May 2020 in review: 'iPhone 12' leaked, MacBook Pro 13-inch gets the new keyboard
We're used to being in lockdown now, and so is Apple. While still having no events, the company put out an extremely popular new 13-inch MacBook Pro, and did begin to reopen some of its stores.
The MacBook Pro 13-inch was released with so much fanfare that you could even imagine that there was an event. While Apple again launched a new machine with just a press release, a web page, and some excellent photography, we'd all been waiting for it so long that we did the dancing and shouting that Phil Schiller might have.
This is the machine that at times has been the center of Apple's notebook range, and from November was the one everybody was looking for. It was back in November when the 16-inch MacBook Pro came out with its larger-than-before screen and its better-than-before keyboard. If you were in the market for that, you were very happy, but for everybody else, it was like watching a return volley in tennis — all eyes turned, as one, to the 13-inch model.
True, we did all think that it was going to be a 14-inch one and it was disappointing that it wasn't. Then there was some head-scratching as everyone slowly realised that Apple had really launched two 13-inch MacBook Pro models. There's the one you should buy - and the one you should not (see current MacBook Pro deals).
You can read analyses and comparisons that pitch the new machine against everything from itself, the MacBook Air, Microsoft's latest Surface, and if you dug around on YouTube enough, quite possibly toasters too. Throughout May, every pixel of that machine was examined and debated.
This was partly because it has become clear that most of the market for the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro would probably be better served by the cheaper MacBook Air. And it was partly because even the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro does not have the separate GPU that makes the 16-inch model appeal so much.
However, it was also because it was fun talking about it while we all waited for ours to be delivered. And it had to be delivered — you still couldn't go try one out at a store.
Apple Stores reopen, very slowly
It's not going to be quick, though, and even if your local Store reopens, it's going to be very different to how it was before.
It's surely going to take a long time before any retail firm sees things return to normal, but it's also possible that they never will. Apple seemed to recognize that this month as it made a significant addition to the online Apple Store that's designed to more easily, quickly, and conveniently replicate the services of a regular store.
That was perhaps the most visible of Apple's online or software changes, but if you are in the vocal yet smaller market that relies on its Logic Pro X app, you had a very good month.
If you were waiting for a COVID-19 contact tracing app, though, you weren't in quite so much luck. Apple and Google did launch their technology in May, but it's chiefly been Switzerland that has used it so far. Latvia is coming soon, but we're yet to see much more.
The UK did launch its contact tracing app after rejecting Apple and Google's system, but only in a small trial. Before that test, the British app was controversial because of its privacy issues and derided for being late.
Once the trial started, it also became mocked for not working well with most phones or at all with others.
Looking beyond contact tracing, exposure notification and indeed all of the coronavirus issues, Apple's Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams has again said that the company concentrates on the long game — and says that Apple is "bullish" about things coming back to normal. Eventually.
Tim Cook was similarly looking to the aftermath of COVID-19 in his commencement speeches. He obviously didn't travel to deliver the speeches, but alongside the now familiar way of appearing by video conference at Ohio State, he also contributed to a podcast.
Podcasts, in general, took a bashing over the coronavirus as audience figures dropped, chiefly because commuting is a thing of the past. Yet even as only essential workers travelled, still Apple managed to keep on selling AirPods by the bucketful.
It's not as if they were a dud before coronavirus, either.
That might be because the company managed to get an awful lot of free advertising. At times it seems as if every pundit on every TV show was wearing AirPods or AirPods Pro and we've done it too. In meeting after meeting, Zoom call after Zoom call, we can attest to how great AirPods Pro are — and everyone we spoke with can attest to how they noticed the little white earbuds on us.
It's not as if AirPods were confined to technology users, either. They have crossed into the mainstream and pundits and commentators the world over are using them as they discuss everything.
"iPhone 12" details
And that "iPhone 12" litany was nearly a book unto itself. Prominent leaker Jon Prosser declared that Apple will be offering two "iPhone 12" models and two "Pro" versions, with one of each being a larger "Max" variant. The standard tier will have 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch OLED displays made by BOE, while the Pro models will have 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screens made by Samsung and will feature a 10-bit color depth.
The Pro models are also said to benefit from having 6GB of application RAM, versus the non-Pro models having 4GB. The Pro versions will also have a stainless steel body versus an aluminum body, while the usual triple camera setup on the Pro will also have LiDAR, whereas the non-Pro will have a dual-camera arrangement.
And, Prosser held forth on how much the phones would cost, too. Prosser said that the "iPhone 12" will cost $649 for the 128GB-capacity version, rising to $749 for 256GB, and the Max version will cost $749 and $849 for each respective capacity.
Apple Books reborn
And in May, Apple had a very good go at having you write that book as an Apple Books title. The company launched a new promotion that's fine and even helpful, but turned out to be not much more than solid marketing with some tutorials.
Back when they called them iBooks, Apple produced an app called iBooks Author, a tool for making e-books which promised a lot, and delivered much of it. If you opened the app from day 1 and then opened the May 2020 version, though, you would struggle to see a difference.
It's still even called iBooks Author when there are no iBooks for you to author. Apple launched its big new Books service, but didn't change anything, it ultimately only added new tutorials.
HBO Max ascends, and Apple TV Channels suffers for it
Whereas HBO launched its HBO Max streaming service and did radically change things — if not necessarily for the better. Shortly after launching HBO Max as an app, HBO pulled its services from Apple TV Channels. Or it did unless you happened to already subscribe to any of them through that.
This all highlighted how confusing Apple TV's mix of hardware and apps or channels is. It highlighted how peculiar it is that one TV service can elect to be an app while another will choose to stream as part of Apple TV Channels.
Try explaining to a family member how you can get channels on Apple TV but not always through Apple TV Channels. And then explain how there is an Apple TV app on Apple TV which you can get from the Apple TV App Store, and watch them buy Roku instead.
Unfortunately, in May 2020, you may well have had to talk Apple to all of your family members as, for a time, people were getting error messages about apps not being shared. Apple fixed it before the end of the month, but the fix did seem entail re-downloading a lot of apps.
Still, it's not as if we had anything better to do. Throughout this month, we could concentrate on downloading apps, following Apple leaks — and leaving all of our reading of web pages to the government.