Apple spring 2020 announcements: Rumored iPhones, MacBooks, and much more

If the rumor mill is to be believed, Apple has an awful lot of new products in the works. We’re not just talking spec bumps and minor tweaks, but all-new devices such as an iPhone SE 2. Tile-like trackers called AirTags are also said to be on the way, and there’s even talk of Apple launching a redesigned 14.1-inch MacBook Pro with a new keyboard.

Some of these devices are expected to arrive later than others, but a whole heap of them are said to be just around the corner. In fact, the next big Apple event is set for March 31, 2020.

But will it actually happen? Due to the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19,the probability of a physical event is negligible. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we won’t see products announced, though.

Where and when will it happen?

Stephen Lam/Stringer/Getty Images

Apple has held an event in March most years since it launched the Apple Watch on March 9, 2015 (2017 is the only year since then that the company skipped the March event). In 2016, the event fell on March 21, which then occurred on March 27, 2018, and March 25, 2019. Given the pattern of the last few years, a date late in the month seems to have become a trend.

German website bolstered that theory when it claimed that Apple had set a date of March 31 for its next event (via MacRumors). The website claimed its information came “directly from the Apple environment,” and that an iPhone SE 2 — a successor to 2016’s iPhone SE — could be launched on April 3 (more on that later).

However, the recent COVID-19 outbreak seems to have derailed the idea of a physical event. According to industry analyst Jon Prosser, Apple has canceled its March event as a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus. California’s Santa Clara County — where the event was apparently due to be held — has reported 32 cases of coronavirus, and the county’s Public Health Department has now banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more, which could be the nail in the coffin for Apple’s planned event. Still, Prosser explains that the products Apple was planning to announce will still launch, just not at a lavish event, and presumably via press releases instead.

Whether or not it goes ahead, the event date remains unconfirmed by Apple (unsurprisingly, given the Cupertino, California, firm never publicly confirms events in advance except through media invitations). Its March 31 date does fall within a window where we would reasonably expect an Apple event to take place.

Here are some of the products we expect to hear about.

iPad Pro with a trackpad and dual camera lens

Apple iPad Pro 2020 Keyboard

Apple hasn’t brought out a new iPad Pro since late 2018, during which time other models in the iPad range have seen upgrades, so the Pro version is due for an update. The ever-reliable Kuo has predicted a refresh is coming for the iPad Pro early this year, although he’s been light on detail. According to MacRumors, the new pro-level tablet will come with a triple-camera array and feature 3D sensing for augmented reality, something Apple has made a point of supporting in its recent iPhones. We also saw talk of an all-new keyboard case featuring a trackpad for the first time, advanced augmented reality capabilities, as well as an expected processor bump.

In the end, (almost) all those rumors proved correct. In mid-March, Apple launched a new iPad Pro featuring an A12Z Bionic chip (the first time an Apple A-series processor has had the Z suffix), a new Magic Keyboard case with trackpad, a LiDAR scanner, and a triple-lens camera setup like that on the latest iPhones.

We’ll start with that A12Z Bionic chip. Apple fired shots across the bows of its rivals by saying the iPad Pro is now “faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops.” It features an eight-core CPU, an eight-core GPU, and a Neural Engine to provide what Apple says is “the highest performance ever in an iPad.” We already know Apple’s iPad chips are capable of smoking their rivals, and the A12Z Bionic could well extend that lead.

Ever since the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max debuted in September 2019, people have been speculating that Apple would bring their triple-lens cameras to the iPad. Rumors flourished that the iPad Pro would also have three lenses, including leaked case designs and analyzed iOS 14 code. In the end, though, the rumors were just wide of the mark. While the iPad Pro has the same triangular setup on its rear, it actually only has two cameras (a 12MP wide lens and a 10MP ultra-wide lens). The third cutout is for the LiDAR scanner, which allows for advanced augmented reality capabilities that the previous iPad Pro couldn’t manage.

Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the new iPad, though, is its Magic Keyboard case. It combines the Magic Keyboard from the MacBook Pro 16 and a trackpad, the first time either has ever appeared with the iPad Pro. Apple says it implemented cursor support in iPadOS in a special way rather than just porting over the MacOS system. The user can use a small white dot on-screen to select elements, edit text and navigate web pages.

It won’t function the same way as a Mac, but we do know it can be combined with Apple’s excellent trackpad gestures, so we’ll have to see how well it works in practice. Its price tag is hard to swallow, though — $299 for the 11-inch model and an eye-watering $349 for the 12.9-inch version. Add that to the top-end iPad Pro and you start paying more than a MacBook Pro.

