Apple WWDC 21 Wish List

Typically when Apple has an event, I typically end up doing a post about my predictions for what the event will hold. For most of Apple’s events, I think it makes sense, yet for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, called WWDC, keynote it does not make as much sense to do so.

WWDC is where Apple provides information about the next versions of their operating systems. On the first day of WWDC there are two keynotes, one aimed towards the general user and a second one called the “State of the Union”. The State of the Union is the keynote for developers that can get a bit more technical.

Instead of doing purely a predictions post, I am going to do more of a wish list post. With that, here is what I would like to see from Apple.

Music

Apple likes to say that “Music is part of Apple’s DNA”. Recently, Apple announced that there will be lossless audio available on Apple Music as well as Dolby Atmos enabled tracks. There have been a number of changes over the years for the Music app, but there are a couple of things I would like to see.

The first is that I would like to be able to zoom in on artwork within the Music app. I cannot see why there is any reason why this has not been something that we can do.

The second item that I would like to see related to music is the ability to create Smart Playlists from the Music app. The Music app on macOS, previously iTunes, has long allowed you to create playlists based on certain criteria. These playlists can be uploaded to one’s iCloud Music Library and then view them on an iPhone or iPad. My question is why can this not be done on an iPhone or iPad. The interface would need to be built, but the devices definitely can handle the need. It may even be that the songs for these are only updated once a day, or only when a device is on a charger. This would be nice to see.

iCloud

Apple is all about services and one of the services is iCloud. Ever since its introduction in 2008, as the replacement of MobileMe, the amount of free storage has been 5GB. To me, this is not only woefully inadequate, but it makes Apple look really stingy. I understand that Apple has billions of customers and that it is a lot of data that could need to be stored. However, Apple has the money to make this happen. I think the minimum should be at least 10GB. Yes, additional storage can be purchased, but the minimum should be something that users can actually use.

The second iCloud related item, is that there should be a place where one can see all of their iCloud Shared folders. To me, this should already be in the system, but it is not. This should be available in the Files app, in Finder on macOS, and available on iCloud.com. This would be a small feature that would go a long way.

Apple Watch

There are two things that I would like to see for the Apple Watch. One of these relates to charging and the other to watch faces.

When you charge an Apple Watch once the Watch is fully charged a notification will be sent to the paired iPhone. What I would like to see is this enhanced a bit so that the notification will be sent to other nearby devices, like a Mac or an iPad, provided that the devices are logged into the same iCloud account. Like the listing of shared iCloud folders, this is a small feature that would add a nice touch.

The second change is third-party custom watch faces. I think allowing developers to create custom watch faces, and having users install them, is sorely needed. The Apple Watch has a wide variety of watch faces, however, even with all of the customizations that are available, not all watch faces suit the needs of all users. I am not sure if Apple will ever do this, but I am sure that there is a market for this.

Widgets

Widgets were introduced with iOS 14 and have been very popular. When they were introduced there were two limitations, minimal interaction and iOS only. I would like to see some updates to these limitations.

Currently with Widgets you are limited to opening a deep link into an app. I think adding some interactivity is needed. It completely makes sense to limit the feature set for the first release, but adding more features as time goes on makes sense. It would be nice to be able to have additional interaction options.

Along with enhanced interactions, I would like to see Widgets come to the iPad. Right now, Widgets are limited to the left side of the first page on the iPad, whereas the iPhone allows widgets on the home screen. I know this would make my iPad usage experience a bit nicer.

To coincide with widgets on iPad, I would like to see additional sizes. Right now there are three sizes, called “small”, “medium”, and “large”. A small widget is a two columns by two rows, a medium widget is two rows tall by four columns wide, and a large widget is four columns by four rows. The additional sizes could be “extra small”, which would be a one two columns by one row. Additionally, it would be handy to have a vertical “extra small”, where it would be one column by two rows. Furthermore, a “extra small wide” version, which is one row by four columns, as well as the vertical variant, would also be an option.

Barry Sullivan’s Ideas

Barry Sullivan, friend of mine and editor my books, has some ideas on what it might be good for Apple to as well. “for Apple to unleash the iPad Pro with the M1 ‘desktop class’ processor that should allow: Widgets all over the place not just the left side of the screen, a real file system to move files and data around, a mail system that allows “nested folders” that a user can open and close (just like on the Mac), more choices for icon size (think small, medium, and large – like you can in widgets)”.

Barry also added “For me the mail nested folders thing would make my life easier since I track bill pay for me, [and my relatives]. And if the iOS mail world would tie in better with the Mac imap world I would be able to work across devices, after all it is 2021.”

Barry is right, the Mail app on iOS and iPadOS has remained mostly unchanged for the last decade.

iPad

On the topic of the iPad, the new 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 3rd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro includes an M1 processor. What we do not know is why Apple has in store for the device. There needs to be some big changes for the iPad, beyond getting feature parity, like widgets, with the iPhone. If the iPad is truly going to be its own device, then it needs the software to catch up to the hardware.

There have been those who have speculated that the M1 iPad may be able to run virtual machines or docker installations. It is possible that Apple will do this, but I am not sure, but anything is possible. No matter what, there needs to be a significant improvement in iPadOS, otherwise what is the point of having the iPad because it is effectively a giant iPhone.

The hardware of the iPad has long outstripped the software, and it is beyond time for the software to catch up. It would be great to see iPadOS push the M1 iPad to its limits, possibly with some features only being available on the iPad with the M1 system on a chip. This would not be unprecedented in the history of the iPad, so it would be prudent for Apple to show that they are indeed putting functionality into the iPad and iPadOS.

tvOS and HomePod

There is one prediction that I am going to make. That prediction is that tvOS will be renamed to homeOS. homeOS will be a combination of the Apple TV and the HomePod. The reason that I think this is that the HomePod has been running the same software as tvOS for a couple of years. With the Apple TV and HomePod both being home-based items, it would make sense. Furthermore, with an Apple TV and HomePod both being capable of being a HomeKit Hub, renaming it would make sense.

A couple of job postings have hinted at this. Both of the job postings listed homeOS. Once this was discovered, one was changed to tvOS and the other now says “HomePod”. This is why I think these two will be combined into tvOS.

App Management

There are a couple of things that I would like to see related to the management of apps. These are around data and availability.

All apps contain at least some data. One thing that I would like to see is the ability to backup and restore an individual app’s data without needing to go through Xcode. While many apps sync their data via the cloud, there may be aspects of an app that are local and being able to backup and restore this individually would be a nice thing to have.

Availability of apps is an important one. As much as I would like this next feature I highly doubt that Apple would make it happen, and that feature is side-loading. I would like to see iOS and iPadOS app side-loading similar to that macOS. This would allow for some apps that would not be available otherwise. However, given how much control Apple wants to keep on iOS and iPadOS, I do not see this happening.

Closing Thoughts

Apple’s WWDC keynote, as well as the State of the Union, will be streamed on Monday at 10am pacific time, and 2:30pm pacific time respectively. While the main keynote is great for most users and the media, the State of the Union is geared towards developers and is where we will more likely learn about the nitty gritty details.

As is the case with all of Apple’s keynotes, I will have a recap post after the event has ended. So check back then to see what Apple actually announces.