2016 was an interesting year for Apple. It saw the introduction of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, controversially without headphone jacks, and a return to the 4-inch form factor in the popular iPhone SE. The MacBook Pro line received its first major revision for a number of years, including the introduction of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Plus there was the release of the Apple Watch Series 2, a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and an apparently Brexit-related unwelcome hike in prices across the board.
So, what does 2017 have up its sleeves for Apple fans? Well, here at Macworld we've donned our prognostication hats, investigated every rumour and trend we could find, all to bring you our predictions for 2017. It has already been a big year, but it sure isn't over yet.
What has Apple announced so far in 2017?
Let's start with a really quick overview of what's happened so far this year. It's been busy, that's for sure.
Then, in March of 2017, Apple hosted an event to show off a few new products that it had been keeping up its sleeve:
- New Apple Watch bands
- A new 9.7in tablet simply called iPad
- A (PRODUCT) Red Special Edition iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
- A new Clips app
(Click on the links above to go to our guides to each of those March announcements).
In June, at WWDC 2017, Apple had several major announcements to share with us.
- iMac Pro
- 10.5in iPad Pro
- An update to the 12.9in iPad Pro
- watchOS 4
- Updated iMacs
- Updated MacBooks
- A spec boost for the MacBook Air
- Updated MacBook Pro models
Apple also teased the launch of a new Mac Pro, which is expected in 2018. The updated Macs and iPads are available now, but we talk more about the all new iMac Pro and HomePod here, as well as the upcoming Mac Pro model.
After all that, there's still even more to come. Read on for the lowdown on what we're expecting from Apple for the rest of the year.
2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, so many are expecting Apple to pull out all the stops and release something quite special.
iPhone SE 2
Many had anticipated that Apple would upgrade the iPhone SE model to the iPhone SE2 or SEs in March 2017, replacing the existing (and rather popular) SE that was introduced in March 2016. However the iPhone SE was only treated to a bump in storage to 32- and 128GB on 21 March and another update seems unlikely for now.
We do still expect a new iPhone SE model at some point in the future, maybe in September or maybe in 2018 (KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has forecast that the iPhone SE 2 won't make an appearance in 2017 at all, on the principle that Apple doesn't want to cannibalise sales of the (higher-margin) iPhone 7).
When the new model launches it is likely to keep the existing, classic design, but feature upgraded internals such as the A10 chip found in the current iPhone 7 and a more powerful camera.
When? We think September
iPhone 7s or iPhone 8
Apple made a minor update to the iPhone 7 during an Apple Store update on 21 March, adding a Product RED version. Product RED is a charity that attempts to eliminate AIDS in Africa. Part of the proceeds from the new red models of the iPhone 7 will go to the charity. Apple doesn't make it clear how much it donates to the charity, but it does say that since Product RED was founded in 2006, (RED) has generated more than $465 million for the Global Fund, with more than $130 million from Apple alone.
On to the new iPhones... There has been much discussion over what the new iPhone will be called. Normally Apple would continue its tick-tock rhythm of a new design one year followed by the S version which upgrades only the internals. But the iPhone 7 featured a minimal change to the design of the 6 and 6S, which leads many to think that Apple is saving the big changes for its 10th Anniversary model - the iPhone 8.
Perhaps the biggest expected change to the design of the iPhone 8 is the removal of the Home button to allow an edge-to-edge glass display. But what of Apple ID and the fingerprint sensor? Well, there have been several reports that Apple intends to include technology that allows the screen itself to act as a fingerprint sensor, thus removing the need for a physical button.
Alternatively, Apple might use facial recognition instead of/in addition to the fingerprint sensor. Apple reportedly purchased Israeli startup RealFace, which as the name hints specialises in facial recognition technology.
This would be a truly remarkable innovation and give iPhone users display sizes on par with many premium Android devices but in a compact format.
MacRumours also asserts that Apple is intending to use a flexible OLED display rather than the LCD panels that have appeared on previous iPhones. This could make the devices lighter while also offering more vivid colours and contrasts.
Image created by ConceptsiPhone
Another feature often found on Android phones is that of wireless charging, and it looks very likely that this will be included on the iPhone 8. Some rumours even suggest the Apple will include long-range wireless charging, with Bloomberg Business reporting that the company wants to impliment the game changing technology that could charge an iphone from several feet away, and could have it ready for 2017.
The Jet black colour introduced with the iPhone 7 has been very popular, but its tendency to scratch easily is thought to have prompted Apple to return to a glass back and front design for the iPhone 8. There might also be new Deep Blue and Space Black colour options if the reports on various Japanese sites are to be believed.
One interesting idea that's gathering pace is that the new model will include Augmented Reality software, which overlays relevant information on any place or thing that you point the camera at. While we've yet to see proof of this, it would be a very cool addition.
So with a new edge-to-edge design, software enabled fingerprint detection, long-range wireless charging, better display, plus the usual internal upgrades, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus really could be a worthy way to mark a decade at the top. Roll on September 2017.
When? We think September
New iPad Air
Since there was no new iPad Air in 2015 or 2016 Apple fans were hoping for an update to that model soon. There were some concerns that the 9.7in iPad Pro had displaced the iPad Air line, but those fears were unfounded when Apple announced a new iPad in March 2017. Apple has done away with the Air from it's name, however: what was the iPad Air line is now just the iPad.
The iPad is what would have been called the iPad Air 3 and comes with Apple's A9 processor, an update to the A8X processor in the iPad Air 2. This means it has the same chip as the iPhone 6s, but retains the same display and cameras as the Air 2. Read more here: New iPad latest.
Apple will likely stop using Air in all its product names very soon - as signalled by the 13-inch MacBook Air's tiny update in 2016 and the retirement of the 11-inch version.
