After a terrible end to 2017, Apple will be looking to make 2018 far more positive. The Spectre/Meltdown challenges, delayed release and lacklustre reviews of the HomePod, the battery scandal, a terrible log-in flaw and backlash against the proposed Melbourne concept store have not helped the company.
But it's a new year and that means we'll see a new version of iOS announced and shown off in June at WWDC, as well as new iPads and iPhones. So, what can we expect from Apple this year?
The iPhone Next
I'm not sure what version number to assign the next iPhone seeing Apple released the iPhone 8 and iPhone X together. I guess we'll see an iPhone 9 (which would be the 19th different iPhone released if you count all the Plus versions) which will build on the iPhone 8's capability but add a faster processor (that will bring us to the A12 Bionic) and continue the improvement in camera tech.
At the moment, Apple has five different iPhone models for sale. This is a big shift for the company and something that Steve Jobs used to hate. For most of the last few years, Apple has maintained three product tiers for the iPhone, adopting a good, better, best range. But today, we have the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Throw in the "Plus" variants and there are now eight iPhones to pick from.
Now that OLED screens are becoming standard, we can expect that better screen tech to make its way into more models. And wireless charging will become standard now that it's gaining traction with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
The facial recognition tech and removal of the button from the front of the iPhone were two of the most obvious new features in the iPhone X. I thought the button would be a pain but the swipe up gesture is actually great and I keep trying to do the same on my iPad.
There's some advice coming from analysts that we'll see three new models released this year. If that's the case, we can expect some rationalisation with the SE, iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 removed from circulation. And don't be surprised if the iPhone X disappears. While sales volumes are down - the company has reduced sales expectations down to "just" 20 million units - they will take the opportunity to bring many of the VR/AR features from the iPhone X into the rest of their products.
I except we'll see a return to three main iPhone models with small, medium and large displays. And, in order to cater for multiple price points, we'll see less expensive LED displays and OLED options depending on what model you choose. In Australian dollars, I expect to see something around the current iPhone SE pricing of $549 or possibly a little less in order to give people looking at low-cost Android handsets something to think about. Those will run a last generation processor and be limited to a max of 128GB of storage. Then I think there will be models at the $1100 - $1500 range with larger screens but a more recent processor. Capacities will start at 64GB with a 256GB option. At the high end, I expect to see a $1500 - $1900 price range with all the latest bells and whistles and the potential for a 512GB option.
Apple, please fix these thing
These aren't predictions but I have a couple of wishes.
Firstly, for goodness' sake, please rearrange/move the buttons on the iPhone. If I pick my iPhone up and accidentally grab the power and volume up buttons, I take a screen shot. I can't count the number of screenshots I have of my home screen that were taken by accident.
And that same button arrangement means that when I use the volume up button to operate the camera shutter, I can easily end up turning my iPhone off just as I'm about to take a photo.
These are dumb ergonomic fails that Apple should address.
The most divisive design feature of the iPhone X is the notch - the area at the top of the display which holds the camera array and other tech that makes FaceID work. While it only takes a short time to get used to it does look pretty crappy. I'd prefer a thin, uniform bezel across the top but whether Apple can make that happen is a matter of conjecture.
New iPhones always come hand-in-hand with a new version of iOS.
To be honest, iOS 11 is a mess. The original foundation of iOS, when it was just called the iPhone operating system and was considered a fork of OS X, was a greatly simplified take on what phones at the time had. The simple array of icons worked well. But, now that we run quite sophisticated software on these devices, the operating system has become a confusing mass of options.
There's little consistency in how apps present their configuration options and the app-centric approach which worked in 2008 is no longer right for 2018.
For a start, hiding information behind an app needs to go. Apple needs to allow users to install widgets that put data in front of the user as soon as they unlock their device. Now that I can unlock my iPhone by looking at it - I want to see more than a few icons.
There are reports that the next version of iOS will focus on stability and performance, rather than adding a cavalcade of new features. That's great but if all that we'll see is better performance of something that no longer suits the needs of users then it's a bit of a waste.
What most people agree is that we'll see unified apps for the Mac and iOS. While this will take a while to come through, as developers re-jig their SDLCs, it will be a good thing in the long-term if you live and work completely within Apple's walled garden. It will also help bolster the Mac App Store, which has struggled to gain traction with Mac users.
For parents, the word is we will see improved parental controls in iOS. My family uses Family Sharing with the younger members of the household having their own child accounts. These work reasonably well but being able to set some controls that back up our own domestic rules around screen time would be helpful.
A faster and more reliable iOS will be good. But making it more user-friendly and breaking the app-centric silos would be a very good thing.
Don't forget the iPad
The iPad has become something of a forgotten child. The next iPad will include FaceID support - and not just so you can send annoying Animojis to people. And the supply chain rumour mill says the entry level iPad will drop in price to around US$259 or around $400 in local money.
There will be the usual speed bump through a new processor, possibly an upgraded version on the A11X bionic, and I expect we'll see the 1TB threshold reached with storage for the high-end iPad Pro.
What do you think? What will Apple do with the next iPhone? Is there a feature or bug you desperately want to see addressed?