The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple’s annual developer and software-oriented conference, is now less than two months away. In line with previous years, Apple is likely to 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 rumors about macOS 13 and tvOS 16 remain purely speculative, there are growing 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 card and keys in the Wallet app, a redesigned Home app, new workout types, the Mindfulness app, updates to Sleep tracking, 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 picture of watchOS 9 comes from multiple reports from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, The Wall Street Journal and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
- Refresh of existing watch faces
- Low Power Mode to run some apps and features using less battery life
- Crash Detection feature, similar to Fall Detection, capable of recognizing a car accident by measuring a sudden change in g-force, contacting emergency services, and sending location data
- Improved health tracking
- Improved atrial fibrillation detection by calculating “burden,” a measure of how long a person is in a state of atrial fibrillation across a certain period
Activity and Workout App Improvements
- Improved activity tracking
- More workout types
- Additional metrics for running workouts
According to Kuo, watchOS 9 may drop support for the Apple Watch Series 3 because its computing power will not be able to meet the requirements of a new operating system. watchOS 9 would therefore only be available for the Apple Watch Series 4 from 2018 or newer.
The Apple Watch Series 3 was released in September 2017, making it almost five years old. It is the oldest device to support the latest version of watchOS 8, but its S3 chip significantly lags behind the Apple Watch SE’s S5 chip and Apple Watch Series 7’s S7 chip in terms of performance. The Apple Watch Series 3 is also the only remaining Apple Watch to feature the older, thicker Apple Watch design with large bezels and angular corners around the display.
Following the iOS 14.6 and watchOS 7.5 updates last year, Apple Watch Series 3 users have to unpair and re-pair the device from its linked iPhone when updating watchOS because the Apple Watch does not have enough internal storage to complete an 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 are not typically released to the public until the fall, which would coincide with when Kuo believes Apple will discontinue the Apple Watch Series 3 and launch new Apple Watch models.
iOS 15 introduced a redesigned notifications system and Focus modes, Spatial Audio and SharePlay in FaceTime calls, Live Text, ID cards in the Wallet app, and new privacy features, as well as redesigns for Safari, Maps, Weather, and Notes. iOS 16 is shaping up to address notifications once again while adding a considerable number of refinements to the Health app.
Gurman is the origin of many of the rumors about iOS 16’s Health app and system features, but there have also been hints from The Wall Street Journal.
- Enhanced notifications
- Crash Detection feature, the same as in watchOS 9
- Preliminary support for Apple’s mixed-reality headset
- Expanded sleep tracking
- New medicine management feature to scan pills and get reminders to take them
- New women’s health features
- Optional Apple Music app for classical music with specializations for classical music metadata
- User interface based on Primephonic
- “Visual, audio, and haptic” aspects
- Option to redirect from tracks in the Apple Music app to Apple Classical
- Support for Lossless and Spatial Audio
Signs of the Apple Classical app have been spotted in iOS 15.5 beta code. Apple Classical is almost certain to be present in iOS 16, but there is a chance it could debut at an earlier date. For example, Apple could unveil the new app at WWDC, but make it available immediately via an update to iOS 15.
iOS 16 will reportedly feature built-in support for Apple’s long-rumored mixed reality headset to lay the groundwork for the new device. Gurman noted that this means Apple “could theoretically preview technical aspects of the headset or its software, without showingcasing the full device” at WWDC.
iOS 15 supported the same devices as iOS 13 and iOS 14, with the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and first-generation iPhone SE being the oldest supported devices. It is unclear if iOS 16 will finally drop support for these older devices with the A9 chip.
Very little is currently known about iPadOS 16, but it will likely gain most of iOS 16’s new features, alongside several iPad-specific enhancements. Gurman is the only source of early rumors about iPadOS 16, with the headline change currently focusing on improvements to the multitasking interface.
- New multitasking interface
- Enhanced notifications, the same as in iOS 16
- Apple Classical app, the same as in iOS 16
Apple has significantly refined the multitasking experience in iPadOS in recent years, enhancing features such as Slide Over, Split View, and the dock. For example, iPadOS 15 added a new multitasking menu at the top of apps, as well as center window, a new multiwindow shelf, and a more intuitive experience with Split View. The exact further improvements to multitasking for iPadOS 16 are as yet unclear.
Apple is expected to preview watchOS 9, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and tvOS 16 at WWDC, which is set to kick off on Monday, June 6. After being introduced at the conference, the new operating systems are likely to be seeded to developers for testing purposes that same day. Later in the summer, Apple will likely provide it to public beta testers.
When beta testing has finished, the new operating systems will be released to the public, presumably alongside new hardware products such as the iPhone 14, in the fall. While watchOS 9, iOS 16, and iPadOS 16 will probably be released simultaneously, the new version of macOS often follows at a later date.