Why WWDC 2018 Was All About Apple Hardware Even Though None Was Announced


Every summer, Apple closes out developer conference season with their own World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). It is where Apple announces many of the new features coming to all the platforms they offer. 

Traditionally, they offer at least some new hardware at the conference. We have had new iPads and MacBooks announced at the conference in years past. This year, with the exception of a new watch band, there was nothing. 

Every announcement was about core OS updates for the following platforms:

  • iOS 12

  • watchOS 5

  • tvOS 12

  • macOS 14 Mojave

Everything about the presentation was a subtle way of enticing customers into buying the latest and greatest hardware. The elephant in the room was the hardware you don’t have on which to enjoy all these new features. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Memoji and the iPhone X

One of the most interesting announcements in the keynote was about the new Animoji options: a feature only available in the iPhone X. You can buy one wherever you can buy Apple HomePod smart speakers. 

While the iPhone X has been the best-selling iPhone since its release, there is a good chance you don’t have one yet. Apple is hoping that Memoji, the new hotness of iOS 12, will push you over the top and convince you to upgrade. According to rumors, the next set of iPhones will all have the notched camera array that makes Animoji possible.

Animoji are the characters that map to your face and take on your own facial expressions as you talk. Memoji is an extension of the same technology. Except with Memoji, you can design your own character to look like a cartoon version of yourself, or of anyone else for that matter. 

It is a truly fun and addictive feature that will sell a lot of iPhone X devices. If you have low impulse control, watching that portion of the keynote could get very expensive. Expect new models this September if Apple stays true to form.

Walkie-Talkie and the Apple Watch

Apple is about to unload a truckload of Apple Watches. That is because when watchOS 5 hits the streets this fall, people will be able to get their Dick Tracy on more than ever. 

Right now, the Apple Watch can already act as a stand-alone phone. With its own cellular capabilities, it no longer has to be tethered to an iPhone to function. 

But short text communication is still a challenge because of the small screen. No one wants to write out messages on that screen. And pretty soon, no one will have to.

Apple is adding a Nextel-style walkie-talkie right into the watch via software. If you want to communicate with someone else in the house without resorting to calling them, you can engage in a half-duplex walkie-talkie conversation with them. 

This feature is not for everyone, and certainly not for every situation. But for a whole lot of people with the original Apple Watch, this will be the thing that pushes an upgrade. And if they want to communicate this way with others in their lives, Apple Watch is about to become the hot gift of 2018.

Dolby ATMOS and Apple TV 4K

iOS 12 is full of features that were not mentioned in the keynote. All of those well-hidden third-party apps are about to get a lot more exciting because developers will soon be able to port them directly to the Mac. 

But the sleeper hit of the show might have been the tvOS announcement that Dolby ATMOS is coming to the Apple TV 4K this fall. If you have high-end gear like a modern TV that can show 4K and HDR content, and a sound system that can handle the latest standards, you want a set-top box that can do it all.

At the time of this writing, the Apple TV 4K is the only set-top box on the market that can handle both Dolby Vision and Dolby ATMOS. That means that the Apple TV is not just the one to buy, at the moment, it is the only one to buy. 

This WWDC was devoid of hardware. Yet because of compelling updates to iPhone X, Apple Watch, and Apple TV 4K, Apple is set to move more hardware than ever. Also, expect all of this hardware to be updated before the year is out. You heard it here first.