¶ WWDC 2017 Wish List

With Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference kicking off tomorrow, it seems to be about the right time to put out the good old last-minute wish list. There have been a number of rumors swirling about, including rumors of some hardware announcements, but surprising few (if any?) actual leaks.

It’s natural to expect previews of Apple’s next iteration software platforms: macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. I also expect to hear about updates to Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud.

This year my wish list rests chiefly on one topic: the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

I’ve been rocking an iPad mini for quite a few years now. I’m using it more as my main personal computer, and the Mac as the occasional truck for increasingly rare heavy tasks. As the iPad has taken a larger role in my day-to-day, I find I am wanting a bit more room to spread out. I’m ready to move to an iPad Pro.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro

While I’m not all that interested in going from an iPad mini to the gargantuan 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I am very interested in the rumors of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro taking the place of the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro. And the rumors make a great deal of sense.

Dan Provost made a great observation when the 10.5-inch iPad Pro rumors began.

When the original iPad Pro 12.9" was introduced in September 2015, Phil Schiller demonstrated the reasoning for that sizing by illustrating that the width of the new iPad is the exact same dimension as the height of the 9.7" iPad.

This has the advantage of essentially having two full height iPad apps, side by side.

Now, imagine Apple doing the exact same thing, but with the iPad mini.

The math works out perfectly. This new 10.5" iPad would have the exact same resolution as the 12.9" iPad Pro (2732 x 2048), but the same pixel density of the iPad mini (326 ppi instead of 264 ppi). Crunch the numbers, do a little Pythagorean Theorem, and you end up with a screen 10.5" diagonal (10.47" to be precise, but none of Apple’s stated screen sizes are exact). In terms of physcial dimensions, the width of this 10.5" screen would be exactly the same as the height of the iPad mini screen.

The ability to run two full portrait iPad apps in Split View would be a great distinguishing feature between the iPad Pro line and the regular iPad line, in addition to the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. I foresee the 9.7-inch iPad Pro we know today going away, and the latest refresh to the regular iPad being the sole occupant of the 9.7-inch form factor.

3D Touch

I love 3D Touch on my iPhone 7, and greatly miss it when using my iPad. 3D Touch feels like right-click on a traditional computer — a quick shortcut to common tasks. Having this available on a larger screen would really open up some options for iOS to shine on iPad hardware.

Physical refinements

I feel like it is time for Apple to move on from the chamfered edges on the iPad. They feel like an overused and outdated design detail in 2017, considering the look debuted on the iPhone 5 in 2012. I’d rather see the glass curve slightly to meet the aluminum like the iPhone 7. Bonus points if the iPad Pro comes in black aluminum like the iPhone 7.

iOS 11

Putting the Pro in iPad Pro

The mass consensus I have seen on other sites and heard on podcasts is that it is time for iOS to embrace the iPad in a significant way. As much as I love my iPad, iOS has always taken the iPhone form factor as a priority. With iOS 9 in 2015 Apple bolted on some iPad-only features with Split View and Slide Over, but those features remain today as they were when the launched. They still feel like they were bolted on instead of custom designed.

I’d like to see iOS bring a lot of polish to a refined iPad experience. No one outside of Apple has envisioned this better than Federico Viticci in his iOS 11 Wish List. I encourage you to read the entire post for his deeper explanations around his ideas, but you absolutely must watch the Concept Video he and Sam Beckett created, which I have also embedded below.

Federico has many terrific ideas in this video. It's safe to say that the most prominent is drag & drop between apps in Split View. This has felt like a missing piece to the puzzle ever since Split View was introduced.

Amazingly, not long after Federico's concept was released, app developer Readdle updated its suite of productivity apps with their own implementation of Drag & Drop between their apps when running in Split View.

It is freaking magic. It works exactly as you would naturally think, and it is done some seamlessly you would it was a built-in feature of iOS.

Beyond Drag & Drop, I'd like to see iOS add a better app picker in Split View on iPad. Federico's concept of that is terrific.

Finally, John Gruber had pondered the idea of putting a trackpad on the iPad Smart Keyboard. At first, I scrunched my nose at the idea, thinking he was insinuating adding a traditional mouse cursor to the screen, but he cleared that up right away. He first talks about using it to move the text insertion point around. That would be welcome, as using the current two-finger gesture on the screen when using an external keyboard is cumbersome.

I was far more intrigued by John's second thought:

tvOS’s UIFocusEngine. That’s the interface framework that allows Apple TV to be controlled by a trackpad or game controller without an on-screen mouse cursor. On Apple TV, you don’t move a cursor around, you move the selection around. Two years ago Steven Troughton-Smith discovered that an incomplete version of UIFocusEngine was built into iOS 9.

This makes so much sense. tvOS uses a lovely 3D animation to icons and buttons to give them depth and tell the user that item is selected. It would feel right at home on iOS if using a trackpad on a Smart Keyboard.

In Summary

I'm practically drooling for a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. I really hope 3D Touch is added to its gorgeous screen. I hope the enclosure gets with the time and receives a nice update to where the glass meets the metal.

I want iOS to leap ahead on the iPad and help the platform take off. It needs to bring a few more paradigms over from traditional computing but reimagine them for the world of touch. Drag & Drop,easier access to apps and data, and embracing the Smart Keyboard even further would all be welcome additions.

Here's to seeing what apple brings us tomorrow.