As we close in on a new release event and iPad Pro release, what do we expect from Apple this spring?
First of all, it’s hard to even think about spring being close today. We’ve had a fairly mild winter in the Mid-South for the second year in a row and it looked like we were headed for yet another snowless season. Then the real winter finally showed up earlier this week and it looks like a lot more than just the ice we got on Wednesday and Thursday is on the way. It’s a lot worse north of here, but it’s definitely strange to go from another mild winter to looking at as much as 10″ of snow headed this way next week. I’m pretty sure we haven’t had that much here in the last 5 years combined.
But on to better and brighter things. As we pass the halfway mark of February, we are hopefully just a month or less from Apple’s first hardware release event of 2021. I have to assume that this will be another digital event, as we are still in the grips of the same global pandemic that cancelled Apple’s spring event last year. If you recall, Apple released its spring hardware last year via press releases.
We were at the very beginning of the pandemic then and didn’t know what was ahead. Apple had a lot of adjusting to do with their work structure, production and also their events over the months that followed. However, I don’t think anyone can complain about how well they adjusted to moving their events completely online. WWDC and their fall and winter hardware announcements were all seen as very successful. So much so that many have wondered if the company will go back to in-person events when the pandemic finally eases its grip. I have no reason to doubt that this coming event will be just as good,
The more pressing question is what will we get? As it stands right now, it looks like new iPad Pros are in, but we’ve all had a pretty good idea about that for a while now. However, it looks like Apple’s top tablet won’t be alone at this event. According to Jon Prosser, the AirTags will finally make an appearance after almost two years of rumors and predictions about them.
AirTags are still on for March.
Haven’t heard of any further delays this time. 🤞
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) February 12, 2021
As much as we’ve heard about the AirTags and as many times as hints about them have shown up in software, this certainly comes as no surprise. Some third-party accessory makers have even jumped the gun and announced holder accessories, such as keychains. It’s about time they finally arrived. I just hope they are reasonably priced.
Only two devices would have seemed light for in-person Apple events of the past. However, this seems just right based on their three virtual events at the end of last year. They were all short, focused and right to the point, only lasting around an hour each. Between the new features of the iPad Pro and a first accessory of its kind for Apple, I’m sure they will have no trouble adequately filling the time for this event.
About those iPad Pro features…it looks like there aren’t going to be any big surprises. The headline feature will be the new miniLED screen, which should be a significant upgrade. It should bring the screen closer to the vibrance of OLED without sacrificing battery life. This alone may be enough to get fans of the platform like me to buy, but time will tell if the new screen will be impressive enough to turn more heads.
Right now, odds are that the miniLED screen will only be available on the 12.9″ iPad Pro model. The majority of rumors have settled on an 11″ Pro also being offered in March, but that it won’t have the screen upgrade yet. However, most leakers seem to think that the miniLED display will come to the 11″ version eventually.
As for the rest, 5G is another obvious upgrade to the iPad Pro. Apple has the chipset and it has proven successful in the iPhone 12 Pro. The speed hasn’t blown me away thus far, but that should improve over time as the US cell carriers push deployment further. 5G certainly doesn’t move the needed for me as a WiFi iPad user, but it should for some who prefer iPads will built-in cellular.
Last year’s iPad Pros were about as meager an internal spec-bump as could be imagined. That was the reason I didn’t hang onto the one I picked up to review. I had every intention of selling my 2018 Pro and holding onto the 2020 when I first got it, but it just didn’t feel worth it after spending a few days with it. This upgrade should be much more substantial, with a jump from the A12X to what we assume will be an A14X. Considering the performance stats on the A14, this should be worth upgrading for,
There haven’t been any specific rumors saying this round would get it, but there have been a couple of general reports that Apple is considering moving the iPad Pro to their new M-series processors. The performance of the A-series currently used in the iPad Pro has never disappointed, but this new processor has been nothing short of astounding in its brief run powering Apple’s latest laptops.
The possibility of an iPad Pro powered by an M-series processor raises all kinds of questions. Will Apple take full advantage of that power? Would such a move bring iPadOS and macOS closer, or possibly even merge them? I’ll save those big questions for another day, because I doubt we’ll see this in the coming March iPad Pro. If this happens, it’s likely another year to 18 months out.
As for the rest of the iPad Pro, the design is likely to be virtually identical to the current models. The camera bump may change and the miniLED screen may push the thickness out a massive 0.5 mm, but that could be the extent of the changes to the exterior. I was really hoping Apple would throw us a bone and move the front-facing camera to the landscape position, but if we haven’t heard about it by now, it’s unlikely to come this year.
The only other news for the March event that’s fit to print is a little bit of rumbling about the Magic Keyboard. Patently Apple ran a story on a 5 new patents awarded to Apple based on changes to the to the keyboard accessory. These include altering the touchpad and adding a mic. However, as with some off the other reports of Apple’s interest in new features above, since we haven’t seen any supply chain reports by now, I doubt we see an update to the Magic Keyboard in 2021. Less than one year would seem like an abnormally short run for such a successful new Apple accessory.
With only a month left to go, if we don’t hear anything about significant feature or design changes to the iPad Pro soon, they aren’t happening. And that’s ok for 2021. A new screen, new cell tech and a new processor will still be enough to make a successful new device. I have a feeling that the bigger iPad upgrade in 2021 will be to the software, but that’s a story for another day.