So it’s coming. The Apple Spring Event is upon us and one week from now we’ll know what the latest must-have Apple gadget is. I thought it would be interesting to share my predictions and then return after and see how I did.
There are so many rumours flying around that it’s pretty hard to narrow down what we’re likely to see. Especially so when you consider the WWDC event right around the corner in June.
I’d say this is a pretty strong bet for the Spring event. Rumours have been circling for a long time now about a new iPad Pro with a Mini LED screen being the major feature upgrade, as well as a possible processor upgrade to an A14X or equivalent that’s in line with the current M1 chip being rocked by the current Mac Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. We can probably also expect a 5G chip in the latest iPad Pro lineup. Rumours also suggest that the focus of this upgrade will be around the 12.9″ variant of the iPad Pro. Perhaps the 11″ will not receive this upgrade straight away. The electronics industry faces ongoing supply issues so this could be to mitigate that.
Some have suggested that a Thunderbolt port may replace the current USB-C offering. This would open up access to a library of extra peripherals and could pave the way for external display support. Perhaps this is in preparation for iOS 15 which we all assume will arrive later this year.
Apple Pencil 3
The second-generation Apple Pencil is a fantastic piece of hardware and there’s nothing even close to it out there at the moment in terms of performance. Some have suggested a third-generation version may come this year with a gloss finish. Aside from that it’s hard to see what additional functionality they could add. Maybe they could add the ability to flip the pencil over to use a second tool (like an eraser).
Hot Take – what about a shorter Apple Pencil that would still be super comfortable to use but would make itself ripe for support on the 2021 iPhone (13?) where it could magnetise to the side and not stick out from the top and bottom. Unlikely, but man I would love this so, Apple, if you’re reading this, get on it! You’re welcome for the idea.
I think the lack of clear direction in what this could comprise suggests maybe we won’t see this arrive in a weeks time, perhaps it’s something to slate for a 2022 release.
There’s a lot of speculation about a new generation of iPad Mini, however the form it will take is a subject of contention. Some say it will retain the large upper and lower bezels and perhaps the TouchID button, but with a large screen. Others suggest that it will be more of an iPad Mini Pro design, featuring a similar design to the current iPad Pro or iPad Air, with thin bezels all around, and either FaceID, or more likely TouchID built in to the power button as featured on the iPad Air.
I would certainly like to see something more in the iPad Mini Pro camp, with support for Apple Pencil 2 as well, or perhaps even a third generation if that is coming (see above). I’d imagine the second generation is more likely either way, and that lends credence to the idea of the flat-edged design from the iPad Pro so they include magnetic charging for the pencil which should fit super neatly along the side.
I do think that the TouchID on the power button has a drawback, and that is related to the case design that would be needed to accommodate that as a lot of companies cover the buttons for added protection. So I wonder if this was coming then we might have seen some evidence of case designs creeping around on the Internet by now.
My gut feeling is that we’ll see a new iPad Mini next week, and I definitely hope to see the thin bezel design. However, I think it’s likely it will not feature a Mini LED screen, and it’ll probably not have the “Pro” branding. Instead I think it’ll be more in line with the 2020 iPad Air.
The discontinuation of the iMac Pro line, and the speculation about an M1X or similar chip already making its way into production are strong indicators of a new iMac in the works. I know I for one have been holding off from upgrading from my 2011 iMac 27″ in the hopes that this is coming really soon.
Rumours suggest that the design will be more in line with the XDR screens that Apple released a while back, with thin bezels and likely in larger sizes (perhaps a 32″) that the current 21.5/27″ offerings on current iMacs.
It’s rumoured these machines will feature the M1X chip, and also an Apple-designed GPU. Whilst the current M1 chip performs well with rendering in something like Final Cut Pro, I suspect the added real estate of an iMac will allow them to build a separate GPU that complements the M1X processor and just pushes the performance into totally new territory.
I would very much like to see these new iMacs released next week, but I do wonder if they’ll actually appear at WWDC instead, it’s a tough one to call, but I’m certainly not rushing out to buy an M1 Mac Mini this week just in case.
AirTags are small trackers that Apple has supposedly been working on for quite some time. In direct competition with something like the Tile (which has been on the market for a long time now), the advantage of the Apple branded tags is that they could possibly leverage the huge network of existing architecture that exists in so many users pockets already. Potentially every iPhone and cellular iPad already out there could become a node in the mesh network of finding your items, that’s some serious coverage boost over Tile’s existing offering, which, whilst very good, is very much an opt-in feature so only those who own Tiles themselves are likely to be nodes in the network by having the app installed.
Recent updates to the Find My network have opened up third-party support. This suggests Apple is going in big time on this area, so I definitely think we’ll finally see these appear next week, just in time to take advantage of that enhanced Find My network.
