Apple WWDC 2022: Why iPhone always-on display, VR headset weren't announced

Apple's iPhone 13 Pro Max
There was no reference to some much-rumoured hardware and software in the keynote. Photo credit: Supplied / Apple

Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is well underway and the keynote earlier this week delivered lots of new updates for both software and hardware.

But what about all those rumours about what was expected to be announced? Among all the impressive-looking technology advances, some were notable in their absence.

Perhaps the biggest miss was the reveal of an Always On Display for the iPhone 14 Pro models running on iOS 16.

Analyst Mark Gurman, author of the Apple-focused Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, said in a column in May that the new operating system - codenamed Sydney - would be "chock full" of changes.

That would include updates to the Messages app, notifications and iPad multitasking. And he was largely correct, along with his pronouncement that the lockscreen would get "major enhancements", including new wallpapers and widgets.

But his expectation the always-on lock screen was likely to be announced wasn't quite as accurate - but that doesn't mean it's not happening.

According to a report on website 9to5Mac, there are multiple references to the functionality in the developers beta of iOS 16, released shortly after the keynote.

"Within iOS 16, there are three new frameworks that have been added that relate to backlight management of the iPhone's display. Backlight management is a key aspect of enabling an always-on feature," the website said.

"All of the frameworks discovered by 9to5Mac are used by different components of iOS, including the Lock Screen," it continued,

"Additionally, and most notably, there are multiple references to an always-on display within the Springboard - which is what manages the Lock Screen (and home screen) of iPhone."

The change would bring Apple into line with Samsung, which introduced an always-on display in 2016. Other Android phone manufacturers also have always-on-displays.

The new widgets and personalisation features announced during the keynote would likely significantly increase the usefulness of the always-on display, with weather, live sports scores and more available at a glance.

As WWDC grew closer, it was significant that excitement regarding Apple's combined virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) headset was played down.

There were plenty of people hoping for a glimpse of the future, but there were no references to VR, AR or realityOS, the expected software running the headset during the nearly two-hour show.

Gurman had raised expectations, noting the much-rumoured device had been demonstrated to the board, with Bloomberg saying an announcement could come as early as WWDC.

However, that had been dampened in recent days with many pundits claiming it had become unlikely - and they were proved accurate.

Now analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that the expected 2022 launch of the headset is will slip again.

Kuo, who has a good record of reporting accurate details on technology companies, said it will not ship until the second quarter of 2023 because of COVID-19 lockdowns impacting on development.

The analyst says he now expects a media event in January 2023 for an announcement, with development toolkits available shortly thereafter.

Pre-orders were likely to start in the second quarter of next year and would hit store shelves shortly before next year's WWDC.