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With 2021 winding down, all eyes are turning towards early 2022 looking forward to Apple's next product releases. Here's what you can expect to see from Apple after the holidays.
Apple's product catalog has gone through another eventful year, with new products being released despite the ongoing global pandemic.
Apple introduced numerous major updates in 2021 alongside its expected refreshes, including the 24-inch iMac, the addition of M1 to the iPad Pro range, and the launch of an entirely new product, AirTag. There were also changes that were more easily anticipated, including its annual refresh to iPhone 13, regenerated iPads, and the MacBook Pro lineup.
As time runs out on 2021, the rumor mill's attention shifts to 2022, and what Apple could launch next.
Here is what AppleInsider anticipates Apple will be bringing out after the year ticks over.
When will the next product launch take place?
There's two parts to this question that need answering: What could still happen in 2021, and what could happen in early 2022.
Given that it is December, it seems extremely unlikely that Apple will introduce something brand new at this late stage in the year. Following the fall product launches, Apple does generally avoid any major introductions in December itself.
The most recent December launch was for the AirPods Max, which arrived on December 15 with a press release launch. Before that, Apple put its Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR up for preorder on December 2019, though they were both introduced earlier in the year.
Both the iMac Pro and first-generation AirPods became available in December 2017 and 2016 respectively, but were announced earlier in the year. Even the 2013 Mac Pro, which became available in December of that year, was outed half a year beforehand.
If Apple had a product rumored to be released in 2021, there would be a good chance of an eventless launch at some point. As the rumor mill is quiet about December, it seems extremely unlikely for one to occur.
Turning to the start of 2022, it seems that the most likely earliest time for an Apple event to take place would be March. There has been a product launch in March every year from 2014 until 2020, excluding 2021, which seems like a very well-established pattern, though not necessarily with an event happening at that time.
Apple does sometimes launch products before then, but it is rare. The February 2018 HomePod release followed extensive delays for the product, so that doesn't really count.
Can Apple launch something earlier than expected in 2022? Sure. It's unlikely, but anything's possible.
Among the initial M1-based Mac launches, the MacBook Air was one year old in the fall, which could allow for an upgrade by Apple to occur without seeming too early in its product lifecycle. However, while there were new MacBook Pro models in the fall, there wasn't a MacBook Air refresh, and rumors pointed to a 2022 release instead of one in 2021.
Given the introduction of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chip variants, it's possible that they could be used in the new MacBook Air.
An alleged roadmap for Apple Silicon surfaced in November, claiming new chips are on the way, codenamed Ibiza, Lobos, and Palma. The chips, said to be the second generation of the chip family, will contain two dies instead of one, and use an upgraded 5nm process.
Renders released in May seemed to indicate a redesign was on the way, complete with a thin wedge-less design that could barely fit a USB-C port on a side. A variety of colors was also claimed, complete with a white bezel and keys.
A new display has also been proposed, complete with mini LED backlighting.
As you would expect, renders were issued in October showing what an updated MacBook Air could look like, complete with the notch in the design. Two Thunderbolt 4 ports were also claimed, along with a headphone jack and a MagSafe 3 connection.
An October report put forward that there would be M2 in the MacBook Air, as well as MagSafe and a 1080p camera.
According to a September 27 note from Kuo, Apple will start mass production for the updated MacBook Air in mid-2022, which could push the refresh later into the year.
One of the three initial Apple Silicon launches, the Mac mini similarly didn't go through any sort of redesign ahead of its launch. For its first refresh, it seems it may receive that update.
Renders from May claim it will be a thinner device, with the circular base replaced by rubber strips, and the rear vent moved to the base. The aluminum chassis would have a "plexiglass-like" top panel, and a choice of colors has also been touted.
The port selection on the back was said to be made up of four USB 4-Thunderbolt 3 ports, a pair of USB-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and a magnetic circular power connector, as taken from the 24-inch iMac. Inside, the chip will be updated from the M1, to possibly the "M1X" or "M2."
An August 22 report claimed a high-performance Mac mini was on the way, using the "M1X," intended to remove the Intel-based versions Apple still sells from the product line. However, aside from an updated design and the use of "more ports," few details were offered in the report.
A release date is unknown, but it is easily plausible for Apple to launch the model in early 2022, possibly alongside a MacBook Air update.
Big Screen iMac or iMac Pro
Since Apple had iMacs in two sizes for its Intel collection, it's quite plausible for Apple to offer an alternative to the 24-inch iMac for its Apple Silicon range, one that takes over from the 27-inch iMac.
An April rumor, ahead of the 24-inch model's launch, said Apple was working on a version with a screen that was bigger than 27 inches. However, that rumor was sourced from a leaker who had allegedly "retired" from the "business."
In July, another rumor mentioned a bigger model, though was light on details. Later that same month, a "high-end iMac" rumor spread, with a launch in 2022 as Apple "does not want their devices to compete for attention."
There is a wrinkle in the rumors, in that it's not the only iMac that could be on the way.
In October, leaker "Dylandkt" posted to Twitter that an "iMac (Pro)" is due in the first half of 2022. The leaker said it would have ProMotion and Mini LED in the display, as well as dark bezels, and a "similar design to iMac 24 and Pro Display XDR,"
The specifications list also included 16GB of memory in the base model, along with 512GB of storage, the use of M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, ports for HDMI and USB-C along with HDMI, Ethernet on the power brick, and potentially Face ID.
