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Though plenty of people are still waiting to get their hands on Apple’s AirPods Max, others are already wondering what the tech giant has in the works for 2021. Rumors are popping up all over in advance of Apple’s expected March 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.
Don’t Mark Your Calendars Just Yet
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 updates to the iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Magic Keyboard.
So what’s on tap for 2021? It depends on who you ask. Apple tipster Jon Prosser claims Apple’s next event is on the books for March 16. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, however, says a March event isn’t in the cards. We should have an answer soon enough, but we’re inclined to go with Gurman.
If Apple decides to forgo its March event, there’s still a good chance it will announce several products before this summer’s WWDC. Here are a few products we believe may hit store shelves in the coming months.
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.
Apple’s third-generation AirPods may hit store shelves as early as April and will reportedly continue to sell for $159.
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 an updated version of the AirPods Pro was scheduled for 2021. The new version will reportedly do away with the stem entirely and look more like other true wireless earbuds on the market. That means the case will likely be slimmed down, and 9 to 5 Mac 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. The site has a pretty decent track record, but we’d keep that date very lightly penciled in until additional sources come forward. Pricing for the AirPods Pro is unlikely to change.
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 this year. 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.
Kuo predicts the next-generation iPad mini will be announced in the first half of the year, which falls in line with the iPad Pro refresh. 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 we believe Apple will introduce its next-generation iPad Pro in the first half of the year. Details are still pretty scarce, but we can make some educated guesses based on historical patterns, patents, and supply chain news.
It’s almost certain that the upcoming iPad Pro will feature updated Apple Silicon. We’ll likely see a small bump in RAM for the less expensive versions, though Apple doesn’t share RAM information in general.
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. If history is a reliable indicator, expect to see the iPad Pro in the first half of the year.
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 is rumored to have lots of other cool things in store for 2021, including AR goggles and new consumer displays. We’ll update this story as we learn more.
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