Apple’s third event of the fall promises to showcase the company’s biggest product shakeup this year. With the iPhone 12, Apple Watch Series 6, and iPad Air out of the way and on shelves, all that’s left is the Mac.
This year’s Mac event will not be like the usual fall refreshes, or even like the October 2018 event that brought a redesigned MacBook Air and souped-up Mac mini. This time, Apple is transitioning to a new Mac processor, moving away from Intel to homegrown Apple silicon. And we probably won’t see a move like this again.
This is the start of a monumental product-line transition for Apple. For the first time, Apple will be controlling the brains of its Mac and won’t need to rely on another company to deliver the speed, efficiency, and innovation it craves. Here’s everything we expect and hope to see at what could be Apple’s biggest event in years.
Just as we were certain to see iPhone’s at last month’s “Hi, Speed” event, Tuesday’s “One more thing” event is certain to bring a new Apple processor. It’s not a complete surprise, as Apple already teased the new chips during WWDC this past summer, but there’s a lot we don’t know. Developers have been testing Mac minis with the A12Z Bionic chip that’s in the latest iPad Pro, but even that’s already outdated. Apple has since launched the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 and iPad Air.
While we don’t exactly what the new Mac processors will be like, we do have some clues. As a variant of the A14, they will be built using an incredibly efficient 5nm process, feature multiple high-performance CPU and GPU cores, and have a neural engine, all of which should go a long way toward making these Macs the fastest and most efficient Apple has ever shipped.
We’ll be looking out for Mac-specific tweaks over the A14 chip that’s inside the iPhone—much like the “X” and “Z” chips in the iPad Pro—but mostly we want to see how fast it is compared to the previous generation of Intel processors and how much longer the battery in MacBooks lasts.
It wouldn’t be a new Mac event without new Macs, and we’re likely getting a few new ones on Tuesday. The latest rumors suggest that new laptops will be making an appearance, with desktop models waiting until next year.
According to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, “Apple and overseas suppliers are ramping up production of three Mac laptops with Apple processors: new 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros and a new 13-inch MacBook Air.” That would represent a sweeping refresh of Apple’s entire laptop line and a chance to showcase a full lineup of processors.
It’s possible that another portable Mac makes an appearance as well. Previous rumors pointed to the return of the classic MacBook at the lower end of the line, with a 12-inch display and weighing less than 2.2 pounds. Bloomberg never corroborated that rumor though, so it’s likely that it will get pushed to next year.
Also rumored is a radical new iMac with a Pro Display XDR-style design that has slim bezels and a dramatically reduced chin. Apple did update the iMac in August with new GPUs, SSDs, and a higher-quality FaceTime camera, but they feature the same design as before. The latest rumors point to early 2021 for new iMacs.
Bloomberg’s report also makes note of the Mac Pro, Apple’s ultra-high-end desktop Mac. According to the publication, Apple is working on a new tower “that looks like the current design at about half the size.” That would put it at about 10 inches tall, just a few inches taller than the 6.8-inch HomePod. The new Mac Pro likely won’t make an appearance until the second half of 2021, if not later.
It’s been over a year since we read rumors that Apple was working on a pair of over-ear studio headphones, and they could arrive at any moment. They don’t seem likely to fit at this event, but it’s possible, especially if Apple dumps the headphone jack from its new Macs.
Along with wireless connectivity, noise-canceling, Hey Siri support, and the ability to detect when one of the cups isn’t on your ear, AirPods Studio is also rumored to have, according to a Bloomberg report, “a retro look with oval-shaped ear cups that swivel and a headband connected by thin, metal arms.”
AirPods 3/AirPods Pro 2
It’s been over a year since Apple launched the AirPods Pro and even longer since the second-gen AirPods made their appearance. With the holiday season right around the corner, it makes sense that Apple will refresh the current models before the end of the year. A recent Bloomberg rumor claimed that Apple is working on a pair of AirPods updates to bring a Pro-like design to the regular AirPods and a “more compact” design to the Pro.
Another long-running and constant rumor that could make an appearance at the “One more thing” event is Apple Tags or AirTags. Apple has apparently been working on its own Bluetooth trackers for a while now and the appearance of an U1 (Ultra Wideband) chip in the new MacBooks could mean that they finally make an appearance.
Much like the square Tile trackers, AirTags would reportedly help us find lost items using the proximity data of nearby Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads to pinpoint the location.
One more thing
Apple’s event is titled “One more thing,” a phrase that has a special history within Apple. So it’s highly possible that Tim Cook uses the event to unveil something big that we aren’t expecting. Recent “one more thing” announcements have included the original Apple Watch and iPhone X, so we wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Apple give us a sneak peek at a new Mac or something extra-specially secret at the very end of the presentation to pay tribute to Steve Jobs’ famous catchphrase.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.