As we enter March, the number of rumors about upcoming Apple hardware continue to rise. There’s a palpable feeling that Apple is about to release new shiny stuff soon, although no one is 100% sure of exactly what is coming down the pipe. With the coronavirus outbreak spreading, Apple’s plan for the summer season are also in question.
Here’s a look at everything Apple could release this month, from iPhone to Mac to iPad and more.
iPhone 9/iPhone SE 2
That a new spring iPhone is coming is all but confirmed at this point. Although the flashy flagship iPhone 12 series is a fall product like every year, in March or April 2020, we are expecting Apple to announce a new entry-level iPhone, a spiritual successor to the iPhone SE (possibly branded as iPhone 9, although there are no real concrete naming rumors).
The new iPhone will look a lot like the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 with glass chassis and rounded sides. It is expected to feature a latest-generation A13 processor, and possibly some other smaller internal component upgrades. It is unclear whether it will retain the iPhone 8 camera or get a new rear camera that can support Night Mode photography.
Most importantly, this iPhone will be low priced — or at least low for an iPhone. Like the original iPhone SE, the rumor mill is expecting the new iPhone SE 2 to go on sale for $399 with 64GB storage. That would be $50 less than what Apple currently charges for an A11-equipped iPhone 8, which we expect would no longer be sold once the iPhone 9 is available. Ming-Chi Kuo expects the iPhone SE 2 to be available in three colors; space gray, silver, and red.
The new iPhone will help Apple compete with the lower end of the smartphone market, particularly in developing markets like India. It is a potential upgrade option for the large user base of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners in the world. The iPhone 6 series continues to hold the record for best-selling iPhone generation, but those phones are now too old to run iOS 13. A new $399 iPhone SE could be the catalyst for a lot of those owners to upgrade.
The original iPhone SE created a cult following due to its small screen size in a marketplace packed with big-screened phones. The new iPhone SE will still be smaller than the high-end iPhone 11, but not by the same degree: a 4.7-inch iPhone with forehead and chin bezels is not that much more compact than a 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro.
iPad Pro update
There are a lot of rumors about a forthcoming iPad Pro update, to replace the 2018 iPad Pro lineup. Last year in March, Apple updated the lower-end of the iPad product range with new iPad mini and iPad Air models. In September, it launched the 7th-generation iPad. Now, it’s the turn of the high-end iPad Pro line.
Most sources expect a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro is imminent, featuring upgraded internals and a new rear triple-camera system. The overall chassis design of the iPad Pro is not expected to change, although one source reported that the iPad case would be made of glass rather than aluminum.
The new triple-camera module would look similar to the square camera system on iPhone 11 Pro, although the actual specifications of the lenses will be different. One of the three lenses on the new iPad Pro will actually be a time-of-flight 3D sensor. The new time-of-flight sensor is similar to the TrueDepth camera system used for Face ID, but on the back of the device and with a longer range of depth sensing. This will likely be used for augmented reality applications, and perhaps iPad Portrait mode. The new time-of-flight camera is expected to debut first on the iPad Pro, and then be part of the iPhone 12 in the fall.
There are some reports that indicate there will be an iPad Pro hardware refresh in the spring and the fall. The fall iPads would perhaps feature a mini-LED screen and add 5G cellular networking. Just last week, the Information said a new iPad with support for a new Smart Keyboard featuring a trackpad would launch “in the fall.” So if you are in the market for a new iPad Pro, depending on what is announced in the coming weeks, you may actually want to hold off until later in the year.
New 13-inch MacBook Pro
There are also several reports indicating that an update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro is launching in the March/spring timeframe. We saw Apple replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro with the 16-inch MacBook Pro at the end of 2019. Most notably, Apple finally ditched the butterfly keys in favor of a Magic Keyboard with more travel, the return of the physical escape key, and inverted T-shaped arrow keys.
Across 2020, we expect to replace butterfly with scissor switches on every Mac laptop. The question is timing. Latest rumors indicate a new 13-inch MacBook Pro is expected in this quarter, with the Air update to debut later in the year. In addition to the new keyboard, the 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh would include newer-generation CPU, GPU, and storage options. It’s not clear if the screen bezels would be slimmed down akin to the 16-inch model. The rumor mill is not suggesting changes to screen size or other major chassis tweaks.
New Apple TV set-top box
Apple’s current Apple TV lineup is composed of the $149 Apple TV HD, $179 32GB Apple TV 4K, and $199 64GB Apple TV 4K. The Apple TV 4K was released in 2017, and the fourth-gen HD model is a 2015 device. The hardware is aging and Apple has removed many of its exclusive selling points by bringing AirPlay 2 to smart TVs and and the TV app to Amazon Fire TV and Roku. Clearly, something needs to change.
9to5Mac has found evidence in code that a new model of Apple TV is in development, featuring a newer A12 or A13-class chip. More beefy hardware would certainly help in running the ever-growing Apple Arcade game library. However, that’s about the extent of what we know about the new Apple TV. Circumstantially, it sure seems like Apple needs to make the Apple TV more affordable. As customers flock to streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, the obvious choice is the ~$50 Amazon Fire TV Stick, not the $150+ Apple TV hardware.
It’s possible we see the Apple TV get updated in March, and hopefully that update constitutes more than a processor spec bump.
Spring Apple Watch bands/PRODUCT(RED) Apple Watch?
