Three small ways Apple can make a big impact in 2023
New products are nice, but a few of Apple's existing technologies need some attention too.
By Dan Moren, Contributor, MacworldJAN 9, 2023 3:30 am PST
Too often technology companies get focused on the new, shiny features that get added to every release, touting the latest and greatest capabilities of their products. And, sure, who doesn’t love new and shiny?
But when you’re a huge tech company with multiple platforms, tons of products, and a long history, that prioritization of the new can have a deleterious effect on all those features that are, frankly, a little more well-worn.
As Apple gets started on its 2023 agenda, there are a few existing features that could really benefit from some love and attention, rather than the traditional approach of the company patting itself on the back for a job well done as it focuses its sights instead on the future.
The stages of management
Multitasking on the iPad has been a holy grail for what feels like a decade, and Apple’s taken a crack at this several times…but never quite nailed it. The most recent attempt was, of course, Stage Manager, and while the company has made some small tweaks to the feature in recent point releases, it’s far from a finished project.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
As someone who attempts to use Stage Manager on a daily basis, I’m still frustrated not only by weird interface inconsistencies (why does this floating keyboard palette obscure key parts of my apps?) but also by performance issues (I have several apps that are slower or crashier when in Stage Manager mode). In general, I find using it like swimming upstream, with one hand tied behind my back: you can see where you want to go, but getting there is a serious enough workout that you wonder “why am I doing this?”
Stage Manager continues to have a lot of promise, but it will only reach its full potential if Apple keeps working at it. So, here’s hoping that iPadOS 17 brings some more refinements and improvements—and, heck, if Apple wants to put out some smaller releases between now and then that keep tweaking aspects of it, all to the better.
Go Home, Apple
2022 was supposed to be a big year for Apple and smart home tech. The launch of Matter, the new connected home standard, was set to usher in an era of interoperability among a raft of various protocols and devices; meanwhile, Apple announced its intent to revamp its current home architecture to bring more reliability and better performance.
All of this only serves to reinforce the frustrations many users have with smart home tech. I use Siri via a HomePod mini to interact with the various gadgets throughout my house, and it’s…well, “not great” is probably an understatement. Siri frequently doesn’t hear me, misunderstands me, or—worst of all—just runs into some impenetrable problem that prevents it from doing anything. (“Working on it…still working…sorry, something went wrong” is an all too frequent expletive-inducing refrain in my house.)
Smart home tech will never achieve wide adoption if people just end up annoyed when trying to use their voice assistant or phone to do something that’s easier accomplished by, say, getting up and walking over to a switch in the wall. Or, say, relying on automations that don’t go off when they should. At that point, the advantage over “dumb” home tech is lost.
So while I have no doubt Apple’s new home architecture will show up again at some point this year, here’s hoping that even then the company doesn’t rest on its laurels and continues to try and make smart home tech an everyday reality instead of a novelty attempted only by the more tech-savvy.
Credit where credit is due: Apple does do a good job of updating some of its big features. Take Shortcuts, for example. The recent iOS 16.2/macOS 13.1 updates not only added some new features to the automation system, but Apple even detailed them in release notes. That’s great!
But for all the improvements Shortcuts has gotten, there’s plenty more work left to do. For one thing, there still isn’t parity across platforms: macOS, inexplicably, still doesn’t offer the Automation feature that Shortcuts on iOS and iPadOS do. And too many features in the operating systems don’t have integration with Shortcuts: Tab Groups in Safari, Spaces on the Mac—even Apple’s much touted new Freeform app has no Shortcuts support at all.
Shortcuts has already proved that it has the ability to vastly extend the capabilities of Apple’s platform by allowing users to create personalized automations that serve their needs, or implement functionality that Apple probably won’t.
But in order to keep counting it as an asset on its platforms, Apple needs to continue to invest in Shortcuts’s ongoing improvement, which means that when new features come out in iOS 17 and macOS 14, there should be Shortcuts support for them right off the bat, instead of waiting for it for years—if it ever even shows up at all.
Dan has been writing about all things Apple since 2006, when he first started contributing to the MacUser blog. He's a prolific podcaster and the author of the Galactic Cold War series, including his latest, The Nova Incident.