We’ve been hearing rumours of an Apple “Christmas Surprise” since last month, and while we weren’t quite sure originally what to make of those, they seemed to solidify last week when reports surfaced of a mysterious new product launch scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Since Apple still has a lot of rumoured-but-not-yet-announced products in its portfolio, it opens up quite a lot of room for speculation. Among the more exciting possibilities are AirTags or AirPods Studio, both of which have clearly been in development now for years, but there’s also quite a lot of room for the mundane, such as the likelihood of an Intel 16-inch MacBook Pro.
In fact, as boring as it may be, from a purely pragmatic point of view, it’s the 16-inch MacBook Pro that strikes us as the most likely possibility, since an Apple Silicon equipped version of the larger model could still be up to a year away, and meanwhile, it’s been languishing behind its smaller siblings as the only Pro-level Mac still equipped with a mere 9th-gen Intel CPU. Plus, we’ve already seen a leaked reference to it in Apple’s own Boot Camp utility.
That said, there’s no reason that Apple couldn’t release more than one product, and now a new set of rumours is pointing to the dark horse in this race: Apple’s diminutive Apple TV set-top box.
The Case for a New Apple TV
While AirTags and AirPods Studio are exciting new products, it’s hard to believe that Apple would debut those without giving them some stage time. While that might be the case for the AirPods Studio on-ear headphones, since Apple even pushed out the AirPods Pro last year with nothing more than a press release, we’d be shocked if Apple did that for a genre-defining product like the AirTags.
On the other hand, the Apple TV is now one of the oldest products that Apple is still selling, with the current model, the Apple TV 4K, having been released over three years ago, in the fall of 2017, and the older Apple TV HD model being of a 2015 vintage.
To put this in perspective, the Apple TV 4K was released the same year as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and beat the original HomePod out by about five months (while Apple announced the Home in June of 2017, it wasn’t available until the following February).
So in other words, since the Apple TV was last updated, we’ve seen at least five new generations of iPhone models, four generations of iPads, two generations of iPad Pro, and the rise and continued development of the whole new iPad Air lineup.
We’ve also seen the advent of Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ — two services that we were sure would have heralded the arrival of a new Apple TV last year, but clearly Apple had other things on its plate and decided that the A10X-equipped Apple TV 4K was good enough for the time being.
However, this year it’s more clear than ever that the set-top box is overdue for a refresh, and we’ve been hearing rumours since the spring that an A12X model is in the works, which could even include a more advanced Siri Remote.
The rumours of a new Apple TV heated up even more a couple of months ago, when one leaker suggested that two new Apple TVs could be in the works — one with the aforementioned A12X chip, and one with an “A14X-like” chip — which tied together a lot of the conflicting rumours that we had otherwise been hearing, both in terms of when a new Apple TV would be arriving as well as what its capabilities would be.
While so far few reports have nailed down when we may actually see either of these new Apple TV models, a few leakers have weighed in with the suggestion that at least one of them could be this year’s “Christmas Surprise.”
The always-inscrutable leaker @L0vetodream posted a Chinese tweet translating to “Maybe Cook himself didn’t know that Apple would release a new Apple TV this year” opening the door to speculation that this may be the surprise that they were previously referring to back in November.
The timing would arguably be right for the new Apple TV as well, with Apple’s Fitness+ service expected to debut any day now; while Apple’s new fitness service is mostly focused on the Apple Watch, users still need a screen to watch the actual training videos on, and the Apple TV is a big part of that. Of course, we also said the same thing about Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade, so we wouldn’t put too much stock in that aspect alone.
Another tweet from @LeaksApplePro also seems to back this up with additional specs, suggesting that the Apple TV HD will be discontinued, but that Apple will continue selling the Apple TV 4K alongside the new model.
While @LeaksApplePro originally suggested Apple would also offer a free Fitness+ subscription, they note that this is no longer the case, although it’s still expected to launch at the same time. The leaker also offers no word on the possibility of an updated Siri Remote.
It’s also worth noting that @LeaksApplePro doesn’t have nearly as proven of a track record on leaks as most others, and as 9to5Mac points out, from the tone of @L0vetodream’s tweet, there’s the very real possibility that this is a case of leakers jousting with each other, and that @L0vetodream is merely rebutting the rumour from @LeaksApplePro.