Apple in 2020: what Stuff wants to see – unified iPads, smaller iPhones and Arcade thriving

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

We’re still surrounded by mince pies, tinsel and the debris of New Year’s Eve. But with Stuff being all about gadgets and tech, we’re duty bound to hurl at the internet ‘Apple 2020’ predictions, like how there will be a new iPhone, new iPads and some new Macs!

No, hang on – because this is Stuff, and we aren’t concerned with that kind of Captain Obvious me-too lark in this annual tradition. We – and you – already know that sort of thing is coming from Apple this year.

Instead, then, we bring you our annual Apple wish list – those things we hope are on the radar over at Cupertino, to make your time with Apple kit all the more rosy.

Fix all the keyboards

Apple’s notebook keyboards have rightly come in for some stick in recent years, due to comfort and reliability issues. Arguably, the problem is wider – even the desktop Magic Keyboard is flawed, succumbing to damage during normal use, and lacking inverted-T arrow keys. 2019’s MacBook Pro 16in keyboard shows the way forward – a modern, slimline design that should prove durable, has the inverted T back, and doesn’t deafen everyone in the vicinity when you’re smashing out words. We hope all Apple keyboards soon follow suit.

Unify the iPads

Over the past 12 months, Apple released a range of new iPads – iPad mini; iPad Air; iPad – all of which impressed. But when set alongside 2018’s iPad Pro, they can’t help but feel a little bit retro. Now Apple’s iPhone line has broadly unified, we’d love to see the same happen to the iPad in 2020: get rid of the Home button, and minimise the bezel; rethink the form factor to make every iPad the distraction-free blank canvas the device always aspired to be.

Limit OS beta access

It’s safe to say things have got out of hand with Apple and beta software. Time was only developers got their mitts on early versions of any upcoming OS. But then public betas became popular, giving anyone the chance to sign up. The trouble is, last year’s betas were a tech minefield, with critical bugs that in some cases obliterated user data. Apple can give all the warnings it likes, but too many people ignore them because they want to be first to play with new toys. The entire scheme needs a rethink.

Give Apple TV some love

Apple’s little black box has a lot going for it. The interface is sleek and responsive; there are some superb apps, like Brian Eno: Reflection and Infuse; and although Apple stumbled in its attempts to transform Apple TV into a games console, it nonetheless has plenty of great titles, along with the hundred or so newcomers in Apple Arcade. However, the box itself has not been updated in ages, and feels overpriced compared to the competition. Either update the hardware or cut the price, please, Apple – just make people care about Apple TV again.

Keep an iPhone port

The latest big iPhone rumour is Apple will soon remove the Lightning port – and not to replace it with USB-C. Instead, the thinking is ports are so last decade, and the future is wireless. This is great if you ignore pesky things like convenience, reality and pro usage. We at Stuff don’t care which port the iPhone has, just that it retains one, so we can charge our device on a train, more easily connect it to a car, and keep using pro audio kit without wrestling with the critical latency issues wireless brings.

Ensure Arcade thrives

Apple Arcade surprised pretty much everyone. Although we were cautiously optimistic, the more widespread opinion was it would bomb. But Apple Arcade quickly became a commercial and critical hit, showcasing how great mobile gaming can be when freed from the shackles of freemium hell. Notably, many titles made appearances in ‘best of 2019’ lists on major gaming sites – unlike vanilla iOS fare. So our plea is this: Apple, don’t rest on your laurels. We know you’ve hit over 100 games, and can slow down a bit. But don’t stick Apple Arcade in neutral – ensure it continues to grow.

Let iPad (sometimes) ‘be’ a PC

Don’t get us wrong: the iPad’s primary use case should remain a be-anything blank canvas, driven by multitouch. But when the app ecosystem provides silky smooth 4K video editors, high-end DAWs for music composition, and desktop-grade writing and graphic design tools, something has to give. We therefore hope 2020 brings the option of – when appropriate – effectively plonking iPad in a dock set-up, and using it with a keyboard, trackpad and external display. Failing that, we’d settle for full pointer support in iPadOS, rather than the current half-hearted implementation that doesn’t even support gestural input from Apple’s own trackpad and mouse.

Sort out iCloud

The dream of iCloud is seamless access to all of your stuff on all of your Apple kit. The reality is markedly different. Too often, things just go wrong. Calendars don’t sync. Music throws a wobbly. Photos don’t match up on different devices. Because the systems are so opaque, there’s no way to fix issues. Beyond that, iCloud lags behind rivals regarding sharing and collaboration, and is lumbered with a now absurdly stingy 5GB free tier. Apple’s doubling down on services; in 2020, it needs to double down on making this one work flawlessly.

Give us a smaller iPhone

We’re probably on a hiding to nothing with this one, but it’d sure be nice to have the option of an iPhone that’s not the size of a surfboard. These days, the smallest, lightest iPhone you can buy new is the iPhone 8. Although marginally thinner than the depicted iPhone SE that was unceremoniously canned in 2018, it’s taller, wider and heavier. Some people lack big hands and pockets, and just want a dinky iPhone – even if it lacks the most powerful chip and cutting-edge camera. Here’s hoping Apple hears their pleas this year.

Nuke the Home indicator

From orbit. Just to be sure. Yes, we’ve been here before. Twice, in fact. But the longer the Home indicator sticks around, the more irritating it becomes. With Apple Arcade, it’s particularly loathsome, bobbing up and down as you play, a scar across the display every time you tap or swipe. We understand the Home indicator needs to be on by default, but it’s no longer new. People get that things happen when you swipe around the bottom of a device’s display. So, Apple, if you give us just one thing from this list in 2020, please make it a Home indicator off switch.