Another year over and a new one ready to begin. There was certainly no shortage of Apple news in 2018, but that’s the past and the future’s coming fast. What will it have in store for all of us Apple fans? Here are some predictions for hardware coming in 2019.
Mostly iterative mobile device upgrades
Since 2018 brought us brand new iPad Pro and Apple Watch designs and wider iterations on the iPhone X from 2017, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of new hardware designs this year. There are rumors of a notch-less iPhone design on the horizon, and a small design change doesn’t sound out of the question in year three of the X-style devices. I would call one this 40/60, as that change may not come until 2020. We all know Apple moves slower than we think they should a lot of the time.
As for the iPad Pro, expect no meaningful changes to the exterior design. However, I do expect Apple to make a few internal tweaks to add some additional rigidity to the device. That’s right out of the typical Apple playbook- deny any fault and tweak the design next year. Just look back at the original iPhone 4’s antenna, which was reworked in later versions, and the iPhone 6 Plus design, which was tweaked to prevent bending in the 6S Plus.
The Apple Watch’s external design is also likely to stand pat in 2019. The new larger screen version design will probably hold for a year or two. However, while the exterior will stay the same, the Watch is still early enough in its growth phase to expect another solid upgrade to the internals.
Apple has also had a tentpole feature for each new Watch. The Series 2 had GPS. The Series 3 had Cellular. The Series 4 got the exterior upgrade and added EKG. There haven’t been any rumors yet, but expect another stage-worth addition that can hold a headline.
There is another aspect of the Watch that may see an upgrade in 2019. There have been rumors of a switch to a MicroLED screen for a couple of years now, and we know Apple is working with this technology. However, it is still a developing screen tech, so no one is sure when it will be ready for prime time. I am betting on this year, but we shall see.
Another interesting area for the Apple Watch is the potential for new additional health accessories. Many of the big ticket new features for the Watch are health-related, including the new EKG capability. I can’t recall any specific rumors regarding heath add-ons for the Watch, but I think its an area that makes great sense for Apple and I believe we will see one or more pretty soon. There is only so much they can cram into the Watch footprint and Bluetooth LE wearables give Apple the opportunity to branch out into niche health-centric areas that wouldn’t make sense to build into the Watch itself. I could see a single device release in 2019 to get the ball rolling.
Since it runs iOS and is coming up on its one year anniversary, we can throw the HomePod onto this pile, as well. I have my doubts that the hardware will see any kind of refresh in year two. There is so much more that Apple can do to expand the current hardware feature-wise via software updates, so I think that’s the way they will go this year. Despite all of the tech press and pundits clamoring for smaller, less-expensive HomePod hardware in the first half of 2018, Apple recently making Apple Music available on Echo devices seems to have put that rumor to bed. Bottom line- I can’t imagine any new HomePod hardware in 2019.
Low-end iPad refreshes
I won’t belabor this too much since I’ve already written about these devices recently. I do believe the rumors are true, and we will see a refreshed iPad Mini early this year and a 10″ iPad later on. The time is definitely right for both, as the current Mini hardware is a full four years old and the iPad’s design is coming up on year three.
A new Mac Pro
Mac fans have been looking forward to this one and it should be a near sure thing. Apple has already telegraphed that the new Pro will be coming this year. Of course, the HomePod was late and the AirPower is way past that, so you can’t always take their word for it. However, they did make a public commitment to take better care of their pro users a couple of years ago and they made good on round one with the iMac Pro in 2018. Look for an announcement of the new powerhouse modular Mac Pro at WWDC this coming June. The MacBook and iMac may get bumps this year, as well, but the Pro will be the star of the Mac family in 2019.
New audio gear
A new AirPods refresh is one of the worst-kept secrets in tech. We all know its coming, and likely coming soon. The 2019 version won’t be a big change, but Hey Siri and wireless charging aren’t a bad little bump. The real question is whether AirPower will finally arrive over a year late or, if it doesn’t, whether Apple will go ahead and let us have the AirPods already. I’ve been without mine for almost five months now and the wait is killing me. I almost broke down over the Holidays, but I’m going to hold out a little longer.
As much as I want the new AirPods, I am actually more interested in the rumors of high-quality Apple-branded wireless headphones that are rumored to be coming this year. Based on the success of the AirPods and the popularity of the Beats brand, I think this would prove to be another popular Apple audio product. The price will naturally be higher than the AirPods, and that will limit sales a bit. Despite that, I think the right balance of price and features could lure new users who aren’t interested in Beats, but trust the Apple brand.
That’s it for my 2019 Apple hardware predictions. I’ll be back with a little on software and services in the new year in a day or two. Until then, have fun ringing in 2019 tonight….but not too much fun.