WWDC 2021 Keynote

What We Didn’t Get From Apple at WWDC

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WWDC 2021 Keynote

No matter how good WWDC is and how many new features we get, there is always something, more often somethings, that we don’t. Sometimes features get left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes we want things that Apple just doesn’t care to deliver. It’s always going to happen, but this year we have a few more notable unrequited requests than usual.

So here is a rundown of some of the notable software and hardware that we didn’t get:

Enhanced secondary display support in iPadOS

I’ll go ahead and start with the big feature that I was hoping for this year and didn’t get. When Apple announced that the new iPad Pro’s USB-C port was going to be upgraded to Thunderbolt, I assumed that it was a precursor to them announcing full secondary display support at WWDC. They even made a point to compare the new iPad Pro with their Pro Display XDR and show them together in their advertising. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Apple set this up to be a pretty natural assumption, given the circumstances.

All that said, here we are. For whatever reason, Apple chose to leave the iPad’s secondary display support in its current state for now, which is very limited. I don’t know. Similar to Apple Pencil support on the iPhone, I’m at the point of wondering if Apple is ever going to give us this feature. I know I’m not alone in asking for it, so hopefully they will choose to listen to iPad power users about this at some point.

Pro apps

This is another request that many iPad Pro power users have been making. They see the growing power of the hardware and they want Apple to step up to the plate and give us software that takes full advantage of it. It makes sense. Apple even did something like this with the iPad 2 in 2011, releasing a big update to the iWork apps and Garage Band to take advantage of the updated hardware. Apps like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro seem like perfect candidates, but Apple hasn’t chosen to open the floodgates here yet.

However, Apple did give us a first taste of pro-level software for iPadOS this year. While the name didn’t change, Swift Playgrounds has now become Xcode Lite in a sense. Apple has now added the capability to code a entire apps, test them, and even submit them to the App Store, all right from the iPad. It’s a small step in this direction, but it’s still a step. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple expand on this step next year.

New MacBook Pros

Hardware announcements at WWDC are always hit and miss. They aren’t typical, but Apple has still done it often enough that you can’t ever count it out.

This year, Apple was rumored to be releasing two new MacBook Pros during the Keynote. However, that didn’t happen and it shouldn’t come as a big shock. Mark Gurman weighed in on this and mentioned that they are still coming soon, but that Apple was never releasing them at WWDC. There really wasn’t enough time during this year’s event, anyway.

So, if you are waiting for a new MacBook Pro, just have a little patience. They are on the way.

macOS apps on iPad

There were calls from a few across Twitter and YouTube for Apple to put full macOS on the iPad Pro after it was revealed that the upgraded tablet would have an M1 processor. That was beyond wishful thinking, in my opinion, as well as a bad idea.

A more reasonable request by others was for Apple to offer a way to make some Mac apps available cross-platform. Apple has already done this for the Mac with Catalyst and now they seem to be pushing SwiftUI as a unifying technology going forward. It could be something like this, or some kind of virtualization mode, but there are multiple ways to make it work.

Maybe this or something like it will come in the future, but there was no mention of it during the Keynote. I think Apple is going to have to address the 5 GB RAM limit that iPadOS still places on all apps, across all devices. Until the iPad Pros can fully take advantage of their additional RAM, more pro-level macOS software isn’t coming.

Apple Watch Independence

It seemed like the Apple Watch was headed down the same path as the iPhone and iPad before it a couple of years ago. If you think back, once upon a time you couldn’t set up either of Apple’s primary mobile devices without a computer. However, they were eventually de-coupled and set free from the bonds of desktops and iTunes.

When the Apple Watch got cellular capability, it seemed like we might be moving in that same direction. The following year, Apple started adding things like direct music streaming through cellular. They even added the App Store to the watchOS. It just seemed like it would take one more step to for the Watch to become its own platform. The addition of the App Store seemed to telegraph the move.

We’ve now had our second WWDC since then and the Watch is just as dependent on the iPhone today as it was two years ago. Come on, Apple. It’s time to let the Watch leave the nest and fly on its own.

See you next year

I’m going to leave it here. There are more featured that I could add, but these are the ones that stand out the most and that people are complaining about. Following WWDC many years like I have is a lesson in patience. Sometimes it brings a lot of frustration, as well.

However, even though the feature I wanted the most this year is on this list, I’m not calling WWDC a failure, or even mundane or boring. I think what we got with Focus and the new multitasking features in iPadOS are foundational moves. These are going to be very important moving forward and will shape the way we use iPhones and iPads in the future. I don’t blame Apple for wanting to get these right before moving on to more complex features that may build onto or around them. Just think about how much we complained after Apple delivered an iOS 11 full of new features, but all packed with bugs that plagued it for months.

I’m going to be happy with what we did get this year. And who knows. Maybe Apple will pull another rabbit out of their hat between now and the next WWDC. You don’t get much bigger than trackpad support for iPadOS, but it was a point release in March.


James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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