Apple Spring Event 2021: New iPad, iMac, AirPods, and More Digital Trends

The disruption of the past year has forced Apple to do all its events online, and it turns out the company is rather good at them. That is just as well because Apple is widely expected to hold a spring event for new products in the coming weeks.

What is likely to be unveiled at this event? As it turns out, quite a lot — from iPads and iMacs to AirPods and AirTags, we could see a bevy of Apple products make an appearance. We have rounded up everything we know about these upcoming devices, so you know exactly what to expect as soon as CEO Tim Cook steps out onto the stage.

When will the event be?

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The date for Apple’s spring event is one of the most uncertain elements of the entire show so far. Several dates have been proposed and retracted, but we are starting to get a clearer picture of when the event may take place.

First, Taiwan’s United Daily News reported that the show would fall on March 16. However, reporter Mark Gurman quickly poured cold water on the idea of the event going ahead on this day, and the date passed without incident. the consensus seemed to coalesce on March 23, with leakers Jon Prosser and L0vetodream both indicating this was the day to watch. Yet once again, this date has fallen by the wayside, with Prosser saying the event will actually take place in April and suggesting Apple itself had fooled leakers like himself. The April target received a boost from Gurman shortly after, who said in a Bloomberg article that Apple could reveal new iPad Pro models in April.

April is an unusual time for an Apple event — most of the company’s spring events happen in March, and the last time there was an April show was in 2010. Right now, that makes it difficult to predict the exact date the event will take place, but we can garner some clues from Apple’s habits. The company likes to hold events on Mondays and Tuesdays because that allows a full week’s worth of news coverage before the busy weekend, when news stories can get lost. That means that, at this point, the most likely dates are April 19, 20, 26, or 27. We know, that is still a wide net, but with Apple being so secretive — and apparently so good at fooling leakers — it is hard to be any more exact at the moment.

There is one final possibility; that there will be no spring event at all. Apple likes to send out invitations roughly a week before the date of the event. Now that we are well into April, that means the event would have to happen in the second half of the month. With April rapidly progressing, it might not be long before we start talking about the show being held in May instead. Yet May feels unlikely as it is only a month before Apple’s major Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. That leaves us with a small window in April for the spring event to take place.

That said, we think it is unlikely that there will simply be no spring event. For one thing, it feels like too many products have been rumored for this event to simply be announced via a press release. Gathering new product launches together like this seems indicative of an event where they can all be introduced together. Along with that, several of the rumored new products, including AirTags and the iMac redesign, are well suited to a showy announcement rather than a staid press release due to how much Apple would want to discuss and explain them. With that in mind, we are still hoping for a spring event soon.

New iPad Pro with a brilliant display

Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad, the iPad Pro, is currently the best high-powered tablet money can buy. The 2020 model has almost everything you need in an iPad, and while it is expensive, our review maintained that it “won’t be fazed by any task you throw at it.” So, with such a great starting base, is there much Apple can do to improve it?

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes — and the rumor mill has stepped in to explain just what Apple is apparently working on. The most persistent rumor regarding a future iPad Pro is that it will come with a mini-LED display. This packs in as many as 10,000 LEDs into the tablet’s display, massively ramping up its brightness and performance. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has been a strong proponent of this rumor and he has a solid track record, so this could be one to look out for. It has also been backed up by reporter Mark Gurman in a recent Bloomberg article.

Gurman’s article served up some other interesting tidbits. The first is that the new iPad Pro could have a new processor — dubbed the A14X — that is “on par” with the M1 in the latest MacBook models. The second is that the new iPad Pro may well come with a Thunderbolt 3 port instead of the USB-C slot. Thunderbolt 3 uses the same port design as USB-C (so your accessories and cables will not be obsolete) but is much faster, allowing for transfer rates up to 40Gbps compared to USB-C’s 10Gbps. This would also “enable connectivity with additional external monitors, hard drives, and other peripherals,” according to Gurman. The third tidbit is that the iPad Pro is getting better cameras, although Gurman has not shared further details on this point.

Elsewhere, Apple might upgrade the LTE connectivity of its cellular iPad Pro models to 5G, offering a big step up in terms of speed. If you are looking to buy an iPad Pro for productivity or simply need a tablet with super-speedy connectivity, this could be worth holding out for. We would also expect Apple to outfit the new iPad Pro with a new version of its A-series iPad chip for improved performance.

A redesigned iPad Mini

The iPad Pro is not the only iPad said to be getting a revamp this spring — the iPad Mini is also on the agenda. According to Japanese site Macotakara, the iPad Mini 6 will come with an 8.4-inch display (up from the current 7.9-inch screen) and thinner bezels. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has also claimed the bezels will be shrunk, allowing for a larger display. Those slimmed-down bezels will allow Apple to fit the larger screen inside the device without having to increase its footprint, much like what has already happened with the iPad Pro and iPad Air.

Interestingly, the report from Macotakara says the design of the new iPad Mini “goes with iPad (9th Generation), which continues to use Touch ID and Lightning port.” This suggests Apple might decide to keep the Home button on the iPad Mini while simultaneously expanding its display and reducing the bezels slightly — but not enough to eliminate the button. This would set it at odds with the iPad Pro and iPad Air, which lost their Home buttons when their bezels were stripped back.

