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Apple's AR headset, new MacBook Air — what to expect from WWDC 2023

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Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference for 2023 is fast approaching. Here's what you can expect Apple to introduce during the week-long event.

The first week of June is a big date in a developer's schedule, as it is when Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developer Conference. For 2023, the event will take place from June 5 and run until June 9.

While typically the venue for Apple's main operating system announcements, WWDC has also become an event when Apple brings out occasional new products and services. For 2023's event, the launches are expected to include one major platform introduction that has been rumored for years.

This is what you could look forward to during Apple's week-long jamboree for developers.

How will WWDC 2023 be presented?

In the past, Apple held WWDC as a live in-person event, with developers from around the globe gathering to share knowledge and to be among the first to see Apple's new software features.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple has shifted to a virtual event format, with video streams of sessions provided to all those interested in the announcements. The sessions also provided developers with an opportunity to converse with Apple's engineers and experts to find out more.

For 2023, Apple has expressed that the event will be following the same format as usual, complete with the keynote on the opening day and a State of the Union following after. On May 23, a schedule of the main events was released, with the Keynote set for 1 p.m. eastern on June 5, followed by a Platforms State of the Union at 4:30 p.m. eastern.

Though it won't be a full in-person affair, Apple has said it will be holding a special all-day event for developers and students on June 5 at Apple Park. The event will include a chance for visitors to meet teams, celebrate apps in the Apple Design Awards ceremony, and evening activities.

Requests to take part in the open day closed on April 4.

The Apple Developer app for iOS and Apple TV will provide access to sessions, labs, and to view the main events. A YouTube stream is also planned for the Keynote.

Keynote Hardware

The keynote is the main event, news-wise, as it is when Apple will make most of its major announcements. This can potentially include hardware updates and even new products.

While only Apple itself knows what the announcements will be, here's what we believe it will introduce during the conference.

Apple's long-rumored first AR/VR headset

Of all of the major announcements expected to be made during WWDC, the mixed-reality headset is probably the biggest one. Rumored over multiple years, the headset is anticipated to be Apple's first foray into AR and VR hardware.

Despite many rumors and leakers claiming the headset will make an appearance this year, it's never guaranteed. During the pre-event rumors for WWDC 2022, the headset surfaced as a possibility, only to be left out of proceedings.

For the moment, the rumors have largely settled on a set of hardware and specifications that Apple will probably introduce. For a start, it could bear the name "Reality One" or "Reality Pro" in some format.

A spree of trademark applications that surfaced in mid-May point to a wide array of terms that Apple could use. The list also includes "xrOS," "Reality OS," "Reality Processor," "realityproOS," "realOS," and "xrProOS," with much of this extended list having potential for use for operating systems.

Appearing similar in structure to the Meta Quest, the headset will have a ski goggle-like design, with a thin main visor and flexible straps to the sides and top.

A render of a potential Apple headset [AppleInsider]

To save weight from pressing on the user's face, rumors say Apple will use a separate battery pack that's tethered to the unit. Connecting magnetically, that headset could provide up to two hours of power, before being swapped out for another.

The headset is also long-rumored to use 4K OLED displays in front of each eye, with dozens of cameras and sensors working inside and out of the device. External sensors will track body movements and the environment, while eye tracking and facial expressions will also apparently be detected.

Apple is expected to use chips that will outperform the M1 chip in the device, with it able to run without needing a host device to handle rendering.

A deep integration with Apple's existing hardware may also be on the way, with analysts offering that ecosystem integration could be a key to early adoption by consumers.

For developers, the introduction will give them the opportunity to know Apple's plans and to be provided access to software development kits and tools for making headset-specific apps. However, it is thought the headset will be able to run many iPad apps with developers needing to make "minimal" modifications at most to get them working.

There is the belief that a new platform requires "killer apps" to make it a success, which is where presenting the tools to developers months in advance comes into play.

Despite Apple's secrecy, the headset may have been seen by external eyes. In a tweet on May 14, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said "The Apple headset is so good."

While Apple may introduce a headset during the event, it may still be months before it actually goes on sale to the public. The lead time will give all interested parties time to get their apps and other software in place for the actual public release.

One possibility for an appearance at the event is "No Man's Sky," a game that has been expected to arrive on Apple Silicon since WWDC 2022, and teased at the end of May by the game's developer. As a game that offers VR support, it seems likely that, if Apple does introduce the headset, it will use a title similar to that to demonstrate its gaming prowess.

Indeed, there have even been rumors of potential production issues that Apple has apparently braced itself for in advance. There is also the strong possibility of mass production of the headset starting in September.

Even so, a low production run is anticipated, with Apple focusing on developers for the first year. The initial annual production total is thought to be just 100,000 units.

Production issues wouldn't be entirely unexpected, but with so many hands involved with the project, it seems to be less likely to occur. It was claimed that almost every top exec at Apple has worked on the headset in some fashion, and that's a big enough crowd to not want any mistakes to occur.

New Macs and MacBooks

While the headset is likely to capture most of the attention at the event if it makes an appearance, Apple has been teased to introduce more hardware from its Mac slate.

