Apple’s ‘Christmas Surprise’ Product Could Be Coming Next Tuesday

AirTags concept multicolour Credit: Technizo Concept / YouTube
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Despite three big online events for Apple this fall, it looks like the company isn’t quite finished with new product announcements, according to an internal memo sent out to Apple service providers this week.

This fall, Apple held an event in September to announce the Apple Watch and new fall 2020 iPads, followed by a big October event to unveil the iPhone 12 lineup and the HomePod mini, and then finally its usual Mac-focused event in November where the first exciting new M1 Apple Silicon Macs made their debut appearance.

While it’s extremely unlikely that Apple is going to hold yet another new event in December, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of a quieter press-release based product announcement, and this would seem to line up with the memo that was obtained by MacRumors this week, telling technicians to get ready for new and updated products.

Specifically, Apple has informed service providers that it has “AppleCare-related changes” planned for next Tuesday, December 8th at around 5:30 a.m. PT — the time at which Apple often issues press releases to unveil new products.

As MacRumors notes, similar memos have gone out to Apple service providers in advance of other major product releases, including this year’s iPhone 12 lineup, when they were told to prepare for “new product SKUs, new/update product descriptions, and price changes” on October 13 at 10 a.m. PT — the time at which Apple’s Hi, Speed event kicked off.

What Could Be Coming?

Over the past couple of years, Apple has quietly released a number of products via simple press releases, rather than major events, all of which landed at approximately the same early morning timeframe.

While such understated product releases aren’t entirely new, Apple has significantly increased these types of announcements in recent years, beginning with the launch of the iPad Air 3 and iPad mini 5 in March of 2019, followed almost immediately by the second-generation AirPods.

This continued into the fall of last year with the AirPods Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, so by the time early 2020 rolled around it was no surprise at all that even the 2020 iPad Pro and 2020 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models were announced in the same fashion.

So it really leaves the playing field wide open as to what Apple could be announcing next week, but since the memo notes AppleCare-related changes, it’s almost certain to be a product that would have AppleCare+ coverage available, so we’re not talking about minor accessories here, but rather products in the range of AirPods to MacBooks.

There are actually quite a few products that we know Apple has in the works that we’re still waiting for, including Apple’s long-rumoured AirTags, along with its AirPods Studio on-ear headphones, and possibly two new models of Apple TV, one of which could even include a Apple-designed game controller. There are also rumours that one last Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pro may still be coming.

Right now the strongest evidence points to a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, since references to a “late 2020” model have already been found in Apple’s own software utilities, and it’s really the only MacBook that hasn’t been updated to at least a 10th-gen Intel CPU — something that’s still being sold in Apple’s higher-end MacBook Pro laptops that haven’t yet made the switch to the new M1 chip.

Still, even if a 16-inch MacBook Pro is on deck, that doesn’t mean it’s the only surprise, and there have been some indications that other products could still be coming as well.

Various reports have suggested that AirTags are ready to be released now, although Apple may have its own reasons for waiting until early 2021, especially in the midst of mounting antitrust concerns from competitors like Tile, and we’re also fairly convinced that Apple wouldn’t choose to drop such a significant new product category via a mere press release.

AirPods Studio, on the other hand, could easily fit into a press release, especially considering that Apple hasn’t given stage time to any new headphones since the original AirPods debuted back in 2016, and last year’s AirPods Pro were only slightly less groundbreaking of a product than AirPods Studio would be. However, there have also been reports that AirPods Studio hit a major roadblock earlier this fall.

The always-inscrutable @L0vetodream also offered up news of a ‘Christmas surprise’ coming from Apple, while also adding that it would be a “Winter exclusive, good for winter,” which of course leaves even more room for confusion; although it’s hard to see how any of Apple’s upcoming products would fit that bill, the AirPods Studio on-ear headphones arguably come the closest, and @L0vetodream’s tweets are often not to be taken quite literally.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that code for both AirTags and AirPods Studio has already been found in iOS 14.3, which is expected to be released to the public very soon to herald the arrival of Apple Fitness+, so the timing seems to be lining up for a new hardware product that would require iOS 14.3 as well.

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