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All bets are on Apple holding a major product release event sometime this month — there’s just too much waiting in the wings for the company not to — and now it looks like multiple sources have pegged a date for it: March 23.
While we originally heard last month that Apple’s event was coming on March 16, those came from less reliable sources, and were quickly refuted by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has a much better track record for knowing these sorts of things. However, Gurman never said that Apple wasn’t going to be holding a March event — he merely noted that it wasn’t going to be on March 16.
Now a some of the more reliable leakers are predicting that the big event will actually go down on March 23, including DuanRui and Jon Prosser, and it certainly does seem to be a date that fits more into Apple’s typical spring event cycle — at least in recent years.
While Apple hasn’t held too many March events in its history, those held in the past five years have been later in the month. March 21, 2016 brought us the original iPhone SE and the smaller, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, while the sixth-generation iPad was announced at an education event on March 27, 2018, and of course Apple’s now-famous “It’s Show Time” event was held on March 25, 2019.
Even Apple’s quieter product announcements — those done by press release only, such as the unveiling of the second-generation AirPods — have been done toward the end of March.
That said, there is precedent for early March events too: Apple announced the release of the Apple Watch on March 9, 2015, and the iPad 2 made its debut on March 2, 2011.
What’s Coming at Apple’s Event?
Although there’s been some debate whether Apple would have enough to showcase at an actual event, the shift to virtual events also means it takes much less effort for Apple to hold a big debut. We saw this last fall when Apple chose to hold an unprecedented three separate events, announcing the Apple Watch and iPad Air separately from the iPhone 12 lineup.
While some of this was simply timing — the iPhone 12 came much later than expected due to delays caused by the global health pandemic — there’s a good chance that Apple would have at least considered delaying the Apple Watch and iPad Air had it been expecting members of the press to actually travel to Cupertino to see the unveiling — especially since the iPad Air didn’t go on sale until October anyway. Hosting the events virtually, however, significantly reduced the burden on people’s time, making it much more likely that Apple would get maximum attendance for both events.
While Apple has seemed content to release AirPods and iPads via press release in the past, there’s at least one big thing coming that definitely deserves stage time, and that’s Apple’s AirTags and the accompanying Find My Network.
In fact, it’s possible we may have those backward — it might be more about the Find My Network and accompanying AirTags. With recent evidence suggesting that Apple is more interested in creating a whole item tracking ecosystem than it is in simply selling its own first-party tracking tags, the event could very well run like: “Here’s our Find My Network, and oh, by the way… We have our own tags for it too.”
Either way, however, as an entirely new product category and service, it’s something Apple is not only going to want to show off, but something that the company pretty much needs to make sure that folks truly understand what Apple is bringing to the table; with over a billion devices participating in crowdsourced location tracking, the Find My Network stands to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
At this point, all the pieces are lining up for an AirTags and Find My announcement. The tags themselves have supposedly been ready to go since last fall, and while Apple has been quietly building up the Find My Network for months, the fact that it has basically gone live in the latest iOS 14.5 beta adds ample evidence that it’s right around the corner.
What Else Is Coming?
With Apple’s more compartmentalized virtual events, it’s conceivably possible that this could be entirely about AirTags and Find My, but since it’s holding an event anyway, there are a few other things in the works that it would make sense for Apple to toss in.
While Apple released a major new iPad Air last fall, alongside a 10.8-inch standard iPad, the higher-end iPad Pro was last updated a year ago, and it was a relatively minor one at that — the LiDAR Scanner was cool, but the chip inside only got a modest bump from an A12X to an A12Z.
So, the iPad Pro is due for a refresh, and we’ve been hearing rumours since last fall that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be gaining a mini-LED display, although it’s less clear if that may also come to the 11-inch model — or if we’ll even see an 11-inch model this time around. There’s also the possibility that the cellular iPad Pro may gain 5G wireless capabilities and new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E support.
The iPad mini remains a wildcard in the mix. A recent rumour suggested an iPad mini Pro is coming this fall (or an “iPad Pro mini” depending on how you look at it), but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Apple could release a standard iPad mini this spring, splitting the smaller tablet into two tiers.
There have been many conflicting reports about what the next iPad mini could look like, to the point where it seems very likely that Apple is at least working on two different possibilities for the diminutive tablet. Whether it plans to release both is another matter entirely, of course, but if all the rumours are true, the standard “iPad mini 6” would look much like its predecessor with slightly reduced bezels to accommodate a larger screen, while the “pro” version would gain an edge-to-edge display, and possibly either Face ID or side-button Touch ID.
Several reports have suggested that we would see the third-generation AirPods arrive this spring, and although nobody is quite sure whether that means March, April, or May, recent leaked photos indicate that they could be ready to go.
With exactly two years having elapsed since the last AirPods update, the timing certainly seems apt, and there’s also a good chance that Apple could tie a new version of the AirPods into its AirTags and Find My Network announcements by effectively building an “integrated AirTag” into the earphones, or at least into their charging case, enhancing the existing “Find My AirPods” feature to allow for more precise location of lost earbuds.
Apple Silicon iMac
Even though we all know that Apple is frantically working on adding Apple Silicon to its entire Mac lineup, the timing on all of this has been considerably less clear. However, some reports have suggested that this spring would bring a new M-series iMac — perhaps with a more souped-up M1X or M2 chip, and there’s no reason to believe Apple wouldn’t want to invite at least one of its desktop Macs to the Apple Silicon party.
If a new iMac does make an appearance, however, it may still not include the big redesign we’ve been hearing about. While recent reports suggested the iMac may get more colourful, the leaks also suggest that these are only in the prototype stage right now.
So although we wouldn’t have expected it to make an appearance as soon as this month, the fact that Apple has recently discontinued the iMac Pro adds some weight to the possibility that the company could very well have something bigger up its sleeve, and it may simply choose to follow in the footsteps of last fall’s M1 MacBooks and Mac mini by putting Apple Silicon into a new iMac without any major design changes just to highlight what the new silicon can do.