Apple WWDC 2017 Predictions: iPhone and iPad

One of the hardest things to do is predict where Apple might take things in the future. However, that does not stop one from trying. Which is what I plan to do, regarding what Apple will announce at their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference on June 5th at 10 AM Pacific Time.

The Apple of 2017 is very different from the Apple of 1979. Apple today has a fair number of platforms: iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Within each of these, there are numerous frameworks which allow developers to produce apps. Built to support these platforms are a variety of services. These services include iCloud, Apple Music, and the iTunes stores.

I am going to attempt to predict what Apple might announce at their World Wide Developer Conference Keynote on June 5th, 2017 at 10:00AM Pacific Time. Some of these items are logical changes while others are just what I hope Apple will announce.

This is the first of two posts that cover my predictions for what will be announced. This article covers iPad and iPhone. There will be a second post next week that covers macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

iPad

One of the areas where Apple needs to make some major improvements is with the iPad. While the iPad is no where near as popular as the iPhone, it is still a major part of Apple’s strategy. The iPad has seen some improvements over its seven year life, however any iPad-specific improvements have been lacking in the last few releases. In particular, improvements that would help the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The biggest improvement that could be made is around the way that multiple applications are handled. When you use multiple applications on the iPad Pro, you can swipe from the right side of the screen to bring up any compatible applications. However, there is no real order to the applications. This makes it quite difficult to be able to easily locate the application that you want to use in split view.

One possible solution to this issue is to reduce the size of the icons, and basically make it an alphabetical list with application names. This could be an option that is just at the top of the screen. My guess at the probability of this behavior changing is 100%.

Switching Applications

Switching applications on the iPad, particularly in split view is rather cumbersome. If you want to be able to switch the left and right applications, you have to perform the following steps:

  1. Expand the application on the right all the way to the left.
  2. Use slide over to bring up the list of possible applications.
  3. Locate the application that you wish to use (see above for issues wit this).
  4. Tap on the application that you wish to use in split view.
  5. Drag the right-side application to the size you wish to use it at.
  6. Tap on the divider button to put the application into split view.

This procedure takes six steps to be able to accomplish. What would make for a better user experience is to be able to easily swap the two applications. This could be accomplished by holding down on the divider between apps that are in split view. A popup could appear and would offer to swap the applications. I predict the possibility of this occurring at 75%.

App Groups

It is quite often that when you are using applications in split view, that you wish would automatically be grouped together. This could be applications like “Twitter” and “Slack”, or “Notes” and “TV”. However, this is not possible under iOS 10.

It would be nice to see this feature for iOS. This solution could be something akin to Spaces on macOS. With Spaces on macOS you are able to assign applications to a specific space, and the application will also show on that space. This means that you can assign applications that you want to group together to the same space. Given that it is iOS, there is likely a limit to the number of these “spaces” that could be configured. If Apple were to add this feature, it would go a long way for the “pro” users. I give the likelihood of this occurring is 50%.

Within Apple development, there is this idea of application groups. These “application groups” are ones that allow shared information between different applications from the same developer. That is not the type of application grouping that I am referring to.

Sharing Information Between Applications

One of the downsides of split screen on the iPad is that if you want to share information between the two applications that are currently on the screen. If it is simply text that you want to transfer, you can copy and paste. However, if there is an image that you want to send to the other application, you must use the share sheet.

It would be helpful if someone could easily drag and drop information from one application to another. This behavior is very prevalent in macOS applications. There are instances where the items that are dropped from one application to another result in garbage, but this is to be expected.

If Apple were to add this type of functionality, it would be a huge boon to the professional group of iPad users. Additionally, this would add some more functionality and provide more of a replacement for a wider range of users. I put the likelihood of this occurring at 25%.

Swift Playgrounds

When Swift Playgrounds was first introduced it was touted as a way to be able to test out applications and develop directly on the iPad, albeit in a limited manner. There may be some point in the future when you are able to fully develop applications on the iPad, however we are a ways off from that. I do think there will be one change to Swift Playgrounds; the ability to create Sticker Packs directly on the iPad.

Sticker Packs are available for iMessage and allow individuals to quickly create stickers and submit them to the store. There is absolutely no coding required to create a sticker pack. With the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro, there is a large contingent of artists who would love to be able to create and publish their sticker packs directly from the iPad.

Right now, Xcode is required to be able to publish these sticker packs. However, if Apple updates Swift Playgrounds, or creates an entirely new application, it could allow even more sticker packs.

The update, or application, would only allow sticker packs, not more full-featured applications, so it could be possible to allow this to happen. I think the likelihood of this occurring is about 30%.

iPhone and iPad

There are many aspects to iOS that are shared amongst the iPhone and iPad. Whereas the iPhone was the first product released, it was not the first product to enter development, that was the iPad. When the iPad was released it was actually a different operating system. The features between the iPhone and iPad did not come together until iOS 4.3.

32-bit applications

One of the likeliest features of the next version of iOS are that 32-bit applications will no longer be supported. If this does come to pass, there are a couple of ramifications.

The first result is that there will be a couple of devices that will no longer be supported. Most notably, the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and the 4th generation iPad. This is not anything new, given that devices eventually do become end-of-lifed.

The second result is that any applications that are 32-bit only will no longer run. This means that applications that have not been updated will stop working. A majority of these apps are games, which could become problematic for some of your favorite games. I give the possibility of this occurring at 90%.

Naming

Last year’s release of iOS 10 and macOS 10.12 Sierra were both quite substantial. If there is any time that Apple would change from the “10.x” series of names, this would be it. Now is an excellent time for Apple to name the next macOS as macOS 11 [code name], and next years would be macOS 12 [code name], and keep the numbering going forward. This could allow for individuals to more easily know which versions of the operating systems work best together. While it is possible for newer versions of macOS to work with older versions of iOS, and newer iOS versions to work with older macOS versions, the operating systems work best when they are updated to matching versions.

Along side this, Apple could also start providing names to iOS versions. Ideally, these names would be the same. By doing this, users could more easily identify which version of each operating system that they are using and this would also allow users to easily know if they are running the same versions. This is merely an idea. I give this a 5% possibility. I also give the probability of iOS and macOS having the same version going forward as 5%.

Possibility Recap

Let me recap what my predictions for what will be unveiled at Apple’s WWDC Keynote.

Possibility Recap
Change Likelihood
Split View Changing 100%
32-bit Apps going away 90%
Fast split view app swapping 75%
Split View App Groups 50%
Sticker Pack creation from iPad Pro 30%
Drag and drop Data Transfer 25%

Final Thoughts

Each new version of macOS and iOS include a slew of new features. This is not only because new features generate buzz and excitement, but also because new features can spark new ideas from developers. When the occurs the entire eco-system benefits. Apple benefits by increased usage, developers can profit from the features, which Apple also benefits from. Finally users get some updated applications and new capabilities on their existing devices.

Having been an iOS user since the beginning, I have seen the feature set grow from a very limited set to a very feature-rich operating system. However, that does not mean it is near complete, quite the opposite. I have been using macOS full-time for a decade now, and while its feature set was largely in place, it still has a lot of room to grow as well, just in different areas.

I do not know if any of my predictions will actually come to fruition. I guess we will see what Apple does unveil at their WWDC Keynote on June 5th, 2017 at 10:00AM Pacific. Look for another article about macOS, tvOS, and watchOS coming soon.