Apple in 2021: what Stuff wants to see – redesigned Macs, new hardware, and free backups for all

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

We’re still fighting our way out of a pile of wrapping paper, mince pies and ennui at a socially distanced New Year’s Eve. But this is Stuff and the editor has demanded we fire up the rumour-o-tron and blast ‘Apple 2021’ predictions (quite possibly 2021 of them too) at the internet!

Actually, no, because this is Stuff. Those other guys can trot out the annual me-too lark. Instead, we’re using what’s left of our brains after the festive period to figure out the things we hope are on Apple’s radar for this coming year.

Redesign all of the Macs

From a performance standpoint, Apple’s late-2020 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini were jaw-dropping. From a design standpoint, not so much, given that they were identical to what Apple’s been using for years now. We hope 2021 will bring radical new Mac designs, with dramatically reduced bezels, Face ID, and touchscreens on notebooks. Yes, we went there.

And redo the iPad mini

At some point, every iPad will lose the Home button. With the iPad mini, that could be a magical moment. With a similar footprint and an even bezel, you could add an inch to the display. Given how light – and surprisingly powerful – Apple’s dinkiest iPad is, such a revision could be a deeply tantalising prospect.

Give us a 5K Apple display

If you want to buy a new standalone Apple display for your Mac, Apple offers the Pro Display XDR (at a cool £4599). And that’s it. Yet few companies are keen to provide 4K or 5K displays with the same pixel density – and sturdiness, for that matter – found in the XDR and the one in Apple’s iMacs. If 2021 serves up an iMac without the Mac bit, we’ll be very happy indeed.

Finally figure out Apple TV

Is the Apple TV still a hobby or is it something Apple takes seriously? Who knows? Apple certainly takes TV content seriously these days, but the hardware line-up remains baffling. The Apple TV is insanely expensive compared to rivals, underpowered compared to Apple’s current mobile hardware, and seems the very definition of unloved. We’d like to see a far more affordable miniature Apple TV for telly and music only, and a powerful unit for taking advantage of tvOS games.

Give the iPhone Pencil support

To partly echo that old Steve Jobs line, if a mobile device demands a stylus as its primary input, they’ve blown it. But as a context-specific input device? Sure. There are loads of painting and mark-up apps for iPhone, which benefit from a scribbling stick rather than you prodding at your device with a pudgy digit. Apple makes the best of them – so we want it to work with iPhone.

Improve iPad external display support

You can mirror an iPad to an external widescreen display, but you end up with black borders left and right of the iPad content. Given that an iPad can function as a laptop replacement, there’s no good reason it shouldn’t perform as a desktop replacement too. But for that to happen, we hope Apple next year fully enables external display support, replacing the half-hearted existing solution.

Make peace with streaming gaming

It’s hard to say why Apple’s stubbornly resisting streaming gaming on iPhone and iPad. Perhaps it’s terrified Apple Arcade will become redundant – even though there’s relatively little overlap between it and the likes of Xbox Cloud Gaming. Maybe it just doesn’t get gaming. But it’s absurd to demand streaming services submit every title as an individual app or force them into the browser. This needs to change, or Apple risks iPhone and iPad becoming third-rate gaming platforms.

Allow flexible app installation

Discovered a new app on your Mac and want to install it on your iPhone? Then you’ll need to do that on your iPhone, despite you being signed into your Apple ID on your Mac and Apple knowing what devices you own. Google Play’s been able to install cross-device for years. Quite why Apple hasn’t implemented such functionality yet is anybody’s guess. Perhaps in 2021. (And installation of apps from beyond the App Store would be nice too.)

Let keyboards and trackpads switch devices

Pop some swanky new AirPods in your lugs and they’ll intelligently switch between devices as you use them. Plonk yourself in front of an Apple keyboard and trackpad and… they’ll resolutely stay connected to one device unless you perform a finicky Bluetooth dance. If Apple’s keen on reducing waste in 2021, letting us use one set of input peripherals with multiple Apple devices would be a good start.

Make backups free for everyone

For free, you get 5GB of iCloud space – just like you did when the service was first revealed. What was first a slice of generosity now feels more like an insult. Worse, it means too many people don’t backup their devices, because they won’t pay for extra iCloud storage. Is this Apple’s fault? No. But would it be good if Apple ensured every device was backed up, for free, by default, so no-one would lose data again? Absolutely.