Apple spent 2016 mostly refining their products. The physical designs of the iPhone 7, iPad Pro, Apple Watch, and the Macbook Pro remained largely the same as their predecessors. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Apple Watch for example didn’t need a radical new design. Instead, Apple wisely focused on the internals of the Series 2, upgrading the watch with a faster processor, water resistance, and a GPS.
But I suspect (and certainly hope) that Apple takes a more aggressive design approach in 2017, giving some much needed make-overs to its products. I’ve outlined items below that I hope Apple addresses in 2017. Since it was widely rumored that the iPhone 8 would sport the major re-design (even before the official iPhone 7 reveal), it didn’t seem necessary to include that one in my list.
Here’s my Top 10 Wishlist Items for Apple in 2017.
Siri – Allow Typing Questions / Siri App
There are plenty of situations where I find myself wanting to type a question to Siri rather than speaking it, especially on MacOS. Imagine how annoying it would be if all your co-workers were using Siri around you by voice. The only time you can type something to Siri is if you edit something you started by voice. So why not allow for both voice and type inputs for questions? Chat bots/assistants are on the rise and it would be easy for Apple to tweak what it already has with Siri. And I wouldn’t mind if Siri was it’s own app (like on MacOS), so it could be launched via an app icon. This would make Siri more visible. Sometimes I forget that Siri is there and I think other people would use it more if it was sitting in front of them.
Touch Bar – On External Keyboard
It wasn’t a surprise that Apple refrained mentioning the possibility of bringing the new Touch Bar to external keyboards right away. Overall, the Touch Bar was one of the major selling points for the long overdue Macbook Pro update. But I predict Apple will upgrade their keyboards with the Touch Bar in 2017. That allows Apple to upgrade their iMac without touch capabilities baked into the screen.
iPad – Lineup Consolidation / Re-design
The iPad lineup right now is somewhat of a mess. If you’re in the market for a new iPad, you have an overwhelming amount of choices. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Apple make it easy to decide between the five different models. If you’re in the market for a 9.7-inch iPad, you have two options; the newly released iPad Pro (starting at $599) or the iPad Air 2 ($399). If you look at the specs, it’s hard to justify that extra $200 for the slight processor and camera upgrade, unless you really care about the Smart Connector port (which is fairly underutilized at the moment). The two models are practically pound-for-pound the same product otherwise. If you want a smaller screen size, you also have two options of the same screen size to consider.
Simply put, there’s too many similar options in the iPad family. A drastic design change to the iPad lineup could alleviate the problem. But perhaps the Air line needs to be replaced with the Pro (something the laptop line needs as well). If that happens, I’d like to see Apple change the price point on the 9.7-inch version to $499.
Apple TV – Add Airport Router and Echo Features
Who knew that a dedicated voice-controlled device would be such a huge hit? I doubt even Amazon thought Echo would be such an overnight success. I’ll admit, when I first heard about this $199 glorified Siri box, I didn’t think there’d be a large demand for it. I was wrong. Dead wrong. But Google acted quickly and released Google Home, their own voice-activated speaker assistant. On top of that, Google also announced their own mesh networking device. Mesh networking has quickly become all the rage. Which is probably why Apple is reportly discontinuing their Airport routers (a bummer for me because I use a couple Airport Express routers to Airplay music throughout my home).
By incorporating both the router and Echo-like features in the Apple TV, Apple has an opportunity to make the Apple TV the ultimate hub of your home. In theory all these features would be perfect for each other. Place an Apple TV in each room that has a TV and you’d not only get the smart TV features the device already offers (watching shows and movies, playing games, Airplay streaming, HomeKit control, etc.), but the device would also provide a nice mesh wi-fi network coverage. Add an always listening Siri feature and speakers, and you’d also be able to use your Apple TV as a voice assistant. If Apple wants to gain traction in the home automation world, having a device that you can speak to wherever you are in the house is crucial. Sign me up for three.
