15 Feb 19
At the start of the week, you could reasonably guess that Apple might hold its semi-regular spring event to unveil a new 10-inch iPad and smaller iPad mini 5, an updated iPod touch, possibly AirPods 2, and new features in iOS 12.2. Reliable reporting has since adjusted expectations, giving us a rumored event date and a focus on new subscription news and video services in place of any hardware. So when should we expect to see all that rumored hardware if there’s no hardware event?
We now expect Apple to hold a services-focused event on March 25 at Steve Jobs Theater. BuzzFeed News first reported the time and place as well as the focus on Apple’s subscription news service, adding that the rumored iPad mini update and second-gen AirPods aren’t expected to be included:
Unlikely to make an appearance: next generation AirPods, or that rumored new iPad Mini.
Sources described the event as subscription services focused, but declined to say anything about Apple’s standalone video streaming service which is also rumored to debut in 2019.
A day later, Bloomberg published a report saying Hollywood talent is already on Apple’s guest list for the March 25th event where the company will preview its new video service for the first time — not just its news service.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is planning a March 25 event to announce both services, according to people familiar with the plan. The iPhone maker invited Hollywood stars, including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner and director JJ Abrams, to attend, one of the people said.
Bloomberg also said that while the service would be previewed in March, it might not actually launch until later in the year:
The paid service will launch by the summer, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans.
Variety later added that while the event will include clips from the original video series Apple has been developing, the release could be as late as fall following a promotional period for the content and service:
Sources familiar with the plans say Apple’s video service will be targeted for a launch in summer or fall rather than the April timing that has been the subject of media speculation.
Apple has vowed to its high-caliber producing partners to mount marketing blitzes on behalf of the shows in addition to the service itself. There’s an awareness that stars such as Aniston and Witherspoon do not want to take a back seat to promotion for the video service launch itself.
So while there seems to be clear consensus about what to expect from the event — news and video services — where does that leave Apple’s unannounced hardware?
For much of the rumored hardware, a simple press release is all you need. That’s how the last iPod touch debuted almost four years ago. That’s how Apple announced a whole new generation of MacBook Pros with True Tone displays last summer.
If the seventh-generation iPod touch is simply a processor update that enables Group FaceTime video calling and faster performance, it would only be a brief mention in a keynote anyway.
The same is true for an updated iPad mini 5. Based on the rumors, Apple’s first update to the 7.9-inch iPad since 2015 will focus on the processor inside and not a new design. While it’s long overdue, it doesn’t require a keynote.
You could use the news and video service event to make the connection that all this subscription content can be consumed on these new devices, but it’s the iPhone, Apple TV, and more popular models of iPad that will really be used for these services in reality.
Most of Apple’s other rumored hardware updates could fit in a press release with no stage time too.
Apple hasn’t changed the iMac since summer 2017, and the 12-inch MacBook was last updated internally in spring 2017. Both could be updated with faster internals and even display improvements in a MacBook Pro-style press release — not that they’re actually rumored for a spring release.
If Apple ships its promised optional wireless charging case for AirPods, that’s already received stage time. It’s just late. The same is true for AirPower. All of these products could launch before or after the services event, on the same day or on different days, even if they’re not expected at Apple’s next event.
Second-generation AirPods would be a more notable update though. Rumored features like ‘Hey Siri’ support and other changes could all make for a decent section within a keynote. AirPods are just as popular two years after hitting the market as they were when they were first released, supply constraints and all.
Not mentioned in the BuzzFeed News report was the rumored 10-inch iPad. While the rumors on the updated hardware haven’t provided many specifics behind the screen size, it would mark a slight increase over the current 9.7-inch display on the $329 iPad. You can imagine that might come with other visual changes.
A slightly larger-screened consumer iPad sounds more keynote-worthy than speed boosts for the iPad mini and iPod touch, and Apple has held keynotes for its previous two $329 iPad updates. So a few possibilities: the 10-inch iPad does indeed debut at the March event after all, or it’s not ready until later in the year at WWDC, or the screen dimension change was wrong and it’s just a speed boost as well.
As for second-gen AirPods, there was another indicator about what might happen there prior to the event details surfacing. OnLeaks shared that while the optional wireless charging case for AirPods could be coming soon, his sources say that second-gen AirPods won’t be ready until later in the year.
AirPods 2 could easily be saved for the expected fall event where new iPhones and Apple Watches are shown off. With just over a month to go before the next Apple event, we’ll likely learn a lot more between now and then so stay tuned!