Here we are, another 525,600 minutes gone by, and it’s time for an annual look into the crystal ball to try and catch a glimpse of the things I’d like to see from Apple in 2019. But before we unpack a nice, fresh crystal ball, it’s time to take this grimy old crystal ball and smash it into a million pieces.
Or to put it another way, this is my annual opportunity to review my hopes and dreams for the Mac and the iPhone and iPad in 2017 and see which ones came true in 2018—and which ones were crushed flat by the steamroller of fate.
The year in Mac
How soon we forget. 2016 was the Mac’s annus horribilis, with no desktop Macs released the entire year and a new line of MacBook Pros released to a tepid response. 2017 was better—so much better that I might have gotten a little too enthusiastic with my predictions for 2018.
Take the Mac Pro. In 2017 Apple promised that one was coming, and as I pointed out in this space last year, at no point did the company promise to release that Mac Pro in 2018. Still, ever the optimist, I put it at the top of my wish list. In the intervening 12 months we’ve learned that the Mac Pro will arrive in 2019 and that it will be modular. Can you believe Apple pre-announced the Mac Pro by a couple of years? Yeah, neither can I.
Also crushing my spirit in 2018: An utter lack of a generational update to the 12-inch MacBook. It’s still the same one-port device it was when it was introduced. However, my desires on this front were satisfied by the release of the new MacBook Air, which checks off the items on my MacBook wish list, namely the addition of a second port and Thunderbolt 3 support.
I was also deeply satisfied by Apple’s embrace of the Mac mini in 2018. I got hung up on its size, wishing that it would shrink down with a new design that didn’t have to take optical drives or spinning hard drives into account. Turns out I wasn’t wrong about that, but Apple chose to keep the aluminum case the same and instead redesign the device’s cooling system so that it could handle much more powerful processors. As much as I like the idea of a Mac mini that could fit in my jacket pocket, the potential power of the high-end Mac mini models is a lot more practical.
On the MacBook Pro side, I had hoped for a MacBook Pro update, to show that Apple’s committed to updating these systems on a roughly annual basis, and we got one. However, all the laptops Apple released this year rely on the same controversial “butterfly” keyboard design, slightly modified. And the Touch Bar still exists—without a whole lot of evidence that Apple is truly committed to the concept for the long term. It’s still not very customizable outside of a few apps, unless you install a utility like BetterTouchTool—and realize that maybe there’s a lot of potential here if Apple would push in that direction. Instead, the Touch Bar merely abides.
And finally, I struck out in my hopes that new Macs would add support for Face ID. The MacBook Air getting Touch ID is great, but for iMacs (and pro Macs connected to Apple’s forthcoming external displays), Face ID is the better approach for biometric authentication. I guess I’m kicking this particular can down the road into my hopes for 2019.
The year in iPad
I got everything I wanted out of iPad hardware in 2018. New iPad Pro models with reduced bezels and Face ID? Check! UCB-C port? Check! A new Apple Pencil? Yes—and with the inductive charging I asked for. (I also asked for a “side button” but Apple outwitted me with its touch-sensitive double-tap gesture.)
Where I got let down on the iPad is—and you’ve heard this song before—on the software side. iOS 12 didn’t add much for iPad users, and the new iPad Pros don’t take advantage of that USB-C port to do things like connect to USB-C storage devices.
I was a bit disappointed with iPad Pro keyboards, too: You still can’t control media playback or screen brightness from the Smart Keyboard, and Apple isn’t making a more laptop-like external keyboard in the style of the ones from Brydge.
I didn’t see the new, low-cost iPad coming—or the fact that it was launched in an event in Chicago. But I did profess hope that the iPad mini might not be dead, and while we didn’t get that product in 2018, we got a rumor that the iPad mini might get an update in 2019. Quite frankly, that’s better than I expected.
The year in iPhone
The headline says it all: “More iPhones.” We got ‘em. This year we got the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. The iPhone XR isn’t quite the “iPhone 9” I was looking for, but it’s close—in that it supports Face ID but is cheaper because it lacks an OLED screen. Alas, the iPhone SE didn’t get an update—and it might be headed for the graveyard. But hope springs eternal for 2019.
In terms of iOS, Apple managed to sync up all its devices in terms of gestures, so iPads and iPhones are now consistent. Even though I’m not a fan of the top-right-corner hiding place for Control Center, and I had hoped it would be re-thought, I am a fan of consistency.
Unfortunately, Apple has also continued to be consistent in its ridiculous 5GB free storage policy per Apple ID. I know the company wants to grow Services revenue, but I feel like a larger amount of iCloud space would get more people to rely on iCloud, leading to more of them converting to paid iCloud storage customers. Oh well. It still hasn’t happened.
Finally, I’d like to declare victory on a small detail that you may not have even noticed, that’s buried within the Photos app. Members of a family can’t automatically set Photos to share all the photos they take with the rest of the family, but this year Apple introduced a new sharing feature on iOS that lets you share photos with someone else via an iCloud link. This weekend, as we prepared a custom 2018 calendar full of family photos from 2017, I needed to get photos off my wife’s phone. Rather than import them via a USB cable, she simply selected all her 2018 photos and shared the iCloud link with me via Messages. With one click, all her photos were imported—at full resolution—into my iCloud Photo Library. It’s not quite what I wished for, but it’s good enough to declare victory.
With the exception of the Mac Pro still being in a holding pattern, this was a pretty good year in terms of fulfilling my hopes and dreams. A new iPad Pro, Mac mini, MacBook Air, and a whole host of iPhones will do that for a year. This is not to say that I’m not dreaming of more stuff for Apple to do in 2019, of course. But that’s another column.