Apple’s iPhone 12 launch is undoubtedly its biggest announcement of the year, but 2020 isn’t over yet and neither is what we expect from Cupertino. While the events may be virtual these days, the new hardware headed out to Apple Stores is very much real: here are four big things we could still see before the year is through.
Apple TV 6th Generation
It’s been a whole three years since Apple last updated its set-top box, with the Apple TV 4K bringing higher resolution video and a performance boost. Since then, though, even as we’ve seen tvOS updates, and new TV apps and services like Apple TV+ launch, the core hardware itself hasn’t changed.
Certainly, Apple has proved it can do plenty with new software. Dolby Atmos support, for example, arrived in tvOS 12. All the same, there are clearly some areas where improvements could be made.
The remote is arguably the most significant of those. Apple’s minimalistic controller just isn’t all that pleasant to use, particularly if you’re trying to focus on the screen and not stare at what buttons you might be tapping. The addition of the dedicated Siri button helped a little, but the fact that it’s still easy to confuse which way around to hold it suggests there are low-hanging ergonomic improvements Apple could make.
The Apple TV box itself, though, has a wealth of chipset upgrades Apple could choose from. Inside right now is the A10X Fusion which dates back to 2017: it can do things like 2160p, HDR10, and Dolby Vision, but Apple isn’t short on faster chips with better GPUs. That could help turn Apple TV into the gaming box that the company has always seemed to want it to be.
It’s in the smart home where a new Apple TV could really shine, however. The new HomePod mini adds Apple’s U1 chipset, with the Ultra WideBand (UWB) radio allowing for hyper-local positioning. That seems like a no-brainer for a new Apple TV, especially given other products we’re expecting from Apple imminently.
AirTags are Apple’s long-rumored, repeatedly-leaked entry into the tracking space currently dominated by Tile. They’re expected to be straightforward: small, circular discs which you can attach to easily misplaced items, whether that be a remote control, a bag or purse, your keys, or even the dog. Inside, though, is where the magic happens.
Using the same UWB technology, AirTags positioning is expected to be far more precise than traditional Bluetooth methods. Throw in augmented reality, meanwhile, and you could feasibly open a “Find My” locator app on your iPhone, and see exactly where your AirTag-tagged item is in 3D space. With a U1-enabled Apple TV or HomePod mini, meanwhile, you could also ask Siri to hunt down your missing item.
Exactly when AirTags will arrive has been the source of plenty of confusion. The latest chatter is that the hardware is ready, and just needs the final iOS update to be pushed out whenever Apple decides to pull the trigger. At that point, AirTags’ fate will probably depend on just what sort of price gets attached.
Apple AirPods Studio headphones
Similarly uncertain when it comes to launch date are Apple’s expansion of the AirPods brand into its first set of over-the-ear headphones. AirPods Studio, as the cans are expected to be called, won’t be your normal headphones, mind. Figure on some of the customization potential of the Apple Watch being thrown in.
That means interchangeable headbands and ear cups, apparently, with Apple supposedly working on both luxury and sport-styled designs. Figure on the same core wireless tech, or similar, as in the current AirPods Pro, tapping Apple’s easy pairing, noise cancellation, and wireless audio sharing, among other things.
Whether or not AirPods Studio will make it onto the 2020 launch roadmap, however, isn’t entirely clear. The Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser rivals have been the subject of rumors and leaks for months now, but release timelines have swung between “any day now” and “late Q1 2021” with no sign of settling down.
Apple Silicon MacBook
Fourth of the things we’re most looking forward to seeing from Apple have definitely been given a 2020 deadline. The first Apple Mac to use the company’s own in-house chip design will be revealed before the year is through, Tim Cook confirmed back at WWDC in June, as it begins a two year process to oust Intel and x86 from its computers. As you might expect, then, the stakes are high.
The first Apple Silicon-powered computer is widely expected to be a MacBook. The laptop could end up being a fanless replacement to the ill-fated 12-inch MacBook with Retina display, or alternatively a reworking of the MacBook Air that’s still available now. Either way, figure on a slimline design and plenty of battery life, as Apple taps the same chipset expertise that has left its iPad Pro with no shortage of power but PC-besting battery performance.
Beyond that – though likely early in 2021 rather than late 2020 – there’s believed to be an Apple Silicon based iMac. The all-in-one would be consumer-focused, it’s been suggested, a timely move given the number of people needing extra computers at home whether for home-schooling or working-from-home. Apple is already talking about how its own chips would out-perform the Intel CPUs it currently relies on: by just how much, and what sort of pricing we’ll see the new Apple Silicon Macs clock in at, we’ll know in the next couple of months – and potentially as soon as November.