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Here’s what Apple might announce at a spring event this March

The 2020 iPhone SE
Enlarge / The 2020 iPhone SE.

Samuel Axon

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Apple announced a plethora of new iPhone, Apple Watch, and MacBook Pro computers, but we’re likely now just a couple of months away from another product unveiling event from the company.

The Internet is spinning with wild speculation today, so now seems like a good time to check in and set expectations as much as is possible at this stage.

Why a spring event?

Apple spring events in the past several years have fallen on April 20, March 25, March 27, and March 21. And based on the company’s typical release/update cadence, several of Apple’s products are due now: high-end Mac mini models, the iPad Air, the iPhone SE, the Mac Pro, the larger-format iMac, and the iPad Pro.

Last spring, Apple introduced AirTags, the new M1-based 24-inch iMac, M1-based iPad Pro models, and a slightly revised Apple TV 4K on April 20.

Unlike in other years, Apple had no spring 2020 event at all. The pandemic was ramping up, and Apple hadn’t yet settled on its new, streaming-first approach to what were historically in-person events. Nonetheless, Apple introduced refreshes to the MacBook Air and iPad in March of that year, a second-generation iPhone SE in April, and a 13-inch MacBook Pro update in May.

The Internet is abuzz about the 2022 spring event in part because, as has been usual for the past few years, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has been blasting out predictions via Twitter, email, and articles on the Bloomberg website.

The next iPhone SE

In contrast to some past reports that cited specific sources familiar with Apple’s plans, Gurman’s predictions about the spring event are just that—predictions, or very well-informed guesses. He claims an iPhone SE is just about a sure thing and that new iPads are likely, although his predictions of which iPads are more purely speculative.

Luckily, we have more than Gurman’s hunches. There were reliable reports about a 5G iPhone SE several months back. Further, Apple has several recent filings with the European Economic Commission that indicate a plethora of new iPad models are on the way. But those filings aren’t always close to launch, and those products could be for later in the year rather than the spring—or they could even be for products that come out in 2023. In other words, they’re not much to go on.

So yes, today’s discussions about the event is mostly speculation.

But as far as the iPhone SE goes, we’re probably looking at an A15 chip and 5G capabilities in a design similar to the current model, if a recent report in Nikkei is to be believed.

The iPad Air: probably. Other iPads: maybe

The iPad Air is in many ways Apple’s flagship iPad, given that the iPad Pro offers more than most people need, the iPad mini is specialized, and the base iPad offers less than a lot of people want. But the Air hasn’t been updated since late 2020, and its A14 chip is running a bit behind all but the base iPad.

The iPad Pro is coming up on a year old, but it already features the latest screen tech and the fastest suitable processor. The Pro has taken longer than a year to refresh before, so don’t count on it for the spring. If it does get updated, however, it will likely feature Apple’s second-generation M2 processor, which is also expected to ship in a newly redesigned MacBook Air sometime this year. But that could easily happen in the fall instead of the spring.

The iPad, iPad mini, and Apple TV 4K are all relatively current, as are the mainstream AirPods. It’s been a minute for the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, though.

The Mac transition continues, perhaps

Apple is still midway through its total overhaul of the Mac product line, replacing Intel chips with the company’s own custom-designed, ARM-based silicon. The notable outliers there are the Mac mini (its low-end specs have the M1, but its higher-end ones are still on Intel), the 27-inch iMac (which report after report has claimed will be replaced by a 30-inch model with chips similar to those seen in recent MacBook Pro models), and the Mac Pro.

We think the Mac Pro probably won’t come until at least WWDC this June, but a new high-end iMac and Mac mini are very strong candidates for a spring event.

Don’t get excited for Apple AR/VR just yet

If you were hoping to see Apple’s mixed reality goggles this early, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. First of all, that device would be best suited for an unveiling at Apple’s June developer conference. That’s because its release would come alongside numerous new toolkits and APIs, and it requires substantial developer support to succeed.

This June has long been the rumored time for the goggles’ launch, but a recent report claimed that Apple has run into some snags, and the device may be pushed back to late 2022 or even all the way into 2023.

The spring event is often about services

The spring event often focuses on Apple’s services, like Music, TV+, Fitness+, News+, and iCloud. We expect to see some new hardware in March or April, but don’t be surprised if services are front and center. Expect new TV+ series, Music features, Fitness+ workout categories, and more, like an expanded feature set for Apple’s recently launched iCloud+.

Further, we’ve been seeing hints in Apple’s software betas and elsewhere for about a year about a new, expanded smart home platform and operating system. That seems like a better fit for WWDC, but you never know—keep an eye out.

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