WWDC 2024: What Apple has in store, from iPhones to Macs

The annual event takes place in Apple Park, Cupertino, California (Apple)
The annual event takes place in Apple Park, Cupertino, California (Apple)

WWDC is Apple’s conference for software developers. It’s the nerdiest major event Apple stages each year and gives many clues on the direction MacBooks, iPhones and iPads are heading in.

It will take place between June 10 and June 14 this year in Apple Park, Cupertino, California, and typically focuses more on software than new hardware.

WWDC is a developer conference after all. It’s what the DC in WWDC stands for. Let’s take a closer look at what is likely to be discussed at the show.

iOS 18: Apple’s AI future

The next major version of the iPhone’s software will be a main focus at WWDC 2024. It’s iOS 18, and will be one of the biggest software updates so far, according to serial Apple leaker Mark Gurman of Bloomberg.

AI is likely to be the star feature. Apple has kept relatively quiet on AI compared with Microsoft and Google. While Apple has some AI-style features, like personal voice and object recognition in photos for easier search, iOS 18 will lean much more heavily on AI.

Siri is likely to become a much more conversational assistant, powered by large language model technology similar to that behind chatbots like ChatGPT.

Gurman also revealed some uses of AI in the works. They include creating playlists in Apple Music, a smarter version of the iPhone’s Spotlight Search and an AI-powered health and fitness coach.

MacOS 15: More AI for MacBooks

AI isn’t just for iPhones,of course. It’s coming to MacOS too, apparently, as part of the iWork suite.

This comprises the Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps, and is the obvious place for Apple to make functional use of generative AI. That could mean Pages offering to tweak your written text to alter its tone, or to let Keynote knock up a presentation based on a quick written summary of what you’re after.

For the more techy Apple fan, the company’s Xcode development tool is expected to use generative AI to speed up coding jobs.

All of this will seem quite familiar to anyone with a hobbyist’s interest in AI. However, Apple is well known for making existing tech seem more approachable and, as such, more useful for the average person.

In March we heard Apple was in talks with Google about using its Gemini generative AI tools to power jobs like this. And that it has considered partnering with ChatGPT creator OpenAI too.

However, this doesn’t mean Apple is not working on AI of its own. Apple researchers have just published a paper on an AI model that can recognise what’s on the screen of, for example, your iPhone. It claims its model even outperforms OpenAI’s GPT-4, which is at the heart of many of the highest-profile examples of AI software. “We also benchmark against GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, with our smallest model achieving performance comparable to that of GPT-4, and our larger models substantially outperforming it,” reads the paper.

Vision Pro: wider release

Almost no one has used an Apple Vision Pro headset yet, relatively speaking. It has only launched in the US so far and most folks over there wouldn’t be able to afford or justify its $3,500 (£2,780) cost.

However, if the headset hasn’t launched in the UK by June, when WWDC takes place, we are likely to hear about when it will arrive here.

The Vision Pro headset launched in the US last February. There is no UK release date yet but it is expected to be here before the end of the year.

WWDC will also bring news of what is next for the headset. One potential new feature is the ability to use an Apple Pencil as a controller rather than just your hand, as reported by MacRumors.

New iPads?

WWDC isn’t a show focused on hardware. The other launch events handle that but some new products are still regularly announced during the show.

In 2023, for example, WWDC was used to showcase the Vision Pro, Mac Pro and Mac Studio lines.

The clearest candidate for WWDC 2024 is the iPad Pro family, as new 11-inch and 13-inch tablets are expected, with the latest Apple M3 chipset and OLED screens. That’s a first for the iPad family.

A less ambitious 12.9-inch iPad Air is on the cards too. These are pencilled in for an announcement in early May, though, almost six weeks before WWDC. Those iPads were originally expected in March and a further delay could potentially push them closer to, or into, WWDC.