It’s not long now. Apple sent out invitations last week for its first event of 20201 with the seasonal tagline ‘Spring Loaded” and teasing a keynote streaming at 10 am PT on Tuesday, April 20. And with just about 24 hours to go, the rumors are flying. Here’s what we expect to see at tomorrow’s event. For the latest rumors as they trickle in, check out our last-minute updates story.
The iPad Pro hasn’t gotten a real update since 2018. Yeah, there was a relatively minor refresh in 2020 that added LiDAR, an UltraWide camera, and the A12Z processor (which is basically an A12 with an extra GPU core enabled), along with the Magic Keyboard and trackpad support, but a real upgrade for the iPad Pro is long overdue, and from what we’re hearing, it’s the most likely product to be unveiled at this event.
First things first. The new iPad Pro will probably have an A14X processor. If historical patterns for these “X” processors hold true, it will more or less mirror the M1 in Apple Silicon Macs: an A14 with double the number of high-performance CPU cores and GPU cores, which is crazy fast. Other expected improvements are a camera module that mirrors the one in the iPhone 12 Pro, 5G connectivity in the cellular models, and Thunderbolt support.
However, the display might be the biggest upgrade. Apple is expected to make the move to mini LED inat least in the larger 12.9-inch model, which would add dozens of small lighting zones for better contrast, color, and HDR. You can learn more about mini LED here, but the upshot is it’s kind of like the Pro Display XDR, but with many more, smaller, LED backlights.
Apple Pencil (3rd generation)
As several of our readers pointed out, the Spring Loaded invitation was almost certainly drawn on an iPad using an Apple Pencil, but which Apple Pencil is the question. The latest version of the Apple Pencil was released back in 2018, but all it really added was a new wireless charging method. Otherwise, it’s essentially the same as the first-gen (which Apple still sells).
However, there are persistent rumors that Apple is working on a new Apple Pencil. We don’t know all that much about it other than it might have a new glossy finish, but it seems likely that Apple would use the Spring Loaded event to launch the new model. We expect it will bring some new functionality, better accuracy, and improved latency to take advantage of the new iPad Pro’s display.
We’ve heard rumors of an Apple-produced object tracking device similar to the Tile trackers for what feels like ages now, but it looks like this will finally be the event where it arrives. Apple just updated Find My to support item tracking from third-party manufacturers, so the software layer is in place, the interest is there, and the timing seems perfect for Apple to finally drop its AirTags item trackers.
We’re just not sure how relevant they’ll be now that any manufacturer can hook up with the Find My network. Rumor says they’ll cost around $39 each and support Bluetooth LE for coarse location with broad compatibility along with ultra-wideband for precision location mapping using the latest iPhones. As far as the design, they’re expected to be stylish and circular but may need separate accessories to attach to things like keys and backpacks.
An updated version of the Apple TV 4K is another product we’ve heard a lot about lately. Such a device would likely be very similar to the Apple TV 4K with an updated processor (the current A10X is rather old by now), and hopefully a new remote. An upgrade to HDMI 2.1 is also expected, which would allow for 120Hz output to supported TVs. It will likely cost the same as the current model, but we wouldn’t be opposed to a price cut.
We’ve heard about significant updates to the entry-level AirPods for quite some time now. Colloquially called “AirPods 3” (although there was never an AirPods 2), they are said to have a new design that more closely resembles the AirPods Pro. The most recent rumors suggest that these won’t actually be released until the fall, but we’ve already seen images floating around, so it seems possible that they’ll land on Tuesday. As with all Apple rumors, you never really know, and AirPods can (and do) ship at any time.
There are several other Apple products rumored to be released this year, but we don’t expect them to be ready to announce on April 20. For example, some non-Pro iPads are due for an update and we hear that both the iPad mini and 10.5-inch iPad have significant redesigns in the works. But we usually hear rumors from parts suppliers and manufacturing partners close to release, and there hasn’t been any of that yet for those iPads. So those will probably be fall releases.
The MacBook Pro only got an Apple Silicon option in the 13-inch model, and Intel-based models are also still available (unlike the MacBook Air, which is now M1-only). Both 14-inch and 16-inch models of the MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon are supposedly on the way, with a new design that has smaller bezels around the display and some other significant design and feature updates. We expect these are likely coming at WWDC or later in the year.
The iPhone SE launched last year around this time, but rumors suggest Apple will be keeping the current model around for at least another year. That’s totally fine—the SE has a great processor and still well worth its $399 price tag.
And one more thing?
When we heard about the Apple spring event, the last thing on our minds was new iMacs. But now we’re nearly convinced that they will arrive as the big announcement, possible even a fabled One More Thing.
We’ve been expecting a new iMac since last year’s WWDC, so it’s been in development for a while now. Rumors haven’t discounted it arriving at this event, and just last Friday, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said in an interview discussing the Spring Loaded event that the “iterative, basic stuff” could be saved by the launch of a new all-in-one: “If the iMac does indeed get launched next week, that’s gonna be a big deal.” Normally he’s be the one to discount such an announcement, so if he hasn’t heard it’s not coming, it’s very possible that it is.
An updated iMac would be much more than a faster chip. Rumors have suggested it will have a bigger screen and a whole new design language that closely mirrors the XDR Pro Display. It might be a little too early in the year, but Apple has several Macs to launch this year—not to mention updates to the existing M1 Macs—so it can’t release all of them at WWDC. Plus, the latest macOS 11.3 beta includes potential references to new iMacs, oft-accurate l0vetodream on Twitter has teased them, and there might be a clue hiding in the event invite.
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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.