Despite the fact that we just got brand new hardware from Apple just yesterday in the HomePod, let’s be honest. It isn’t for everyone. However, thanks to Apple’s wide ranging product lineup, there’s always something else coming just around the corner. In this case, it may be sooner than you think. According to a few different reports over the last week or so, we have a pretty good idea about as many as eight new Apple products that will be released over the course of this year.
Look Ma. No Wires!
The Apple Post reports that a BestBuy employee has spilled the beans and revealed the first of Apple’s coming new releases. The AirPower charging mat, which was originally announced during the 2017 WWDC Keynote, will arrive in March. The employee said that the store will stock and sell the AirPower both online and in store on launch day. The rumored retail price, which was revealed by Polish retailer X-Kom late last year, is around $200.
The same BestBuy employee also said that another minor Apple hardware release will come at the same time. The new charging case for the very popular AirPod wireless earbuds will also land along with AirPower. While BestBuy will immediately stock a refreshed version of the AirPods with the new wireless charging case, the case alone will not be made available as a separate part for purchase. This indicates that the separate part for existing AirPod owners may be an Apple Store exclusive.
The Modern Apple
Last year, the iPhone X appeared in beta firmware for the HomePod as the “Modern iPhone.” When that firmware was left unsecured and leaked online, an embedded icon that was discovered in it confirmed the shape of the new iPhone, and most importantly, the existence of “The Notch.” Now we have reports that the iOS 11.3 beta firmware contains references to the “Modern iPad.” The consistency of this leak with last year’s likely indicates that a new iPad Pro design with Face ID is very likely more than just a rumor, and that we should see the device this year.
The only mysteries left here are whether Apple will refresh both the 10.5″ and 12.9″ versions of the iPad Pro, and when the release will fall. Even though the 10.5″ model is only a year old and the 12.9″ was refreshed at the same time after the original was on the market for close to two years, I think it is likely that Apple will release redesigns of both at the same time, rather than staggering them. As for release timeframe, for the same reasons I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple push this release back a little further into the year than the early Summer iPad Pro window from last year.
However, when you consider that iOS 12 is now reportedly going to be less ambitious than originally planned, Apple may be looking for more meat to add to this year’s WWDC Keynote. I’m sure that watchOS 5 will be interesting, and we may even see the new Apple Watch demoed, and there is always macOS and possible Mac hardware refreshes. However, beyond that, this year’s feature lineup may come in a lot lighter than last year’s jam-packed event. The iPad Pro hardware refresh and the enhanced features for it that were included in iOS 11 were a big hit at WWDC last year, so these new slimmer iPad Pros with Face ID could fill much the same role this year. As interesting as Face ID coming to a new platform is, getting a smaller, slimmer iPad Pro with the same screen size and even more power is what I find compelling.
The iPhones are Coming
There have already been multiple reports over the last few months that Apple will release three new iPhones with Face ID and the same basic design as the iPhone X later this year. While some of the early iPhone X rumors last year seemed completely outlandish and came from less than reliable sources, Ming-Chi Kuo’s reports of coming iPhone hardware have been consistent and he is a well-known source.
Kuo projected back in October that the three new models would expand Face ID and the X’s design across a more diverse lineup. There would be a direct upgrade to the X at the same screen size, a larger 6.4″ version with the same design and components, and most intriguing of all, a new 6.1″ model with an LCD screen and slightly lower specs. This last model would be significantly less expensive, which could make it the biggest seller of the group.
This week we have some corroboration of Ming-Chi Kuo’s reports on new iPhones and Face ID from ETNews and The Korea Herald. According to both, Apple has selected two Chinese companies to help bolster Face ID component production. One is described as a “growing smartphone company,” while the other is said to be “a popular semiconductor packaging firm.” Face ID hardware was the biggest bottleneck in the rollout of the iPhone X, so if the lineup is to be expanded, production obviously has to be expanded to match, so none of this is surprising, but it does lend credibility to Kuo’s earlier predictions.
The reports say that LG Innotek will continue to be the biggest supplier of these Face ID components, as they were for the iPhone X. They look to be expanding, as they have an announced an $800 million investment into camera modules that are rumored to be for the coming iPhone. However, Sharp has evidently decided to bow out and didn’t renew their deal to be a secondary supplier of these parts.
So far, we don’t have much in the way of solid rumors on anything else. We do know there is a redesigned Mac Pro on the was, and that it might be available late this year, but that is all we have on it for now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see new MacBooks and MacBook Pros with updated processors, but there likely won’t be anything groundbreaking there. The iMac may get a spec bump, as well. What about the Mac Mini? Who knows what’s going on with it anymore?
As for other iOS-based devices, there isn’t anything solid on an Apple Watch Series 4 coming this year at this time. As well as it is selling and as little market pressure as Apple has in smartwatches now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new model pushed out to early 2019. The Apple TV just got a bump to 4K at the end of 2017, and still doesn’t have a compelling reason for existence, so I can’t believe anything will happen with it this year. All that are left are the iPhone SE, which wouldn’t be anything more than a spec bump, and the lower-cost iPad, There have been some rumblings about it, but because of its place in Apple’s tablet lineup, I don’t see anything happening with it until next year. It certainly won’t be getting Face ID for a while to keep that entry price low.
Based on the massive popularity of the AirPods and the Apple Watch, I would look out for a new wearables product sometime in 2018. I would bet on a high-profile announcement at WWDC if I had to bet on when. It may not be anything fancy or super-expensive, but this is such a fast-growing area for Apple with so much room for various small accessories and devices, expansion just seems like a foregone conclusion.
A recent patent application again revealed that Apple’s interest in AR glasses is ongoing, but those are still well off in the distance. Until Apple can bring them to market, I expect a few small, focused, affordably priced devices to keep the company’s wearables lineup growing and expanding. There haven’t been any rumors to this effect, but we didn’t see any on the AirPods until close to their release, and there was little to no information on the AirPower before it was announced last year at WWDC.