What does Apple have in the works for 2021? Rumors are popping up all over in advance of the tech giant’s April 20 “Spring Loaded” event. Will we see new iPads, an AirPods refresh, or an unexpected iPhone SE update? Before we hop into the details, let’s cover the basics.
Apple’s Spring Event Is Set for April 20
March is historically a busy month for Apple. In 2018, it announced the iPad with Apple Pencil at an education-themed event in Chicago. In 2019, Apple Arcade, Apple Card, Apple News+, and Apple TV+ made their debuts at the Steve Jobs Theater. Last year, in lieu of a splashy event, the company quietly announced iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Magic Keyboard updates.
For months, there has been a battle between journalists and influencers over just when Apple would hold its first event of 2021. Jon Prosser initially said an Apple event would be held on March 16, 2021, but that date came and went without any news from Cupertino. He then tweeted the event would happen on March 23; that prediction cost him his eyebrows. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said the event was on the books for April all along.
After months of false starts and inaccurate predictions, Apple sent out invitations, and the virtual event—with the tagline “Spring Loaded”—will be held on April, 20, 2021, at 1 p.m. EDT.
Ready for a new spin on AirPods? Well, Apple is reportedly working on a substantial redesign for its next-generation AirPods.
The new AirPods will reportedly sport shorter stems along with a smaller case. We also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple adds a magnetic ring for MagSafe charging, though it may be a premium option. Though the upcoming AirPods will likely have a new wireless chip, ANC is probably not in the cards. We also don’t expect spatial audio to make an appearance.
Pricing is expected to increase from $159 to $199 for the next-generation AirPods. It looks like we may have to wait a bit longer for an update, however, since MacRumors reports Apple will not begin mass production of AirPods 3 until the summer.
AirPods Pro 2
It’s been a few years since Apple first released its AirPods Pro, and it looks like we may be getting an update. Last year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that an updated version of the AirPods Pro was scheduled for 2021 and would do away with the stem to look more like other true wireless earbuds on the market. That means the case will likely be slimmed down; 9to5Mac suggests it may magnetically attach to MagSafe chargers.
MacOtakara, a popular Japanese site for Apple leaks, reports Apple will introduce the latest AirPods in April. This seems on track, but we’re not certain Apple will update AirPods Pro in the coming weeks since third-generation AirPods will likely be announced with the next iPhone, and the fact Apple just started a new AirPods Pro ad campaign.
It looks like Apple may finally announce AirTags, its long-awaited long competition to Tile and other tracking devices.
AirTags use Bluetooth connectivity to find lost devices and will be integrated into Apple’s Find My app. They’re reportedly small, round, white discs with a small Apple logo. If you’re too far away from your device to connect via Bluetooth, you can activate Lost Mode for the AirTag, and you’ll be notified any time another iPhone gets close enough to pick up the signal. It also looks like Apple will provide a way for users who find an AirTagged product to contact its owner.
In April, Apple announced that a selection of third-party products now work with the Find My app; we think this announcement comes in advance of an AirTags announcement on April 20. Pricing is rumored to be $25-$35 per AirTag, though we think Apple will offer multi-packs at a discount.
Apple TV (6th Generation)
Let’s face it: Apple TV is way overdue for an update: The last refresh was in 2017. Multiple sources say the next-generation Apple TV has been ready for nearly a year. A product called Apple TV Gen X also made an appearance in Target’s inventory system last year.
According to Israeli tech site The Verifier, the upcoming Apple TV will have major hardware and software updates. We’re really hoping the remote gets an upgrade as well; if you’ve ever used an Apple TV remote you’ll know what we’re talking about.
The new Apple TV is rumored to ship with an A12 and a few storage configurations. The base model will feature 64GB of storage and it’s likely a 128GB variant will be available as well. It’s also rumored to have a U1 processor for tasks like spatial awareness and spatial audio on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
The updated hardware provides a few hints as to software features Apple may announce with the next-generation Apple TV or shortly after at WWDC. Expect to see improvements to HomeKit automation and possibly multi-room networking and a Handoff feature when switching rooms. Also expect to see significant improvements to the overall gaming experience when using Apple Arcade. There’s also a chance a new Kid’s Mode and the addition of Screen Time make an appearance.
