What to Expect at Apple’s WWDC 2023

The Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off tomorrow. We break down the potential announcements ahead of the keynote.
Apple MacBook laptops on display at Apple's 2022 WWDC event
Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

apple is secretive. The company is known for staying super tight-lipped around upcoming product launches. But we can always rely on the annual Worldwide Developers Conference—which is centered around new software capabilities across Apple's entire product line—for insight on what to anticipate for its yearly hardware event in the fall. This year's WWDC starts with a keynote address at 10 am Pacific on Monday, June 5.

Typically, rumors leading up to the event are full of new features for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS, a majority of which end up being true. And while Apple has a tendency to give a little more TLC to some operating systems than others, the list of new features coming to these platforms in 2023 seems rather light. It almost feels like Apple has been focusing all its energy on something else—like an entirely new product category, perhaps.

If you've been keeping up with the Apple rumors, you've seen plenty of headlines about the company's first mixed-reality headset for augmented reality and virtual reality experiences. Following years of reports and whispers, it looks like Apple is finally taking the wraps off the highly anticipated device at WWDC. We might also get to see it in action at the conference, since it is reported to use an entirely new operating system called xrOS that's been developed specifically for the headset and should be able to run a few key apps at launch.

Of course, this is all based on speculation. We were expecting to see the mixed-reality headset at last year's WWDC too. Regardless of whether the company will push the reveal back yet again, one thing is certain: We'll definitely see some new software features for existing devices. We've heard Apple might even throw in some new Mac hardware announcements.

We'll be following all the news on WIRED, where we'll be running a liveblog and rounding up the big reveals. To bring you up to speed before the show, however, here's a rundown of what you can expect at this year's WWDC. I'll also tell you how to tune into the keynote on Monday morning.   

iOS 17

With iOS 16, Apple introduced the option to add widgets to the home screen to display things like the weather, activity rings, and social media feeds. Building on this feature, it's possible we could see a new smart-home display mode with iOS 17, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The feature will kick in whenever the iPhone is locked and placed horizontally, allowing you to see notifications, weather conditions, calendar appointments, and more—similar to Google's Nest Hub or Amazon's Echo Show. To make it easier to read at a glance, it'll use bright text against a dark background.

As for additional updates, Gurman says Apple is rumored to launch a new journaling app, the ability to sideload apps to comply with European Union regulations, a mood-tracking feature within the Health app, and improvements to its location services. A report from MacRumors says that more functionality will be added to Dynamic Island (the pill-shaped cutout on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max that acts as somewhat of a secondary display), like Siri integration, so it's less intrusive on the main display.

We're also anticipating new accessibility features. In May the company announced it will be launching software features for cognitive, vision, and speech accessibility that will be available “later this year.” Among the list of capabilities is Point and Speak in Magnifier, which makes it easier for those with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects that have text labels, and Live Speech, where users can type messages to be spoken aloud during phone and FaceTime calls.

iPadOS 17

As usual, iPadOS 17 will likely share a lot of the same features as iOS 17, including the aforementioned smart-home display mode, journaling app, and the ability to sideload apps. It's possible we could finally see the Health app on iPad too, complete with the mood-tracking feature. 

The biggest update appears to be centered around Apple's existing Stage Manager feature. Introduced last year with iPadOS 16, the multitasking feature mimics the experience of a desktop computer. You can organize apps to see at a glance as well as group, resize, and overlap windows. It's not the most intuitive feature, though. According to 9to5mac, Apple may introduce more capabilities to improve the experience—like webcam support for an external monitor, sleep mode for the iPad display while the external display stays on, and a resizable dock (via the external display).

Gurman also claimed in his Power On newsletter that the tablet operating system will “lay the software groundwork for revamped iPad Pro models coming next year with OLED displays.” In a tweet spotted by 9to5Mac from @analyst941 (the profile has been deleted, after a source of its leaks was busted by Apple), it's possible the iPad will receive the same Lock Screen customization the iPhone has with iOS 16—including the ability to adjust the position of the clock. So what does all of this mean? As MacWorld suggests, this customization could mean the upcoming OLED iPad models will include an Always-On display like the iPhone 14 Pro line.

MacOS 14 and Mac Hardware

The official name for macOS 14 remains unknown. Parker Ortolani, a product manager at Vox Media, tweeted a list of 15 unused names that Apple has apparently trademarked. On the list is Mammoth, which was heavily rumored for MacOS 13 last year. The company went with Ventura instead, so it's possible we could see Mammoth used this year.

In terms of new features, Tom's Guide pointed to an interview with Gurman on the MacRumors Show. In it, Gurman said he hasn't “heard anything remarkable about macOS.” The same thing seems to be true for tvOS 17—as with macOS, he's not expecting significant tvOS changes either. The company also released the next-generation Apple TV back in October. 

As part of a continuity push, Apple is seemingly focusing more on enhancing iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS, and then implementing support for those features within macOS. We've already seen a glimpse of this with the M1 chip. When Apple announced its first in-house silicon in 2020, the company stressed that it operates more like an iPhone and iPad, with the ability to download iOS apps right onto your Macbook.

