Apple in 2018: new Mac desktops, Pencil for iPhone, and nuking the notch

Stuff’s Apple wish-list for the next 12 months

Mince pies have barely made it through the average tech pundit’s digestive tract before they’ve banged out ten thousand words on Apple’s every move over the coming year. New iPhones! New iPads! Jony Ive to finally be freed from the mysterious White Room!

But short of Tim Cook leaving the running of Apple to Siri – who subsequently misinterprets “make Apple a success” as “make Apple a mess” – we can guarantee shiny new iPhones, iPads, iMacs, Mac notebooks, and Apple Watches will arrive during 2018.

At Stuff, then, we’re mulling a little more deeply. Here’s our list of what we want to see from Apple, rather than what we know we’re going to get.

Get Face ID everywhere

Well, not quite everywhere – and certainly not without asking. If a black notch appears above our front door come January, we’ll be having words with Tim Cook, even if it does allow us to waltz into our home without a key.

But we do want Face ID to quickly move beyond the iPhone X. iPads are an obvious destination, but Face ID would be superb on Macs, too, for unlocking screens, securely buying things online, and the essential desktop task of creating a video featuring a cartoon poo animated by your very own visage.

Release a new Mac mini

It’s been three years. C’mon, Apple – your cheapest, dinkiest Mac is now neither particularly cheap nor dinky. Instead, it’s an overpriced relic, not least when you consider today’s huge range of almost ludicrously tiny and yet powerful ‘mini PCs’.

There’s the possibility Apple will just slap a new chip in the Mac mini, and add a USB-C port. We hope it’ll instead completely rework it as an affordable, properly petite Mac for everyone, perhaps even making it small enough to slip into a pocket.

Redefine the Mac Pro

Four years ago, Apple revealed a new Mac Pro, which languished thereafter. Apple exec Phil Schiller’s “Can’t innovate any more, my ass!” exclamation has since been replaced with more reflective language from Apple, with Craig Federighi admitting: “We designed ourselves into a bit of a corner."

Apple wanted to be bold and different, but didn’t listen to pros clamouring for an expandable, upgradable Mac – anathema to the modern Apple. Nonetheless, the company claims its new Mac Pro will be “modular”. At the very least, we won’t see another designer trash can with proprietary graphics cards.

Revamp the iPhone SE

In 2016, Apple shoved an iPhone 6S’s guts into an iPhone 5 case. The result was a diminutive yet powerful device, based on Stuff’s favourite iPhone ever. A year later, though, Apple merely bumped up the storage.

Although the iPhone X now offers a sweet spot in terms of power and heft, we believe there’s still space for an even smaller – and far more affordable – iPhone. But 2018’s iPhone SE needs an A10 chip at the very least, a better camera, and possibly a natty new design. Don’t lose the headphone socket, though.

Slow down the OS release cycle

When considering software reliability, it’s easy to decide everything was better in the old days. In reality, every previous OS has had its moments with bugs and quirks. Still, it does feel in recent years like Apple’s in too much of a hurry.

Apple’s clockwork hardware release cycle demands major annual upgrades to macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS – and something has to give. In 2017, that something was security and polish. In 2018, we’d happily see Apple cut back on new features, so the company can double down on ensuring Macs don’t have major security holes, and that the Calculator app on your iPhone actually works.

Unleash Pencil on iPhone

Laugh all you like about Steve Jobs once saying: “If you see a stylus, they blew it." For the original iPhone, he was right – until its arrival, smartphone interaction did indeed primarily happen by way of a little stick, whereas Apple reasoned you had ten perfectly good pointers attached to your person.

For specific tasks, though, a stylus is a boon, and Apple Pencil has clicked with digital artists on iPad. Given that a New Yorker cover was finger-painted on an iPhone seven years ago, you’d hope Apple would bring Pencil to at least its flagship smartphone as well.

Sort out duff keyboards

Apple’s obsession with thin has had a detrimental effect on keyboards. On desktop and notebooks alike, key travel has been reduced, and we’re now at the point where butterfly keys can be wrecked by a speck of dust. Apple’s response has been a comical set of instructions that stops just short of telling you to become a wizard and yell “Disticus Begonicus!” at your notebook.

Morever, it turns out shaking and compressed air don’t always work. Some MacBook Pro users have been forced to replace the entire top of their notebooks, due to a single dodgy key. That’s madness for a vital input device, and so Apple in 2018 must stop compromising robustness for the sake of shaving the odd millimetre off of a notebook’s thickness.

Rethink Apple TV pricing

In the months since the Apple TV 4K was launched, most of our grumbles have been addressed. UI quirks have been fixed, and vital telly apps have arrived on the platform. One thing that hasn’t changed is the price.

We’re used to Apple charging a premium, but it’s absurd that you can buy two Amazon Fire TV 4K units for less than the cost of a single old Apple TV, let alone the even pricier 4K one. Apple may argue its device has full integration with Apple services – but most people use these boxes to watch telly. Apple’s at risk of losing customers to Amazon’s ecosystem – and once you start buying movies and TV shows, you’re locked in and won’t go back.

Nuke the iPhone X notch

It’s vanishingly unlikely Apple will overhaul the industrial design of its flagship iPhone after just one year, but we’re going to add this entry to our list anyway. Apple’s said the iPhone X is ‘all screen’, and we’d love for that to be the case. But it isn’t – because of the notch.

There are technical reasons why this blemish exists, but it sticks out like a sore thumb, and looks really weird in landscape. We suspect only magic could make it disappear in 2018. Still, Apple does often like to call its devices ‘magical’, so here’s hoping.

Hide the Home indicator

How often do you perform a gesture before it becomes ingrained? Once? Ten times? One hundred times? For Apple, the answer is seemingly ‘never’ – at least as far as its Home indicator goes. This line hangs around like a bad smell on the iPhone X, like someone’s drawn in pen at the bottom of your screen.

We get that Apple has replaced a key iPhone interaction with something new that people must now commit to muscle memory. But once they have, at least let people turn the Home indicator off, so it’s not looming there every time they play a game or use an immersive full-screen app. For a company that likes to bang on about courage, it didn’t show much of it here.