Fea­ture: Ap­ple in 2017

Mar­tyn Casserly rounds up what we can expect this year

Macworld - - Feature -

2016 was an in­ter­est­ing year for Ap­ple. It saw the in­tro­duc­tion of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, al­beit con­tro­ver­sially with­out head­phone jacks, and a re­turn to the 4in form fac­tor in the pop­u­lar iPhone SE. Plus there was the re­lease of the Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 2, a new 9.7in iPad Pro, and an ap­par­ently Brexit-re­lated un­wel­come hike in prices across the board.

So, what does 2017 have up its sleeves for Ap­ple fans? We’ve donned our prog­nos­ti­ca­tion hats, in­ves­ti­gated ev­ery ru­mour and trend we could find,

all to bring you our pre­dic­tions for 2017. It looks like it could be a big year.

Ap­ple Watch 3

Ap­ple re­leased the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of its Watch in Septem­ber of 2016 which added GPS, in­ter­nal up­grades, and wa­ter proof­ing to the de­sign. This was ac­com­pa­nied by the watchOS 3 up­date that in­creased per­for­mance and func­tion­al­ity for not only the new mod­els but also the orig­i­nal range.

We expect to see Ap­ple an­nounce the third it­er­a­tion of its Watch in Septem­ber 2017, hope­fully for around the same price as the cur­rent mod­els which start at £369, although that is far from cer­tain af­ter the in­creases we saw at the end of 2016.

There’s lit­tle in the way of firm ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing what the Ap­ple Watch 3 will look like, but it’s fair to say that you should expect a model that’s very sim­i­lar to the cur­rent ver­sion. Some ex­perts have pos­tu­lated that there could be a Watch S re­lease in March of 2017 that would in­clude ad­di­tional stor­age space, but this re­mains a ru­mour at best. Sev­eral news sites have also spec­u­lated on the pos­si­bil­ity of a round dis­play, much like the one found on the Moto 360 An­droid Wear de­vice.

It’s widely ex­pected that the Watch 3 will in­clude a front fac­ing cam­era that could be used for self­ies or FaceTime calls, as Ap­ple holds a patent for such a de­vice and Watch OS 2 in­tro­duced sup­port for FaceTime au­dio calls.

The new model is also likely to fea­ture a Mi­cro-LED dis­play, which would be lighter, thin­ner, and brighter than the LCD pan­els cur­rently used.

Another com­mon thought is that Ap­ple will fi­nally in­tro­duce 3G or 4G ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the Watch, in or­der to make it more in­de­pen­dent from the iPhone. We’re not con­vinced by this. Ap­ple likes its de­vices to be closely tied to­gether, and the bat­tery life prob­lems that come with cel­lu­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties might make it an unat­trac­tive op­tion at this time.

It’s still early days for the Ap­ple Watch, so we fully expect this to be a quiet evo­lu­tion rather than revo­lu­tion. Thin­ner, lighter, faster and longer bat­tery life is the mantra, and we’d be very happy with that.

iPhones

2017 marks the 10th an­niver­sary of the iPhone, so many are ex­pect­ing Ap­ple to pull out all the stops and re­lease some­thing special.

iPhone SE 2

The first model to ap­pear will be the iPhone SE 2 or SEs, re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing (and rather pop­u­lar) SE that was in­tro­duced in March 2016. Expect the new model to be re­leased in the same time­line and fea­ture the ex­ist­ing, clas­sic de­sign, but with

up­graded in­ter­nals such as the A10 chip found in the cur­rent iPhone 7 and a more pow­er­ful cam­era.

In all hon­esty we’d love to see the orig­i­nal SE re­main an op­tion, and a price cut could make it a very at­trac­tive propo­si­tion, but this would make Ap­ple’s iPhone range quite com­pli­cated so it’s more likely that the lit­tle pow­er­house will be re­tired.

iPhone 7s or 8

There has been much dis­cus­sion over what the new iPhone will be called. Nor­mally Ap­ple would con­tinue its tick-tock rhythm of a new de­sign one year fol­lowed by the S ver­sion which up­grades only the in­ter­nals. But the iPhone 7 fea­tured a min­i­mal change to the de­sign of the 6 and 6s, which leads many to think that Ap­ple is sav­ing the big changes for its 10th An­niver­sary model: the iPhone 8.

Per­haps the big­gest ex­pected change to the de­sign of the iPhone 8 is the re­moval of the Home but­ton to al­low an edge-to-edge glass dis­play. But what of Ap­ple ID and the fin­ger­print sen­sor? Well, there have been sev­eral re­ports that Ap­ple in­tends to in­clude tech­nol­ogy that al­lows the screen it­self to act as a fin­ger­print sen­sor, thus re­mov­ing the need for a phys­i­cal but­ton.