Ming-Chi Kuo has also weighed in, saying the iPad Mini would be updated to come with a display that sits somewhere between 8.5 inches and 9 inches. He believes it will be released in the first half of 2021, while Macotakara has pinned the release date on March this year, so the two sources seem to be roughly aligned. The last iPad Mini update came in March 2019, so it is due for some retooling.

An overhauled iMac is a possibility

Of all of Apple’s current products, the iMac is the most long-lived. But at the same time, it feels like it is the most long in the tooth, having not had a design update since 2012. According to industry rumblings, though, it is due for its first redesign in almost a decade, and we could see it as early as this spring.

Like many Apple products, from the iPad Pro to the MacBook Pro 16, the iMac is expected to get vastly slimmed-down bezels, bringing it closer to the Pro Display XDR and allowing for a larger display without increasing the physical size of the device. Specifically, rumors point to a new 23-inch size with an affordable price. That indicates this will be an update of the 21.5-inch model with a larger screen and thinner bezel. What’s more, the design is said to be more angular, with a flat back instead of the current curved rear, resulting in something that takes on the iPad Pro’s design language.

According to Prosser, it could even come with a range of bright colors that evoke the original iMac and take cues from the iPad Air, including space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue, in addition to the current silver offering.

We would expect the new iMac to come with an Apple Silicon chip on board. Whether this is the M1 from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro or a next-generation ARM-based chip from Apple remains to be seen, but the performance should be way above the current iMac 5K. And while Face ID is apparently on the way, it likely will not arrive until the second iteration of the redesigned iMac.

AirPods move closer to AirPods Pro

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The original AirPods were a surprise hit for Apple, but the company has since cemented its strong position by upgrading them and supplementing them with the high-end AirPods Pro. Such is the success of the AirPods Pro that Apple is said to be seeking to emulate their look in the new version of the standard AirPods.

These will come with a shorter stem, much like the stubby stalk on the AirPods Pro. Not only will that make them more compact, but it will bring them closer to the Pros from the outside. Inside, though, there will be differences, with the standard AirPods lacking the noise cancellation features found in the AirPods Pro.

It is possible Apple will bring out a new entry in the AirPods family called AirPods Pro Lite. Details are scarce on these, other than that they will sit between the entry-level AirPods and the AirPods Pro. What we consider more likely is that the AirPods Pro Lite is actually the revamped base-model AirPods.

A long-overdue Apple TV update

This is probably one of the least nailed-down rumors of the lot. While industry analysts have been predicting an Apple TV update for a while now, details are still very thin. In May 2020, prominent Apple leaker Prosser tweeted: “New Apple TV 4K with A12X – 64GB/128GB ready to ship. Code name: Neptune T1125. Another one of those things that could drop any time.” Yet, nearly a year later, we still have not seen the update surface. In fact, the last new version came in 2017.

So, what could we see if Apple finally decides spring 2021 is the right time for a new Apple TV? Well, the A12X may not be part of the update — this year the chip will be three years old, and we would expect a much more recent alternative will make it into the finished product. Look out for either the A12Z Bionic in the current iPad Pro or whatever chip ends up in the iPad Pro refresh.

According to Bloomberg, a new version of the Apple TV 4K will ship with a revamped Siri Remote boasting a “find my remote” feature not unlike Apple’s current Find My tool for its other devices. Bloomberg has an excellent record for Apple rumors, so this is one to keep an eye on.

Device-tracking AirTags

We have known Apple is working on Tile-like tracking devices called AirTags for more than a year now. Aside from the usual leaks and analyst reports, evidence has surfaced from Apple itself, including references in iOS code and an Apple support video that accidentally mentioned the AirTags name.

According to the rumors, AirTags are small circular discs that can be fixed to your valuables, like a MacBook or a keychain. Once paired with your iPhone, you will be able to track the AirTags using the Find My app. Despite the delays, the mountain of evidence pointing toward their existence suggests it is only a matter of time until we see AirTags make an appearance. With any luck, they will finally debut at Apple’s spring event this year.

Other possibilities

iPhone SE (2020) Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

This being Apple, there are even more things that are being talked about as possibilities for the spring 2021 event. Most of them are unlikely, but there are a few worth mentioning.

Macotakara has reported Apple is working on an updated iPhone SE due to be released in April 2021. The report contains no further information, though, and given that the most recent iPhone SE only came out in April 2020 (and is quite a niche product for Apple), it is by no means certain that Macotakara is correct.

It is also almost certain that Apple is going to replace the MacBook Pro 13 with an all-new 14-inch model. Apple occasionally releases updated MacBooks in the spring, but numerous reports have pegged the MacBook Pro 14 for a fall launch date, an idea backed up by a recent report from Nikkei Asia that claimed Apple has pushed back the production of the new MacBook Pro to later in the year. Still, a spring release is not totally impossible, so we may get a pleasant surprise.

Finally, Mark Gurman has claimed Apple will update the entry-level iPad with a “thinner and lighter design.” This suggests the iPad may get a similar treatment to the iPad Mini and have its bezels shrunk down, bringing it in line with the iPad Pro and iPad Air. We will probably have to wait a little longer for this, though, as Gurman’s March report says the iPad redesign is coming “later this year.”

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