214: What should we expect from Apple this year?

2013 brought us quite a lot from Apple, backloaded as it might have been. For the first half of the year, there was almost nothing. Then, at WWDC 2013 in June, Apple showed off iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, released the Haswell MacBook Air and 802.11ac AirPort and Time Capsule base-stations, and teased an all-new Mac Pro. July saw the launch of Logic Pro X. September is when things really got started, with the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, followed in October by the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini, the Haswell MacBook Pro and Haswell iMac, and new, free-with-purchase, versions of the iWork and iLife. So what can we expect from Apple in 2014?

There's three main tracks to explore here. One are rumors and leaks, which, this early in the year, are subject to so much change, and come with so much baggage, that its value is limited. Another is to analyze past behavior and extrapolate future behavior, which is serviceable if rather boring. The other is to look at problems that need solving in a way Apple excels at solving them, and wonder out loud what they might be and how they could be tackled. That's the most interesting, but also the least reliable.

So, instead, let's be just be candid — Apple is making an iPhone 6. Anyone who doesn't know it can easily guess it. It's one of the safest assumptions in the world. There'll be new iPads as well. Baring Ragnarok, or a substantial alteration of the laws of economics and thermodynamics, Apple will keep doing in 2014 what they did in 2013. Do they need increased screen sizes? Is Apple, or are Apple's customers, suffering from the lack of a 5-inch iPhone or 13-inch iPad? If the iPhone does change screen sizes, like it did in 2012, will the iPod touch once again change with it? Where would an Apple A8 processor take mobile that an Apple A7 can't? And what software and services do iOS 8 and iCloud need to provide, beyond fixes, to make proper use of it all? Which acquisitions play into that? There are obvious gaps, like transit in maps, services in Siri, and OS X features that would fit really, really well into iOS. Thanks to the major interface transition being all but complete, there's also more time this year to fit things.

On the desktop, hopefully the Haswell Mac mini question will be answered sooner rather than later. Intel's chipset roadmap plays such and important part in Apple's Mac roadmap, that availability of one is typically the best hint of coming availability of the other. Mac on ARM — a MacBook Air-type device that could last a day — has long been a dream of many inside and out, but can Intel come down fast enough to keep that project out of production?

Things like whether Apple can, or wants to, reboot the Retina MacBook Air now that iPad Air-style battery advances have been made, and whether Apple can, or wants to, move upstream to a 4K/Retina iMac and Thunderbolt display, have less obvious tells. Could Apple's plans for their next-generation Mac operations system, OS X 10.10, code-named Syrah, could include bringing some of the new iOS 7-style interface ideas back to the Mac? And now that they have the iOS engine, could iWork and iLife development focus on getting them back up to speed?

What's going on with the Apple TV and with the iWatch project are perhaps the biggest questions. The Apple TV hasn't had a hardware update since 2012, and while it did get new software this year, there were little in the way of user-facing improvements. Given the talent at Apple, the potential of the living room, and how long Tim Cook and company have been pulling that particular thread, perhaps 2014 will yield results commensurate with the areas intense interest? The smartwatch space isn't anywhere nearly as mature as the set top box, but it also doesn't have cable companies (or carriers) holding it back. Apple waited until they saw precisely how the smartphones of 2006 needed to be improved before introducing the iPhone in 2007.

And that's ultimately the best indicator of where Apple's going. For the most part, they're people just like us. They love and use iPhones and iPads and Macs just like us. They want better gear just like we do. They're just as frustrated when Touch ID doesn't let them easily log into their iPads as it does their iPhones, when all their screens aren't high density, when all their batteries don't last most of the day, when Siri isn't as helpful as it could be, when their friends and families can't find apps as easily as they should be able to. They want the future of hardware, software, and services as badly as any geek among us. And, for the most part, they're empowered to bring it to us.

When Tim Cook and Jony Ive and Phil Schiller say Apple's single, driving focus is making the best products possible, they really mean it. Because they want them just as badly.

So what should we expect from Apple in 2014? Pick up your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Mac, and think about what would make it easier and more delightful to use, for more and more people. And that's just exactly what we should expect, to the limits of available technology and economics. This year, and every year.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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214: What should we expect from Apple this year?

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My expectation, or rather my preference, is for Apple to do the following recommended by Marco Arment in his blog post;

"While most of the press demands new hardware categories, I’d be perfectly happy if Apple never made a TV or a watch or a unicorn, and instead devoted the next five years to polishing the software and services for their existing product lines."

http://www.marco.org/2013/12/29/apple-doesnt-have-time

The only thing I disagree about Marco's post is instead of doing it for the next five years, I think doing it for the next two to three years should suffice.