This would be a truly re­mark­able in­no­va­tion and give iPhone users dis­play sizes on par with many pre­mium An­droid de­vices but in a com­pact for­mat.

MacRu­mours also as­serts that Ap­ple is in­tend­ing to use a flex­i­ble OLED dis­play rather than the LCD pan­els that have ap­peared on pre­vi­ous iPhones. This could make the de­vices lighter while also of­fer­ing more vivid colours and con­trasts.

Another fea­ture of­ten found on An­droid phones is that of wire­less charg­ing, and it looks very likely that this will be in­cluded on the iPhone 8. Some ru­mours even sug­gest the Ap­ple will in­clude long-range wire­less charg­ing, with Bloomberg Busi­ness re­port­ing that the com­pany wants to im­ple­ment the game chang­ing tech­nol­ogy that could charge an iphone from sev­eral feet away, and could have it ready for 2017.

The Jet black colour in­tro­duced with the iPhone 7 has been very pop­u­lar, but its ten­dency to scratch eas­ily is thought to have prompted Ap­ple to re­turn to a glass back and front de­sign for the iPhone 8. There might also be new Deep Blue and Space Black colour op­tions if the re­ports on var­i­ous Ja­panese sites are to be be­lieved.

One in­ter­est­ing idea that’s gath­er­ing pace is that the new model will in­clude Aug­mented Re­al­ity

soft­ware, which over­lays rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on any place or thing that you point the cam­era at. While we’ve yet to see proof of this, it would be a very cool ad­di­tion.

So with a new edge-to-edge de­sign, soft­ware en­abled fin­ger­print de­tec­tion, long-range wire­less charg­ing, bet­ter dis­play, plus the usual in­ter­nal up­grades, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus re­ally could be a wor­thy way to mark a decade at the top. Roll on Septem­ber 2017.

iPads iPad Air 3

There was no new iPad Air in 2015 or 2016 so some Ap­ple fans are hop­ing for an up­date to that model soon; but we sus­pect that the 9.7in iPad Pro has now dis­placed the iPad Air line. In fact we’re not con­vinced that Ap­ple will re­lease another Air-branded prod­uct at all, as sig­nalled by the 13in MacBook Air’s tiny up­date this spring and the re­tire­ment of the 11in ver­sion. If Ap­ple does sur­prise us and an­nounces an iPad Air 3 then we’d hope for a faster pro­ces­sor, bet­ter cam­era, and 3D Touch (although KGI an­a­lyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn’t think 3D Touch will make an ap­pear­ance, ap­par­ently due to pro­duc­tion is­sues). But our bet would be on the Air 2 be­ing the last of its fam­ily line.

iPad mini 5 Given that the Mini 4 was last up­dated in Septem­ber 2015, it’s clear Ap­ple isn’t too fo­cused on its smaller tablets. This could change in 2017 though as ru­mours sug­gest that March could see the in­tro­duc­tion of a Mini Pro with up­graded com­po­nents, a new thin­ner, tougher alu­minium chas­sis and the in­clu­sion of a Smart Con­nec­tor to match that of the other iPad Pro de­vices.

iPad Pro 2

With the 12.9in iPad Pro ar­riv­ing in Novem­ber 2015, and the 9.7in Pro in March 2016, it’s hard to guess the plans for this line. Our sus­pi­cion is that Ap­ple will up­date both in spring 2017, but much will de­pend on how ef­fec­tively they have dealt with the stag­nat­ing iPad sales prob­lem we’ve ob­served in the past few earn­ings calls.

One way to stim­u­late in­ter­est could be the in­tro­duc­tion of a new size. Ming-Chi Kuo has stated that Ap­ple will of­fer three Pros in 2017, but not a Mini as you might think, in­stead a 9.7-, 12.9- and new 10.5in vari­ant. He makes sense of this by ex­plain­ing that the 9.7in Pro will be a lower pow­ered ver­sion than it’s big­ger brothers.

Other ru­mours do­ing the rounds ar­gue that there will be a 10.9in ver­sion in­stead of the 10.5in one Kuo is back­ing. This could also fea­ture a de­sign change that elim­i­nates the bezels and makes use of the soft­ware fin­ger­print de­tec­tion tech­nol­ogy that is ex­pected to ap­pear in the iPhone 8.

There’s no doubt that iPads are in a tran­si­tional pe­riod at the mo­ment, but Ap­ple seems to be push­ing the Pros as the way ahead.

