Apple's has one last major event planned for 2018, and it could be a whopper. After announcing the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and the Apple Watch 4 in September, the company is expected to unveil a handful of additional products later today at a rare East Coast event in Brooklyn, New York. A series of reports from journalists and analysts have outlined Apple's purported plans to announce new iPad Pros and a dramatically redesigned MacBook Air as well as, possibly, other new hardware, software and services. The company has not responded to our attempts to confirm these rumors.
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According to what has become something of a custom, one week ahead of the scheduled event, veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released his preshow predictions (via MacRumors) of what he thinks we'll see on Tuesday. Though he isn't always 100 percent accurate, Kuo has a good track record and much of what's in his most recent report aligns closely with the rumors we've heard over the spring and summer.
Apple hasn't officially announced anything beyond the date, time and venue for the upcoming event, of course. But we've analyzed all the rumors and news tidbits collected over the past year, and we present below an educated guess about what Apple will and won't unveil on Oct. 30.
And remember: CNET will be liveblogging and simulcasting the event live on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.
New iPad Pro
Based on rumor volume and detail level, Apple is likely to announce new versions of its high-end tablets. Since the company added Pencil support and a faster processor to the entry-level $329 iPad in March, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro have looked a bit overpriced at $649 and $799, respectively. Sure, they're still the only Apple tablets with laminated True Tone screens, quad speakers and Smart Connectors — but a growing number of alternatives offer competitive features at a similar price, including Microsoft's Surface Pro and Google's new Pixel Slate.
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It's worth noting that Kuo now predicts that Apple will also unveil a new version of the long-neglected iPad Mini, though not necessarily at the Oct. 30 event. This conflicts with a previous report by Bloomberg that said the smaller form factor would not be updated. If it happens, we'd love to see an "iPad Mini 5" get at least an A11 or newer chip along with a price drop. But with the larger 9.7-inch iPad costing "only" $329 and Apple loath to compete with the ultrabudget Fire tablets of the world, this one still feels a bit hard to believe.
According to the rumors, here's what Apple may have in store with the next generation iPad Pro:
- New designs featuring thinner bezels and no home button
- Apple's TrueDepth camera array
- Face ID, which may be supported in landscape mode
- Faster charging
- USB-C connectivity
- Upgraded components including new processors
- A new version of the Apple Pencil
New MacBook Air
In August, Bloomberg reported that Apple planned to unveil a new "low-cost MacBook" before the end of 2018. According to sources, this won't be another modest upgrade but a dramatically redesigned laptop that includes modern Apple features but at a price that remains affordable for students, schools and other budget-conscious consumers.
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Apple has consistently refreshed its premium MacBook Pro lineup, introducing new 13-inch and 15-inch models in July. But the company hasn't done much with the popular but aging MacBook Air in recent years. In fact, the $999 laptop remains essentially the same device Apple introduced in fall of 2010 but for a few modest updates. The current model, released in August 2017, has a number of outdated components including a fifth-gen Intel Core processor (versus eighth-gen competitors) and LPDDR 3 memory. Meanwhile, "Airs apparent" — the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar — have struggled to hit the Air's level of mainstream appeal, thanks largely to their $1,300 starting prices.
In short: it's high time for a new MacBook Air.
Rumored new features include:
- A new 13-inch design
- New processors and other components
- High-quality Retina display
- Possible support for Touch ID
- USB-C ports
- A starting price of $1,000 or less
Other Mac updates
In addition to the MacBook Air, there are a few other Apple computers that are in line for an update. Among all Apple devices, none is as overdue for an update as the Mac Mini, which was last refreshed in 2014. According to the rumors, we're likely to see a new version of it on Oct. 30, possibly including configurations with a more "pro" bent.
Tuesday would also be an ideal time for Apple to implement perfunctory CPU and specs upgrades to other Macs in the line that are otherwise keeping their same basic design. Don't be surprised is the iMac and 12-inch MacBook get Intel's eighth-generation CPU, for instance.
The Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pros already got a nice refresh for 2018, and the iMac Pro isn't quite a year old, so don't expect them to be mentioned onstage. And if the new MacBook Air comes in at the expected sweet spot for price and specs, don't be surprised if that non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro disappears when the Apple Store returns after the event.
Less likely to be seen in Brooklyn
Confidence levels for new iPad Pros and new Macs is high. As for the other long-rumored products in Apple's pipeline? These products are possibilities, but we'd call them long shots.
AirPower charging pad
Apple introduced its AirPower wireless charging pad in September 2017. The concept: charge your iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods case simultaneously, without the inconvenience of cables and plugs. Since the announcement, which omitted any specifics about price or release date (beyond "sometime in 2018"), we haven't heard much about it. AirPower was referenced in some 2018 iPhone promotional material, but it's also been largely scrubbed from Apple's website. When Apple slipped a USB-C Magnetic Charger for the Apple Watch into its online store on Oct. 19, it was done quietly, as if the company didn't want to draw attention to the issue of wireless charging.
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In June, Bloomberg reported that Apple was struggling with the AirPower pad but still hoped to release it in September. Obviously, that didn't happen. Since then, there have been murmurs that Apple has killed the product. But Kuo reports that the company could launch AirPower at the October event, later in 2018 or early next year — possibly in a reconfigured form.
We've heard that Apple is developing a pair of higher-end AirPods with noise-cancellation, water resistance, a wireless charging case and hands-free support for Siri. In September, the company might have teased the new AirPods in its event-opening Mission: Impossible video. But we haven't heard much since then, and there's only a remote chance that the new AirPods will be unveiled on Tuesday.
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In the pipeline for 2019 and beyond
- Apple's rumored TV service is rumored to launch next year. The company has already pledged to invest $1 billion in the effort, hired two top television executives to spearhead it, and signed big-name deals with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg.
- Given the rollout of out TVOS 12 in September, Apple is unlikely to unveil any more new TV devices or updates in the near future.
- Despite the persistent rumors of a new iPhone SE, its failure to show up at the September event is likely the death knell for the popular, diminutive device. Apple last refreshed it in 2017.
- Apple is said to be mulling a smaller, less expensive HomePod. Rumors have it pegged for 2019.
- Apple has confirmed a totally revamped Mac Pro and new Apple-branded displays are happening, but not until 2019.
- An Apple AR headset? Maybe — but don't expect it until 2020, at the earliest.