WWDC 2021: Apple to roll out new features to iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch
Apple Inc. will debut major software updates for the iPhone and iPad at its developers' conference next week to an audience that has grown increasingly critical of the company's App Store policies.
The virtual event beginning Monday will also include software updates for the Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV as well tools developers can use to build apps. The company plans to discuss new privacy protections for limiting data collection as well as health-tracking, notifications and messaging features. Executives also will promote significant improvements to iPad software, making the device more capable and appealing to more advanced users.
This year's conference arrives while Apple is facing criticism from some developers over its App Store policies. The controversy was highlighted by a three-week trial last month of a lawsuit filed by Epic Games Inc., which argued that the iPhone maker's policies and revenue share of as much as 30% are anticompetitive. Unhappy developers have grown more willing publicly to express discontent, Apple executives have been grilled by U.S. lawmakers and companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Spotify Technology SA have chided Apple.
The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker will now try to convince developers that Apple's platform remains the best place for them to sell software and that it has new features to keep consumers glued to the company's products. Apple, however, isn't expected to announce wholesale App Store policy changes next week. The company generated about $22 billion from App Store commission in 2020 alone, according to Sensor Tower estimates.
As part of its continued privacy push, Apple is planning new features to counter overly invasive apps. One major new addition will be a control panel that provides in-depth detail on what data are being collected by each third-party app installed on a user's device. Earlier this year, Apple rolled out a feature to limit the ability of developers to track users across apps and the web for advertising purposes, irking developers like Facebook Inc.
On the iPhone and iPad software updates, users will now be able to set a status -- such as whether you are driving, sleeping, working or don't want to be disturbed -- and have that dictate how incoming notifications are handled. The update will also include a larger focus on auto-replying to messages and a new design for incoming notification banners at the top of the screen.
For the iPad, Apple plans to revamp the home screen and support the placement of widgets -- snippets of dynamic information like calendar, weather and stocks -- anywhere on the screen. This is a commonly requested feature that will bring the iPad in line with Android rivals. The company also plans an improved multitasking system to make it easier to operate multiple apps at the same time.
The Messages app will receive enhancements on the way toward Apple's eventual goal to turn it into a more direct competitor to messaging services on social networks like Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger, Bloomberg News has previously reported. Apple has also been working on a revamped lock screen for the iPhone and iPad, though some of those changes have been pushed back to a future release and won't appear this year.
Apple's planned update to macOS is expected to be somewhat minor after the operating system received an overhaul in 2020, while the Apple Watch is expected to gain some health-tracking and interface improvements. The Apple TV will also get enhanced software after the company released a faster model last month.