If rumours are true, it looks like we may be in for some early spring fun next month with some exciting new Apple product releases that go beyond what we typically see around this time each year.
While the March event schedule isn’t nearly as consistent as Apple’s fall events — you can almost mark your calendar as to when new iPhones and Apple Watches will arrive — over the past few years it’s generally included at least one new iPad model, with possibly some MacBook refreshes thrown in for good measure.
That said, we’ve been getting a bit more in recent years, since 2019 quietly brought us the second-generation AirPods, and last March we saw the unveiling of Apple’s first LiDAR-equipped device in the form of the 2020 iPad Pro, which was followed not long after by the 2020 iPhone SE.
Now it looks like March 2021 will be the target date for an even more highly anticipated product release: Apple’s long-awaited AirTags.
‘Still On for March’
Although we’ve been hearing about a March release date since last October, it’s been hard to put too much stake in that, since rumours of Apple’s tracking tags go back almost two years, and it wouldn’t be the first time that they failed to debut following rumours that they were right around the corner.
In this case, however, prolific leaker Jon Prosser, who seems to have had the most information about AirTags over the past several months, has insisted that they’re “still on for March,” adding that he hasn’t heard any indications that Apple may choose to delay them even further.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Prosser has a mixed track record with these release dates — he suggested back in October that they’d arrive alongside iOS 14.3, which of course didn’t happen. To be fair, however, Prosser has also claimed to have information for some time that AirTags were “done & ready” even back then, and in fact, had already been for quite some time. With that being the case, it’s going to be hard for anybody to read the minds of Apple’s most senior executives.
If true, it seems that Apple has chosen to delay them for marketing or other business reasons. One possibility could be a desire to avoid potential antitrust headaches by allowing time to get its open Find My network ready with a lineup of competing third-party accessories, although Prosser has also suggested that it could be related to the pandemic, since there’s not much market for accessories designed to help you locate lost items when you’re not leaving your house most of the time anyway.
There are many signs that Apple is ramping up for a release. Late last year we found set up screens in iOS 14.4 for AirTags and other Find My compatible tracking tags — a fully polished user interface that goes well beyond the bits and pieces of code that were first discovered back in 2019.
2021 iPad Pro
When asked about the iPad Pro, Prosser responded that this is also coming in March, to the best of his knowledge.
Although we haven’t heard any more reports on Apple’s iPad plans in recent weeks, we’ve been hearing for a while that a 12.9-inch Mini-LED iPad Pro is very close to being ready to go, but some details are still a bit murky.
For one thing, there have been conflicting reports that Mini-LED technology will only come to the larger iPad Pro model, which leaves an open question whether Apple would release the 12.9-inch iPad Pro by itself, or release it alongside an 11-inch version that still has the older Liquid Retina display technology.
If Apple does release both models, however, they’ll almost certainly get a boost to a new “A14X” chip — the type of variant of the iPhone chip that’s typically used in Apple’s iPad Pro models — along with the possibility of 5G cellular models and perhaps even new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E technology.
iPad mini 6
While Prosser’s comments only include the iPad Pro, it’s also worth keeping in mind that we’re overdue for an update to Apple’s iPad mini, which was last refreshed almost two years ago, alongside the third-generation iPad Air. Last fall, Apple brought out a new 11-inch iPad Air with nary a mention of the iPad mini, so if Apple plans to keep that smaller tablet in the lineup, its time is due.
Reports have been somewhat inconsistent on what the new iPad mini will look like, since many believed that Apple would give it the same treatment as the 11-inch iPad Air, with an edge-to-edge display, square edges, and side Touch ID button, since this would leave it on par with the new iPad Air in much the same way as the current model paralleled the 2019 iPad Air.
However, last month several supply chain sources revealed that it might actually maintain the traditional design, with a slight screen size increase to 8.4 inches, in the same way that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro grew to 10.5 inches in 2017, but otherwise featuring the same bezels, home button, and rounded-edge design. It’s also said to be sticking with the Lightning port, rather than moving to USB-C.
If true, this could imply that Apple intends to drop the iPad mini from its mid-tier status down to a more entry-level device. When the iPad mini resurfaced in 2019, it was clear that Apple intended to sell it as a mid-range model, as it was in the same class as the full-size iPad Air, with identical specs in every area except for physical size. However, it’s unclear how well the iPad mini sold at that level, and if the numbers weren’t good there’d be little incentive for Apple to make a significant upgrade to it.