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Apple may be planning to unveil its first budget 5G iPhone much sooner than we thought, with at least one reliable source suggesting that Apple plans to announce the 5G iPhone SE in early March.
Although it’s been a safe bet that Apple had a spring event in the works, it would be very unusual for the company to hold it this early. Traditionally, its spring events have come in late March, and occasionally have been pushed into April.
Yet, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is putting his money on Apple planning an event for the second week in March.
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In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman pegged March 8 as the date when Apple will announce its 5G iPhone SE, while also implying that there’s at least one new iPad model coming too.
Apple aims to announce its 5G iPhone SE on March 8. I first wrote about Apple’s spring iPhone SE and iPad event several weeks ago in Power On, promising an unveiling in March or April. Now I can share when Apple is planning to hold it: Tuesday, March 8. Mark Gurman
This latest news follows a report last week that Apple is gearing up production of the new 5G iPhone SE, but our sources suggest that this isn’t happening until the second week of March.
Of course, that doesn’t preclude Apple from announcing the 5G iPhone SE that same week, particularly since the company has never put an iPhone on sale right away. Usually, there’s about a 10-day span between an event where a new iPhone gets announced and the date that customers can actually find it in stores.
The iPhone SE isn’t an exception here, either. Despite its spring launches, both the original 2016 iPhone SE and the second-generation iPhone SE had the same lead times as Apple’s flagship models. The first iPhone SE was announced at a rare Monday Apple event, held on March 21, 2016, opened for pre-orders that Thursday, March 24, and came to stores the following Thursday, March 31, 2016 — the only time since early 2011 that a new iPhone has gone on sale on a Thursday.
The second-generation iPhone SE didn’t get an event, but it still saw a nine-day lead time between the announcement, on April 15, 2020, and the date that it went on sale, which was April 24, 2020.
So, it’s likely that this new third-generation model will follow the same timeline. If Apple does indeed announce it on March 8, then we probably won’t see it go on sale before March 18, following a pre-order period that would likely open on March 11. However, it’s also possible that Apple could push that back even further, as it did with the iPhone 6s in 2015. That model was announced on September 9, and although pre-orders began on September 12, it didn’t go on sale until two weeks later, on September 25.
Still, it sounds like Apple may be cutting it close, but it’s also possible that it simply doesn’t anticipate nearly as much demand for the 5G iPhone SE, and therefore doesn’t need to build up as much stock before it goes on sale.
New iPads for 2022
The timing isn’t the only thing that’s unusual about the rumours of this event. While it’s a fairly safe bet that Apple has a new fifth-generation iPad Air in the works, there’s some evidence that suggests there could be more coming.
Last month, MacRumors unearthed Eurasian Economic Commission regulatory filings in that listed nine new iPad models, which, as Gurman points out, seems like far too many to represent the new iPad Air.
Bear in mind that even though the iPad Air is available in multiple colours and capacities, these aren’t differentiated by model number. The fourth-generation iPad Air came in a total of four models numbers: one for the Wi-Fi-only version, and three for the cellular-capable models, likely to accommodate the different markets and carriers where those are sold.
Although it seems as if it’s far too soon for Apple to unveil any other new iPad models, since the ninth-generation iPad and iPad mini 6 only came out in September, and Apple is unlikely to unveil a new iPad Pro before the next M-series chip is ready, which are this point likely won’t come until the fall.
There are a few other possibilities, however:
- If Apple plans to add 5G capabilities to the fifth-generation iPad Air, which seems a given considering the iPad mini 6 gained 5G last fall, that could account for at least one or two additional models to accommodate regional differences.
- With the budget iPhone SE gaining 5G support, there’s a slim chance that Apple could refresh the 9th-generation iPad with 5G capabilities. This would bring 5G to the entire iPad family. This could account for up to four different models.
- Apple could have a more minor refresh of the iPad Pro in the works to bring the mini-LED screen to that smaller tablet. There are currently four models of the 11-inch iPad Pro.
- Lastly, Apple may have just filed the models numbers for its fall iPad lineup earlier than usual.
Note that the iPad mini 6 only has two different cellular models — one for Wi-Fi and one for cellular, despite the inclusion of 5G support on the smaller tablet. The iPad Pro has an additional cellular model since Apple offers the higher-end tablet in a version with mmWave support, which isn’t available on the iPad mini.
It’s an open question whether Apple will offer an mmWave model of the iPad Air 5, although it seems unlikely. So far, Apple has kept the iPad Air and iPad mini at the same level. The iPad mini jumped ahead of the iPad Air last year with its A15 chip, but we suspect that it was only supply chain problems that prevented us from seeing a new iPad Air announced at the same time last fall. Apple clearly wants to rectify that omission as soon as it can, which may explain why it’s holding the event so much earlier this year.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]