It was reckoned that the model could start from "over $2000" for its base configuration.
Regardless of whether Apple introduces a larger-screen iMac or an iMac Pro, it seems quite likely something with a bigger display is on the way, so a launch is fairly probable to occur in early 2022.
Third-generation iPhone SE
An iPhone model first introduced separately from the main launches, the iPhone SE always has the chance of being updated at a different time of the year.
In April, display analyst for DisplaySearch Ross Young tweeted a leak that the iPhone SE for 2022 will remain at a 4.7-inch display, and will be equipped with 5G connectivity.
By June, Ming-Chi Kuo joined the conversation, reiterating the 5G iPhone SE claim with a launch in the first half of 2022. It is said by the analyst to use the same form factor as the second-gen model, and will become the "cheapest 5G iPhone model ever."
A supply chain report from Digitimes Asia in July backed up the claim of a launch in the first half of 2022. The same month, Nikkei Asia also said the same thing, with the added use of an A15 chip and 5G.
Sources of MacOtakara said in October that the third-gen model would be out in the Spring of 2022, using the same chassis but with 5G and the A15 chip.
While analyst Ross Young didn't really add anything new specifications-wise in his October report, he claimed that the model would get a new name of "iPhone SE Plus," even though the screen will be the same size.
Chinese site MyDrivers offered in October that the changes would be more pronounced, with it taking after the iPhone XR and use a side-mounted Touch ID sensor. It would also be the last LCD iPhone produced.
It may also be the last iPhone SE with a 4.7-inch screen. Ming-Chi Kuo has reported that an iPhone SE to be released in 2023 will feature a larger screen.
Apple currently sells one own-branded display to consumers, namely the Pro Display XDR. Aimed at professionals, the screen is extremely expensive priced at $4,999, making it a tough purchase for typical Mac users to justify.
In January, a report from Bloomberg said a lower-priced external monitor was on the way. While light on detail, the report did say it would be cheaper than the Pro Display XDR.
Things went quiet until December, when a leaker said LG is making a trio of displays for Apple, possible as a successor to the Pro Display XDR. According to @dylandkt on Twitter, LG was making one based on the specifications of the 24-inch iMac, another with a 27-inch size, and a third 32-inch version.
It was said the three were housed in unbranded enclosures, but the 32-inch could apparently be Apple-branded "at the very least."
Both the 32-inch and 27-inch displays were also claimed to support mini LED technology for backlighting, and offer a 120Hz variable refresh rate.
A few days later, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said he "strongly believes" a new "external monitor for its latest Macs" was on the way. He added that the cost of production of the Pro Display XDR has "likely come down" since its launch, so a tweaked version with similar performance could be half the price.
Since the Pro Display XDR is two years old, it seems like a sufficient amount of time has passed for Apple to feasibly bring out a new display. However, there are no indications in rumors about launch or release timing so far, nor any real firm information, to point towards an early 2022 launch with any real confidence.
To round out its Apple Silicon transition within the company's self-imposed two-year timeline, it has to deal with the last main Mac category that the chip hasn't landed at yet. That would be the Mac Pro.
As for what form it will take and when, the rumor mill hasn't offered that much in the latter stages of 2021. If there were more definitive leaks and rumors, it would be at a higher confidence level than "Low."
Renders of what could be a Mac Pro, based on very early leaks, put it as being a much smaller G4 Cube-like device, with a compute unit on the bottom and a heat sink on the top. However, since then, there's not really been any claims about physical properties or even specifications, aside from the chip that it will allegedly use.
In May, Bloomberg said Apple would use an Apple Silicon chip that's twice or four times as powerful as the M1 Pro and M1 Max, using either 20 or 40 computing cores. Accompanying those high core counts is similarly high-core GPUs, in 64-core and 128-core options.
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg offered in August that the Mac Pro will arrive sometime in 2022. Furthermore, Apple will "barely hit its two-year timeline" with the launch.
Given Apple announced its first M1 Macs in November 2020, this gives Apple until November 2022 to still be on schedule. To "barely hit" that, we'd be looking at a launch very late in the year, not in the early stages.
Gurman's first newsletter of December doubled down on there being a Mac Pro launch in 2022, but without giving much extra to work on.
The one fly in the ointment are mid-year reports about Apple looking at continuing using Intel in the Mac Pro. In June, references in a beta of Xcode 13 pointed to Intel Ice Lake Xeon processor support. By July, a leaker claimed Apple would use the Xeon W-3300 series CPUs.
It's plausible that Apple could continue offering an Intel Mac Pro alongside Apple Silicon to appease a small subset of customers needing it, but that seems to go against the grain of the transition itself.
There may be more on the way
Apple makes it relatively easy to have an educated guess as to what could ship in the coming months, with and without assistance from the rumor mill. The cadence of its releases throughout the year gives enough of a pattern to determine when something could launch, bearing in mind Apple likes to launch most of its main devices on a one-year cycle, or thereabouts.
So, we can say with confidence that you're probably not going to see much early in 2022, until March or April. It's also a certainty that there's not going to be a major iPhone refresh earlier than the fall, though rumors about that iPhone 14 launch are already starting to surface.
There are also quite out-there products that could be launched in the future, most likely later than sooner. We're talking the often-rumored "Apple Car" and "Apple Glass here, as well as the Apple AR headset.
While it's doubtful that these latter items will make it onto Apple's launch roster before the summer, there's always a small chance that Apple could make an out-of-the-blue announcement for them.