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WWDC 2021: when is it happening, and what to expect from Apple’s show

The Apple logo with a colorful background
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) event is fast approaching, with WWDC 2021 expected to kick off in early June. This is where we expect to get our first official look at the next major software updates for iOS, watchOS and more.

While Apple hasn’t yet confirmed the exact WWDC 2021 dates, we have a very good idea of when it will be, and you’ll find full details of that below.

Then, further down we’ve highlighted all the software updates you can expect to see there, from iOS 15 to macOS 12 and beyond. It’s worth noting that the finished versions of these updates won’t land until later in the year, but beta versions of many of them may launch at or around WWDC.

And beyond software there’s a chance we’ll even see some new Apple hardware. That’s harder to predict, but we’ve included some possibilities below.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Apple's annual software show
  • When is it? Probably early June

What are the WWDC 2021 dates?

Apple hasn’t yet confirmed the WWDC 2021 dates but we can take a good guess, as it’s always held in June, and usually covers the first full week of June, which this year would mean June 7 – 11, with most of the announcements probably happening on the first day.

Given the uncertainty around the pandemic it’s possible that the schedule will be disrupted as it was slightly in 2020, with the event starting slightly later that year, on June 22. But what’s probably more likely is that Apple will commit to an online-only event early, and stick to its usual timings.

What to expect at WWDC 2021

WWDC is all about software, with the next versions of all Apple’s major operating systems typically shown off. That means we have a good idea of what we’ll see, even if we don’t know much about what all the updates will entail. Below we’ve listed what you can expect.

iOS 15

iPhone 12 Pro

Apple's phones will get another big software update this year (Image credit: Future)

iOS 15 is likely to be one of the biggest announcements of WWDC 2021, though all we’ve really heard about it so far is that you might need an iPhone 7 or later to get the update.

We’d expect it to bring updates and improvements to Apple’s core apps and services, like Siri and Maps, but beyond that it’s unclear right now. iOS 14 brought some major new features like an App Library and home screen widgets, but whether iOS 15 will be packed with fundamental changes too or more focused on improving what’s already there remains to be seen.

It’s worth noting that while iOS 15 will almost certainly be announced at WWDC 2021, it probably won’t actually launch until September. That said, there will likely be a developer beta as soon as it’s announced, with a public beta following not too long after.

iPadOS 15

iPad Pro 11 (2018)

The iPad Pro 11 (2018) (Image credit: TechRadar)

Alongside iOS 15, we’re also expecting Apple to unveil iPadOS 15 at WWDC 2021. We’ve heard nothing at all about this so far, but based on past form we’d expect it to have many of the same features and improvements as iOS 15, though there may be some tablet-focused updates too.

As with iOS 15, we’d also expect a developer beta to start soon after the announcement, with a public beta following that and a full launch in or around September.

watchOS 8

Apple Watch 6 review

An Apple Watch 6 running watchOS 7 (Image credit: TechRadar)

It’s not just phones and tablets that we’re expecting to see new software for at WWDC 2021 – wearables are also expected to get in on the action, with watchOS 8 almost certainly set to be announced there.

There’s not much in the way of information about it yet, but it’s expected that every Apple Watch model that got watchOS 7 (meaning the Apple Watch 3 and newer) will likely support watchOS 8.

We’d also expect there will be new watch faces, and there’s a good chance the Health app from iOS will make it across – but that’s just speculation.

tvOS 15

tvOS 13

tvOS 13 (Image credit: Apple)

Based on past form, tvOS 15 will probably also make an appearance at WWDC 2021. According to The Verifier, this may have a refreshed design, along with a children’s mode complete with full parental controls and screen time management tools. However, we’d take all of this with a pinch of salt for now.

macOS 12

macOS 11 Big Sur

macOS 11 Big Sur (Image credit: Apple)

Apple will also probably unveil the next generation of macOS software at WWDC, namely macOS 12. Details on what to expect from this are light at the moment, but as with the other software being unveiled, this probably won’t hit computers in finished form until near the end of the year.

New devices

While WWDC is primarily about software, we do sometimes see hardware at the event too. There’s no real news about what we might see, and indeed there’s no guarantee that there will be any hardware on show, but some possibilities include a new iPad Pro (though rumors suggest that might land as soon as March), new Mac hardware, or maybe just a new Mac chipset.