On Tuesday, October 30, we’ll be treated to another Apple keynote event. Rather than being held on the Apple campus in Cupertino, this event is scheduled for 10 AM ET at the Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, NY. The last event in September unveiled the iPhone Xs (and Xs Max), iPhone Xr, and Apple Watch Series 4, so we know that smartphones and watches won’t be part of the announcements made at the upcoming event. What do we expect? Updated iPad Pro models and possibly new Macs. Based on rumors and the occasional leak, here is what we’re expecting to see.
An iPad Pro update is the most likely announcement that Apple will make at the “There’s More in the Making” event. The low-end iPad was last updated on March 27, 2018 with a lower starting price tag of $329 and a new 128GB storage option, as well as an Apple A10 System-on-Chip (SoC) and support for the Apple Pencil. While those changes were relatively evolutionary in nature, expect the new iPad Pro models to be somewhat more revolutionary.
The new iPad Pro models are expected to follow the lead of the iPhone X series by doing away with most the bezel surrounding the screen, essentially making the entire front of the device a display. To do this, the Home button will be discarded and Face ID added to the device. Face ID will need to unlock the iPad in both portrait and landscape orientations — rumors have it that Face ID will not work with the device upside down (Face ID cameras at the bottom of the display). Will this also work with the latest iPhones with an update to iOS 12? Time will tell.
While most of the bezel surrounding the display is expected to disappear, the iPad Pro will still have enough of a bezel to house the Face ID electronics without resorting to the notch that houses the cameras and sensors on the iPhone X line (see 2018 iPad Pro mockup below).
Eight models of iPad Pro are expected in the 2018 lineup, with two Wi-Fi models in both 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch sizes as well as two LTE models for both sizes. An Apple A12X powers all of the iPad Pro models; this is a faster version of the A12 found in this year’s crop of iPhone models. The A12X SoC includes a more powerful graphics processing unit code-named “Vortex”.
The biggest change? Many sites are speculating that the iPad Pro will do away with the Lightning connector and move to USB-C. With USB-C, an iPad Pro is able to push 4K HDR video to an external display. Some sites are even speculating that a new “Displays” item in the Settings app will give users control of resolution, brightness, HDR and other settings for those external displays.
One final change will be a new Magnetic Connector to replace the Smart Connector used on earlier models of the iPad Pro. While the Smart Connector was located on one side of the iPad Pro, the Magnetic Connector is to be located on the back of the iPad Pro for connection to new versions of the Smart Keyboard and other accessories.
Along with the new iPad Pro, expect to see a demonstration of Adobe’s full Photoshop for the platform. By “full Photoshop” we’re talking about a fully-functional version of Adobe’s image editing app, which up until this time required a “real” computer.
What’s an iPad Pro (or iPad, for that matter) without an Apple Pencil? Many pundits are expecting a new version of the Apple Pencil for 2018, with proximity-based pairing (like that used with AirPods and HomePod) replacing the needful the Pencil to make a physical connection to a device in order to pair with it.
It’s my sincere hope that Apple also makes the new Apple Pencil compatible with Qi chargers so that the need to either plug the Pencil into an iPad Pro for charging or to try to find a Lightning-to-Lightning adapter and a USB-Lightning cable for external charging is eliminated. Perhaps the new Pencil can snap to the Magnetic Connector for charging?
MacBook / MacBook Air
One of the more persistent rumors that has been making the rounds is that the MacBook will be updated and that the MacBook Air is discontinued. This makes sense; Apple has traditionally produced an entry level device and a “pro” device in most product lines; does the MacBook line really need the MacBook Air? Well, yes — the MacBook Air has always been a lower-priced model than the MacBook and MacBook Pro, but if Apple could drop the price of the MacBook below $1,000 while keeping or improving the specifications, then the need for the MacBook Air would cease to exist…or would it?
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has been quoted as saying that Apple is aiming at a sub-$1,000 MacBook to target low-cost PC laptops. However, his various predictions have been rather vague, so it’s not sure if a new device would be a more affordable version of the MacBook Air, or a new MacBook. Bloomberg thinks the new MacBook is a MacBook Air, and Taiwan’s Economic Daily News thinks a new MacBook Air is on the way with a price point in the $799 – $899 range.
If a new MacBook does arrive, speculation is rife that it could have Touch ID…but not the Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro. What processor would a new MacBook or MacBook Air use? Tell you what — why don’t we just wait for the announcements on the 30th?
Mac mini / Mac mini Pro
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on behalf of the entire Mac blogging community, but a lot of Apple analysts have been saying that the Mac mini will finally get a refresh this fall. My personal dream would be a Mac mini the size of an Apple TV, but that’s probably not going to happen. Think of a Mac mini that has just enough width to put power plug and a USB-C port or two on the back, and that could be mounted on the rear of a monitor or HDTV.
Some pundits are saying (wishing?) that a Mac mini “Pro” model that could be used as a media server or even a small, yet powerful headless server — which was what the original mini still excels at — will be announced. A total long shot would be that any new Mac mini would be the first Mac powered by one of Apple’s in-house SoCs, but that would mean that macOS has been rewritten or recompiled to run on ARM-based architecture rather than Intel-based CPUs…and that just doesn’t seem likely.
Our only proof that Apple still has plans for the Mac mini comes from an announcement a while back in which Apple executive Phil Schiller was quoted as saying “…the Mac mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren’t brining it up because it’s more of a mix of consumer with some pro use. The Mac mini remains a product in our lineup, but nothing more to say about it today.” About a year ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook also chimed in with this comment: “While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.”
The current iMac design is getting stale, particularly when compared to all-in-ones from other manufacturers. I look at the 27-inch iMac sitting in front of me and honestly see a lot of room for improvement in the design that’s been around since 2012. Things have been quiet on the rumor sites about a new iMac line, but we can hope for some significant changes — if not on October 30, then perhaps next spring.
The iMac could trim down significantly and still feature a 27-inch, 5K display. Think of eliminating or at least reducing the one-inch bezel around the display and the three-inch “chin” of the existing iMac, removing the bulge on the back of the device, and the iMac could lose half of its weight. Add Face ID, and the iMac leapfrogs Touch ID by adopting another popular Apple technology.
Please be sure to join us on October 30 for more details about Apple’s Mac and iPad Pro announcements.