Apple has never had more products and services on offer than it does today. Simply updating them in the expected ways (like an iPhone that is faster, has a better camera, and has 5G) would certainly be enough to fill up the calendar.
But we want more than the expected releases. We know that Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June will bring iOS 14 and macOS 10.16. We know September will bring a few new iPhones and a new Apple Watch. There can be no doubt that iPads and Macs will get, at minimum, minor updates to include faster processors and a few other small tweaks (like bringing the new Magic Keyboard from the 16-inch MacBook Pro to the rest of the line). Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ will continue to add content all year long.
Here are five things we don’t know we can expect, but still hope to see, from Apple in 2020.
We heard rumors all throughout 2019 that Apple was producing little tracking pucks similar to Tile. Apparently called either “Apple Tags” or “AirTags,” they were supposed to be released earlier this year. Then later this year. Now...not this year.
If Apple gets Tags right, they could be a game-changer. There are plenty of other trackers out there, but they all rely on networks of other users with the same app. Apple could tap into the entire iPhone and iPad install base in a way that protects your privacy, making them far more trustworthy and useful.
Hopefully, Tags will use both Bluetooth LE (for broad compatibility with the most iPhones) and Ultra-Wideband (for precise location on the newest iPhones), should be water-resistant, and have either replaceable batteries or wireless charging. And let’s just hope they’re priced reasonably! Budget Tile deals give you four trackers for less than $50, and the high-end Tile Pro is just over $100 for a set of four. That’s a good price range to fill.
It’s odd that the Tags aren’t out yet. Let’s hope Apple Tags aren’t the next AirPower and Apple is instead just waiting for the perfect moment to announce them.
A MacBook with an Apple processor
The long-term expectation is that Apple will not continue to use Intel processors in its laptops forever. The company seems to want to be in control of its own destiny, and while adding the T2 chip to Macs is a step in that direction, the company will ultimately need to produce its own CPU and GPU, just as it does on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
Making macOS run on the ARM architecture used in Apple’s chips, as opposed to the x86 architecture of Intel and AMD processors, is a challenge. The bigger challenge is moving the ecosystem along with it—the apps and plugins and everything else that makes a Mac more than just an iPad with a keyboard.
This is going to be a multi-year process and I would love to see it start this year. In an ideal scenario, Apple introduces a whole new macOS—let’s call it macOS 11—that runs only on Macs with Apple chips. The company also introduces a 12- or 13-inch MacBook similar to the MacBook Air, only with the new Magic Keyboard and Face ID. MacOS 11 runs new apps compiled specifically for Apple’s ARM-based processors and a selection of other apps through emulation, and is otherwise similar to macOS 10.16, which is introduced for the whole rest of the Mac market.
Over the coming years, Apple makes more of the Mac lineup with its own processors inside, and stops producing new versions of macOS 10.x, only supplying it with bug fixes and security patches, as the Mac line fully transitions to macOS 11 and Apple’s own processors.
Maybe that’s not Apple’s plan. But however it wants to move the Mac to its own processors, it’s a transition that will take plenty of time (and working through lots of rough spots) to complete. Let’s get that revolution started in 2020!
A services bundle
After its big services push this year, Apple’s got a whole bunch of consumer-facing subscriptions and other monthly-installment services on offer.
It would be hard to put together a services bundle that includes, for example, the iPhone Upgrade Program and Apple TV+. The former is for one device and can carry a wide variety of prices depending on which iPhone you want, and the latter is a fixed price with family sharing.
But Apple could, and probably should, offer a single-price bundle for all of its international consumer services that include family sharing. I’d like to see a bundle of the following services (mentioned with its stand-alone subscription price):
- Apple Music - $15 (with family sharing)
- Apple News+ - $10
- Apple TV+ - $5
- Apple Arcade - $5
- iCloud Storage (2TB) - $10
Each of those supports family sharing, each is a fixed monthly fee, and each is designed to make your life in the Apple ecosystem a lot easier and more enjoyable. Separately, they cost $45 (technically, $44.95). Why not add them all together in a single bundle for $29.99?
It’s a deal that amounts to “buy these four services and get Apple Music (with family sharing) free.” The company could get people hooked by giving them a free one month trial when they purchase an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV.
An AR headset
Apple is said to be working on an updated iPad Pro with a time-of-flight sensor on the rear cameras, the better to quickly and accurately produce a 3D model of the environment for use in augmented reality (AR). The iPhones introduced in the fall is said to incorporate the same sensor—at least in the high-end models.
That could be a big leap for AR on the iPhone and iPad, but AR isn’t really going to catch on until we’re no longer looking at a video of the real world on our flat screens. AR becomes magical when you look out at reality with your own eyes, and it has computer-generated graphics integrated into it.
The technology probably doesn’t yet exist for a pair of elegant and stylish glasses that can produce a decent AR experience. But building an AR ecosystem for mass-market consumption is going to be a multi-year process, and I would love to see Apple really get it going with a real AR headset this year.
It doesn’t have to be a pair of Ray-Bans with screens built in, but I think Apple could probably produce something smaller, lighter, and more elegant than Hololens or Magic Leap, while addressing some shortcomings like the limited field of view.
It would probably be necessary to have an iPhone provide most of the processing for such a headset, perhaps even with a cord running from the headset to the phone in your pocket. For this first-generation product, I think that’s OK. Just show people the magic of AR with a really great development environment built around ARKit and a reasonable price point, and then in two or three years, release the stand-alone glasses.
From a marketing perspective, there will never be a better year in which to launch an eyewear product than 2020.
Two new Apple TVs (and a new remote)
There’s nothing really wrong with the existing Apple TV 4K. At least, not with the box itself. It’s one of the most powerful and capable streaming boxes around, with support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, a slick multi-user interface, and app for all the major streaming services.
But with the launch of Apple Arcade and the new support for PS4 and Xbox One game controllers in tvOS 13, it has become clear that isn’t just not a great games console. It doesn’t quite have the oomph necessary to play premium games well on a 4K TV.
If you don’t care about that, if all you want is access to video and music streaming services, it’s overkill, and way more expensive than its peers.
Now that it has Apple TV+, Apple TV Channels, and Apple Arcade, it’s a good idea to re-address the market with a pair of new Apple TV devices. One, a simple streaming “stick” with an HDMI plug on it, similar to the Roku Streaming Stick or Fire TV Stick. It would have limited storage space and a less-powerful processor, aimed at running primarily just streaming apps and the simplest of games.
The high-end box would be a stand-alone unit targeting gamers and enthusiasts, perhaps even sold bundled with an Xbox or PS4 game controller. It would have an A13 chip inside and a lot more storage space—up to 64 or 128GB, to give room for several larger games with big assets.
Most importantly, they would include a new Apple TV remote, as the current remote is easily one of the worst products Apple has ever produced. It is universally panned by even the most ardent Apple fans. It’s so bad that Swiss TV company Salt built its own remote that even works with no setup or pairing. The Apple TV is an excellent piece of hardware that deserves a remote that is easy to use without looking at it—impossible to hold the wrong way, with buttons that are distinct enough to operate reliably by touch alone.
Oh, and the current remote is an accessibility nightmare, which seems like the kind of thing Apple would really want to address.
Honestly, even if Apple doesn’t produce new Apple TV hardware, it should make a new remote. Make it optional if you have to. Call it the “Pro Remote” if you want. Just fix it, already.