Now is the time of the year to look forward and forge our expectations, set wishes and focus points for Apple in 2021. A publication like MacWorld already published their take; here is mine.
Apple Silicon Transition — Act II
The start of the transition to Apple Silicon in 2020 should indicate where Apple will go in 2021. I’m not expecting the M2 processor just yet but a M1X variant instead for higher-end machines like the 16” MacBook Pro and iMac. More cores, support for more external ports are two things that come on the list of must-have improvements for next year. Next year should bring the long-awaited iMac redesign too. I’m not so sure about a MacBook redesign, though.
iPadOS — Stop Holding Back the iPad
The iPadOS evolution seems to follow a Tick-Tock strategy. Release 14 (a « tick » release) of iPadOS was not as big as release 13 (a « tock » release) was the year before. I would like to see Apple pushing iPadOS and make some tweaks here and there. I’m thinking about giving some love to the iPad multitasking model. Without breaking anything, a lot of people showed with mockups how Apple could make some improvements. Adding visual cues to the apps that have input focus while in split-screen mode is long overdue.
Better support for an external monitor is also expected by many which would help create a better differentiation factor for the iPad Pro line. It didn’t come in iOS 14. Speaking of the Pro line, I think the iPad product line’s current state is a transitive one. In the first half of 2021, I expect Apple to release updated iPad Pro models to make them even more professional in their nature. Screen improvement is one such thing coupled with better external screen support. I’m hoping Apple is not playing the game of crippling the iPad Pro favouring their M1 MacBook Air. Finally, I hope Apple will reverse course on its widgets support and allow for more freedom in their placement on the screen. They can and should position iPadOS with its own personality. Not everything needs to be aligned on iPadOS, iOS and macOS. Is this possible?
What about Xcode for iPad you might ask? Nope. Or multiuser support? Not going to happen. Or what about safari extensions? Why not! I’d like to be able to use extensions like Buffer of Grammarly on the iPad for sure.
Widgets — Act II
With the introduction of widgets in iOS 14, the iPhone experience got the most significant upgrade since the initial release of iPhoneOS. With iPhone seeing an increase in system memory every year enabling new features like more interaction possibilities for widgets. Today, widgets are limited to providing a peek at an application’s internal data structures. Widgets could allow for minimal interactions with an application’s specific feature. Widgets 2.0 would provide a richer entry point into an application, just like what App Clips are. I can see this happening in 2021.
Apple TV Max or Apple TV mini or ?
Does Apple still care about its streaming device? An update to their aging Apple TV 4K has been expected for some time. Two things are in dire need of attention from Apple: the remote and the pricing. Can Apple be good at designing remotes for TV players and gaming? I’m not convinced. Do they have to be the same device? I’m not sure either. Should Apple remove the remote from the box and ask customers to use their iPhone instead? I wouldn’t bet against this idea, knowing Apple. On the Apple TV pricing, Apple is not in the game by a wide margin. Recent smart TVs come with the Apple TV application and AirPlay 2 built-in. If Apple wants us to pay for a physical device, it has to provide a clear advantage. The kind of feature only Apple could add is its vertical integration between hardware, software and services.
One final thought: the use of the Apple TV moniker is confusing as hell; Apple offers a streaming service with the same name. I’m coming back to my idea of using the HomePod instead. If Apple stayed in the home networking market, the HomePod name would have been a perfect fit, IMHO. What if Apple named the new Apple TV the HomePod TV? I wouldn’t go too far in thinking about what other features Apple could bring besides being a gaming and streaming device. The inclusion of routing and wireless capabilities could make sense, but will Apple bother? I’m far from convinced.
The year 2020 proved to be a challenging one for Apple, at many levels. They showed that they can adapt quickly and even take advantage of the situation. Apple’s special events, even in their digital-only form, were nothing less than astonishing. I expect Apple to continue to use this format for at least their WWDC2021 conference. We’ll probably get a special event before, in March or April. For the fall of 2021, all bets are open. I certainly hope Apple will keep their digital event even after the pandemic ends.
The Watch Face Store
This one is a no-brainer to me. Everything is in place: the ability to share a watch face and install a new one from a file. Apps like Buddywatch are sketches of a possible watch face store from Apple. Such a store would allow the ultimate customization experience to the watch. It would help sells more watches and more apps. Some people are wary of copyright issues, but I think the same could be said from the App Store itself. This could be the game changer of 2021.
I still have the desire to buy a Mac Pro for my project of creating a data center in a box (see details here). Another wish for 2021, in light of the recent development in regard to the M1 chip performance and efficiency, is for Apple to revisit the Mac Pro pricing. I’m not holding my breath, though. Yet, I cannot see them holding the current pricing so high when a mere M1 Mac mini comes so close to an entry-level Mac Pro in terms of performance.
Oh, I almost forgot: fix the autocorrect and text selection on iOS. What about AirTags? I think Apple lost them. I didn’t mention the iPhone 13. Yeah, it will be faster, probably use the same external design but with different colour options.
I don’t expect Apple to outdo its 2020 performance. It was one of its best year ever. After all, things like transitioning to a new CPU architecture for the Mac is done once in a while. Transforming the iPad to support the mouse and keyboard is done once too. Allowing iPadOS and iOS apps to run on macOS is a once in a lifetime achievement. What else can Apple bring to the table in 2021? We have the next 1 months to discover the answers.