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WWDC 2020 Preview – how it could change things forever

What Apple is rumored to have planned for WWDC — and what we’d like to see

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is an annual event, but COVID-19 means this year’s will have to ‘think different’. Instead of developers congregating on San Jose, WWDC is going virtual, and will happen entirely online.

If you don’t make apps and games yourself, the keynote on June 22 (check the WWDC website for timings) is the exciting bit. It’s there Apple outlines all the new toys you’ll later get to play with.

As ever, the internet is rife with rumors about what we’ll see, and so we’ve picked our favorite five to discuss — and added five more things we hope will be revealed too.

Rumor: Revamped Home screen

There have long been rumblings Apple would upend the Home screen that’s barely changed since the original iPhone; but all we’ve seen so far is iPad get a little column of widgets. Word is, things are about to change.

There’s a smart list view coming to iPhone — think watchOS’s list view with added Siri smarts to surface your most-used apps, and those with notifications. Over on iPad, rumor has it we might also see widgets you can place anywhere you like when using icon view.

Wish: Multiple accounts

Apple wants everyone to have their own iOS device — and preferably also an iPadOS device. But they are expensive products, and so that’s not always viable. With Macs and PCs, you can create user accounts, so several people can share a single computer.

Apple TV has similar functionality, because families won’t buy a separate unit for each member. Doing the same for iPod touch and iPad might hit Apple’s bottom line, but it’d be user-friendly — and a relief for any parent who temporarily ‘loans’ their youngling an iPhone.

Rumor: Switchable default apps

It was a big deal when Apple let you delete most pre-installed apps. If you don’t use Stocks or Compass, there’s no reason they should hang around like a bad smell.

Many people want to go further, entirely replacing default Apple apps with alternatives. We’re all for that — Gmail instead of Mail; Fantastical instead of Calendar. It’s long been a wish-list item, but rumors suggest Apple is finally ready to open up.

Wish: A Home indicator off-switch

We get why Apple created the Home indicator. When the physical Home button was removed from devices, it was necessary to help people know where its broad equivalent was to be found, so they knew how to quit apps and return to the Home screen.

The thing is, the Home indicator can’t be fully hidden by games and immersive apps — any interaction with your device’s display brings it back. So although we’re happy with the Home indicator being on by default, Settings needs an option that lets more experienced users hide it.

Rumor: New Messages features

Messages is a hugely popular app for chatting with friends, but it’s looking long in the tooth compared to fleet-of-foot rivals. Fortunately, the rumor mill suggests there are useful changes heading to iPhone and iPad alike.

These include @mentions for alerting someone in group conversations, the means to mark messages as unread, missive retraction, and indicators of who’s about to impart some genius into a live multi-user conversation.

Wish: Full external display support

As of iPadOS 13.4, iPad gained cursor support. With the right hardware, such as the depicted Magic Keyboard, you can transform your tablet into something akin to a laptop. We want Apple to go further.

Today, you can mirror your iPad’s display to an external screen, but this leaves ugly black bars left and right of the mirrored content. Fuller external display support would see an entire widescreen display fully utilized by apps and games, thereby — temporarily and on-demand — turning your iPad into something more like a desktop PC.

Rumor: Haptic alerts for alarms

Too often, it’s tempting to champion only major changes to iOS, but often it’s the little things that really matter. Leaked code in iOS 14 points to some new updates to accessibility.

These will enable people with hearing loss to get a haptic nudge when important sounds occur in their local environment that they might not hear, such as alarms, door knocks, and crying babies. As ever, accessibility has wider user implications, since presumably people with headphones on, blocking out the world, could also be alerted.

Wish: Cursor support for iPhone

Mere months ago, cursor support for iPad was a mere rumor for iPadOS 14, which shows how quickly and confidently Apple has moved in that space. We’d like the company to move further, and bring similar capabilities to iPhone.

You might question the need for such features, but imagine: full display support comes to all Apple devices, as does cursor support. Suddenly, you can connect your iPhone to a keyboard, trackpad and display, and it’s a desktop computer — in fact, the only computer you ever need. Bliss.

Rumor: Xcode for iPad

We’ll believe this one when we see it, but rumors have been circulating for months that Xcode — the Mac app developers use to build apps and games — will be coming to iPad.

If so, that means you’ll be able to make pro-grade iPad apps on an iPad, thereby obliterating one of the final barriers to Apple’s tablet becoming a full-fat system on which creating anything is possible.

Wish: Apple Pencil for iPhone

The iPad is frequently framed as an artist’s canvas, but iPhone found fame with creatives when Jorge Colombo finger-painted a New Yorker cover using the Brushes app. Today, the App Store is awash with great sketching options, but Apple’s stylus only works with iPad.

We’re hoping Apple rethinks: as much as we like Wacom’s Bamboo Sketch, Apple Pencil is a superior scribbling stick, and would be a great fit for Apple’s smaller devices when you fancy arting it up when on the move.