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WWDC 2018: What to expect from iOS 12, MacOS 10.14 and more

What's going to happen when Tim Cook takes the stage in San Jose on June 4?

We're just days away from getting our next official glimpse of Apple's future. The company kicks off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, June 4 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. CNET will have wall-to-wall live coverage, including a live blog and a livestream commentary, starting an hour earlier.

Follow CNET's live blog coverage of WWDC 2018 now

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WWDC, which runs this year from June 4 to 8 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, will offer clues about the road ahead for the next operating systems and software applications that power Apple's iPhones ($999 at Walmart), iPads ($328 at Walmart), Macs, watches, HomePod ($349 at Walmart) speakers and Apple TV ($179 at Walmart) streamers. It will also give third-party developers the opportunity to mix it up with Apple executives, engineers and product designers.

Look for software and services to take center stage at the Monday keynote -- an expectation that recently got a major boost from a detailed Bloomberg report. That's a big departure from last year's WWDC, which saw the introduction of the HomePod, new iPad Pros, the first iMac Pro and a nearly full refresh of the Mac computer line. 

Read: Apple's WWDC 2018: Forget the gadgets, it's all about services and software

Read: Apple's WWDC 2018 will reportedly be hardware free

Here's what you can expect, based on the latest reports and rumors that have hit in recent days.

Now playing: Watch this: iOS 12 preview and what we expect at WWDC 2018
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iOS 12: Better AR, 'Digital Health'

After grappling with a persistent streak of flaws and glitches that have besmirched the reputation of iOS 11 -- including the controversial "feature" that intentionally slows down iPhones -- Apple is said to be focusing on quality over innovation with the forthcoming version of its mobile operating system, ostensibly called iOS 12.

A January Bloomberg story suggested these stability enhancements would result in some planned upgrades -- including a redesigned home screen and photography enhancements -- being pushed to iOS 13 in 2019. But the more recent Bloomberg report says that multiplayer AR will be featured in this year's software -- something that would lay further groundwork for the Apple AR/VR headset that the company is apparently tinkering with behind closed doors (that's expected closer to 2020, if at all). A further report, from Reuters, cites anonymous sources and says Apple is working on a way for two iPhones to share AR data directly, so potentially private info about a user's surroundings wouldn't have to be stored in the cloud.

Read: Best ARKit apps for iPhone  

Apple is also said to be focusing on a so-called "Digital Health" initiative to limit screen time and device addiction -- the same sort of parental-style controls Google unveiled for Android phones at its own developer conference last month.

Other iOS 12 treats are rumored, too. Japanese blog Mac Otakara reports the update may feature a more polished version of Face ID that includes the ability to unlock a device in a horizontal landscape mode. And Bloomberg has reported that Apple plans to expand its lineup of Animojis. And, of course, if Animojis (and Apple's TrueDepth camera technology) are coming to future versions of the iPad, that support will need to be added to the tablet side of the iOS software, too.

MacOS 10.14: Doubling down on security

It's not just iOS that's been buggy. In November 2017, researchers discovered a colossal security flaw in Apple's Mac operating system that allowed users to log in to virtually any Mac laptop or desktop without a password. (Here's how to prevent access if you haven't updated MacOS recently.) Because of that, we expect Apple to invest more time and energy than usual in highlighting security and privacy at this year's WWDC.

We'll also get a fancy new nickname for the next version of MacOS. Will it be an outdoorsy moniker following on the heels of Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra, or will Apple take a new path? A 9to5Mac report suggests the name could be Mojave. The report includes a video that purportedly shows MacOS 10.14 in action, with a dark-tinged user interface theme, an icon for a Mac News app visible in the Dock, and sand-dune wallpaper peeking out from behind the active windows.

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Time for more faces on Apple Watch?

Screenshot by César Salza/CNET

WatchOS: Expanding health and fitness functionality

Little is known about what Apple has up its sleeve with regard to its wrist-bound OS, but the recent news about Apple's new round-display Watch patent -- paired with reports of a new redesign this fall -- portends a new avenue of possibilities. There's also the chance of an expanded watch face store, or more watch face customization. Otherwise, we expect to see some announcements related to the continuing expansion of the Apple Watch's health and fitness functionality (via the HealthKit software toolset).

