The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple’s annual developer and software-oriented conference, is less than two months away now. In line with previous years, Apple will likely introduce major updates to all of its operating systems, including watchOS 9, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and tvOS 16, bringing new functionality and a more refined experience to existing devices.
While the rumors about macOS 13 and tvOS 16 remain purely speculative, there are increasing indications from reliable sources about some of the specific features we can expect in watchOS 9, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16.
watchOS 8 brought ID and keys in the Wallet app, a redesigned Home app, new exercise types, the Mindfulness app, sleep tracking updates, a portrait mode watch face, focus modes, and more. From what we know about watchOS 9 so far, it looks like Apple will focus on several system features, as well as health monitoring, activity tracking, and Workout app improvements.
The current watchOS 9 image comes from several reports from BloombergMark Gorman, The Wall Street Journal and Analyst from Apple Ming-Chi Kuo.
- Update current watch faces
- Low Power Mode to run some apps and features that use less battery life
- Fault detection, similar to fall detection, is able to recognize a car accident by measuring a sudden change in the force of gravity, calling emergency services, and sending location data
- Improve health tracking
- Improved detection of atrial fibrillation by calculating the “burden,” a measure of how long a person stays in atrial fibrillation over a given period
Activity & Workout app improvements
- Enhanced activity tracking
- More types of exercise
- Additional metrics for running workouts
According to Kuo, watchOS 9 may abandon Apple Watch Series 3 support because its computing power will not be able to meet the requirements of the new operating system. So watchOS 9 will only be available on Apple Watch Series 4 starting in 2018 or later.
The Apple Watch Series 3 was released in September 2017, which made it almost five years old. It’s the oldest device to support the latest watchOS 8, but its S3 chip lags far behind the Apple Watch SE’s S5 chip and the Apple Watch Series 7’s S7 chip in terms of performance. Apple Watch Series 3 is also the only remaining Apple Watch to feature an older, thicker Apple Watch design with larger bezels and cornered corners around the display.
After iOS 14.6 and watchOS 7.5 updates last year, Apple Watch Series 3 users have to unpair and re-pair the device from their linked iPhone when updating watchOS because the Apple Watch doesn’t have enough internal storage to complete the update independently.
While the unveiling of major new versions of Apple’s operating systems usually takes place at WWDC in early June, the updates themselves aren’t usually released to the public until the fall, which will coincide with Kuo’s belief that Apple will discontinue the Apple Watch Series 3 and release new Apple Watch models.
iOS 15 introduced a redesigned notification system and focus modes, spatial audio and SharePlay in FaceTime calls, live text, ID cards in the Wallet app, new privacy features, as well as a redesign of Safari, Maps, Weather, and Notes. iOS 16 notification processing is being reshaped again with a slew of improvements added to the Health app.
Gurman is at the root of many rumors about the Health app and system features in iOS 16, but there have also been hints of The Wall Street Journal.
- Improved notifications
- Fault detection feature, as in watchOS 9
- Initial support for Apple’s Mixed Reality headset
- Extended sleep tracking
- New medication management feature to scan pills and get reminders to take them
- New features for women’s health
- Optional Apple Music app for classical music with classical music metadata specializations
- The user interface is based on Primephonic
- The “visual, auditory, and sensory” aspects
- Option to redirect from tracks in the Apple Music app to Apple Classic
- Lossless and spatial audio support
Apple Classical app tags spotted in iOS 15.5 beta code. The Apple Classical is almost certainly present in iOS 16, but there is a chance that it will debut at an earlier date. For example, Apple could reveal the new app at WWDC, but make it immediately available via an update to iOS 15.
iOS 16 is said to feature built-in support for Apple’s long-rumored Mixed Reality headset to lay the groundwork for the new device. Gorman noted that this means Apple “could theoretically preview the technical aspects of the headset or its software, without showing the entire device” at WWDC.
iOS 15 supported the same devices as iOS 13 and iOS 14, with the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and the first generation iPhone SE being the oldest supported devices. It’s not clear if iOS 16 will finally stop supporting these older A9 devices.
Very little is currently known about iPadOS 16, but it will likely gain most of the new iOS 16 features, along with many iPad-specific improvements. Gurman is the only source for early rumors about iPadOS 16, with the main change currently focusing on multitasking interface improvements.
- New multitasking interface
- Enhanced notifications, same as in iOS 16
- The classic Apple app, as in iOS 16
Apple has greatly improved the multitasking experience in iPadOS in recent years, enhancing features like Slide Over, Split View, and dock. For example, iPadOS 15 added a new multitasking menu at the top of apps, as well as a center window, a new multi-window shelf, and a more intuitive experience with Split View. The subtle incremental improvements to iPadOS 16’s multitasking aren’t clear yet.
Apple is expected to preview watchOS 9, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and tvOS 16 at WWDC, which is set to launch on Monday, June 6. Classified by developers for same-day testing purposes. Later in the summer, Apple will likely offer this service to public beta testers.
When beta testing is over, the new operating systems will be rolled out to the public, likely along with new hardware products like the iPhone 14, in the fall. While watchOS 9, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16 will likely launch simultaneously, the new version of macOS often follows at a later date.