Apple WWDC 2023: Headset Rumors, iOS 17 and Everything Else You Can Expect

Credit: Brian Heater

See. We are all interested in one. I know, you know, Apple most certainly knows. While AI was Google’s primary focus on I/O and… I don’t know – Windows 11 I guess – was Microsoft’s core on Build, we all enter and exit WWDC 2023 with one goal: XR.

The company’s annual developer conference will begin with a keynote next Monday, June 5 at 10 am PT. Apple loves to effectively pack half a year’s news into those two hours or so, and use the rest of the week (up to and including June 9) for developer-focused sessions. On the 5th from 1:30 p.m. there will also be a “State of the Union” for platforms, but this will offer a better overview and less news.

Like last year, there will be limited in-person attendance (including some TechCrunch folks) at the event at Apple Park in Cupertino. A nice outcome of this whole global pandemic situation is that Apple has started streaming the various sessions and archiving them online for later viewing. The less nice part is that the company’s move to pre-recorded event videos means those of us who attend the show in person will likely be watching it on a big screen in the middle of campus (I’ve got sunscreen this year).

The first save the date was sent out in late March, followed by media invitations arriving early last week. Both had a similar design with glowing concentric circles. For such a secretive company, Apple likes to hide clues from the public eye, and this one seems particularly clever. It can be immediately read as a reference to the circular headquarters building and the large rainbow ring sculpture at the centre. Even more tellingly, it may also be a rendering of the kind of lens arrangements found in XR headsets. Trademark filings point to the possible name “Reality Pro.”

Photo credit: Apple

Now, I can’t say that we definitely know the headset is coming next week, but I can tell you that you definitely don’t want to bet against the house on this one. Bloomberg is the frontrunner when it comes to leaks, but an Apple AR/VR/MR headset has long been considered Silicon Valley’s worst-kept secret. The company has reportedly been working on the product for around eight years and the pressure to ship it has increased tremendously – apparently to the chagrin of CEO Tim Cook.

First-gen products are tough—even for Apple. Of course, this is more than just a first generation product. It’s the first generation of a category that well-equipped tech giants have tried for decades to crack but failed. Apple benefits here when in doubt, after a long track record of redefining existing hardware categories (smartphones, smartwatches, headphones, MP3 players). Cook undoubtedly wanted to get things just right for what, for better or for worse, could prove to be the pivotal outcome of his tenure as CEO.

Photo credit: Apple

The executive reportedly wanted something closer in form factor to AR glasses, but the team apparently delivered a product that resembled a VR headset. As it’s expected to be a mix of both technologies (Mixed Reality or MR) it’s likely to be based on passthrough technology, similar to headsets from HTC, Microsoft and Magic Leap. This uses on-headset cameras to create the illusion of transparency with an opaque display to create the AR effect. Another sticking point is apparently a clip-on battery back that would sit on the wearer’s belt.

The system will reportedly use a pair of 4K displays, possibly made by Sony. A prescription option is also said to be on the horizon, which could hint at a headset that doesn’t take glasses. In addition to the integrated cameras, there will be numerous sensors that will give the headset an idea of ​​where it is in relation to the environment and the wearer. This would also factor your arm movements into the equation, potentially without the need for controllers or external sensors. Lidar is a maybe. Apple adopted it for AR on the iPad Pro, but non-automotive companies seem to be largely moving away from these sensors.

As of this writing, an additional note was sent to the developers saying “Code New Worlds,” which feels like Metaverse to me. It’s also an important reminder of timing. After all, this is Apple’s big developer conference and the device we expect to see next week will be a developer edition. Think back to when Apple switched to first-party silicon. The M1 chip received a rare pre-launch announcement to give lead time for developing apps before launch.

Photo credit: HTC

The company also released a developer-only Mac Mini to run them on. While rumors have suggested the headset will use the iPadOS app (the reason the company forked its mobile operating systems might become clearer next week), any hope for success revolves around plenty of content at launch. While companies like HTC and Magic Leap have grown into a corporate venture, it’s hard to imagine Apple making anything that isn’t a consumer-centric product. You need games for that. Many of them. Some ports from Meta and Vive seem like a given, but original content is also a must.

The signs are currently pointing to a start towards the end of the year – theoretically in time for the holidays. As for the price, $3,000 is proud even by Apple Premium standards.

Photo credit: Apple

iOS will of course be a key showcase for WWDC. Version 17 is on the way. Compared to iOS 16, the updates should be relatively minor. The lock screen gets a few updates, including the addition of smart home features that make it even more useful when it’s idle. Music is also apparently getting some improvements, including the possible addition of live lyrics from the lock screen. Other rumored upgrades include additional features for Dynamic Island on iPhone and search improvements.

The Health app may finally be coming to iPadOS – which could be a nice addition for those who use the tablet to stream Apple Fitness+. Meanwhile, watchOS 10 update rumors include a home screen update, functional widgets, and some new tricks for the Apple Watch’s digital crown.

As far as the rest of the hardware is concerned, new Macs are apparently coming next week. Most exciting of all might be a 15-inch MacBook Air paired with a redesigned 13-inch Air and Pro. The Apple Silicon Mac Pro could be on the way, but that doesn’t seem particularly likely. Either way, it’ll be fun to see how the company outperforms its existing desktops.

Kickoff is on the morning of June 5th at 10am PT. TechCrunch will be blogging live and will bring you the news as it emerges. Until next week.