Ap­ple TV

It might have es­caped the at­ten­tion of many peo­ple that 2017 ac­tu­ally marks the 10th an­niver­sary of Ap­ple TV. With this in mind some think that Ap­ple could cel­e­brate the oc­ca­sion with an up­date to its lit­tle black box. Whether this is true or not re­mains a mys­tery, as there have been very few cred­i­ble ru­mours about any new de­vel­op­ments in­side the Ap­ple cam­pus. Then there’s also the fact that the usual gap be­tween it­er­a­tions of Ap­ple TV tends to be two or three years.

Macs

The Mac Pro The Mac Pro is long over­due a re­fresh as it hasn’t been up­dated since its launch in 2013. The once fu­tur­is­tic de­vice now looks a lit­tle long in the tooth, hav­ing been by­passed by gen­er­a­tions of In­tel chips that never made it into the chas­sis. Will Ap­ple up­date the Mac Pro in 2017 or has it given up en­tirely on this pro­fes­sional Mac work­sta­tion?

At this point we re­ally don’t know. Ru­mours of re­lease dates and po­ten­tial up­grades have come and gone, but noth­ing has ap­peared. Some are buoy­ant that March 2017 will be the event where new Pros are an­nounced, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

MacBook Air

With the in­tro­duc­tion of the 12in MacBook and the new, light­weight 13in MacBook Pro the writ­ing seems pretty much on the wall for the old MacBook Air. Ap­ple has al­ready re­tired the 11in model in 2016, and once the 12in MacBook gets an up­date in

2017 to hope­fully add an ad­di­tional USB-C port and up­grade the aw­ful key­board, there won’t be much room left for the Air brand.

All many of us wanted for the 13in model was to get a retina screen and a spec bump, but we sus­pect that will never hap­pen and the MacBook Air, like the iPad Air, is on the way out.

MacBook Pro With the MacBook Pro hav­ing only just been re­leased as 2016 draws to a close, we won’t expect much to change un­til very late in 2017. The mas­sive re­design has al­ready caused quite a re­ac­tion, so we’d rule out any­thing sig­nif­i­cant hap­pen­ing in the next it­er­a­tion. In­stead we think there will most likely be a shift to Kaby Lake chips, which in turn could open up higher RAM op­tions. Other than that all we re­ally want are the prices to come down.

12in Retina MacBook up­date

Ap­ple launched its in­cred­i­bly thin and light 12in MacBook back in March 2015, and the MacBook’s first birth­day saw a solid if un­spec­tac­u­lar up­date – var­i­ous sen­si­ble specs boosts, and a rose gold colour op­tion.

The third it­er­a­tion of the 12in MacBook is likely to ap­pear in spring 2017. Ru­mours are thin on the ground right now, but some of the wilder spec­u­la­tion has sug­gested that it might fea­ture

a ‘Force Touch key­board’ – a key­board, in other words, that doesn’t ac­tu­ally move in re­sponse to your key presses, in­stead sim­u­lat­ing presses through hap­tic feed­back just like the Force Touch track­pad. Sounds pretty bizarre – not to men­tion dif­fi­cult to use for touch-typ­ing – but that’s the sort of thing you tend to hear this far ahead of a launch. We think it’s more likely that Ap­ple will in­stall the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of its but­ter­fly key­board that ap­peared on the new MacBook Pro in­stead.

Mac mini Ah Mac Mini, where did it all go wrong? Af­ter be­ing hob­bled in 2014 by what can barely be con­sid­ered an up­grade, Ap­ple has left the Mini to fall fal­low. Now we don’t know whether 2017 will see a res­ur­rec­tion of its for­tunes, but all here at Mac­world are root­ing for the lit­tle guy.

iMacs The iMac range last saw up­dates in 2015 that moved the high-end mod­els over to In­tel’s Sky­lake pro­ces­sors, and the 21.5in mod­els to Broad­well chips. What 2017 holds in store for the range is still un­cer­tain, as In­tel’s chipsets seem to be slightly out of step with Ap­ple’s de­mands at the mo­ment.

Bloomberg has re­ported that new iMacs are on their way, so it seems the two com­pa­nies have worked it out, but de­tails are as yet un­known as to what up­grades the de­vices will be run­ning.

Mac pro­ces­sor up­dates

De­spite Ap­ple’s ad­ven­tures into pro­ces­sor de­sign it’s un­likely we’ll see the com­pany rolling out its

own chips in its desk­top and lap­top ma­chines un­less it can make them fully com­pat­i­ble with the cur­rent In­tel line-up.

