As the curtain prepares to rise, just hours hence, on this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, there are still plenty of questions about what exactly Apple will be showing off at its annual event. New versions of its software platforms seem a lock, as does some sort of news about the Mac line transitioning to Apple’s own chips.
But beyond that, speculation has varied wildly about what else Apple might have up its sleeves, running the gamut from brand new, never-before-seen products to minor updates to its existing lines. It remains, even at this late date, anybody’s guess.
That said, we can look at Apple’s history and the current state of the company’s portfolio to at least identify some announcements that are unlikely to show up when Cupertino’s first ever virtual WWDC keynote gets under way, which might help us winnow down what we can reasonably expect.
Glasses fully empty
There have been, over the past couple decades, a few Apple rumors that tend to perpetually surface until they, eventually, either turn into real products or ultimately fade into nothingness. Both the iPhone and the Apple Watch are examples of the former, and it may be that the Apple Glasses—the company’s heads-up AR display—joins their ranks at some point.
But don’t expect it this year.
Recent reports have suggested that the Glasses could be announced as early as this year, though it seems increasingly likely that they would be discussed in 2021 at the very earliest. Apple’s continuing to build robust AR support into their products, most recently with the inclusion of the LIDAR sensor on the 2020 iPad Pro, a feature that’s likely to appear on this year’s iPhone as well. But it seems as though the company might wait to see how developers take advantage of this new capability before it dives with both feet into a whole new product category.
More to the point, the Apple Glasses are far from being ready for prime time. The technology involved in creating these products, making them not only a device that people will want to use but fashionable enough that people don’t mind wearing them on their face, is probably still a ways off. And the last thing Apple wants is a replay of Google Glass’s reception.
Tags, you’re not it
Speaking of rumored products, it’s been months that we’ve been relatively certain of the existence of Apple Tags, the company’s competitor to Tile Bluetooth trackers, but they have yet to make any sort of official appearance. And despite that certainty, the recent example of AirPower illustrates that even that products that exist—or are announced!—don’t always end up shipping.
It seems probable that Apple Tags will* ship eventually, though launching them at WWDC seems an odd choice of venue. For one thing, there is little developer story to tell about the tags—these are aimed a consumer market, and it’s not as though apps need to be written for them.
September’s annual iPhone event—if such an event happens in September this year, given the state of the world—seems like a more appropriate opportunity to discuss this product. Given that it’s not a device that will be immediately outdated by a future version, there’s some flexibility in when the company actually ships it, unlike, say an updated iPhone or Mac. Plus, by the fall we may actually be leaving our houses and going places regularly, which will make such a product more compelling.
Not a Studio audience
Of all the no-shows that I’m on the fence about—and there are a lot, from new iPad hardware to actual shipping ARM Macs—the over-the-ear AirPods are the ones I’m going to stake my bet on: they won’t be appearing at WWDC.
Sure, developers listen to music like everybody else, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly great event at which to announce a media-focused product. (Even though Apple did use WWDC 2017 to launch the HomePod.) Rather, it seems far more likely that they would appear at a September event at which Apple also announced its new iPhones—after all AirPods and iPhones are a natural combination, especially if rumors of the company no longer including its wired headphones in the box prove to be true.
Car no go
If there’s one persistent rumor that’s been making the rounds since almost as long as I can remember, it’s the Apple Car. But even speculation about that seems largely to have dried up in the past few years, with word of layoffs and reorganizations in Apple’s vehicle program.
So it should go without saying that Tim Cook is not going to pull up in an Apple Car to give his presentation. While there may be improvements to CarPlay features—plus a much rumored Car Key API that lets you use your iPhone to unlock your car—anything beyond that seems to still be in the realm of vapor for the foreseeable future.
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Dan has been writing about all things Apple since 2006, when he first started contributing to the MacUser blog. He's a prolific podcaster and the author of the Galactic Cold War series, including his latest, The Nova Incident, coming in July 2022.