Apple’s Big Spring Event Could Be a Product Extravaganza

Tablets, laptops, M1, oh my

Apple CEO Tim Cook at a product launch in 2018. (Credit: Lance Ulanoff)

Apple will hold this year’s highly anticipated spring product event on April 20, 1 p.m. ET, entirely online. As anticipated as spring blooms themselves, this year’s event promises to be one of Apple’s richest in terms of product strategy and device number.

Among the categories on the table are:

  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Tablets
  • Custom Silicon
  • Tracking Tiles
  • Content

The surest bet is tablets. Most people expect Apple to update its iPad Pro line, which last saw a major update in March 2020 that added trackpad support, LiDAR, and the peppy A12Z Bionic CPU.

That silicon is now a few paces out of date with all of Apple’s iPhone 12s and even the latest iPad Air running the zippy A14 Bionic (and that added Touch ID to the edge). The iPad Pros, which I assume will come in 11-inch and 12.9-inch options, could feature new screen technology, specifically MicroLED. This nonorganic screen technology should, with its individually controlled trio of LEDs per pixel, change the game on contrast and overall image quality. Such things matter to the artists who use iPad Pros to draw, edit photos, and make movies.

The Apple Event invite art. (Credit: Apple)

Apple last updated the 7.9-inch iPad Mini two years ago, so it might be due for an overhaul, maybe one that maintains the chassis size but converts it to a style more in line with the current iPad Air.

Most people also expect the other shoe to drop on Apple’s custom silicon push. The M1 chip has proven itself in the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro (13-inch), and Apple’s intention to move all of its systems to its silicon is clear.

I do wonder, though, if Apple will introduce a redesigned iMac with the current M1 or maybe a more refined and faster bit of silicon. Perhaps, by now, Apple will offer us the M2.

When I spoke, via Twitter DM, to longtime Apple analyst and creative strategies president Tim Bajarin, he agreed with me that there will be a big emphasis this time on the M1 chip. He also raised the interesting possibility that the M1 chips could bleed into the iPad Pro line. Doing so would do away with the need for, say, an A14Z Bionic, align these pro-level tablets with the transitioning systems line, and possibly supercharge them. It might also throw the future of Apple’s bespoke A-series chips (built with a partner) in doubt.

In addition to a likely iMac update (no more iMac Pro, by the way), I fully anticipate new laptops.

I’ve read rumors predicting a pair of new MacBook Pros (14-inch and 16-inch) and assume that if Apple has updated custom silicon (the aforementioned M2), it’s been designed with these high-end systems in mind.

As for new categories, I think AirTags will occupy that space. Sure, it’s not the most exciting introduction, but we’ve been talking for years about these ultra-wideband sensors that could help you relocate your wallet, baggage, or cat. In other words, it’s time for Apple to release this accessory and put us out of our misery. I mean, I want to try AirTags — perhaps by putting one on my TV remotes — but we’ve spent too much time and digital ink talking about this relatively minor product development. I do hope Apple prices them affordably. I’m thinking $39.99 for three.

Bajarin, by the way, seemed unconvinced that AirTags would finally emerge, like crocuses, from Apple development soil.

Apple will use this event as a platform to talk about data privacy. I’m split on whether they wait to release iOS and iPadOS 14.5 until April 20 (maybe it’s out by the time you read this). The update will include Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which forces developers to include data collection opt-in stratagems.

The reason Apple might wait until event day is that it wants the biggest stage to launch its privacy policy and, maybe, to rub Facebook’s face in it (Facebook ostensibly stands to lose the most — in ad dollars — when ATT goes live).

Accolades-wise, Apple’s recently had a pretty good run with TV+ (see Ted Lasso’s and Wolf Walkers growing list of nominations and awards), and I expect them to lean into this. Apple CEO Tim Cook will tout the wins and maybe give us a sneak peek at a few other in-development TV+ projects.

There could be more (an all-new Apple TV or HomePod-mini Apple TV hybrid?) or less at this Apple Event. For all the leaks and rumors that are out there, many could be red herrings, whiffs of products scheduled for a future launch, or ideas never intended to see the light of day.

The good news is that, because the entire thing is online and open for anyone to watch, you and I will find out together which Apple flowers we get to sniff and which ones fail to shine in the light of a spring day.

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Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

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