New iPad Pro, 'iPhone SE 2' and more — what to expect from Apple in 2020
Apple looks like it's going to have a busy year, with updates to nearly its entire product line. Here's what we're expecting Apple to release — or at least announce — in 2020.
Last year was just peculiar. Pretty much all the usual hardware announcements were pushed out as press releases, while Apple concentrated on its year of services. Now we've got everything from television to a credit card, though, the rest of 2020 is shaping up to be a more familiar year.
There are no more entirely new services to come in 2020, and we're unlikely to see the Apple Car. But in between services and the car, there is an entire range of products and hardware updates that you can reasonably expect Apple to bring out.
It is as certain as it possibly can be that September is going to see the launch of the "iPhone 12," but actually even that isn't entirely as clear cut as usual.
There are strong rumors that while Apple will do a September show, it might keep back one of its new iPhones to December or even into early 2021. That would be less Apple's desire to build suspense, and more its inability to build enough iPhones with the faster mmWave version of 5G.
Then, too, we're so used to there being three iPhones announced - a so-called cheap one, a regular iPhone and an extra large-screen one - that any deviation from that is surprising. We may well be surprised. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects there to be four new iPhones instead.
He specifically claimed that the four would launch at the end of this year, and that all four would feature 5G.
While Apple has yet to say it will include 5G in this year's iPhones, it will. Qualcomm all but admitted it, and every reliable source is certain. There was also the issue that Apple would be coming late to the 5G party, though now that we're into 2020, it doesn't seem as if anyone else is really having giant success.
That's because the technology is new, but also because you can have the best 5G phone in the world and its extra speed is useless without a 5G network. Cell firms are rolling out 5G to various parts of the country, and in various forms, so maybe Apple's picking its moment well.
You can expect an Apple Watch Series 6 to be revealed at the September iPhone event.
It's likely to be faster and some reports say it will have improved water resistance.
Recent Apple patents have included ones where the Digital Crown has been replaced by a small, flat, touch-sensitive panel, and that would surely increase the water proofing, but there's every chance that this is some years away.
For now, it'll be interesting to see if any further progress has been made with the always-on feature that debuted with the Apple Watch Series 5. There have been mixed reports of how it's affected battery life, so improvements and refinements here would be welcomed.
Then, too, there is the Apple Watch App Store. That was also introduced in September 2019, and is a clear sign of Apple's moves to ultimately make the Watch entirely independent of the iPhone. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but the Watch's App Store doesn't appear to have ignited the developer world yet.
We may not have to wait until September for some new Apple Watch hardware, though. Apple is reportedly planning a PRODUCT(RED) version of the Apple Watch Series 5.
A new iPad Pro
This is the one that we've been talking about the longest.
There will be a new iPad Pro, but it won't have 5G, not this year. Kuo does expect that a 5G model will follow in 2021.
The 2020 versions of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are expected to look very much like their predecessors on the outside, but they will feature improved internal antennae. They're believed to employ an "LCP Soft Board," too, which is a flexible way of connecting components.
While the iPhone has been released in September for many years, there's no such traditional spot for the iPad Pro. The original 12.9-inch model from 2015 came out in November, as did the 2018 edition. Beyond that, we've seen models arrive in both March (2016) and June (2017).
Kuo reported late last year that he believed the next iPad Pro would be entering production by either the fourth quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020.
Apple is expert in picking the right time to release a product and get it maximum attention — it'll never release both a new iPhone and the Apple Car at the same event — but it also chooses that time early. There's no benefit to keeping a product under wraps when it's finished and manufactured, so it's a decent bet that the new iPad Pro will be released in the first half of 2020.
A new low-cost iPhone
It's expected that this first half of the year will also see Apple release an "iPhone SE 2," although here it's less certainty, more very strong rumors that have been repeated for the last two years, and a dash of hope generated by Kuo's usually reliable reports.
Then, just as the company did when it launched the iPod touch, Apple knows the value of a cheaper iOS device for getting new customers into its ecosystem. The iPhone SE from 2016 still runs the latest iOS 13, but it's right on the edge of even Apple's commitment to support old devices. The 2015 iPhone 6 won't, for instance.