And while the software developments are rather underwhelming, the rumored Mac hardware appears to be anything but. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has speculated an M2-powered 15-inch MacBook Air with two core options—similar to last year's 13-inch MacBook Air which comes with either an 8-core or 10-core CPU. As for additional Macs, it's also possible we could see the next-generation Mac Studio with the M2 Max and a new M2 Ultra chip.

WatchOS 10

Unlike the rest of Apple's upcoming operating systems, we're expecting watchOS to get a bigger update that includes “a new focus on widgets and fundamental changes to how the device works” according to, yet again, Mark Gurman. The updated interface will apparently combine the iOS 14-style widgets and "the old watchOS Glances system” that will allow users to scroll through various widgets (weather, activity tracking, calendar appointments) instead of having to manually launch each app.

It's possible we could see widget stacks on watchOS as well, which lets you gather multiple widgets to then scroll through. To accompany the revamped interface, Apple might change the functions of some of the watch's buttons. For example, pressing the Digital Crown currently triggers the home screen, but users might be able to open widgets with that button press instead.

Reality Pro

Based solely on the number of reports that have leaked out of Cupertino over the years, it makes sense to expect that Apple is building its very own mixed-reality headset. At this point, it's not a question of what the headset will be like, but when it will launch. Rumors and reporting suggest Monday is the day. 

As WIRED staff writer Amanda Hoover reported yesterday, expectations for Apple's headset are high enough that other companies are scrambling to launch their own headsets less than a week before WWDC. Meta announced the Meta Quest 3 for $500, Lenovo introduced its ThinkReality VRX headset for $1,299, and Magic Leap has been meeting with media to showcase the capabilities of the Magic Leap 2.

Meanwhile, Apple's headset—rumored to be called the Reality Pro or Reality One—will reportedly cost $3,000. With a price that high, the first-generation version is likely geared toward developers and professionals rather than the mass consumer. According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, via MacRumors, the second-generation version could come in both high-end and mid-priced models.

Kuo also said the headset will consist of 4K micro-OLED displays, 12 optical cameras for tracking hand movements, two M2-based processors, and an external power supply. These specs corroborate tweets from credible leaker (and CEO at Display Supply Chain Consultants) Ross Young, who also says the headset will pack a whopping 5,000 nits of peak brightness. Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 has 100 nits of brightness, while the Magic Leap 2 can reach up to 2,000 nits.

Since the headset combines augmented reality with virtual reality, the VR features will be enabled by the internal displays while the AR capability will work through a video pass-through mode, according to a report from Bloomberg. Using the included Digital Crown on the headset (similar to the dial on the Apple Watch), you'll be able to switch between modes—going from a fully immersive experience to apps blending into the environment around you. 


It also looks like Apple is going with “xrOS” as the name of its headset's software platform. Gurman first reported this last year, and last month Parker Ortolani noticed Apple had trademarked the name in New Zealand via a shell corporation. 

Gurman claims it will feature a home screen similar to that of an iPad and that “users will be able to operate multiple apps at once in space. Apps can be placed in a particular physical space—such as a living room—and when a user reenters that room their previous workspace will reappear.” It will also be able to run almost all of Apple's existing iPad apps like Messages, Music, Photos, Books, FaceTime, Maps, and Weather, along with existing third-party iPad apps. Users will be able to sync their existing Apple account data through their iPhone or iCloud to the device.

In his Power On newsletter back in April, Gurman included a fairly hefty list of additional capabilities including a Wellness app for meditation, a portal for watching sports in VR, new tools within the Freeform app like virtual whiteboards, a VR version of the Fitness+ app for exercising while wearing the headset, the ability to videoconference with “realistic avatars,” and a feature that allows you to use the headset as an external monitor when connected to a Mac.

Apple's mixed-reality headset doesn't necessarily offer groundbreaking features compared to what's already on the market. As with other VR headsets, you'll likely be able to wear it while working, exercising, gaming, and relaxing—it'll be marketed as a device that can conform to all aspects of your life. All of this has been done before, and it has somewhat taken off. 

According to a research summary from Zippia, there are 68.5 million VR users in the US (about 15 percent of the country's population) and 110.1 million AR users as of this year. But VR headset sales decreased 2 percent year-over-year in the US in 2022, while VR headsets and AR equipment shipments dropped 12 percent globally.

The lack of interest is partly due to the many inconveniences that come with using AR or VR devices. From figuring out how to calibrate your space to plugging all the wires into the right ports before strapping into a clunky headset and downloading all the right software, it's not tough to see why these gadgets have yet to appeal to mainstream users.

But Apple's history of seamless connectivity and software continuity across its entire ecosystem of devices may just be the push mixed reality needs to gain momentum. If navigating its new headset is as easy as using an iPhone, then maybe people won't feel as intimidated to incorporate an entirely new product into their lifestyle.

Fingers crossed that Apple finally unveils the headset at WWDC. However, here's hoping it won't be kept behind a glass case for attendees to stare at the way the first iPhone was.

How to Watch the Keynote

The Apple WWDC 2023 keynote will be livestreamed on Monday, June 5, starting at 1 pm Eastern, 10 am Pacific. You can watch it via Apple's site or on its official YouTube channel. Be sure to come back to WIRED an hour before the keynote starts to follow along with our live coverage.