Apple’s Next Hardware Launch Might Not Be What You Think

June 2, 2016, 4:33 PM UTC
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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 17: The Apple logo is displayed at the Apple Store June 17, 2015 on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The company began selling the watch in stores Wednesday with their reserve and pick up service. Previously the product could only be ordered online. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
Photograph by Eric Thayer — Getty Images

Apple has some plans for new hardware, and it might launch soon, according to a new report.

Apple (AAPL) has been quietly depleting stock on its $999 Thunderbolt Display in anticipation of a refresh to the hardware, Apple-tracking site 9to5Mac is reporting, citing sources. The site adds that Apple will replace the display with a version boasting 5K resolution and an integrated graphics chip that will allow it to deliver high-quality visuals.

While Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, Fortune was able to verify that many Apple retail stores are not carrying the 27-inch Thunderbolt Display right now. However, the company’s online store is still selling the device, and customers could get it as soon as tomorrow. Most other online retailers are selling used or refurbished models of the device.

That evidence, while circumstantial, follows a pattern Apple has used in the past. The company typically allows its product supply to deplete while it works on a replacement. Once it’s ready to launch the new device, units of the older model are replaced with the new option. It’s possible Apple is doing the same with its display.

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Launching a new display seems to make some sense for Apple. The Thunderbolt Display hasn’t received a meaningful upgrade in quite some time, and although it offers an overall solid visual experience, including a 2,560-by-1,440 resolution and a 1,000:1 contrast ratio, there are cheaper alternatives available that boast better specs. Apple, in other words, might need to catch up.

Offering a 5K-resolution screen would also be in step with Apple’s iMac, which offers a model with the high-end resolution. However, the iMac is a standalone computer that, thanks to its sophisticated components, is able to churn out 5K visuals.

The Apple display, on the other hand, would be much different. Apple has designed its screen to work with any of its Macs, including low-powered devices, like the MacBook Air or MacBook. Since those computers don’t have the same horsepower as Apple’s 5K iMac, those users might not be able to derive the same benefit from using the device.

Given that, 9to5Mac’s sources say that Apple is exploring the possibility of bundling a graphics chip that could accommodate 5K resolution into the screen. The display would then use that graphics chip, rather than the one built into the Mac it’s connected to, in order to deliver better visuals.

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Exactly when Apple could announce a new display is unknown. However, the company will be holding its annual Worldwide Developers Conference later this month, which could be a suitable event to showcase its latest creation. Since it’s just a display, though, it’s possible Apple could also launch the new display without so much fanfare.

Either way, don’t expect the notoriously secretive Apple to tip its hand. And, as with all other Apple rumors, take this latest one with the proverbial grain of salt until Apple makes a move.

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