WWDC 2024 — possible dates, iOS 18 and Apple’s big AI push

 Tim Cook speaking at WWDC 2022.
Tim Cook speaking at WWDC 2022.

WWDC – Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference – is always a big highlight of the annual tech calendar. Though ostensibly aimed at developers as the name suggests, Apple has previously announced significant new hardware lines like Vision Pro, the HomePod and the iPhone SE, giving the main keynote a big consumer-facing edge.

WWDC also sees the first beta versions of software arriving, and with the upcoming iOS 18 that's especially significant, with Apple expected to make big strides in artificial intelligence.

Here's what we're expecting from WWDC 2024.

When is WWDC 2024?

WWDC 2024 will almost certainly be held at some point in June. While it’s been part of Apple's calendar since 1983 with a wide range of dates, since 2007 it's been in June each year, and there's no reason to expect a big change now.

The exact date won't be revealed until closer to the time, but with the big keynote address kicking off the event on a Monday, you should keep an eye on the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th (with the earlier dates being the more likely of the set).

Will we get new hardware at WWDC 2024?

In the past, Apple has unveiled some exciting new hardware at WWDC, including Vision Pro and the first-generation HomePod.

It's certainly possible we'll see hardware again this year — though probably generational updates rather than whole new lines, with both new MacBooks and iPads tipped for launches around that time.

But it's equally possible they'll get their own events, and that this could be one of those years when it's all about the software. That's especially plausible, given this is a year when Apple is expected to go big on artificial intelligence with iOS 18.

What's expected from iOS 18 at WWDC 2024?

Typically, WWDC is when Apple releases the first developer beta of its it’s next iPhone operating system, and according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, iOS 18 is shaping up to be "one of the biggest iOS updates – if not the biggest – in the company's history."

While we know that part of this update is going to include the introduction of the RCS text protocol for better communications with Android devices, the more significant update should involve the buzzword of 2024: artificial intelligence.

According to Gurman, Apple's Craig Federighi has given an "edict" to the team to ensure that iOS 18 is filled “with features running on the company’s large language model". And with Apple reportedly offering millions of dollars to publishers for AI training purposes, it's possible that the results will be quite distinct from the ChatGPTs of this world in terms of reliability.

What does that mean in practice? Well, according to code found in the latest beta of iOS 17.4, it looks like the AI – codenamed Ajax – will be able to summarize content and answer questions based on user prompts.

There also seem to be references to integration with iMessage in the code. This makes sense, as Gurman had previously stated that Ajax would work with the Messages app to "field questions and auto-complete sentences".

In other words, it sounds like Siri is going to get a significant and long-overdue upgrade in terms of its smarts. But the big question is whether it's going to need new hardware to function.

While Apple has a proud record of bringing the latest versions of iOS to its older iPhones, artificial intelligence might be a bridge too far for more vintage generations, especially with the company reportedly favoring on-device AI over cloud-based solutions. In other words, this might require the grunt of the upcoming A18 processor.

That said, with the iPhone 16 not due until September and with an early beta coming as soon as June, it would make sense for Apple to have some cloud-based versions for older iPhones – and one rumor suggests that's how things will play out, with on-device AI for the 2024 models and a cloud-based version for older ones.

We shall find out in just a few short months time.