I'm strongly against bigger phone. Increased screen is ok, but don't touch phone size because I wouldn't buy iPhone if screen and phone will be increased. Phone has to be confortable to user and his hand. Imo bigger iPhone would be fail. That's why I choose iPhone rather than Galaxy S4.
Happy New Year!

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I agree. I do not want a larger iPhone. I like the size just the way it is. That being said, I do thing there will be a larger iPhone. However, I think the "C" model will stay at the current size and get internal upgrades and possibly new design. The 6 will be the larger phone.

The iPod touch will also stay at the current size. Seems silly to make it bigger. If that goes bigger you might as well eliminate it and just have an iPad Mini.

That's why there's speculation that Apple will release 2 different iPhones this year. One size to satisfy you, and one size to satisfy me! ;)

IF Apple decides to bring a larger phone with the A7 chipset and all its goodies, I would pounce on it in a heartbeat! Polishing a couple small details & offering a dark theme would make me elated.

That's just it though. It only makes sense for Apple to increase the phone size this time if they are keeping the "old" size as well. That means for the first year it happens there are two new iPhone 6's and a "6c" model that is essentially this years 5s. The following year it means two versions of the iPhone 7 and two versions of the 7c. That's a huge step to take.

I'm not saying it won't happen, but it's not a casual thing to change the size of their flagship device. The one thing I'm certain of is that the people that think this will happen "for sure" are not really thinking it through very much at all.

Personally, I'd rather see a merged device like an ever-so-slightly smaller iPad mini with stylus support like a Galaxy note. It could sit in between iPad mini and iPhone and have the capabilities of both. I'm an iPad mini user (and of course I have to have an iPhone as well) and I would rather have just one device if only it were allowed by our Apple overlords.

Well the moto x has a 4.7 screen and isn't much larger than current iPhone with 4" screen. Lots of bezel and wasted space on the iPhone.

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If there is less bezel on the next gen iPhone, you can have bigger screen that is comfortable in the hand. And Apple can do that.

I'm more excited about iOS 8. Now that they we are experiencing the new design and layout. This should be great to see where the software goes. I do agree with the others if the can polish up some of the problems would be great as well. I would like them to find more engineers or developers to work simultaneously on the correcting the problems with the software as well as advance the software. I'm enjoying my 5s and iPad Mini with Retina Display devices.

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We use it a lot in Canada. Gas stations, super markets, McDonalds, coffee shops, a lot of places let us "wave" or "tap" to buy things under $50. But again, that's a feature set. NFC is one way of doing it, and makes a lot of sense for something like a thin plastic card. Can it scale, or would BT LE ultimate be more robust? That's the question.

Doesn't BT LE requires pairing? Does it work as fast as NFC? I would like to see the whole industry converging to a solution for all the cases you have mentioned and much more, like bus and metro fares, movie/concert tickets, vending machines etc. That would make the Passbook app really useful. Right now its bloatware taking space on my iPhone.

The problem with BT LE in this case is that it introduces a process harder than the one it is trying to replace:

1) Get in line
2) Talk to cashier
3) Swipe credit card

NFC replicates this path, replacing the swipe in step #3 with a tap, keeping the cognitive load very low on the user. With BT LE, this process becomes:

1) Get in line/somewhere in range of the base (Customer: where is that?)
2) Turn on BT if not already on
3) Get into pairing mode
4) Identify correct item in list
5) Pair
6) Open app
7) Place order

Step #1 could be better better, but the rest of the process is inarguably more complicated, even if BT operations are trivial for most iMore readers. BT LE would seem to make a lot of sense for areas where going to a central line is a pain (e.g. a sports stadium) or places you regularly hit, so the one-time setup path is amortized over lots of visits (e.g. a coffee shop), but for other retail operations (e.g. gas stations, fast food), it seems like it would lead to longer lines and frustrated servers and customers.

This is all wrong. The pairing isn't necessary and the actions of a user using Bluetooth tech as opposed to NFC could and probably would be exactly the same.

I'm living in Canada myself and the "tapping" thing is everywhere and almost every credit card has supported it for years, but I don't see it being used much.

