This year, the company will be highlighting the opposite side: using gadgets less. Apple engineers are working on an initiative entitles Digital Health, a series of tools which will help users know how much time they spend on their devices or on certain applications. These details will be collected into a menu inside of the Settings app in iOS 12, the likely name of Apple’s refreshed mobile operating system, according to people familiar with the plans.
Tony Fadell, a former senior Apple executive who worked on the original iPhone and iPod, said “We need to have tools and data to allow us to understand how we consume digital media,” continuing to it he said. “We need to get the finer-grain language and start to understand that an iPhone is just a refrigerator, it’s not the addiction.”
At its own developer conference in May, Google emphasized similar tools. The company has a new Dashboard for Android phones that let users know how long they were using other apps and reminds them to take a break.
Most of this year’s WWDC will be more delicate in making users want to pick up Apple gadgets. The company is planning to show off its effectiveness in augmented reality by upgrading relatively new tools for iPhones and iPads. AR imposes 3-D digital images on people’s view of the real world. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook sees the technology as potentially revolutionary as the smartphone.
As part of new software called ARKit 2.0 internally, the company has been planning a new mode that would let users play augmented reality games against each other in the same virtual environment. Another mode allows objects to be dropped into an area and virtually remain in place. The features will be an introduction to what’s coming from an Apple AR headset which is planned for as early as 2020.
Improvements to this year’s software will be quieter. There’ll be slight new features for snoozing notifications, tracking the stock market, making video calls, and sending Animojis – the virtual cartoons introduced with the iPhone X. Earlier this year, Apple executives decided to postpone iPhone and iPad software changes – including a redesigned Home Screen for launching apps and presenting snippets of information, an artificial intelligence upgrade to the Photos app, and new file-management tools for iPads – until next year to improve the quality and responsiveness of this year’s upgrade.
The iPhone and iPad are the top mobile platforms for developers to make money from apps. In the first quarter of this year, consumers spent 85 percent more on iOS apps than Android programs, according to mobile data-analytics firm App Annie. But Apple’s other platforms – the Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV – have become less attractive to developers, and Apple has the opportunity to turn that around. In recent years, Mac software has taken a back seat to new features for iPhones and iPads, which makes sense given that those iOS devices generate about two-thirds of Apple revenue. But the Mac is still an important product for developers and users, and Apple will update the software again this year.
The focus this year will be on integrating more deeply with iOS. The company has been working on a project that would let iOS apps run on Macs, which executives could discuss as early as this year. This would address developer apathy toward the Mac App Store, which hasn’t been redesigned in several years.