Apple's WWDC 2023 event kicks off June 5 this year and it's shaping up to be the biggest and best ever. That's due in large part to speculation Apple will reveal its first new hardware category since the Apple Watch launched in 2015.
We're talking, of course, about the much-hyped Apple AR/VR headset that many insiders believe will get its first showing on stage at Apple Park this year.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has further backed up rumors that the headset will be revealed at WWDC 2023, alongside its operating system or systems realityOS/xrOS, as well as the MacBook Air 15-inch.
But that's only part of the story. There's no getting away from the AI trend currently sweeping the industry and it'll be intriguing to see how Apple embraces it. Meta has already pivoted to AI and Google brought a suite of machine learning upgrades to its product portfolio at Google I/O 2023.
Naturally, the main scope of the event will be to give us our first look at iOS 17, watchOS 10 and other refreshed software versions. Primarily a developer event, we'll get a deep dive into all the new features Apple will be bringing to its platforms.
While the main keynote will take place on Monday, the actual event runs throughout the week. On Tuesday, developers will participate in special sessions at the dedicated Developer Center. We don't know yet what will be discussed, but there could be some very exciting AR and VR news coming out of Cupertino as a result.
Here are the five biggest announcements we expect from this year's WWDC.
Apple Reality Pro AR/VR headset
Apple's mixed-reality headset, believed to be called the Apple Reality Pro, would undoubtedly be the biggest announcement at WWDC this year.
Rumors have been flying around that this device will "far exceed" the capabilities of rival headsets like the Meta Quest 2. The headset, according to insiders familiar with Apple's production will "resemble a pair of ski goggles," and will "fully enclose the user’s eyes."
Rather than focusing exclusively on augmented reality or virtual reality, Apple has chosen to embrace both. This mixed-reality approach means external cameras will allow for a full view of the outside world, while users will also be able to switch to an immersive view blocking out what's in front of them for VR apps.
The Reality Pro would benefit from a deep integration with Apple's ecosystem — think the likes of Fitness+ and Apple TV+. We've also heard that the headset will run iPad apps and extend your MacBook's display. But a stumbling block could be the rumored sky-high price of around $3,000.
MacBook Air 15-inch
There seems a high chance WWDC could see the announcement of a MacBook Air 15-inch for the first time.
According to reliable sources like Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the large-screen Air will arrive packing Apple's M2 chip.
What we know so far suggests the new laptop will continue the flat edge look (RIP tapered design) of the 13-inch Air and contain a function key row, 1080p webcam and MagSafe charging. There will likely be no HDMI or SD card slot as Apple saves this for its MacBook Pro line.
However, the real draw could be having a lovely large screen combined with the Air's famously long battery life. It might even become the nail in the coffin of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
While the hardware side of things may be a little speculation-heavy at the moment, we know for sure WWDC 2023 will give us a good look at iOS 17.
And thanks to a surprisingly comprehensive blog post from Apple itself, we've even had a sneak peek at some of the new accessibility features coming to our iPhones. These include a text-to-speech feature called Live Speech and a method of digitally synthesizing your voice called Personal Voice.
The former feature will allow users to type a message out during a call and have it spoken to the other person while the latter uses a 15-minute prompt to create an entire digital copy of your voice. Which could have huge applications for people who, for one reason or another, aren't able to use their voice as they'd wish.
Other rumors have claimed changes for iOS 17 will include a redesigned Control Center as well as more UI and customization options, similar to that found on Android devices.
While the majority of users won't get their hands on iOS 17 until the fall, the first developer beta should drop pretty swiftly after WWDC. This means developers and Apple fans can test out the new features before they're released to the general public.
watchOS 10 could be the biggest update to the Apple Watch in years and we'll surely get our first proper look at it during WWDC.
In fact, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has gone on the record claiming: “I believe the new watchOS should be a fairly extensive upgrade — with notable changes to the user interface.”
While previous watchOS updates have focused on adding new health-tracking features or quirky watch faces, the way users interact with the Apple Watch has been pretty consistent through the generations.
However, the question that inevitably rises with talk of a big update is how it'll affect compatibility with older models. When watchOS 9 was released, Apple finally ended support for the venerable Apple Watch Series 3.
At present, the Apple Watch Series 4 through the Apple Watch Series 8 (as well as the Apple Watch SE (2022) and Apple Watch Ultra) all get regular software updates. Whether that will carry through with watchOS 10 remains to be seen. It may be the case Apple drops support for the Series 4 as the Apple Watch Series 9 makes an appearance later this year.
An AI-enabled Siri upgrade
Admittedly, this is a shot-in-the-dark expectation, but if Apple is to respond to the current AI craze then Siri would be an obvious place to start. Over the last couple of years Apple has opened Siri up to be accessible through third-party devices built with Apple HomeKit, but there's no doubting it trails behind the likes of Google Assistant and Alexa when it comes to functionality and integration.
Back in February, Mark Gurman suggested Apple was working to drop the "Hey" from the "Hey Siri" trigger phrase to streamline the process for users.
"While that might seem like a small change, making the switch is a technical challenge that requires a significant amount of AI training and underlying engineering work," Gurman wrote, according to MacRumors.
"The complexity involves Siri being able to understand the singular phrase "Siri" in multiple different accents and dialects. Having two words—"Hey Siri"—increases the likelihood of the system properly picking up the signal."
What else will WWDC 2023 bring?
The often-overlooked operating system in Apple's stable, tvOS, may also get an upgrade this year. Last year's tvOS 16 saw support for more game controllers added. And, finally, we could get an update on Apple's HomePod plans for the year ahead.