Apple updates its range of Apple Watch bands on a pretty rigid interval, so we would once again expect a spring seasonal refresh in the March timeframe. This usually includes a set of new colors and colorways, occasionally including whole new styles of band. Apple typically updates its lineup of iPhone cases at the same time with matching colors.
This year, there have also been rumblings that Apple may launch a new color of Apple Watch in the spring. Via WatchGeneration, an Apple database briefly included listings for a (presumably) PRODUCT(RED) version of the Apple Watch. This would be an aluminum Watch with red exterior casing with matching band, somewhat similar to the special edition PRODUCT(RED) iPhones Apple used to make, but this would be the first time Apple created a special color of Watch mid-cycle.
Hitting the FCC is a strong signal that the product is imminent. The new Powerbeats are expected to feature the H1 chip, which decreases latency, improves call quality and battery life, and enables onboard support for ‘Hey Siri’. We don’t expect the physical design of the Powerbeats to change much compared to the Powerbeats 3. The Powerbeats Pro will continue to be the only truly wireless Beats.
iOS 13.4, watchOS 6.2, macOS 10.15.4
The Powerbeats will likely debut alongside the release of iOS 13.4, as the Bluetooth hardware identifiers are included in the firmware. iOS 13.4 is expected in March as Apple has already said that the iOS-Mac unified purchase feature will debut for developers in March.
iOS 13.4 includes iCloud Drive folder sharing, new Memoji stickers, a new Mail toolbar reverting the design introduced with iOS 13, new keyboard shortcuts in Photos app and new key press event APIs for developers to use in their apps, and more minor tweaks. We would expect tvOS 13.4, watchOS 6.2, and macOS 10.15.4 to also be released at the same time. watchOS 6.2 adds the ability for apps to offer in-app purchases directly on the Watch, and the macOS update includes Screen Time Communication Limits and aforementioned iCloud Drive folder sharing support.
New Apple TV+ content
Apple’s March slate for Apple TV+ includes two new titles. The first is the Amazing Stories TV show, which Apple first announced at the 2019 March Services event with an appearance from executive producer Steven Spielberg. In fact, it was the first TV+ show Apple featured in the presentation. The show is launching five stories, one per episode, on March 6. Apple reportedly ordered a 10-episode season; it’s not clear when the remaining five episodes that Apple ordered will be aired, or if they have even been shot yet.
Also on March 6, Apple original film The Banker hits select theaters before arriving on Apple TV+ on March 20. The film stars Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson in a dramatization of a true story from the 1960s. The highly anticipated film was originally scheduled to hit theaters in December, but sexual abuse accusations caused Apple to delay the release.
You can also expect Apple to release several TV+ trailers in March, to build hype for the five new titles launching in April. Apple will be screening Home, Central Park, and the Beastie Boys Story, at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival that runs from March 13 through March 22.
March is also the time for WWDC invites
For the last three years, Apple has sent out WWDC invites in February or March. Last year, WWDC 2019 was made official on March 14 and the year before that it was the 13th. In 2017, Apple announced in mid-February as it changed venue from Moscone West in San Francisco to the McEnery convention center in San Jose.
We would therefore typically expect Apple to announce WWDC 2020, and open up ticket registration, in the middle of this month. However, the coronavirus has thrown everything into doubt, including whether Apple will host a developer’s conference this year at all. Conferences left and right have been canceled or postponed due to safety fears arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s not a given that there will be a WWDC at all this year.
If it isn’t canceled outright, Apple may simply want to wait longer than normal before it announces the final event details, in order to get a better assessment of the global situation. Pre-2017, it was not unusual for WWDC to be announced in April, so Apple has some time to play with here. WWDC is probably one of the biggest question marks of Apple’s year right now. We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled on this one.
Will there be a March Apple event?
The coronavirus also makes the chances of an Apple spring media event less likely. With so many companies and countries restricting non-essential travel, Apple may decide that it’s not worth hosting a splashy press event at the moment. It could invite US-only press, but that could be seen as exclusionary and goes against Apple’s brand image of diversity and inclusion.
Also, while there are a lot of product updates on the table, everything individually is small enough that Apple could do the announcement in a press release. There is nothing that warrants stage time per se, apart from perhaps the rumored iPad Pro 3D camera system. The iPhone SE 2 may be a significant product for the company financially, but as it will look just like an iPhone 8 with an upgraded processor, Apple would be just fine unveiling it in a press release with media briefings.
Even without the public health issue, March events are not guaranteed: Apple has held four events in March in the last six years. If the report from iPhone Ticker was accurate and a March 31 event is on the cards, expect invites to go out in the week of March 16, about two weeks in advance.
More beyond March…
Other new things in the offing include Apple’s competitor to Tile tags, ARM Macs, Apple-branded over-ear headphones, and the Apple augmented reality glasses. Whilst most of this products will come to fruition over the next 12 months, it is unlikely — but not impossible — for them to be part of a March announcement. ARM Mac hardware may not be coming until 2021, but many expect Apple to pre-announce the CPU transition so that developers can start recompiling their Mac apps for ARM.
The latest rumors suggest Apple AirTags are currently penciled in for a fall launch. Ming-Chi Kuo said the over-ear headphones and even AR glasses are circa “first half of the year.” However, it seems like these items are a bit further off than March, which means they are most likely set to appear as part of the summer/WWDC Apple announcements.
What Apple product update are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.
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