improvements too. You'll have greater control over magnification settings, while you'll have to option to screengrab from within a video too.
Safari privacy! New Apps! Yay! One is Stocks! No!
Yep, Stocks is coming to Mac too. *slow clap*
But! It's also getting some useful stuff, including News and Voice Memos, both of which are essential mobile apps, making the jump to your laptop and desktop too. Home, controlling your HomeKit enabled smart home gear, will also be coming to Mac machines.
Safari is doubling down on privacy features – unsurprisingly, given the year's Facebook scandal and Europe's newly introduced GDPR requirements. Social media and commenting platforms won't be able to drop cookies on your machine automatically any more, while site-to-site tracking, known as 'fingerprinting', will be harder for nefarious ad firms to carry out. These Safari features will carry over into iOS 12, too.
Thinking of buying the iPhone X? Watch our overview video below.
Missing for now, but still to come in the future?
With the keynote wrapped up, here's some of the predictions we made that didn't make the cut for WWDC 2018. But we're still waiting to see...
iPhone SE 2 debut that never came
Apple can't force everyone to get a smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen, and with that in mind, it can't hold out on upgrading the original iPhone SE forever.
iPhone SE 2 leaks ahead of WWDC 2018 made it seem as if Apple's one-hand-friendly iPhone was getting an update this year. That never arrived.
The Eurasian Economic Commission had a number of new iOS 11 devices registered with it recently though. There's a strong record of products leaked by the agency launching within a couple months of registration with the agency, but WWDC proved not to be a grand stage for something to launch.
We expect a new iPhone X2, iPhone X2 Plus, and a cheaper LCD iPhone in 2018, but we don't believe they'll launch until September. It would be highly unusual for Apple to launch a successor to the iPhone X so soon, especially since the iPhone X itself launched late into 2017. That's why the odds are in favor of the device registration pointing towards a new iPhone SE 2 in a variety of sizes and colors.
Though we've been waiting over two years to see an update of the iPhone SE, we may not be waiting much longer. But it didn't have its day at WWDC 2018 today.
No big iPhone 2018 hints
A new iPhone X, or an iPhone XI, with a lower price tag was a long shot for WWDC. There were no new iPhones at the keynote, or even hints of one.
Apple is likely saving any phone reveals for September when it historically launches new iPhones. That said, developers will surely scout for features Apple mentioned in iOS 12 code, ones that could hints about what Apple is planning in future phones.
The latest rumors suggest that three models of the iPhone XI will be coming this year, with one expected to have an extra large 6.46-inch screen while the other has a 5.85-screen, both OLED displays. Neither will be cheap, and it's been suggested that they may switch from running on Qualcomm modems to ones made by Intel.
As for rumors of a cheaper iPhone X, rumors have floated around about a version lacking 3D Touch and using a cheaper LCD display could be that cheaper iPhone X, but we’ll probably be waiting a few months after WWDC to find out.
The redesigned Mac Pro – we're still waiting
“In addition to the new iMac Pro, Apple is working on a completely redesigned, next-generation Mac Pro architected for pro customers who need the highest performance, high-throughput system in a modular, upgradeable design, as well as a new high-end pro display.”
It’s been a long wait, but a Mac Pro 2018 didn't debut at WWDC. The conference has introduced updates to Apple’s computer lineup in the past, and what better group to tout a new, powerful desktop computer to than a bunch of developers. But we're still waiting. The new Mac Pro may also be one of the computers to come installed with Apple’s new, custom co-processors.
New Apple display to go along with it
With the redesigned Mac Pro on its way, we didn't see Apple reveal that “new high-end pro display” it has mentioned previously, either. Anyone who goes for the new Mac Pro will be looking for a quality display to use with it, but the 5K LG monitor that Apple currently sells may now feels dated.
No new MacBooks or Mac mini
Look out, Apple is running out of MacBook Pros. That's a big hint that it could be updating to a new line of laptops. But if it is, they weren't revealed at WWDC 2018.
We're eventually expecting to see new MacBooks and an at-last updated Mac Mini. The MacBooks may only get minor updates, with upgrades to some of the internals and an increase to the maximum supported RAM. Updated MacBooks may also come with those new co-processors expected to show up in a new Mac Pro.
The new MacBook could also come with the anticipated support of iOS apps in macOS. Pricing is expected to line up with the prices of the MacBook lineup it would replace, and we believe it could arrive as early as April. A new MacBook Air may be joining it while Apple announces new computers.
The hope is for the Mac Mini at long last to see an update as well, though WWDC proved to not be the stage for it. It’s been over three years since Apple last updated the Mac Mini, and it will be closer to four years when WWDC concludes.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, brought it up last year, saying “The Mac mini is an important product in our line,” but not suggesting an update was imminent. Similarly, MacRumors reported in October that a reader received an email from Tim Cook which stated, “while it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.”
All the same, the small and affordable desktop option is still running on Intel Haswell processors (which are a few generations old), and is at least as due for an update as any other computer mentioned here.
iPad Pro 2018 is MIA
There’s likely going to be iPad Pro 3 news this year, even if the next tablet doesn’t actually get called the iPad Pro 3. The last update to the iPad Pro landed in June of 2017, so a refresh at WWDC didn't seem like a complete stretch. But Apple has chosen to hold it back for another time.
We're still expecting an announcement later this year. Rumors suggest it will come in 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch varieties, include Face ID, a TrueDepth camera and have a bezel-less design inspired by the iPhone X.
With any luck, Apple will also take steps to make the new iPad Pro in 2018 more of laptop replacement than earlier models have managed to be. Now, all points to a release separate from WWDC.
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.