Mini-LED MacBooks, iPads Delayed Until 2021 (Will Apple’s Fall Lineup Be Affected?)

iPad Pro Concept Image 2020 Credit: TS Designer
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We’ve been hearing reports since at least last fall that Apple is working on bringing new mini-LED screen technology to its iPads and MacBooks, but while early predictions pegged them as arriving in 2020, we’ve recently been hearing reports that at least some of Apple’s plans may be slipping into early 2021.

So far, however, it’s been a bit less clear whether those reports pertained specifically to Apple’s mini-LED technology or whether there have been other factors involved. For example, a report last month said that Apple’s 5G iPad Pro with mini-LED tech, which is expected to blow away its current OLED screens, could be delayed into 2021, but while the analysts behind that report cited “complex panel design” as one of the possibilities, it was unclear whether this was a problem limited to the iPad Pro. Further, considering some of the 5G technology problems we’ve been hearing about, it seems reasonable to suspect that this could be a factor as well.

Analysts first predicted Apple would launch a new version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the new screens, although a more recent report from the oft-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo suggested the technology would be coming to up to six different products, including a new 14-inch MacBook Pro.

However, Kuo, who originally set a timeline of late 2020 for at least some of these releases, has now confirmed what we’ve sort of been suspecting for a while now — that Apple may be pushing back the new technology in light of the current global health crisis.

Early 2021

In a research note shared with MacRumors, Kuo noted that Apple isn’t likely to even begin mass production of the new mini-LED components until later this year. Specifically, while Apple may begin production the mini-LED chips this summer, final components such as the terminal assembly won’t go into mass production until the end of this year (which is Apple’s “first quarter of 2021”), which means that they wouldn’t likely be ready to go into actual shipping Apple products this year, especially since Apple rarely releases new products in the middle of the holiday season.

That said, Kuo is reassuring investors that there’s nothing to worry about, as “mini LED is a key technology that Apple will prompt in the next 5 years,” so the short-term schedule will not have any real impact on the “long-term positive trend.”

In fact, Kuo predicts that Apple will still be leading the trend toward mini-LED displays, and that going forward shipments are expected to grow by 300 percent next year, and 225 percent in 2022.

Fall Product Lineup

To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple won’t release more new MacBooks or iPads this year, but merely that they may not include the newer display technology.

Rumours persist of a 5G iPad Pro on the horizon, although this could simply be a spec-bump to the new 2020 iPad Pro that Apple just released, or it could be delayed.

There are also rumours of a redesigned 11-inch iPad Air coming this fall, which Apple probably wouldn’t include the newer mini-LED screens anyway as it seems likely those will be reserved for the iPad Pro models, at least initially.

Likewise, even though Apple just released a new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, that doesn’t preclude the company from delivering a 14-inch model later on, even without the new displays.

Last year saw a significant spec bump of the 15-inch MacBook Pro only six months before it was discontinued to be replaced with the new 16-inch model, so Apple is by no means adverse to offering frequent updates.

In the very least, it seems likely that the 16-inch MacBook Pro will be a bump to the latest 10th-gen Intel CPUs, since it now lags a generation behind the just-released 13-inch version.

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