There's also a difference between able to run this year's iOS 14 and being able to run it well. It's not a leap to think that Apple will be thinking of a new device that can deliver Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple News+ well to people who can't or won't buy a regular new iPhone.
Put this under "certain" and "probably soon," too. At least one new updated model of MacBook Pro is coming, as evidenced by Apple filing an entry about it in the EEC.
That filing is a regulatory requirement so while the entry doesn't tell us any details, it does tell us for sure that a new model is coming.
There's no shortage of speculation over what it will be, though. The most likely — backed up by Ming-Chi Kuo — is that it will be a revision to the existing MacBook Pro 13-inch model.
If it is, the odds are strong that the major part of the revision will be that this machine will get the new keyboard that was introduced with the latest MacBook Pro 16-inch.
It's possible that the new model will also follow how that 16-inch machine replaced a 15-inch one. By reducing the bezels around the display and only fractionally increasing the size of the chassis, Apple was able to fit a 16-inch display into practically the same casing as the previous 15-inch one.
Kuo says that the 13-inch revision will debut in the first half of the year, and various other industry sources appear to back that up.
Other new Macs
We're heading deep into speculation, but Apple does now have four desktop Macs.
The Mac Pro is brand-new and we're not expecting any updates to the product for at least the first half of the year. If we get anything at all, it will likely be very late in 2020.
Similarly, the iMac 5K got what looked to be a small update on the surface in 2019, with a speed bump that proved to be much more significant than it seemed.
However, the Mac mini hasn't been updated since October 2018 — and the iMac Pro since 2017. While there are no giant rumors about both, we'd put more stock in a Mac mini update than an iMac Pro one at this point. But, there are newer Intel processors suitable for both.
Apple may not be so reliant on Intel processors for much longer, though. It's so clear that Apple will move to ARM processors that even Intel expects it.
Reportedly, Intel executives think the ARM move may begin this year, and Ming-Chi Kuo has said the same thing.
Apple has of course said precisely nothing whatsoever about leaving Intel for ARM processors, so we can't know for sure what's happening or whether it really will happen in 2020.
Except we did get macOS Catalina last year. Its requirement for apps to be 64-bit has caused some problems and meant some firms left the Mac. Apple can argue that 64-bit apps are just generally better than 32-bit ones, but the mandate may be the first concrete sign that it is preparing the way for an ARM Mac which will be 64-bit with literally no option to run 32-bit legacy code — and soon.
Apple Tags and an AirPower redux?
We do know that Apple has been working on what it's believed to call "Apple Tags." This is a device that is meant to help you track your devices, and is in every way like the existing third-party Tile system.
Evidence for that was found within the code for iOS 13, so the fact that it didn't come out at the same time as that operating system update was a surprise.
More of a surprise is the possibility that Apple is returning to the idea of producing its own wireless charging mat. Following the demise of the promised AirPower mat that would charge three devices, Apple does appear to be planning a smaller one to release in the first half of 2020.
We surely got all the variations of AirPods that we possibly could in 2019, but all the signs are that Apple isn't stopping with those. It's unlikely that we will see another update in 2020 given that Apple can't keep up with demand now, but there are certainly more in the pipeline.
If that mat appears strongly likely, and the Tags sound like they're ready, still the most certain of all Apple's 2020 updates are in software.
Apple has unveiled an updated Mac operating system in June and shipped it around September or October, ever year since Mac OS X Snow Leopard in 2009.
Similarly, it has announced an updated iOS release in June, and shipped around September or October, every year since iOS 4 in 2010.
So anything is possible, but you know Apple will show off — and name — macOS 10.16 at WWDC in June. It will show iOS 14 then, too, and also iPadOS 14 too.
Foresight and 20/20 hindsight
There's no equivalent this year of the Mac Pro, the Mac that everyone was waiting to see — even if few people could really afford or justify.
Equally, there's no big Apple Card or Apple TV+ launch coming, that we know of anyway.
Yet Apple does have profit forecasts to maintain, and it does have areas in its lineup that need refreshing. So we're pretty certain to see a new iPad Pro, new MacBook Pro, new Apple Watch and undoubtedly the new 5G iPhones.
The question is just what else Apple is going to bring out for 2020.
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