Read: It's time for the Apple Watch to get a watch face store

TVOS, Audio OS and Siri: Making Apple TV and HomePod smarter

The recently released iOS 11.4 and TVOS 11.4 more tightly integrates Apple TV into the Home app, and offers compatibility with the AirPlay 2 multiroom speaker feature first unveiled at WWDC 2017. That may mean more integration with HomeKit, Apple's smart home platform, is on deck for this year's WWDC. Maybe we'll hear more about games and the TV app on Apple's streamer, too.

homepod-product-photos-12
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And while iOS 11.4's addition of stereo pairing and multiroom audio was a major boost for the HomePod, the speaker's software remains seriously lacking. We're hoping Apple uses the one-year anniversary of the HomePod's WWDC debut to spell out specific improvements to its Audio OS operating system, so the speaker can rely less on a paired iPhone and become a more viable challenge to Amazon's Echo and Google's Home speaker systems

And while we're at it: Everyone agrees Siri needs a serious overhaul if Apple wants to go toe-to-toe with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Read: iOS 11.4 arrives with AirPlay 2, Messages in iCloud

Read: With AirPlay 2, Apple HomePod smart speaker gets multiroom audio, stereo sound

Read: Apple's HomePod smart speaker is better, but here are 5 things it still needs to beat Alexa

Read: Apple HomePod review (updated with iOS 11.4 impressions)

Read: Apple TV 4K review (updated)

What about 'Marzipan'?

One of the biggest obsessions of Apple developers in recent months revolves around "Marzipan." That's the supposed code name of an initiative, first reported by Bloomberg in January, to give users a "way to use a single set of apps that work equally well across its family of devices: iPhones, iPads and Macs."

While many assumed that meant an eventual world where iOS apps could run on Macs -- if not a unified iOS-MacOS operating system -- the truth may be less dramatic. According to Apple pundit John Gruber, the Marzipan name is unknown to his sources. But he says Apple is apparently working on a shared toolset which would allow iOS and Mac apps to be developed in a common environment, at least up to a point. That's a contrast to the current situation in which developers must design, engineer and distribute separate versions for each platform, which requires a lot of redundant work.

Gruber's story puts forth a less ambitious and certainly less dramatic narrative for a future collaboration of iOS and MacOS -- albeit one that sounds more practical for developers, as well as more technically feasible. However, he also points out that "it's a 2019 thing," meaning you shouldn't expect to hear any public disclosure of the plans at this year's WWDC.

New Macs, iPads and other devices are unlikely

Don't expect to see new high-end iPhones or the new Mac Pro when Apple CEO Tim Cook takes the stage on June 4. The sequels to the iPhone XiPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are expected in September as usual, and Apple has already confirmed that the new Mac Pro isn't coming until 2019. Likewise, the HomePod ($349 at Walmart) speaker and entry-level iPad are basically brand-new, having just been released in February and March, respectively.

We'd been hoping for an encore of last year's hardware-heavy WWDC, but that recent Bloomberg report threw cold water on the idea. So barring a last-minute change of plans, these highly anticipated hardware updates will have to wait until September or October -- if not later.

MacBooks and iMacs: Moving the Mac computer line to the newest eighth-generation Intel processors would be an easy -- albeit boring -- upgrade. Whether that would entail a larger design overhaul, such as rethinking the problematic butterfly keyboards and still-controversial Touch Bar features on the MacBook Pro laptops, would remain to be seen. The same goes for the MacBook Air, which has long been rumored to be getting a comeback model.

Read: 2018 MacBook Air: All the rumors on specs, price and release date

iPad Pros: Apple brought a keystone feature of the iPad Pro ($563 at Amazon) line -- compatibility with the Pencil stylus -- to the new entry-level iPad that debuted in March. The conventional wisdom is that the pricier iPad Pro models can now be teed up for an iPhone X-style design overhaul: Ditching the home button and adding Face ID, perhaps.

Read: iPad Pro 2018: All the rumors on specs, price, release date

iPhone SE 2: There are persistent rumors that the iPhone SE, the entry-level iPhone that debuted in March 2016, is due for an upgrade of some sort. Whether that's a full-screen iPhone X design (which seems improbable) or just a specs upgrade in the same body (much more likely) is unknown. Either way, this refresh may wait until September, too.

Read: iPhone SE 2: Rumored specs, price, release date

Apple AirPower: When Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, introduced this multidevice charging pad alongside the iPhone X in September 2017, he said it was coming "next year." So while you can't say it's "late" until Jan. 1, 2019, one has to assume Apple would like to get this accessory on store shelves before the one-year anniversary of its announcement. Maybe unveiling pricing and availability for this product, along with the previously revealed AirPower-compatible AirPods case, could be the one hardware announcement that sneaks into WWDC.

Read: AirPower: All we know about Apple's wireless charging pad

airpower-charging

AirPower was announced back in September of 2017, but has yet to appear.

Screenshot by Alexandra Able/CNET

See you on June 4

CNET will have complete coverage of WWDC, including live coverage of the event from San Jose and plenty of follow-up analysis, too. Stay tuned.

Watch CNET's live coverage of WWDC 2018: Live blog and livestream commentary

WWDC 2018: Complete coverage of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference

This story was originally published on May 21, and is updated periodically with additional news.