One year ago today, I made a predictions post for what I expected from Apple for the iPad in 2020. Whether you have sources or not (and I definitely have none), you should be willing to keep score if you are going to step out and make them. With that in mind, here’s a look back at how I fared with those predictions.
Here is part of what I had to say about iPad Pro releases in 2020:
That said, the same Ming-Chi Kuo also had another prediction later on saying that a new iPad Pros with new screen technology would be coming out in the Fall. He later clarified further that it would be the 12.9″ iPad Pro that gets a new A14X processor and Mini-LED screen.
If we take all of these predictions at face value, then we could have a situation where Apple releases an 11″ iPad Pro with an A13X processor around their typical March window. It would like come at the same time as the heavily rumored iPhone 9 SE replacement. Maybe there will be some Mac updates around the same time, as well. Then we would get a new and much improved 12.9″ iPad Pro in the Fall.
I completely struck out on this one. However, if the rumors are true, that was partly because of the impact of COVID on the supply chain. It is clear that Apple was releasing both the 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pros in March, so I was wrong about them possibly splitting up the releases of the two sizes. That said, it is very possible that a 12.9″ miniLED iPad Pro could have come later in 2020 in a world without COVID-19.
Something in the Air
I felt like the iPad Air needed a refresh, and here is what I had to say about that:
I know that the iPad Air was just re-branded and re-released last year, but it is already badly in need of an update. Let’s be honest. It was not a new device. It was a stripped down version of the previous gen 10.5″ iPad Pro built to fill the middle of the iPad lineup.
The Air held this ground well for several months, but it is far less of a value since the release of the latest iPad. With the iPad getting a screen almost the same size and Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, the only thing that differentiates the Air now is a better processor and a nicer laminated screen.
While I’m not sure how much Apple will change the device, I do expect them to release a new version that adds enough features to set it apart from the iPad and iPad Mini again. I think the best route would be to add support for the Apple Pencil 2 and the Smart Keyboard Folio. This would give the Air a more attractive feature set with not only a better processor, but also access to the more premium iPad accessories. Another possible enhancement would be shifting this tablet to USB-C like the iPad Pro. However, Apple might prefer to reserve that feature for its Pros alone.
As it stands today, there isn’t much about the Air that will make buyers pay more for it over an iPad. A few improvements and spec additions can change all of that for buyers who need more power than the lower-end iPad provides.
I feel like I nailed this one pretty well. The rumors of a new Air really didn’t start until after I wrote this, so I think it was a pretty fair, if somewhat vague description of what Apple delivered.
I had a feeling that Apple would extend their AssistiveTouch feature from 2019 into more robust Mouse support in 2020.
I can’t help but think back to the way Apple soft-launched a precursor to Dark Mode as an Accessibility feature. A year later, we got a full Dark Mode that was available throughout iOS and iPadOS without any concessions or limitations. Considering that the new Accessibility feature was no secret among Apple fans and that many used it in spite of its limited nature, I absolutely believe that Apple hid it in plain sight to gather data on how, how often and when power users chose to enable and use it.
In 2019, we got what feels like a similar addition of mouse support as an Accessibility feature in iPadOS. As with the previous trial run of Dark Mode, there are definitely limitations with this new feature. In its current form, it won’t allow you the full control and navigation of the OS that a mouse or trackpad will in macOS or Windows. That said, a new navigation paradigm is enticing enough that many power users are still kicking the tires on it. Accessory makers are even making new keyboard cases with trackpads to try to take advantage of what’s possible.
I am 100% convinced that Apple is going down the same road with mouse support that they did with Dark Mode. I believe they will add full support for both wired and wireless mice to iPadOS in 2020. The features we saw added to iPadOS 13 showed me that Apple is finally getting serious about making the iPad, especially the iPad Pro, a more fully-featured computing device. To get there and more closely match its most obvious closest competition, the Microsoft Surface, Apple has to add fully-featured mouse support. This is the year. It’s time.
Even when I wrote this, I didn’t expect to get what Apple actually delivered. I figured it would be a first step that would be fleshed out over the course of another year or two. I also expected it to show up as part of iPadOS 13 at WWDC. All of that was wrong. We got a fully-baked and ready to go version of Mouse support right out of the gate as part of an iPadOS 12 point release.
However, even though my expectations were more modest, what I wrote still turned out to be pretty accurate. We most definitely got Mouse Support for the iPad in 2020.
Handing over the keys
I’ve never been a fan of Apple’s Smart Keyboards, which I have made clear in several posts over the last three years. I’ve been wanting something better, and I had a feeling this might be the year when Apple steeped it up a notch.
This part of my prediction was tied in with my prediction of Mouse Support. My theory was that, if Apple was going to deliver that, they also needed to give us a new accessory with a touchpad that would show it off.
This prediction goes hand in hand with the one above. If Apple adds mouse support to iPadOS, then they need to provide accessories that take advantage of it. The Magic Mouse is all fine and good, but that isn’t enough. As I said above, the natural comparison for the iPad Pro is to the Surface. Like that device, mouse support for the iPad demands a trackpad.
I think Apple has too much invested in the Smart Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio to just abandon them. I’m not predicting that. I’m also not predicting that Apple will add a trackpad to either of them. Rather, I think its time for Apple to release a new product in addition to the Smart Keyboard Folio- a professional quality keyboard case that is more in line with what we usually expect from Logitech, Brydge or ZAGG. It would fully enclose the iPad, provide a hinge that allows the it to be positioned at any angle, include backlit keys (for the love of God, please) and the same scissor key mechanism that the Magic Keyboard and latest MacBooks have. A great bonus feature would be one or more additional USB-C ports to add additional peripherals without the need for a hub.
Last but not least, this high-end keyboard case needs to have a trackpad worthy of the Apple name. They were the first laptop manufacturer to truly perfect the trackpad and they still make some of the best in the business. While I have typically been a big fan of Logitech and Brydge, it’s high time for Apple to step up and deliver something more than the Smart Keyboard Folio with all of the features listed above.
I don’t think a product like this fits with the low-end iPad or the iPad Mini. It would likely be a bit much for the Air, as well. I could see one eventually being made for the 11″ iPad Pro, but my prediction is that Apple will bring out a deluxe keyboard case for the new 12.9″ iPad Pro I think we will see in the Fall. If full trackpad support comes, it will be announced at WWDC in June. The rumored 12.9″ Pro is supposed to come later in the year and it makes sense that this keyboard case would come with it. This iPad’s larger screen and overall size provides adequate room for the trackpad and buttons, so it’s a great fit, all around.
Well, I nailed the beginning of this one pretty well. The Magic Keyboard doesn’t fully enclose the iPad Pro the way I envisioned, but it comes close. I also missed slightly on my expectation of having a full range of angle adjustment. But the rest of this prediction turned out to be really close to what we ended up with. I feel pretty good about that.
The last paragraph was pretty far off, as it was based on my thinking that Apple would have a split release schedule and that they would release Mouse Support at WWDC. As it turned out, we got all of this between March and April of last year.
I’m much happier that I called the Magic Keyboard hardware very close to right, because the high-quality, backlit keyboard with scissor switch mechanism was exactly what I wanted.
I’m not sure if an A is appropriate, because there were a few bits and pieces off in some of my correct calls. However, I think getting close to almost all the way there on three of my four 2020 predictions does deserve a solid B+.
I don’t think I will ever come close to set of predictions like this again, so I’ll take it.
I’ll be back soon with some predictions for the iPad in 2021.