A lot of places I go to, have subsequently turned the function off as it's a bit confusing for the average user. It's basically a trust issue. The user doesn't get to see the amount most of the time, and because it's used for small purchases you don't get a receipt most of the time also. You can check out your VISA statement later (if you remember), but there will be a delay of it registering sometimes of up to a day or two. So you just have to trust. And when it comes to money, many people don't want to.

Another issue is that it's mainly used for small purchases in coffee shops, food outlets etc. but if you pay by card and then use the tap option, you can't tip the server. There is no interface, it's just yes/no. So a lot of places I go to are purposely disabling it because it's cutting the tips in half. Most of those folks work for minimum wage and the tips are important.

You could throw money in the tip jar, but the whole point of it is not carrying money in the first place. The person who uses a credit card to pay for a coffee is doing it because they don't have or use cash.

That is interesting -- I have yet to encounter any iBeacon or similar in the wild, but have to pair my other BT LE devices (e.g. Sticknfind), so I assumed you had to here as well.

Edit: Any pointers to information how pairing free connectivity over the longer ranges of BT would function/be possible without a deluge of connectivity requests?

Why? iOS does auto termination which handles memory nicely. 2 GB of memory simply eats up more power with today's tech. We'll get 2GB but not until LPDDR4 is ready with its lower voltage.

It would be nice for those of us that use our iDevices as our main computers. Try doing some serious word processing on an iPad for a while, or even just using two programs at the same time and you will soon see why it would be nice to have a much higher system RAM.

The new mini has *twice* the system RAM as the old one and yet I am still faced with 10 second delays while documents load as I switch between apps in iOS. iOS is just not "really" a serious computing platform until one can switch between apps without waiting for the screen to draw itself and the document to load. It reminds me of using Windows 3.1 for the first time.

I agree with you. With more and more people using their iPhones / iPads as their primary computing device, more memory will be needed to support this increasing capability.

Apple just give us an iPhone with a bigger screen + more features for iOS8 and we're good. And maybe add Touch IDs to the next generation of iPads.

I wouldn't mind having a larger iPhone screen, but I absolutely don't want a bigger iPhone.
iOS 8 will certainly be awesome.
I wouldn't be surprised to see an iWatch [nice auto correct], but what if Apple released some other type of wearable, like glasses that sync w/an iPhone?

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My Uncle Henry just got Nissan Cube Wagon by working part-time at home online. Look At This
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I would like to see the following from Apple in 2014:

A wider iPhone with a 4x3 ratio rather than the 16x9 that is current. The 16x9 is a perfect fit for HD video, but it is only perfect for that. Most of the time I am not using my iPhone for watching newer movies so that narrow screen needs to go. Make it the same as an iPad, only smaller, making it better for all other use cases.

A better Apple TV, faster processor, more memory, and better WiFi — Airplay can stutter. When I watch the iMore video podcast I want to be able to pre-download it so I can pause and play and jump around without delay. A search across all non-hiddenvideo apps would be a huge plus.

I also want new Apple displays with 2560x1440 resolution and upgraded ports, the size and height of the current iMac and with an option to wallmount. A coax input for antenna wouldn't hurt, along with a TV tuner/recorder app would be nice including pausing live TV. The Apple TV needs this too.

That's all I want this year, along with a fix for the issue with recording audio through USB on a current iMac that has a fusion drive, and continued improvements to Logic Pro X which is my daily driver.

first time i bought an iphone off contract and got a golden iphone and love it. i had a nexus 5 for two weeks after i sold my iphone 5 and never was happy with the size however we gonna see a bigger iphone for sure and not because of the screen because of the hardware inside. how you gonna fit a quad-core processor in a smaller phone? android needs a lot power thats why bigger phones. i remember the time when the phones got smaller and smaller...

A bigger iPhone seems the most logical step for next year, although it's little more than Android catch-up. I see no reason why Apple couldn't retain a 4" phone too, after all, they have multiple sizes for iPads and Macs.

I'd like to see Apple do something interesting with the ATV, goodness knows they've dragged their heels with it for long enough. It's rather sad when a brand new device such as the PS4 can launch and have a better app line-up on day one (BBC iPlayer etc) than Apple have managed to secure in many years.

IPad pro to compete with Surface Pro like devices for the Apple pro community who use the iPad as companion in creating art music and video.

Now the can only use it for presentation of their work of as a fancy remote or drawing or input device. But it lacks the functionality of a laptop.

A more powerful iPad with the capability of running both OSX and iOS apps would bridge that gap. And the developers will find a way to make it interesting for both consumers and pro use.

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