Hopes for WWDC 2014

3 May 2014AppleOpinion

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) takes place from June 2 to 6 in San Francisco. Most of the conference consists of highly technical education sessions introducing programmers to the new features and frameworks that they will be able to take advantage of when developing apps for the next versions of iOS and OS X.

But what most people likely think of when they hear the term WWDC – and what most of the press coverage will focus on – is the keynote presentation that typically kicks off the conference. The keynote is far less technical than the rest of the conference and is used primarily as a marketing platform to announce new versions of Apple’s operating systems and to unveil new products.

As we approach this year’s keynote, rumours are swirling about what Apple might announce. Most expect demos of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 as well as new iPhone models which may or may not sport larger screens. As has been rumoured for several years, some expect updated Apple TV hardware although the possibility of an actual television seems unrealistic. A new rumour this year, spurred by comments from Tim Cook that Apple will enter new product categories in 2014, expects the release of some sort of wearable device, often dubbed the iWatch.

While I’m curious to see what (if anything) Apple comes up with in the nascent wearables category, my hopes for WWDC 2014 aren’t for industry revolutionizing products in entirely new categories. What I’d most like to see is a series of refinements to their existing products:

iPhone

I hope Apple announces an iPhone 6 that iterates on the current design without radically changing the overall look or feel of the device. I’d much prefer to see better battery life than a larger screen and I’d prefer an improved camera over a thinner device. Making the back panel more-scratch resistant would be appreciated too.

iMac

The last major update to the iMac line was in November 20121. I hope Apple announces at least one new iMac configuration with a retina display. I am so accustomed to the high-dpi screens on my iPhone and iPad that text on my desktop monitor now looks cheap and unpolished. I’ve had my current iMac since June 2009 and it has served me very well, but it’s time for a refresh.

Given the general non-upgradability of the iMac, I would rather not lock myself into another non-retina display for the next five years (assuming my next purchase lasts as long as my current iMac). If Apple doesn’t introduce a retina display, I will have to either delay my purchase entirely or consider the much more expensive Mac Pro (and a third-party monitor).

Aperture

Assuming we get upgraded iMacs with retina displays this year, Apple will likely want to showcase them at WWDC. I can’t think of a better way to accomplish that than to simultaneously release a new version of Apple’s professional photo management software, Aperture.

Aperture 3 was released in 2010, so it is definitely due for an upgrade. Despite a few minor updates along the way, Aperture has fallen behind Adobe’s Lightroom in recent years and will need some major features in order to leap-frog the competition. I hope to see lens-distortion correction, a non-destructive plugin architecture, and a companion iPad app similar to what Adobe recently released for Lightroom.

EarPods

The standard EarPods that ship with new iPhones and iPods were last updated in 2012, bringing substantial improvement over the earbuds they replaced. But at a retail price of $30, even the new EarPods aren’t the greatest in-ear headphones on the market. My hope is that Apple announces a line of premium wireless in-ear headphones that have great battery life, maintain a consistent connection to my iPhone, and have good audio quality. As I’ve written about previously, a Kickstarter-funded project called The Dash looks promising in this area, but I am highly skeptical of how their end product will turn out.

Given all the speculation that Apple will enter the wearables category, perhaps they will do so with wireless headphones rather than a watch-like device. Rather than information being visible on your wrist, it could be communicated by audio. I doubt this is what Apple is planning, but I have more confidence in their ability to produce a compelling end product than a Kickstarter-funded startup.

iWallet

I also hope Apple unveils a mobile payment platform at WWDC. The typical retail purchasing experience is inefficient (paying at the register takes a lot of time) and potentially insecure (fraud and theft are pervasive). Despite many attempts by others, no company has yet cracked mobile payments. Consumers typically need a particular device, a particular app, or a particular prepaid account and then need to search out vendors that support the same.

Apple is uniquely positioned to revolutionize this space as they have the necessary expertise (acquired from billions of iTunes, App Store, and retail store sales) and the necessary scale (hundreds of millions of customers with credit-card-linked accounts and mobile devices). They also have a history of making things just work, a necessary characteristic for a successful payment platform.

The WWDC keynote in June will be Apple’s first major press event in 2014. In prior years they’ve held special events between Christmas and WWDC. The lack of events this year might indicate that Apple has some pretty big announcements planned; or it could indicate that they have very few announcements planned. I’m hoping for many small announcements, but that’s not to say a few big surprises would upset me. We will find out either way in less than a month.


  1. While the iMac was refreshed in September 2013, it was a minor internal upgrade that brought faster processors, faster storage, and faster wi-fi.