There’s a good chance we’ll see an update announced at Apple’s Spring Loaded event. A recent tvOS beta suggests an improved remote and FaceTime integration, leading us to think the announcement will come sooner rather than later. If pricing from Target’s inventory system is accurate, the upcoming Apple TV will come in at $179 for the 64GB model.
iPad (9th Generation)
Like iPhones, the basic iPad is updated every year, and this year should be no exception. Rumors for the entry-level iPad are all over the place. We’ve done our best to find credible sources, but you’ll want to take everything with a grain of salt.
In a research note to investors, Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo writes that the upcoming iPad will have a 10.2-inch mini-LED display. We believe Apple will ship the tablet with an A13 chipset and increase default storage to 64GB.
An iPad Air-style redesign is less likely, though bezels may be minimized and the chassis may be thinner. There are a few reports stating the iPad will have USB-C charging, but all appear to originate from a suspended Twitter account, and we’re pretty confident that a Lightning port is in order. We don’t expect MagSafe charging on iPads or an updated Apple Pencil in 2021.
For the past few years, Apple has announced the iPad in September, and that seems likely to happen this year. Even if the iPad ships with a mini-LED display, we don’t think prices will increase; Apple’s mini-LED order is expected to increase substantially in the second half of the year, and the company is working to bring costs down.
iPad mini (6th Generation)
Apple waited four years before refreshing the iPad mini in 2019. It looks like the wait will be cut in half for the sixth-generation update.
MacOtakura claims the new iPad mini will have a slightly larger, 8.4-inch display. We don’t believe Apple will increase its overall footprint, so there’s a good chance it will get the same redesign treatment as the current iPad Air. It’s a drastic but overdue change that would result in minimized screen bezels, a squared body, and a side-mounted Touch ID scanner.
As for hardware, Chinese tech site MyDrivers states the iPad mini will ship with an updated A13 processor. We think there’s a possibility of a slight bump in RAM, but storage options are unlikely to change. There’s also a good chance Apple will update the 8MP rear camera on the current model to 12MP for 2021.
The iPad mini was reportedly on the books for the first half of the year. In April, however, Reuters reported that display component shortages forced Apple to push its release back to the second half of the year. Expect a slight price bump, since Apple will likely use a mini-LED display and may offer a 5G option.
iPad Pro (5th Generation)
Yearly iPad Pro updates are almost a given, and they’re typically announced in the spring. Despite reports of components shortages, it looks like we will see the next gen iPad Pro on April 20. Details are still pretty scarce, but we can make some educated guesses based on historical patterns, patents, and supply chain news.
Bloomberg reports the iPad Pro will feature Apple M1 chips, a Thunderbolt port, Updated cameras are on the update list as well. The overall form factor is unlikely to change much this year, though Apple will reportedly use a mini-LED display for better battery life and to make additional room for components.
5G connectivity will likely be an option for 2021. We also expect to see MagSafe charging make an appearance, since Apple used an iPad Pro render as an example of the technology in a patent that published in 2020.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see a small price bump this year to account for more expensive components. 5G connectivity will almost certainly come at a premium.
iPhone SE 3
Last year’s long-awaited iPhone SE refresh was a massive success, but there are still rumors the midrange smartphone will be updated again for 2021. There aren’t a lot of details on the upcoming iPhone just yet, but we can make some predictions based on supply chain information, consumer pain points, and historical data.
The biggest rumor at the moment is that the iPhone SE will have a 5.5-inch display. We think Apple may reduce the display bezels and incorporate a side-mounted Touch ID sensor on the phone in order to make room for the larger display while minimizing costs and changes to the phone’s overall dimensions.
The iPhone SE will likely have an Apple A14 chipset with the same 64GB base storage configuration as the current model. We expect a larger-capacity battery this year as well, since many users found battery life on the current iPhone SE to be underwhelming.
5G is the big question for the iPhone SE. We think it may limit connectivity to sub-6GHz, but there’s a chance 5G will be an upgrade option, with LTE serving as the standard.
MacOtakara clams Apple will announce the iPhone SE 3 in April. That falls in line with last year’s announcement. But Kuo offers conflicting information and says we won’t see the refresh before July. Either way, pricing is not expected to change.
There’s More to Come
We’re focused on mobile products, but Apple has plenty of other surprises in store for 2021. Check out our hardware coverage if you want to learn more about all the new M1-powered computers that should debut later this year.