Updated 06/10/21: With Apple’s WWDC under way, we move our sights to future events. The next one we’re sure about is the introduction of the new iPhones and Apple Watch in September, but could there be something before then?.
Apple doesn’t often participate in big industry-wide events like CES or E3. The most valuable company in the world holds its own events, thank you very much. Several times a year, Apple invites the press and industry professionals out to a theater to hear all about its latest products and services. Apple calls these “Special Events,” and streams them online to its millions of fans.
There’s also WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, a multi-day event in the middle of the year focused on sessions for developers, helping them make the most out of the latest Apple tools and products. It kicks off with a big keynote that serves to announce new products (typically the latest versions of iOS and macOS, as well as a few hardware products).
Here’s a list of the events we expect Apple to hold in the remainder of 2021, and what we expect the company to announce at each one. We’ll update this list throughout the year as we get a clearer picture of when Apple will take the stage and what it will announce.
Before the iPhone event?
We know Apple will unveil new iPhone and Apple Watch models in the fall, probably in September. But the company has a lot more than that to announce…some could be released directly online with no event, just a splashy marketing page and video. There’s enough here to warrant another event, though. We’re not used to events before the iPhone event, but the timing of these releases might warrant it. It’s worth keeping an eye out for.
The company already introduced the new 24-inch iMac in April, and tipsters were sure that a new redesigned MacBook Pro with thinner bezels and flat edges would be announced at WWDC. Then, it wasn’t. The rumor mill says these new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will feature a new faster chip with more cores, more RAM, an improved Neural Engine, and a redesigned chassis. It’s supposed to ship in the “second half of this year,” and has perhaps been held up by supply-chain issues with the mini-LED display.
Oh, and let’s not forget the redesigned Mac mini, also with this new M1X processor. It is said to be slimmer, with more ports and a power connector like that on the 24-inch iMac.
We know the 24-inch iMac isn’t the only all-in-one Apple has in store for us. The current 27-inch iMac with an Intel chip is still on sale, and it needs an Apple Silicon replacement. It’s likely to come in the second half of this year, with the M1X chip (or maybe an M2?) and a design reminiscent of the new M1 iMac.
Apple’s also apparently working on a new third-generation AirPods with an updated design. Then there’s the base iPad, and a new iPad mini with slimmer bezels and possibly a Touch ID power button similar to the iPad Air. Both are expected sometime this year.
Together with iPhone and Apple Watch, it’s all too much for one event. And so much of it is Mac-focused, it wouldn’t surprise us if there was a Mac-specific event late this summer.
iPhones and Apple Watch (September)
Apple almost always unveils the new iPhones and Apple Watch (or Watches—Apple released two in 2020) during an event around the second week of September. These are huge products, and the event rarely leaves room for anything else.
In 2020, thanks to the pandemic, this event was virtual and about a month later than usual. It’s unclear yet whether this year will be similar.
We have a summary of the latest iPhone 13 rumors, which you should always take with a grain of salt.
Apple sometimes hosts an event in October to round out the year with a few last-minute product releases. These are often new iPads or Macs, but there’s no reason Apple couldn’t announce something like AR glasses at its own event later in the year.
In 2020, the “October” event was virtual and delayed a month, just as the “September” event was. It introduced the wonderful M1-based Macs. It’s too early to know whether Apple will have an event in October this year, and if so, whether it will be live or virtual.
As mentioned above, Apple’s got a flood of new products on the way. If they’re not going to be ready to ship before the iPhone, they’ll probably be introduced in an October event.
Throughout the year, Apple holds online virtual developer events meant to help developers make the best use of Apple’s products, software, and ecosystem. Examples from early in the year include “Building Great Widget Experiences,” “Bring Your iPad App to Mac,” and “Building Great App Clip Experiences.”
Apple doesn’t announce products (hardware nor software) at these events, and there’s no need to focus on them if you’re not a registered Apple developer producing software for Apple products. It’s always interesting to see what areas Apple feels it needs to bolster, however. In this case, it seems the company doesn’t see as much use of Widgets, App Clips, and Catalyst as it would like.
Awards and honors
Apple has given out app awards for years, but 2019 was the first time there was an actual ceremony for such. The Best of 2019 app awards were held at small event in New York, with mostly the nominated developers and some press in attendance. It was not streamed online.
Also for the first time in 2019, Apple held an awards ceremony for Apple Music. There was a live-streamed performance by Artist of the Year Billie Elish as part of it, the event as a whole was kept mostly to the music industry.
In 2020, these events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards were still given, but there was no event. This year, Apple will certainly honor app developers and musicians with awards, but it’s too early to know if there will be an event around it or not.
I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.