Some of My Apple Expectations for 2016

December 31st, 2015

Apple did reasonably well in 2015, earning record profits and expanding from two OS platforms to four with the Apple Watch and Apple TV. That it all seems to work as well as it does, more or less, may seem a miracle to some. How many tech companies manage a similar effort successfully? Well, Google tries, but it is not a hardware maker, so the success or failure is left to other companies.

That all Apple’s operating systems seem to work well enough is a tribute to great engineering. Still, there is some degree of raggedness around the edges. Even the supposed fixer-upper releases, iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, are not quite as good as they were cracked up to be. There are too many loose ends, particularly with the latter, and there’s always hope another maintenance update or two will set things right.

There’s also unrealized potential. While the Apple Watch appears to be getting a high customer satisfaction rate, when I talk to tech journalists and have them tell me they would not have bought one if they didn’t need it for their work, I have reason for concern. Except that the iPhone wasn’t fully realized the first time out either. How soon we forget.

What’s more, some might believe that the iPad’s capabilities are not fully explored or enabled yet. It’s more than just a consumption device, but won’t be a consistent productivity tool until a wider range of apps come out. Being able to write a blog, a novel, or a long letter on one isn’t enough. Drawing great illustrations with an Apple Pencil does portend the possibilities for more.

To be fair, I am typing most of this column on an iPad Pro with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. I severely wish there was a better keyboard to be had. I’m still looking, and I ended up doing the final editing on my iMac.

So for 2016, I’d really like to see Apple make a greater effort to expand iPad developer opportunities, particularly when it comes to productivity apps. Perhaps the relationship with IBM will continue to bear fruit. It sure seems to be helping Mac sales possibilities. I also expect to see the successor to the iPad Air 2 gain Apple Pencil support. There seems to be little logic in restricting it to the most expensive model. (And please make the spacebar on the Smart Keyboard less awkward.)

There are published reports that an iPhone 6c is poised for lunch this spring. This would be a welcome development, because it does appear that many potential customers find the larger iPhones to just be too large. The reports describe a hardware configuration similar to the iPhone 6s, which would be quite promising. It would be interesting to see where it would be situated in terms of cost. I would like to think it would be similar to the iPhone 5c in relation to the iPhone 5s; $100 cheaper.

Of course, the tech media will claim it will be a failure, as they did with the iPhone 5c, even though whatever evidence exists of its sales demonstrate it did rather well for what it was. But once a story gains traction, facts don’t matter. Many people still do not realize that Apple Maps has grown way better over time, or that the flawed iOS 8.0.1 release in 2014 was only around for an hour or so before Apple pulled it.

I would also like to see how Apple intends to realize its plans to conquer the living room with Apple TV. While touch, Siri and third-party apps paint a potential, I think Apple should have embedded 4K support. True there are still growing pains with the format, especially with the enhanced contrast and color features. Most of the affordable 4K TV sets mainly provide enhanced resolution and not much else. I’m sure Apple knows that, but offering 4K, with the ability to add the rest in firmware, might have made the fourth generation Apple TV seem more competitive.

One story has it that Apple will offer a fifth generation version next year that will incorporate 4K and other features. For this sort of product, I think that would be a mistake. Or at least Apple might, if possible, offer some of the enhancements in firmware for the existing model so it’s future proofed. Apple’s silence on the matter doesn’t help.

For Macs, the designs for the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are somewhat long in the tooth, so I’d be curious to see if the 2016 revisions are just processor related, or will include sleeker and lighter form factors. Since they are already impossible to upgrade, it won’t make a difference in repairability unless Apple comes to its senses and allows for RAM and SSD upgrades, and allows you to do them without going through a clumsy teardown process.

The iMac is new enough not to matter so much, but Apple could at least upgrade the hardware on the Mac Pro. Or produce a version that would offer more opportunities for internal expansion. That would be a welcome change!

Does Apple have yet another new platform to offer for the new year? Or is it going to be mostly about revisions to existing gear and operating systems? As they say, that and more remains to be seen. But it’s a little early for the rumor sites to get a handle what’s to come, though the possibility for that iPhone 6c does seem to make sense. Or at least it fulfills some customer wish lists.

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