By James O Malley and Darren Orf
Next week is Apple's next big WWDC 2015 keynote event, where the company is expected to unveil what we can expect to see leaving its labs in the next few months. These events are always clouded in secrecy - but that doesn't meant that things don't leak out, rumours don't begin to swirl and we can make some informed guesses about what the company will have to show us. So what can we expect?
Beats Streaming Service
We know it is coming - we'll be absolutely stunned if it isn't, but the expectation is that Apple will be launching its own streaming music service to compete with the likes of Spotify.
Following the acquisition of Dr Dre's Beats last year, we're also expecting it to be Beats branded. So certain are we of its existence that even rumours of pricing have emerged. The expectation is that it will be priced the same as Spotify - but instead of the free tier, there will be DJ-curated radio stations.
It'll be a tough market for Apple to crack, with Spotify already fairly well established - but if anyone can do it, it's Apple.
On a related note, if you like wildcard guesses, dare we speculate that Apple could unveil new Beats headphones that don't connect through the headphone socket, but through the Lightning port? The advantage would be that the sound could be transmitted digitally - and thus without losing quality. It wouldn't be completely unprecedented - earlier this year Phillips released headphones that work like this, but we're yet to see anything first-party from Apple.
Surely it is about time for Apple to update its ageing Apple TV? All of the signs are pointing towards it. The rumour mill is predicting a new TV-based app store, and there's increasing chatter about a new Apple TV forming the basis of Apple's HomeKit internet-of-things strategy - and last year Apple dropped the price considerably, we thought to clear out excess stock of the old model.
Apple is thought to be pursuing a new TV service that subverts the traditional model of having a cable or satellite provider, instead letting people stream straight to Apple TV.
So will we see something new? We hope so - but just this week the New York Times is reporting that Apple won't be saying anything, not for hardware issues but because the content for the new TV service still isn't there, and deals still haven't been struck with the content providers.
Sadly, it looks like we'll have to do without a new Apple TV for a little longer.
One dead certain announcement is the official reveal of iOS9 - the latest iteration of Apple's mobile operating system. Giz UK has already put together an extensive write-up on what we can expect from the new OS, but in short we can expect not revolutionary changes, but behind-the-scenes tinkering that will hopefully make things faster, and hopefully have a smaller "footprint" on your phone's memory.
The new OS is also expected to have new shortcuts (similar to how you can switch Wi-Fi off and on at the touch of a button), and we're expecting a new "Home" app to provide a central hub for controlling IoT devices.
There has also been speculation that the new iOS will (excitingly) change the iPhone to use a whole new font! Specifically, San Francisco, the same as the one the Apple Watch uses.
Siri also looks set to get a bit of an upgrade - here's hoping we'll finally be able to type questions to the virtual assistant, like Windows users can with Cortana.
But it’s more than cosmetics; Siri may also be getting a much-needed API overhaul, called “breadcrumbs,” that would allow third-party developers limited access to Apple’s voice assistant.
Apple may also be revamping Spotlight in iOS to be, you know, actually useful. Spotlight could return left of the home screen, much like in iOS 6, and be more like what Google Now is for Android along with its typical “search the phone” functions.
And finally, could we also finally see a UK launch of Apple Pay? It's surely about time - but, alas, we haven't heard anything.
The big expectation is that the Apple Watch will be receiving a software upgrade that will enable the watch to runs apps natively for the first time - without the need for a corresponding app on your phone. What this means is that apps will be able to access the Apple Watch's sensors (such as movement and heartbeat) and digital crown for the first time.
This could mean whole new types of app could be created. Imagine a game where you have to keep your heartbeat down under pressure, for example.
And for fans of wild speculation, how about new Apple Watch accessories that make use of the hidden port on the device? Perhaps a fast-charging cable or a strap with built in extra battery is more the domain of third party accessories, but it is also easy to imagine Apple coming up with something smart to plug in.
It also seems likely that Apple will be announcing a new version of its operating system for iMac and Macbook notebooks. For the past several years, the company has announced new iterations of OS X at these June WWDC events.
In terms of new features... there doesn't look set to be a lot. Like iOS 9, this is largely expected to be a "maintenance" type update, with bug fixes and security patches and the like.
Chances are it will have a cool sounding name, a dramatic wallpaper, and work much the same as OS X Yosemite, which we got last year.
Augmented reality for Apple Maps
Remember back in November, when Apple made a call for an AR and VR specialist? Well the first fruit of that search may be coming to Apple Maps.
Rumours say Apple is planning a “Browse Around Me” feature that overlays mapping information as you scan a certain area with your phone. The motion you make is like taking a panorama but your surroundings instead show you store hours, menus, ratings, and what have you.
It’s uncertain if the implementation of this augmented reality will be from a street-level view or a more traditional birds-eye-view that draws on previous searches to populate important information.
About that mega-sized iPad…
Though news of Apple’s next Godzilla-sized foray into tablets has been rumoured for a while, the Wall Street Journal seems to think the big tab will make a fall showing rather than at WWDC. But that doesn’t mean Apple won’t be getting iOS 9 ready to handle the big-screen device.
To do that, Apple may introduce a few Android tricks into iOS 9—like split screen support. Split screen apps will supposedly come in a one-third, one-half, or two-thirds orientation, according to 9to5Mac. It’s believed to be demoed during WWDC on the two current Mini and Air iPad models.
iOS 9 may also include multi-user support, a similar feature that Android baked into Lollipop last year, that would let several users use the same device. This would be an important feature if Apple wants to get the iPad Pro in the hands of students and professionals.
Other New Hardware?
Unfortunately it doesn't look like we can expect any upgrades to the Macbook or iMac - though both have been upgraded recently. The Mac Mini has been lagging behind for a while now though, so it'd be nice if Apple had some surprises there - but don't hold your breath.