Apple wants to loop you in on March 21 at 5pm GMT. At that time, it will announce new and shiny things that your brain will immediately crave while your bank balance screams for mercy.
If the rumour mill’s correct, this event will mostly be Apple doing a handbrake turn on device sizes. Having churned out giant iPhones and iPad Pros of late, we’ll now see smaller versions of each. But that’s not all we expect to see.
Here’s what we think will be unveiled…
1) A Tiny iPhone SE
Rumours have bounced around about the device’s name and specs, and the general consensus is we’ll get the mutant offspring of the 5s and 6s. Our hope here at Stuff is that Apple doesn’t just see the smaller iPhone as the ‘cheap’ iPhone (for a given value of ‘cheap’, which in Apple language is ‘not very’).
Many people want a smaller iPhone that won’t be hamstrung by a lack of features nor an arbitrary cut-off regarding storage. We’ll do cartwheels if we get the option of what’s essentially a 128GB 6s with a 4-inch screen.
There’s going to be a new smaller iPhone. The question is whether Apple will hobble it to ‘urge’ more people to buy the 6s and its successor.
2) A New, Smaller, iPad Pro
Apple rather conspicuously didn’t upgrade the iPad Air line during its most recent iPad-oriented event. Cynics might point at the company wanting to put space between it and the iPad Pro. But rumours had suggested the Air would at least get a boost this year; now, the thinking is we’ll instead see a smaller iPad Pro.
Depending on how much it will mug your wallet, a 9.7-inch iPad Pro could be a very good thing. The iPad Air 2 still tops Stuff’s tablet chart, and we love the form factor more than that of its bulkier cousin; we’d therefore be thrilled to see an Air-sized device with support for Pencil and Smart Keyboard, and with increased RAM, a more powerful processor, speakers that don’t suck and even a better camera.
We think this one’s almost a dead certainty. Something needs to happen to the 9.7-inch iPads. Making some of them ‘go pro’ seems like a smart move.
3) Something Something Privacy Something
We’ve been closely following Apple’s scrap with the FBI. Astonishingly, things have gotten even crazier in the weeks since it first reared its head, and we’re heading towards a terrifying future if Apple loses, and lawmakers force the tech industry to dramatically compromise device security.
It’s unlikely Tim Cook will go nuclear on stage about this, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple lauding the importance of security and encryption, offering some hints regarding relevant upcoming iOS improvements — at least improvements as Apple sees them, because the FBI certainly won’t.
Tim Cook isn’t Steve Jobs in terms of barely contained fury, but he’s no pushover. And an Apple event is a great platform for outlining why device security is vital.
4) OS Revamps
Updates to iOS, tvOS and watchOS are waiting in the wings. Expect them to drop once the event’s done or very soon thereafter. (And then for Apple’s servers to have their usual meltdown as millions of people simultaneously hammer ‘update’ buttons.)
None of these are major upgrades, but all include welcome new features. Night Shift for iOS will automatically adjust the temperature of a device’s display as night draws in, potentially interfering less with sleep patterns. The Apple TV will get app folders and voice dictation input (the latter enabling you to avoid the hideous single-line keyboard). And watchOS 2.2 will bring ‘nearby’ search to Maps, and the means to pair multiple watches to a single iPhone — great for rich show-offs.
These will happen, but updates might not be explored in detail at the event. It depends how many hours of your life Apple wants to steal.
5) A Slightly Better iTunes
In an interview with Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple’s Craig Federighi teased a “new refresh” of iTunes, which would make it “even easier to use in the music space”. iTunes updates have for a long time felt like Apple rearranging deckchairs, so it’ll be interesting to see what changes are in store.
We’ve long hoped Mac and Windows would get an iOS-style suite of smaller apps with less complexity, but imagine there’ll instead just be more papering over the cracks, iTunes continuing to struggle in being everything to everyone for a wide range of functionality.
It might get a mention and the odd slide, but we don’t see iTunes taking centre stage at an Apple event that includes new iPhones and iPads.
6) New Apple Watch Bands
Apple says it’s going to loop us all in, which might suggest new Apple Watch bands, some of which are… loops! Tenuous? Perhaps. But it’d be a good way to bring back a touch of excitement to the original Apple Watch prior to its successor being unveiled.
It’s hard to care about new watch straps, but we can nonetheless imagine Jony Ive overly earnestly talking at length about how magical they are, until our brains dribble out of our ears.
7) Some Insight Into Apple’s New Home
Apple’s new campus seems very much a secondary topic, but it’s one way to make sense of the invite pun. And perhaps it’s an actual spaceship. Now that really would be magical.