Ahead of WWDC 2020, a lot of the new features in iOS 14 were already known, not least because an early alpha version of the system had leaked online in its entirety. This year, far fewer details about the new systems had been leaked from Cupertino, and 9to5Mac thinks it has an explanation for Apple's improved secrecy.
In the beta version of iOS 15 that has been released to developers, the site has discovered that each new feature is provided with a unique identification string or flag. These can be used by Apple to turn on and off individual features for individual builds of the system.
Different developers with responsibilities in different areas can in this way be given access to a test version of the system that only contains the upcoming new feature relevant for that person. Developers working with the updated Weather app, for example, hardly need to test or know about the new features in FaceTime.
By limiting the number of people who have access to the entire system to a small group of testers and a few senior executives, the risk of news leaking to the press is reduced. And WWDC 2021 went ahead without any spoilers.
It can be interesting to trace Apple's relationship with secrecy over the past decade or so.
Under Steve Jobs' regime, of course, the company was notoriously ultra-secretive, once bringing in the full force of the California police to recover a lost or stolen iPhone prototype. Tim Cook's tenure, by contrast, has seen a degree of softening in that regard. In 2012 he said: "We need to be supersecretive in one part about our products and our road maps. But there are other areas where we will be completely transparent so we can make the biggest difference. That's kind of the way we look at it."
Under lockdown conditions, many Apple engineers and designers were obliged to take prototype devices home with them, and this caused some issues with leaks. But with employees heading back to the office (albeit reluctantly, in some cases), we expect things to return to the secretive normal.
This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation and additional reporting by David Price.