Back in May, during the lead up to Apple’s annual developer conference, I wrote an article detailing my ‘Hopes for WWDC 2014.’ During the conference there were a lot of announcements for developers1 but no major hardware product announcements, leaving me to wonder if my hopes were simply too optimistic:
- an iterative iPhone 6 design with better battery life and a better camera
- an iMac with retina display
- an update to Aperture, Apple’s professional photo management tool
- a mobile payment platform
- premium wireless in-ear headphones
- a wireless keyboard with numeric keypad
As it turns out, naming the article simply ‘Hopes for 2014’ would have been more appropriate. Despite the lack of announcements at WWDC, Apple spent the rest of the year addressing most of the items on my list.
At a press event in September, Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. I was hoping for an iterative design, and I think Apple certainly delivered that. Having used an iPhone 6 for several months now, I’m really enjoying the curved edges and I’ve acclimatized to the larger screen2. I was also hoping for improved battery life and a better camera, both of which Apple delivered3.
At a press event in October, Apple announced the iMac with Retina 5K display. This is the computer I’ve been waiting years for, and Apple actually exceeded my hopes with this announcement. The retina screen – with over 14 million pixels – is beautiful not just for viewing photographs, but for reading email and browsing the web too. One of the biggest benefits of a high resolution screen is the improved rendering of inky, crisp, text. Combined with a solid state hard drive and a bunch of RAM, my new iMac with Retina 5K display puts my five year old iMac to absolute shame – I’m almost embarrassed for it.
In May I argued that Aperture hadn’t received a major update since 2010 and that it needed some major features in order to leap-frog the competition. I should have been careful what I wished for, as Apple soon thereafter announced that “there will be no new development of Aperture.”
The announcement was bittersweet. I truly believe that Aperture is a better photo management tool than Adobe Lightroom, but as the iPod and eventually the iPhone gained in popularity, Apple’s priorities shifted away from professional tools to the consumer, leaving Aperture to die a slow painful death. To sunset Aperture is an understandable decision, but unfortunate for those of us that spent countless hours editing photos using its proprietary adjustments – work that can’t be transferred non-destructively to Lightroom.
The silver lining in all this is that Apple is developing new photo management software for the Mac – called Photos – which I’m assuming will be developed in conjunction with its iOS equivalent. It should therefore benefit from a larger team and more attention going forward. I don’t expect Photos version 1.0 to have the same features as Aperture, but I’m optimistic that over time it will grow into something equally powerful. Photos will support extensions, so there’s the possibility that features overlooked by Apple can be implemented by developers.
I will continue to use Aperture until Photos is released, and possibly long thereafter. Rather than hoping for an Aperture upgrade, I’m now relegated to a hope that whatever replaces it will be good enough to avoid a painful switch to Lightroom.
In May I wrote:
I also hope Apple unveils a mobile payment platform at WWDC. The typical retail purchasing experience is inefficient (paying at the register takes a lot of time) and potentially insecure (fraud and theft are pervasive). Despite many attempts by others, no company has yet cracked mobile payments. Consumers typically need a particular device, a particular app, or a particular prepaid account and then need to search out vendors that support the same.
In September, alongside new iPhones, Apple introduced their version of mobile payments: Apple Pay. In true Apple fashion, they found an elegant solution for an unwieldy and fragmented industry. Apple Pay has the potential to do for retail purchases what iTunes did for music. I haven’t tried Apple Pay myself but reviews are generally positive and I look forward to Apple Pay expanding to additional countries – namely Canada – soon.
One area where I think Apple Pay can expand is receipts. I use financial software to keep a budget and track purchases, which involves some manual entry of paper receipts. It is time consuming, error-prone, and creates a lot of waste. If each Apple Pay transaction generated a digital receipt in an open standard that could then interface with financial software, it would go a long way to simplifying my life.
I like Apple’s EarPods, but the wire connecting them to things is very limiting. The wire is always getting tangled, caught on clothing, or fraying over time. Wireless headphones already exist, and some companies are developing small in-ear versions. I think Apple, as an expert in energy-efficient mobile devices and industrial design, is uniquely positioned to develop the most compelling product in this space.
While there haven’t been any announcements of such a product, Apple CEO Tim Cook referenced bluetooth headsets in a recent interview with Charlie Rose:
[Apple Watch] requires an iPhone, because they’ve been designed to work together. However, if you go for a run, and you don’t want to carry your iPhone, music is also on your watch. So with a Bluetooth headset, you can run and listen to your music without your iPhone.
Apple is obviously aware of the huge potential for wireless headphones, especially given their pending entry into wearables. The Apple Watch is scheduled to go on sale in early 2015, so perhaps we’ll have to wait a few more months for wireless EarPods?
Wireless keyboard with numeric keypad
When configuring my new iMac, I was given two keyboard options: the Apple Wireless Keyboard or the Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. The wireless keyboard layout mimics that of a Macbook with smaller arrow keys, no home/end or page up/down keys, and no numeric keypad. As someone that spends a lot of time working on spreadsheets, I can’t imagine using a keyboard without a numeric keypad and I’m therefore stuck with the wired keyboard.
For all the emphasis Apple places on design and simplicity, I don’t understand why they haven’t released a wireless keyboard with numeric keypad. Looking at that wire as it snakes across my desk is a constant annoyance4. Of all my ‘Hopes for 2014’ this one seems the least likely to ever get any attention. If anything, Apple may discontinue the keyboard with numeric keyboard altogether.
While WWDC 2014 was a bust for my wish list, the remainder of the year proved pretty successful: I got the iPhone update I wanted, the iMac of my dreams, rebooted Mac photo management software (although certainly not in the form I was expecting), Apple Pay, and even a sense that wireless EarPods could be around the corner. Now if only the finance and accounting teams at Apple would start pulling some strings for those of us that like the numeric keypad but hate wires. Here’s hoping for 2015.
- iCloud Drive, Continuity, HealthKit, Swift, Extensions, and HomeKit to name a few. ↩
- I transitioned from the 3.5″ screen of the iPhone 4 to the 4.7″ screen of the iPhone 6. ↩
- For internet browsing on Wi-Fi, the iPhone 6 provides an additional hour of battery life compared to the iPhone 5s while the iPhone 6 Plus provides two additional hours. Source: apple.com/iphone/compare/ ↩
- To add insult to injury, the material used in the keyboard wire is very rigid. Different parts of the wire slant in different directions and the wire refuses any attempts at being ‘trained,’ much like my wavy, often uncontrollable hair5. ↩
- Also a constant annoyance. ↩