We already have a pretty good idea of what Apple’s roadmap is going to be for its major product releases — we even raised the question earlier this week about whether it would be enough for a spring Apple event, but now it looks like the company may be even busier than we thought with a whole swath of ancillary products.
According to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is known for often being right about these things, Apple has several new products expected to arrive in the first half of 2020. Some of these we already have solid reports about, like the iPhone 9, which is expected to begin production in February for a March release, while others have been looming on the horizon for a while, such as Apple’s AirTags item trackers. However, there may also be a couple of surprises here.
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit buried in Kuo’s report is a “smaller wireless charging mat” that sounds like a particularly odd entry after the debacle Apple faced with its last attempt at building a wireless charger.
First announced at the 2017 iPhone X keynote to much fanfare, Apple’s AirPower charging mat promised to let users charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and even AirPods all on a single mat without worrying about placement. While it was supposed to ship in 2018, Apple missed that deadline, and after repeated rumours that it was going to arrive last March, Apple instead infamously pulled the plug on it, marking it as one of the company’s very rare public failures.
There were some insurmountable technical challenges that killed AirPower, and it seems very unlikely that Apple has managed to overcome these, so the new smaller charging mat that Kuo is referring to is likely not going to be anywhere nearly as ambitious, but Apple is still going to have to do something special to make its own charger stand out in a sea of third-party Qi wireless chargers.
We heard rumours early last year that Apple was working on its own set of premium headphones — something distinct from its Beats brand — but these never really gained much traction, and the focus generally remained on Apple’s AirPods, which saw not only one, but two highly successful versions launch last year.
Kuo has actually been talking about the possibility of Apple-branded headphones for a couple of years now, and it’s clearly something he believes Apple has been working on that could finally see a release, but much like the idea of a charging mat, it remains a more open question as to exactly what an Apple-branded set of headphones would offer, especially since Apple has been bringing all of the goodness of its H1 chip to its Beats headphones.
Apple’s new item tracking tags were one of the most prolific rumours in circulation last year, and after code to support them was found in iOS 13, a launch of them seemed imminent. By the end of the year, a name for the mysterious product had also slipped out: AirTags, and it seemed likely that Apple was simply working on the bugs, especially with the U1 chip that appeared in the iPhone 11.
So although we’ve been sort of expecting AirTags to arrive sooner rather than later, Kuo’s comments are the first solid information we’ve heard that they could have an early 2020 release rather than being delayed until later this year. While apparent support for them in iOS 13 strongly suggests an imminent release, it’s also impossible to rule out that Apple may have faced some technical challenges with delayed its plans. Either way, they’re clearly close enough that it’s making Apple’s competitors nervous.
The rest of Kuo’s comments don’t really reveal anything we don’t already know, as he simply reiterates what he’s said before about the iPhone 9, new iPad Pro, and 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Kuo is referencing the first half of 2020, so some of these products could come later on in the spring, when Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, but either way it looks like the next few months are going to be interesting.