Won­der­ful though it would be to run iOS apps along­side OS X soft­ware, Ap­ple would need to give de­vel­op­ers sev­eral years’ no­tice to up­date their ap­pli­ca­tions to run on any new ar­chi­tec­ture, so expect to still be buy­ing In­tel-driven ma­chines for at least the next 12 months.

Force Touch Key­board

A Force Touch key­board could be in the works, too – as a sup­ple­ment to the Magic Track­pad 2 – if a re­cent patent fil­ing is any­thing to go by. The

switch­less de­sign would al­low Ap­ple to pro­duce even thin­ner MacBooks, and also to take into ac­count the force with which a key is pressed, which will be a boon for any­one mak­ing mu­sic on their Mac. In the op­po­site direc­tion it should al­low for hap­tic feed­back, which could pos­si­bly be used to sig­nify to vi­sion-im­paired users that they’re cor­rectly strik­ing a par­tic­u­lar key.

Soft­ware and ser­vices iOS 11

Ap­ple tra­di­tion­ally an­nounces new ver­sion of iOS in June, fol­lowed by the re­lease in the au­tumn. So far the only strong ru­mour about the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem is that it will in­clude an im­proved ‘nat­u­ral­sound­ing’ Siri as Ap­ple works to im­prove the be­hav­iour and re­sponse of its voice in­ter­face.

Another strong pos­si­bil­ity is the in­clu­sion of a Dark Mode with black back­grounds rather than the bright white nor­mally found on iOS, and there’s an out­side chance that your Con­tacts could be­come ac­tive in iOS 11, mean­ing you can see when peo­ple are avail­able to chat.

ma­cOS Like iOS 11, the new ver­sion of Ap­ple’s Mac op­er­at­ing sys­tem will be un­veiled at WWDC 2017 in June, and then roll out in the au­tumn. So far there are no real ru­mours about what Ap­ple will in­clude in the new up­date. Siri in­te­gra­tion was at the cen­tre of the 2016 re­lease, so it’s pos­si­ble that those fea­tures will be en­hanced and im­proved upon for the 2017 up­date.

watchOS 4

WatchOS is de­vel­op­ing nicely and in 2017 we expect to see the in­tro­duc­tion of Sleep Track­ing,

which would fur­ther bol­ster the fit­ness fo­cus of the Ap­ple Watch.

tvOS Last and prob­a­bly least of Ap­ple’s four soft­ware plat­forms, tvOS nev­er­the­less got a de­cent up­date at WWDC 2016 which we think will prob­a­bly carry it through 2017.

Ap­ple Pay Along­side th­ese head­line de­vel­op­ments, there will be a whole se­ries of speed bumps along the way as Ap­ple ex­tends and re­fines its Ap­ple Pay of­fer­ing. We an­tic­i­pate that Ap­ple Pay will be ac­cepted in a wider range of head­line stores.

Ap­ple Mu­sic

With 20 mil­lion sub­scribers Ap­ple Mu­sic has made a de­cent start, but is it good enough to con­tinue

this mo­men­tum and can it re­ally com­pete with the likes of Spo­tify? As for Beats 1, we’re not con­vinced this is mak­ing the im­pact Ap­ple hoped for, but the we prob­a­bly aren’t the tar­get mar­ket for it. We’d like to see more ra­dio chan­nels tuned to less trendy mu­sic choices.

There are also ru­mours that stream­ing on Ap­ple Mu­sic could be en­hanced, with high­res­o­lu­tion bet­ter qual­ity au­dio for that ser­vice – up to 96kHz/24-bit, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on Ma­co­takara. Since the 3.5mm head­phone jack is lim­ited to CD qual­ity sound this ap­pears to back up the mo­tives for Ap­ple ditch­ing the 3.5mm head­phone jack from the iPhone 7, as the Light­ing port can of­fer HD au­dio.

Ap­ple Mu­sic may also prove to be the one thing that keeps the iPod on the shelves in 2017. If you’d asked us what we thought of its chances at the close of 2014, we’d have said ‘slim’, but 2015 saw Ap­ple de­liver the first proper up­date to the iPod touch in three years, and it’s now pro­vid­ing another en­try ramp for the firm’s £9.99 per month mu­sic sub­scrip­tion ser­vice. That alone means it makes sense to give it at least 12 months to prove it­self. The same can’t nec­es­sar­ily be said of the nano and shuf­fle, which are each avail­able in just one con­fig­u­ra­tion and, with­out stream­ing abil­i­ties, of­fer no on­go­ing rev­enue source.

iPad Pro fam­ily

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