WWDC 2021: What to expect from Apple's developer conference

All eyes on Cupertino for fresh MacBook Pros, an update to the M1 processor, iOS 15 and more

Apple will welcome developers back, albeit virtually, into its Cupertino campus for its 2021 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on Monday. 

The event is typically heavy on software announcements, with operating system updates for Mac, iPad, Apple Watch and iPhone devices all expected. However, new hardware has also been unveiled at the developer-focused showcase in recent years, fuelling speculation that this year's WWDC will follow suit. 

Many are expecting a new version of the MacBook Pro to be unveiled, with overhauled 14in and 16in models heavily rumoured. There is talk of Apple ditching the Touch Bar for a more traditional function row, as well as bringing back magnetic charging cables based on the MagSafe ecosystem that was launched with the iPhone 12

There's also talk that a successor to the M1 chip will be announced, currently thought to be called M1X. Some suggest this arrive as a 32-core CPU for the 16in MacBook, complete with a new cooling system to accommodate the souped-up specs. The ARM-based architecture has proved to be a big hit with Apple users so far and WWDC 2021 is the most likely event for any updates here.  

Along with new MacBook Pros, it's extremely likely that a new macOS will be revealed, with many speculating this will be dubbed 'macOS 12' as well as having a nickname taken from a California landmark, like Mojave and Big Sur. 

"While there might be some product announcements with new MacBook Pros, WWDC is first and foremost a developer event focusing on software," said Forrester analyst Thomas Husson. "It is sometimes tricky not to get lost in the software details but this attention to detail is precisely what builds up and differentiates the Apple experience. The software announcement gives a hint of what new experiences brands will be able to build on top of Apple devices moving forward, as well as new products and services potentially to be launched in the coming months."

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WWDC is also the event where new iPhone software is revealed, and we expect iOS 15 will feature heavily. However, Husson isn't expecting much of an update here, particularly given how significant iOS 14 was "It is realistic to expect Apple to introduce more privacy features, new notification controls, such as the ability to set preferences based on your current status, like if you're driving, sleeping, working, for example." he told IT Pro. "And an update on iMessage for iOS 15. But even with more powerful functionalities, iMessage won't become a social network per se and since it is restricted to Apple users, it won't compete like for like with WhatsApp."

New operating system updates are also expected for the iPad and Apple Watch, with the former thought to be a complete overhaul. Apple's virtual WWDC keynote will kick off at 6pm BST. 

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