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Apple hasn’t announced any new hardware products in 2021, but that drought should come to an end this week. Apple is holding a virtual event starting at 1 p.m. ET—that’s 10 a.m. PT—on April 20.
The global silicon chip shortage, which has delayed orders for everything from cars to video game consoles, may explain the lack of Apple announcements so far. In scheduling the upcoming session, Apple did not reveal any details about what new products it might unveil beyond one of its typically vague event titles: “spring loaded.” But the rumor mill has been in overdrive since Apple’s last unveiling, the $550 AirPods Max headphones in December.
Here are some of the products that could be announced:
The iPad Pro needs a performance boost
Apple last updated its highest-end iPad tablet about a year ago, but that device contained a processor chip almost identical to the one used in its 2018 update.
Apple’s legendary processor development team has made much progress since then. The cheaper iPad Air released last fall has a more recent chip, similar to the one in the iPhone 12 lineup. Apple watchers expect the company will debut two new versions of the iPad Pro, with the same 11-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes as existing models, but with improved internals like a faster processor and better cameras.
In addition, Apple has been looking at a new display technology called mini LED that could make its first appearance on a new iPad Pro. In typical LED displays, backlighting is provided by dozens of LEDs embedded below the screen. Mini LED displays contain many more individually controllable back lights, making them more energy efficient and allowing for greater contrast between bright and dark areas.
Apple’s iPads have long offered cellular connectivity as an option for users who want to take their tablets on the go. With superfast 5G modems appearing in last year’s iPhone for the first time, it’s almost a sure thing that the new iPads will also get the capability.
New design for the iMac
The chip in the current iPad Pro may be a year or two out of date, but the exterior design of the current line of iMac desktop computers harkens back to 2012. The stale rounded corner screen with hefty bezels could be on the way out soon, however.
New iMac models will adopt the boxy design seen in recent iPads and iPhones and Apple’s superexpensive 32-inch XDR display, which costs $5,000, Bloomberg reported in January. The new machines are also expected to have much thinner bezels around the screen, offering a more current look.
There could also be big news about the processors at the heart of the iMac. Apple is in the midst of a planned two-year transition from chips made by Intel to chips of its own design (which are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor). Last year, the company introduced laptops and a low-end Mac Mini running on its own chip, called the M1. Now it’s likely time for the iMac line to switch to Apple silicon too.
Finding lost stuff with AirTags
For several years now, Apple has been rumored to be developing a system of small plastic, Bluetooth-enabled tags that could be used to keep track of personal effects, like a key chain, wallet, or purse. But despite the persistent chatter, the rumored AirTags have yet to see the light of day.
Could this week finally be the debut of the tracking tags? Apple just announced that it was expanding its app for tracking iPhones and iPads, called Find My, to include other companies’ connected devices like VanMoof e-bikes and Belkin wireless earbuds. That could be a sign that AirTags are near.
Pay for podcast
Apple may be responsible for starting the podcasting boom when it decided to include shows in the audio format in its iTunes store many years ago. Now rivals like Spotify are impinging on Apple’s dominance, in part with exclusives. According to several reports, Apple may be readying an option to allow podcasters to charge for their shows for the first time. That might attract some of the most popular hosts to stick with Apple over the alternatives.
Is Apple working on AR glasses?
The current “white whale” of rumored Apple products is a smart glasses concept, one that would superimpose text and digital images on the real world.
Apple already offers so-called augmented reality features via the iPhone and iPad, but it’s a jangly experience that requires holding the devices as a sort of view screen. Other companies like Lenovo have already introduced their own smart glasses, and Facebook says it is working on “a lightweight, stylish pair of glasses [that] could replace your need for a computer or smartphone.” Snap, Niantic and Google (which failed once already with smart glasses) are also interested.
But this may not be the venue for Apple to debut its entrant in the smart glasses sweepstakes. In March, Apple announced its Worldwide Developers Conference known as WWDC would be held virtually in June. The announcement included several cartoon figures, all wearing glasses with app icons reflected in the lenses. Introducing a brand-new device category that may need a lot of developer support probably makes more sense at WWDC than a common April event.
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