There have been so many rumours lately suggesting that new Apple hardware is coming this spring that it’s pretty much a given at this point that we’re going to see new AirPods, iPads, and likely even Apple’s elusive AirPower charging mat very soon. In fact at this point the only real question is going to be whether Apple will show off any of these new products at its March 25 event, which is expected to be focused on its new video and news services, or release them more quietly around the same time.
A new report by Digitimes reveals that Apple’s Asian suppliers have been “gearing up for mass production” of components such as PCB boards for both next-generation iPad devices and Apple’s new AirPods. Digitimes also adds that sources have said that Apple will introduce the new devices at its March 25 event.
Flexible PCB firms Flexium Interconnect and Zhen Ding Technology are gearing up for mass production for Apple’s next-generation iPad devices, while Compeq Manufacturing and Unitech PCB supply rigid-flex boards for the forthcoming AirPods, according to industry sources.Digitimes
The report conspicuously excludes any mention of Apple’s long-awaited AirPower charging mat, but that doesn’t necessarily rule it out, since Apple could be using different suppliers for those components who have not spoken to Digitimes. It’s also possible that consumer availability of AirPower may still be further off; Apple could choose to announce the charging mat at the same time as the new AirPods — either at its event or simply via press release — with a future launch date.
Apple’s Planned Announcements
Digitimes’ suggestion that the products will be unveiled on stage during Apple’s March 25 event is questionable, however. Most recent reports have suggested that Apple’s new iPad models will be nothing particularly special — merely a standard-sized iPad and iPad mini in the same designs as before with a spec bump. There have been conflicting reports suggesting that Apple’s new AirPods won’t likely be the all-new “AirPods 2” that many have been anticipating, but will instead simply add smaller enhancements like wireless charging and “Hey Siri” capabilities. If true, neither the new iPads nor the AirPods are going to offer enough to justify taking up stage time at an event that’s already expected to be spent talking almost entirely about Apple’s new services, and even if AirPower is ready to be announced at the same time, Apple would probably prefer not to call attention to how badly it missed its promised release schedule.
Of course, Digitimes gets its information from Apple’s supply chain, and not from any sources within Apple itself, so suggestions of launch event announcements are likely just speculation, and shouldn’t fuel any hopes that the new products will be anything more than the minor upgrades that almost every other report has been pointing to.
Rumours surrounding Apple’s new iPads have been fairly consistent, so we’re expecting to see a new seventh-generation iPad that will feature a design virtually identical to last year’s sixth-generation model. Some have suggested the screen will increase to 10.2 inches, although the overall size will likely remain the same, and the device will still feature a home button and Touch ID support, and likely similar camera and screen hardware with a faster A-series CPU. There has been a more recent rumour that Apple is also working on a 10.5-inch non-Pro iPad, which seems like a particularly odd distinction, but it’s possible the the company plans to produce a medium-priced standard iPad model that could include features like Face ID without stepping all the way into “Pro” territory.
A fifth-generation iPad mini has also been rumoured for some time, along with a seventh-generation iPod touch. Neither device is expected to offer anything special, and will likely again merely provide spec bumps over the prior models, although the new releases are significant simply in that they confirm that both of those product families still have some life in them. The new iPad mini may also gain support for the Apple Pencil — likely the first-generation Pencil — in the same way that last year’s 9.7-inch iPad did.
Rumours are considerably more split on Apple’s AirPods, with some suggesting that we’ll simply see a wireless charging case this month, with no actual new AirPods released until the fall. We think it’s more likely that we’ll see actual new AirPods as well, but only with some of the smaller enhancements that have been rumoured for over a year now, like “Hey Siri” support and waterproofing. If other reports are true, Apple still has a more advanced set of AirPods already in the pipeline for a possible fall release, which could include a new design, new color options, and possibly even health monitoring features. While it might seem odd for Apple to release two AirPods updates in a single year, it will ultimately depend on how Apple positions them — the spring AirPods would likely just be seen as a refresh of Apple’s original AirPods, while the fall release would be the next-generation “AirPods 2” or possibly even higher-end “Pro” models.
Lastly, while nothing has been mentioned about Apple’s AirPower charging mat, most analysts have believed that it’s this item that’s held up Apple’s AirPods update, so it would make sense that Apple will at least announce this around the same time, particularly as it remains unclear whether the new AirPods wireless charging case will be Qi-compatible or require a special charger like the Apple Watch does.