Many other details of the iPad Pro have remained the same, however. The iPad Pro still comes in the same sizes as before (11 inches and 12.9 inches), and its thin-bezel design with Face ID also remains.

The MacBook Air gets an update

macbook air 2020

Alongside the new iPad Pro, Apple also launched an update of the MacBook Air. It features a number of important updates, including a new keyboard, a lower price, and faster processors. The keyboard is the same Magic Keyboard that was featured in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with a millimeter of travel and the inverted “T” arrow keys.

On the performance front, the MacBook Air now comes with 10th-gen Ice Lake processors from Intel. They still start at the dual-core Core i3, but now offer quad-core options for Core i5 and Core i7. These quad-core processors offer significantly better performance in multitasking and in heavier applications. All the models come with Iris Plus, Intel’s new and improved integrated graphics.

Lastly, the new MacBook Air switches up the configurations and pricing. The base model now starts at $999, which includes the Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. That’s double the storage of previous iterations. You can now configure it up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory, though you’ll pay handsomely for that.

iPhone SE 2 resurrects an old favorite

Apple iPhone 8 review in hand app store
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The original iPhone SE was a surprise hit, offering as it did a more compact screen than Apple’s other iPhones without compromising on performance. It addressed a gap in the market for a small-screen iPhone that had gone unfulfilled since Apple launched the larger iPhone 6 in 2014.

Ever since Apple discontinued the iPhone SE in 2017, there have been rumors that it’s been working on a successor, known either as the iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 9. Now, those rumors have picked up pace, with numerous reports — including from Ming-Chi Kuo — pegging the device for an early 2020 launch date. Kuo is widely regarded to have accurate, well-placed sources in Apple’s supply chain and has an excellent track record when it comes to predictions, so having his seal of approval is good news for any rumor.

Given the original iPhone SE launched with the same processor as the then-current iPhone 6s, we’d expect Apple to adopt a similar approach with the iPhone SE 2. That means an Apple A13 Bionic chip is expected (the same one that’s found in the iPhone 11 Pro), with reports claiming it’ll be housed inside an iPhone 8’s chassis with a 4.7-inch display. That’s an older design with thick bezels and a physical Home button for use with Touch ID, something that seems to have been confirmed by leaked iOS 14 code. Using an older chassis like this will help bring costs down.

Speaking of the price, Kuo has predicted the iPhone SE 2 will launch at $399 for the base model. That claim was backed up by an image from Target’s internal stock system listing an “Apple iPod Touch X Generation” for $399.99, which industry analyst Jon Prosser says is “almost certainly” a new iPhone. That’s the same price that the original iPhone SE launched at and is considerably less than the starting price of the iPhone 11, Apple’s currently cheapest iPhone, which starts at $699.

As we mentioned earlier, believes the iPhone SE 2 will launch on April 3. That’s a shorter time frame than normal — usually, Apple allows at least a week between announcing a new iPhone and its first date of availability — so the April 3 date, being just three days after the claimed March 31 event date, seems a little soon. Given that Apple has now canceled that event — and considering the ongoing coronavirus situation — the April 3 release date seems increasingly unlikely.

Doubts over that launch date were raised by Taiwanese website DigiTimes, which stated that although the iPhone SE 2 has apparently entered the final verification stage, the actual launch could be deferred until the second quarter of the year due to the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak delaying components. That said, it has recently been reported that sources in Apple’s Taiwanese supply chain have rebuffed suggestions the iPhone SE 2 has been delayed in any way, so it could still be on the horizon.

A totally redesigned MacBook Pro 13

Photos by Riley Young

When Apple released the MacBook Pro 16 in late 2019, it received a near-rapturous reception. We declared it to be the best Mac in years, not because it did anything truly revolutionary, but because its many tweaks addressed almost all the long-standing gripes we’d previously had with Apple’s flagship laptop. The new keyboard felt superb, the speakers were fantastic, and the thinner display bezels were modern and immersive. It even had a redesigned thermal architecture that made throttling a thing of the past.

Given the positive reception, Apple would have to be daft not to bring these changes to its smaller MacBook Pro. According to a number of reports, including from DigiTimes, Apple is planning on doing just that in the first half of 2020, so we could get some news any day now.

However, there’s a caveat to that. Ming-Chi Kuo recently released a report that predicted Apple will launch a 14.1-inch MacBook Pro alongside a refreshed MacBook Pro 16 in 2020. The 14.1-inch device is expected to be a redesigned MacBook Pro 13, with thinner bezels to allow for a larger display. Given that the MacBook Pro 16 has only just been released, we’d expect this dual launch to happen some time in late 2020. That means that, while a MacBook Pro may still launch imminently, it may not be the overhauled version with Magic Keyboard, thinner bezels and new cooling system, and could simply be a spec bump to the existing MacBook Pro 13.