iOS Security – TouchID or Passcode To Power Off
Apple has made some major strides in security with iOS since introducing the Find My iPhone feature. In the early days it was pretty easy for a thief to get a hold of your phone and quickly disable Find My iPhone without a passcode. Or they could simply ask Siri to turn off Wi-fi (which renders Find My iPhone useless). Apple has addressed those security flaws and the iPhone crime rate have gone down. However, there’s still a major loophole that Apple hasn’t completely addressed. All someone needs to do is turn off the phone. That’s it. The phone can’t report it’s location if it’s powered down. In Apple’s defense, they’ve done some good things with the Activation Lock feature, which allows you to erase data remotely and makes it so the phone can’t be reactivated, which decreases the resell value. A simple solution to this problem: require TouchID or a passcode to Power Off the phone. It’s a tiny inconvenience for a major boast in security.
Apple Watch – Thinner Design / Always-On Display
The Series 2 Apple Watch brought some must needed processing power and other upgraded internals while leaving the external design mostly the same (actually made it a hair bit thicker). With the next generation Apple should focus on the external. I absolutely love my Apple Watch, but I can’t help but wonder if in five years we’ll look back and think the first two generations looked like a gloried iPod Nono attached to our wrists. I’m also hoping the development team is working on an always-on display. A major hurdle for a traditional watch wearer to get over is the fact that the watch face can’t be viewed from all angles. This is obviously a battery performance issue, but I’d settle for display that’s dimmed way down when not active. And while we’re on the topic of batteries…
iPhone – Longer Battery Life
Jason Snell pointed out that for years Apple has been “solving for x” when it comes to battery life. Since the original iPhone debut in 2007, the battery life of iPhones remained mostly the same up until the iPhone 6. For seven years Apple has targeted talk time for around eight hours. There have been enormous amount of innovations over the years, but running out of battery is still the top concern for most people. Every extra hour of usage is crucial. I realize packing more battery power into the same (or smaller) space is a scientific challenge, but the first company to make a major breakthrough in this area will be rewarded handsomely. Until then, Apple will continue to optimize areas that are easier to address, efficiency in software and faster charging (and hopefully wireless).
Apple Health – Make It More Useful
There’s a lot of potential for Apple’s Health app in the future, but today it feels like we’re still in the infancy stage. This is mostly because Apple doesn’t provide any kind of meaningful feedback based on the data it receives. Currently, the Health app merely stores the information you give it. My Apple Watch reports how many steps I take, workouts, heart rate, and calories burned. The scale in my bathroom reports my weight, body mass, and body fat percentage. But all the Health app will do is organize the data into graphs that I have to manually check. And while I’m not currently entering my daily nutrition intake, the Health app should be able to analyze the data it does have. If it notices my weight went up and my exercising went down last week, it should alert me of this and encourage me to be more active this week. I should be able to enter health goals and have the app provide suggestions on how to achieve them.
Apple TV – 4K Streaming / iTunes 4K
For the past year or so, just about everyone who upgraded their television set has stepped (knowingly or not) into 4K territory. Google recently upgraded their Chromecast for 4K support and Roku has had it for a while now. It’s time for Apple to join. But like any new format, 4K suffers from limited content. More and more providers beyond just YouTube and Netflix are starting to offer ultra-high-definition as an option. So if Apple upgrades the Apple TV to 4K, it’d be the perfect time for iTunes to start offering 4K content. And for the love of God put a Gigabit Ethernet port on it!
Apple Watch – Open the Watch Face to 3rd Parties
Apple recognizes that the watch is a very personal item for people. It’s why unlike most of their products, they offer a plethora of different styles of bands and cases. But there’s a relatively small subset of watch faces for you to customize. My hope is that Apple makes watch faces part of the App Store, allowing developers to create their own faces for people to buy. Apple can still decide how much control to give the devs for the watch face if they want to remain protective of the overall design aesthetic. But doing this would mean more money for developers (and for Apple) and more options for the watch wearer. Everybody wins!