2019 predictions in review: iPhone price drops, Catalyst letdown

A look back at the year just gone by.

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The best part about making predictions as a member of the press is that almost nobody has a long memory. You predict the future, but by the time the evidence against you has collected, everyone’s moved on to reading your new predictions for the next big thing. It’s quite a racket, or at least, it will be until someone invents Nostalgia.

Not me, though. Every year in this space I make a combination of predictions and wishes for the next 12 months. But before I do that, I have to take stock and look back at the year just gone by—and how my predictions and hopes for 2019 fare in the cold light of a December morning.

The Mac: Change, of a sort

At this time last year, we didn’t know what form the new Mac Pro would take, just that it would arrive in calendar-year 2019. (And just barely, as it turns out.)

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Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

I will give myself some credit for getting the Mac Pro more or less right, from the fact that I predicted it would be “substantially higher” priced than the $3,000 of the trash-can Mac Pro. And I endorsed the idea of an ultra-upgradeable that provides contrast with the rest of Apple’s products by offering lots of configurable and swappable internals, “engineered to be extreme, and priced accordingly.” Sounds about right.

Apple

Unfortunately, I was also pretty sure that Apple would make two external displays, one at the high end and one for a broader selection of users. That didn’t happen—only the ultra-high-end Pro Display XDR exists. Also, no sign of extended iPad support in the form of a touchscreen display, though you can attach the Pro Display XDR to an iPad Pro if you want an upscaled, pillarboxed external mirror of your iPad interface.

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16-inch MacBook Pro

Last year, everyone was hoping that 2019 would be the year that Apple finally relented and redesigned the MacBook Pro, most especially in the hopes that it would kick the butterfly keyboard to the curb. That’s what happened, at least at the top of the line, with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I was surprised to discover just how pessimistic I was about the laptop line a year ago—I refused to predict that 2019 would provide any laptop satisfaction. We’re still waiting for new keyboards on the lower-end MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, but at least Apple made it across the finish line with one model.

I correctly guessed that an iMac update would arrive in 2018, but I had expected it to be more comprehensive than the minor speed update we actually got. I guess that means I can predict a new iMac once again for 2020.

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The onslaught of Mac apps that originated from iOS didn't happen in 2019.

With the arrival of Mac Catalyst this summer, as promised by Apple last year, the Mac has started to benefit from apps developers originally on iOS. But I predicted that it would be a major onslaught that would dramatically change the Mac forever, and this was my biggest miss. Some combination of a rough summer of developer betas and limitations of the technology itself mean that there aren’t nearly as many Catalyst apps as I thought, and a bunch of my favorite iOS apps still aren’t anywhere close to shipping Mac versions. Catalyst may still change the Mac forever, but it’s going to take a lot more than one year to make it happen.

iPhone pricing, iPad advances

The big news a year ago was that Apple had announced it was going to miss its forecast for iPhone sales during the holiday quarter. So we went into 2019 knowing that Apple was going to have to find a way to turn around its iPhone business. My hope at the time was pinned largely on Apple changing its pricing strategy for the iPhone, and that’s largely what happened.

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iPhone 11

By making the iPhone XR’s successor the “mainstream” iPhone—the iPhone 11—and dropping its price, Apple changed the perceived starting price of buying into the iPhone ecosystem. It helped. While we didn’t get a new iPhone SE based on the iPhone 8 as I hoped last year, it sounds like that may happen early on in 2020.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have a lot on my agenda for actual iPhone hardware features. But there was this: “The one area where Apple needs to keep pushing iPhone hardware design is, of course, the camera.” And that’s exactly what Apple did, with great success.

My iOS 13 wish-list items were a mixed bag, but I got some of what I was hoping for: external storage support and improvements to shortcuts among them. Keep in mind that one of the big narratives of the fall of 2018 was that the new iPad Pro provided laptop power but that it couldn’t take full advantage of it because of the limitations of iOS 12. While iOS 13 has made some strides on that front, there’s still a lot still missing—and I guess those will go on my list for iOS 14.

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iPad

I did recommend that Apple offer some value on low-end iPads, and we got that. In 2019 we got a bunch of new iPad models, many of which support the Smart Keyboard amd Apple Pencil. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my wish for a larger iOS device, beyond the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. And as 2019 draws to a close, I’m more doubtful than ever that Apple will ever move iOS beyond phones and tablets.

But that’s December, isn’t it? The days grow short and it’s time to let some of your dreams wither and die. It’s okay—there are new dreams where those came from. Dreams prepped and ready for 2020. I’ll see you back here next year to judge how they fared.

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