Major Mac Changes and App Store Drama: What We Expect at Apple’s WWDC 2020

Image: Apple
Image: Apple

Next Monday, Apple is kicking off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where, as usual, the company will reveal the features coming to iPhones, Macs, and more this spring. But things are a little weird this year due to [gestures at everything]. Instead of showing off demos to excited developers in a San Jose convention hall, Apple executives will announce the latest news in a live-streamed keynote.

Here are the highlights of what we expect to see at WWDC 2020.

The Mac’s Transition to ARM

It seems all but confirmed that Apple is planning to start making its own Mac processors, switching from x86-based Intel CPUs to ARM-based chips. The move makes sense: The company already puts its own ARM-based CPUs in iPhones and iPads, and it seems ready to scale that up to Macs.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted Apple would debut a Mac with an ARM-based chip later this year, but the global covid-19 pandemic pushed that timeline back to early 2021. According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on three processors in total, each based on the A14 chip that will power this year’s iPhones, to power various Macs. We may even see the first one on-stage at WWDC.

The early announcement would give developers ample time to start working on optimising apps to work with the Mac’s new chip architecture. Apple already got the ball rolling with Catalyst, which makes it easier for iOS developers to port their apps to macOS. Given that the ARM-based Mac CPUs would share DNA with Apple’s iPhone processors, it’s likely that Apple will have further streamlined the process for developers to make their Mac apps compatible with the new chips.

App Store Drama

Aside from the newest software features and developer tools the Cupertino company will show off on its virtual stage, Apple will also need to quell an uprising — or at least make clear that its executives are listening to the developers who helped the App Store rake in $US260 ($377) billion last year. Apple is facing regulatory scrutiny in Europe over antitrust allegations that the company has created an uneven playing field in the App Store that favours its own apps, which aren’t subject to the company’s 15-30% tax. And the developers of new email app Hey are fighting back this week after Apple reportedly threatened to remove the app from the App Store — Hey offers a paid subscription available only on the web that attempts to circumvent the tax. But other, bigger apps that offer similar workarounds (ahem, Spotify) are still allowed in the App Store.

WWDC would be a perfect time for Apple to clarify its policies (or change them!) and vow to be more consistent.

New iMac

It’s been a minute since the iMac has seen a refresh, so it’s about time. Rumour has it Apple has a new look in store, perhaps one that aligns more with the iPad Pro aesthetic — expect ultra-slim bezels, flat corners, and a giant display. It’s also possible that the iMac, like the iPad Pro, will support Face ID, which would be useful.

But don’t get too excited, because there’s almost no way that this iMac would herald the ARM transition. An Intel CPU is more likely.

A cheaper HomePod

Remember HomePod, Apple’s expensive, not-that-great speaker that sometimes left white rings on your nice wood furniture? Oh, you didn’t buy one? Well, that’s OK. Apple recently slashed prices for the current HomePod for Apple employees, and it’s been on sale for months at major retailers like Best Buy. That all suggests Apple is clearing out old stock as it prepares to launch a new device that might be cheaper and better than its predecessor, one prays.

AirTags! Finally. Maybe.

We’ve been hearing about Apple’s pint-sized Bluetooth trackers for what feels like years, but AirTags may finally, finally get their spotlight at WWDC. The Tile alternatives reportedly have built-in batteries and can be used to track important items when paired to your iPhone, according to source code found in iOS 14 (and a little appearance in an Apple tutorial video that has since vanished).

The usual iOS, macOS, and watchOS updates

There haven’t been any jaw-dropping rumours about Apple’s yearly software upgrades for iOS, macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Incremental updates in iOS 14 will likely include iPad-like widgets and perhaps even trackpad support for whatever reason.

And watchOS 7 has long been rumoured to finally include built-in sleep-tracking — hopefully an Apple Watch with the lengthier battery life will debut this fall to take advantage of that feature, if it appears.

As always, you’ll be able to stream the keynote live, so tune in on Monday at 10 a.m. PT and follow our live-blog as we watch the spectacle unfold together.