On the MacBook side, items such as a 15-inch MacBook Air have been proposed, sporting an M2 chip and allegedly being tested being closed doors at Apple. Of the remainder, a refresh of the 13-inch MacBook Pro may also surface, though the updated 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro practically rule out those models.

A new Mac Pro is always a possibility.
A new Mac Pro is always a possibility.

For desktop Macs, after the discovery of multiple Mac identifier listings that seem to be not for MacBook models, the candidates list includes a Mac Studio, a refresh of the 24-inch iMac, and possibly even a Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro has been repeatedly rumored to launch with Apple Silicon sometime in 2023, potentially using a chip such as the M2 Ultra, complete with external GPU support and a smaller tower design. As the last Intel Mac available from the company, the model has been long overdue for the transition over to Apple Silicon.

Though, again, there are still some doubts that the New Mac Pro will make an appearance at all.

One late May rumor pointed to Apple adding the Mac Studio, M2 MacBook Air, and M2 13-inch MacBook Pro to the list of devices accepted by its trade-in program on June 5. Such a change would make it easier for developers and consumers to buy newer updated versions of each, by sending in the current generation.

A Mac Studio refresh is overdue
A Mac Studio refresh is overdue

A last-minute rumor shared on May 31 suggests Apple is actively testing two high-end Mac models with M2 Max and M2 Ultra. They internally use the identifiers Mac 14,13 and Mac 14,14.

Some speculation suggests these could be the rumored Mac Pro, but it seems more likely to be a Mac Studio refresh. Rumors suggest this will be a packed event, with "several" Macs being announced.

Existing OS updates — iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS

As a developer-focused event, WWDC usually handles announcements when it comes to operating system changes. Apple often outlines what its major OS updates will be during the keynote address, months ahead of a release alongside its usual fall product lineup.

While the rumor mill prefers to share hardware stories and leaks rather than those pertaining to software, there are still some rumored alterations on the way.

iOS 17 and iPadOS 17

With iOS 16 being the current generation, it makes sense that Apple will go with iOS 17 for the inbound version.

Some rumors for the annual refresh put forward that the release would be more a quality-of-life and performance-improvement one, with it being light on major features. However that has seemingly changed, and that some "nice to have" features are instead on the way.

Among the changes can be an updated Control Center, redesigned to mark its tenth anniversary.

Wallet was touted in April to have tweaks to the interface, while Find My could push more location-related features.

The Lock Screen may get more changes
The Lock Screen may get more changes

After iOS 16's Lock Screen changes, more may be on the way, with adjustments to font size, emoji wallpaper, and preset sharing possibly inbound. Apple Music on the Lock Screen may have a simplified user interface, with less text and more graphics. There may even be a simpler grid view for picking out wallpaper.

For users of HomeKit, Apple may also offer a new interface to display essential information as if it's a smart home display. Resembling the Apple Watch nightstand mode, an iPhone locked and placed horizontally could display calendar appointments, weather, notifications, and maybe even some smart home device controls.

AirPlay may also enjoy a bit of an upgrade, one that can make it easier to share content with other devices a user may have access to, but doesn't own. This may make a spell at a hotel even better.

More of a background feature than anything, Apple has reportedly been working on laying the groundwork for enabling the sideloading of apps, in order to comply with inbound regulatory reforms around the world. However, there stands a chance that Apple won't make the changes available everywhere, but instead only in markets where it is required.

For iPadOS 17, while it may share many feature changes with iOS 17, the big iPad-specific change could be Stage Manager upgrades. The list apparently includes support for webcams in external displays, streaming video and audio from and to multiple sources, and a resizable dock option for the external display.

One thing that Apple has confirmed for iOS 17 is that it will gain some new accessibility features. The list includes Assistive Access to help with navigating iOS and iPadOS itself, and a Point and Speak in Magnifier mode for helping visually impaired users read labels.

The headline accessibility changes are Live Speech and Personal Voice. The former will let users type out statements to be read aloud during phone calls and FaceTime, while the latter allows a user to turn 15 minutes of their voice into a personal voice mimicking their own.

watchOS 10

The milestone number of watchOS 10 could herald big changes, with an early April report claiming that the fairly static previous generations could be followed in 2023 by a "fairly extensive upgrade."

These changes may include widgets that users could scroll through for information, rather than tapping to open the full apps. This interface will be "reminiscent" of the Siri watch face, but usable as an overlay.

Widget stacks may be borrowed from iOS and iPadOS for use in watchOS 10.

Widgets could arrive on the Apple Watch
Widgets could arrive on the Apple Watch

There is also the claim Apple is reconsidering how the Digital Crown works. While the press of the button brings up the home screen at present, it may be used to bring up the widget interface instead.

There has also been some rumors of a new home screen layout or grid that could use folders.

macOS 14 and tvOS 17

It would be remiss of Apple to not introduce both macOS 14 and tvOS 17 at WWDC, but at this time, there aren't any real rumors or speculation to offer about what either operating system will offer.

What is expected is that there will be some feature parity with iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 at some level, so that apps and some features work across the ecosystem.

As usual, we're also anticipating Craig Federighi to offer a joke about the "crack team" working on the new name for macOS 14. We have no idea what it could be, except it'll be a location somewhere in California.