There are plenty of rumours about a third generation of AirPods, featuring a silicon tip and short stem similar to the AirPods Pro. It’s likely these will be without ANC and some other high-end features.
I think these are definitely coming soon, but I’m not convinced we’ll see them at the Spring event.
Apple recently discontinued the original Apple HomePod. Despite reportedly class-leading sound, the HomePod was a very expensive device in comparison to it’s competition in Google and Alexa devices. The HomePod has also been plagued by limited support for HomeKit devices in the smart home sector, although this is now changing with increased adoption of HomeKit integration in third-party devices.
However, the HomePod Mini has been a much bigger success. Pricing itself much more in the same realm as roughly equivalent Google and Alex devices, the HomePod Mini seems to have been a hit, and arguably offering much better sound quality for music.
Recently I’ve seen suggestions that there could be an interesting replacement for the original HomePod on the way. Coupled with the above talk of a new Apple TV (with improved remote, which seems to have been unpopular, although personally I’ve had no issues with it and use it every day), there’s some suggestion that Apple could release a soundbar-style device featuring the combined technology of Apple TV and HomePod, offering full home-cinema integration to your TV. There’s also talk of an Apple TV including the ability to FaceTime (and I imagine provide video calling to other apps as well, such as Zoom). That feels like a perfect addition to this kind of device, particularly in a new world where virtual communication is now so much more prevalent.
I think this would be a great device for the main living space, but my feeling is that it’s likely to be pretty expensive, perhaps somewhere in the region of £500-£1000 if it’s looking to fit in to the premium soundbar offerings available currently.
My feeling is that this is unlikely to make an appearance next week, but possible later in the year.
I have been persisting with my ever-faithful, but now very battered Oakley prescription glasses for a very long time. Why? Because I honestly believe that we are on the brink of a revolution in glasses tech. Apple has filed so many patents for tech that would suit this format that it’s almost inevitable at this stage.
Recent WWDC images that went viral all featured characters wearing glasses that reflected the dock icons from the MacBook screen. But what if that was actually a massive teaser to the release of the glasses themselves? I have been waiting for Apple Glasses for years.
Google Glass and other attempts to introduce this kind of tech in the past have been poorly received. The invasive nature of front-facing cameras and the issues around privacy are something Apple has highlighted recently. I would not expect to see a camera in the first generation of Apple Glasses. Instead, I would expect a LiDAR sensor similar to that in the current iPad Pro and iPhone offerings. This would allow a sophisticated AR experience without any of the privacy issues raised by using a forward facing camera. We know Apple are very keen to push the boundaries with AR. I think this is definitely an area they will be exploring soon.
However, with rumours pointing to WWDC release, I think we can rule these out for the Spring event.
Rumours about the Apple Car are everywhere. There’s always some new car manufacturer in talks with Apple. Then suddenly they’re not any more, often because the information was leaked.
My feeling on this is that there’s absolutely no short-term plan to bring this to fruition, if ever.
I don’t believe we’ll see any more on this any time soon. So that’s a big “NO” from me on next week’s event.
There’s a lot to sift through there. And there’s just “one more thing” to consider too…
The event title…”Spring Loaded”. What does that mean?
Well, on the surface, I think it’s pretty easy to decipher. It’s the Spring event, so we’re already half way there. “Loaded”? Well, I think this points to an event with more product releases than we would normally expect.
Digging a little deeper, the image of the apple for the event is a multi-coloured spiral (or spring!). It looks kind of like you might draw it with the Apple Pencil. Perhaps that helps point us towards the iPad Pros being the focus of the event.
Two more elements that came to mind. Springs are often used in the arms of glasses. Also, the spiral (or spring) event image forms a pretty accurate lower case ‘e’ letter. Could this be a reference to enhancements to Scribble? The software feature added to iPadOS 14 interprets handwriting with the Apple Pencil.
These are both a bit of a stretch but I’d hate to miss them if either panned out. Anything else that I read into it would just be looking for things that aren’t there.
Here’s my prediction for devices we’ll see at the Apple Spring Loaded even taking place on April 20th 2021:
- 12.9″ and 11″ iPad Pros featuring the Mini LED screen, upgraded A14X chip and 5G. Potentially a staggered release starting with the 12.9″.
- iPad Mini refresh. Likely in the style of the current iPad Air with TouchID power button and thin bezels. Support for Apple Pencil 2.
- AirTags. Perhaps a couple of variations of size and shape to suit different applications.
And finally, whilst I want to believe my new iMac is only days away, I think it’ll be WWDC. This is the one prediction I hope to have got wrong. If so I will absolutely be putting in my order on April 21st.
If my predictions are true then this is going to be one expensive April. Lucky that my birthday happens to fall just a few days later!
What do you think is coming? Put your thoughts in the comments below and let’s see what happens. I’ll be tuning in to watch the event when it goes live on April 20th.