As for the price, we’d expect the new MacBook Pro 13 to launch with the same $1,299 price tag as the current model. When Apple brought out the MacBook Pro 16, it kept the price exactly the same as the entry-level MacBook Pro 15 that it replaced, which was impressive given the new features and form factor. It’s therefore likely the company will follow suit with its next MacBook Pro.

AirTags to keep your items safe

Find my app feature image

In recent years, Apple has branched out from its traditional iPhone-iPad-Mac lineup and added new products to its roster, including services like Apple Arcade and Apple TV+. The latest addition in this recent trend looks to be AirTags, Apple’s Tile-like tracking device to help you find your lost items.

Unlike many Apple rumors, which are based on intangible supply chain whispers, there seems to be solid evidence for the existence of AirTags. Code in iOS 13 contained references to the tracking product, indicating it would work with Apple’s Find My app, which would let you press a button to have the AirTags emit a sound. Code for the upcoming iOS 14 software release also hints at AirTags, suggesting they will be able to be set up in bulk and will have user-replaceable batteries. AirTags may even work with augmented reality, whereby a red balloon would appear on your iPhone screen to indicate the position of the lost item.

The AirTags name was first spotted in iOS 13.2 code by 9to5Mac, lending further credence to the idea that Apple is indeed working on a new item tracker product. While they were at first expected to launch at Apple’s September 2019 event, that never happened, leaving March 31 as a strong possibility for their debut.

StudioPods could be an audio masterclass

Apple has long been rumored to be working on its own brand of over-ear headphones. While the company owns Beats, it doesn’t sell any over-ear cans bearing the Apple logo. Yet with it expanding more into audio in recent years, first with AirPods, then HomePod, then most recently with AirPods Pro, now could be the time for the so-called StudioPods to make an appearance.

The evidence looks good. We earlier mentioned how a leak from Target’s stock system pointed towards an upcoming iPhone SE 2 — well, that same leak hinted at a new pair of Apple headphones, too. Listed as “Apple AirPods (X Generation)” and priced at $399.99, these are almost certainly the rumored over-ear headphones.

Why? Well, it’s only been a couple of months since the $250 AirPods Pro launched, and these were framed as the high-end version of Apple’s AirPods (hence the “Pro” moniker). It’s unlikely another, even higher-end version of AirPods are in the works, so it’s highly likely this leak points towards some other audio product — namely, the StudioPods.

Given the headline features Apple brought to the AirPods Pro — highly accurate audio and noise cancellation capabilities — we’d expect similar specs in the StudioPods. After all, with a name like that, Apple is apparently framing these as high-end headphones for use in a studio. The company has always been willing to launch expensive products if it can make them the best in the industry, so expect a similar situation with the StudioPods.

Everything else Apple might announce this spring

Apple TV 4K

That’s not all Apple apparently has planned for its spring 2020. Several other products have been slated for the date; if everything rumored makes an appearance, it could be one of the most jam-packed Apple launch seasons in recent memory.

For one thing, there is much talk of a new Apple TV box coming soon. Code in the tvOS 13.4 beta was recently spotted by 9to5Mac that hints at a new Apple TV, with a new device codenamed T1125 nestled among the lines of code. Apple’s current Apple TV models sport the product codes J105A and J42D, suggesting that T1125 is something entirely new. 9to5Mac also noticed references to a new Apple TV Remote and workout app in iOS 14 code. The most recent Apple TV was announced in September 2017, over two years ago, meaning a new version could be on the horizon.

Elsewhere, another expected announcement concerns software, not hardware. In another case of new info being uncovered in iOS beta code (this time for iOS 13.4), eagle-eyed analysts have spotted references to something called CarKey.

What is this exactly? Well, it looks like it could be a new feature that allows your iPhone or Apple Watch to remotely unlock your car, provided your vehicle has an NFC reader. Your car’s details will be stored in the Wallet app, according to MacRumors, and you will able to hold your iPhone or Watch near your car’s NFC reader, authenticate with Face ID, then unlock your car. The Apple Watch can already unlock your Mac when you sit down at your desk, but this would be a step above in terms of functionality.

According to the code, you may even be able to temporarily share access to your car with trusted people using the Messages app, then revoke access once they’re done. Its appearance in iOS 13.4 beta code turned out to be something of a red herring — iOS 13.4 was recently released but CarKey was not activated, so it looks like we will have to wait a little longer for this feature to launch.

One more thing we weren’t expecting, but that Apple announced regardless — a new MacBook Air. This is up to twice as fast as the previous model, says Apple, with the Magic Keyboard from the MacBook Pro 16 and a lower starting price of $999.

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