When? We think 2018
The iPad mini received a minor update in March 2017, gaining more capacity for the same price (£419 for the 128GB Wi-Fi model and £549 for the 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular). However, this was not the iPad mini 5 anticipated, and given that the iPad mini 4 was last updated in September 2015, it's clear that Apple isn't too focused on its smaller tablets and Apple does state that the most popular tablet size is 9.7in.
Perhaps October will see the introduction of an iPad Mini Pro with upgraded components, a new thinner, tougher aluminium chassis, and the inclusion of a Smart Connector to match that of the other iPad Pro devices.
Read more about the iPad mini 5: iPad mini 5 new feature rumours
When? We think 2018
iOS 11 has already been unveiled by Apple, and is currently being tested by developers. It will become available for the public to test in July, and will be released in its final form in September alongside new iPhones. (See: How to get iOS 11 now)
iOS 11 has plenty of new features that we're excited about. The App Store has been redesigned, there are new Photos and Camera features, the Control Centre has had a makeover and much more. It's particularly great for iPad users, as it has several features that are exclusive to the tablet. These include a new Files app, new multitasking functions, and improved Apple Pencil support.
When? We think September 2017
Apple Watch Series 3
Apple released the second generation of its Watch in September of 2016 which added GPS, internal upgrades, and water-proofing to the design. This was accompanied by the WatchOS 3 update that increased performance and functionality for not only the new models but also the original range.
WatchOS 4 has now been unveiled, with a new Siri face, improved Activity and Workout apps with the ability to communicate with gym equipment, a redesigned Music app and more. You can find out more about WatchOS 4 here.
We expect to see Apple announce the third iteration of its Watch in September 2017, hopefully for around the same price as the current models which start at £369, although that is far from certain after the increases we saw at the end of 2016.
Apple did offer some new Apple Watch bands in March 2017. These include a new wide stripe Woven Nylon band, standalone Nike Sport Bands and Apple Watch Hermès bands in new colours.
There's little in the way of firm evidence suggesting what the Apple Watch 3 will look like, but it's fair to say that you should expect a model that's very similar to the current version.
It's widely expected that the Watch 3 will include a front facing camera that could be used for selfies or FaceTime calls, as Apple holds a patent for such a device and Watch OS 2 introduced support for FaceTime audio calls.
The new model is also rumoured to feature a Micro-LED display, which would be lighter, thinner, and brighter than the AMOLED panels currently used.
Another common thought is that Apple will finally introduce 3G or 4G capabilities to the Watch, in order to make it more independent from the iPhone. We're not convinced by this. Apple likes its devices to be closely tied together, and the battery life problems that come with cellular capabilities might make it an unattractive option at this time.
It's still early days for the Apple Watch, so we fully expect this to be a quiet evolution rather than revolution. Thinner, lighter, faster and longer battery life is the mantra, and we'd be very happy with that.
For a more in-depth look at the latest rumours on the Apple Watch be sure to check out our Apple Watch 3 rumours article.
When? We think September
It might have escaped the attention of many people that 2017 actually marks the 10th anniversary of Apple TV. With this in mind some think that Apple could celebrate the occassion with an update to its little black box.
Whether this is true or not remains a mystery, as there have been very few credible rumours about any new developments inside the Apple campus. Then there's also the fact that the usual gap between iterations of Apple TV tends to be two or three years.
tvOS was discussed at WWDC 2017, but only very briefly to mention that Amazon Prime Video is finally coming to the set-top box.
When? We think September 2017
Unveiled at WWDC 2017 after months of rumours, Apple's Siri speaker, which is actually called the HomePod, is coming in December.
Designed in response to the likes of Google Home and Amazon Echo, HomePod is a smart speaker that also sounds brilliant. Apple focused more on sound quality than its smart features in the unveiling of the HomePod, which is an interesting take on things but perhaps we'll discover more about Siri's role in the new device as we approach its release date.
Brand new to the Mac line-up is the iMac Pro, which Apple unveiled at WWDC 2017 but won't become available to buy until December.
The stunning new Mac is the most powerful Mac ever made, and it's still a sleek all-in-one like the iMacs we know. This time, though Apple has opted for the Space Grey colouring, complete with a new Space Grey keyboard, mouse and trackpad.
The specs on the iMac Pro are incredible, particularly if you opt for a built-to-order model. However, with a starting price of £4,449 we think this Mac will appeal to a very select market. Those working with 3D and VR, for example, more more than that this iMac offers a machine that is going to be powerful enough for whatever is next.
You can find out more about what to expect from the iMac Pro here.
The Mac Pro
The Mac Pro is long overdue a refresh, as it hasn't been updated since the launch of the 'trashcan' Pro model in 2013. The once futuristic device now looks a little long in the tooth, having been bypassed by generations of Intel chips that never made it into the chassis.
We now know that there won't be a new Mac Pro in 2017, but a new machine is on the horizon.
In April 2017 Apple broke its silence and discussed the Pro's future with a small group of journalists, first apologising for the lack of updates and then acknowledging that the trashcan design didn't work out the way it had hoped. The triangular structure that hides inside the cylinder was designed with the thermal requirements of twin-GPU setups in mind, but the industry went in a different direction; most pro users prefer to use a single more powerful GPU, something that the Mac Pro cannot cope with. And so the machine ended up being very difficult to upgrade.
The good news is that Apple is working on what sounds like a radical redesign of its Mac Pro line. The bad news is that this definitely won't appear this year. In the meantime, the pricing/configurations on the current Pro range have been tweaked so you get more for your money, but it's still not a particularly appealing deal.
When? We think WWDC 2018 is most likely, but some pundits believe it could be late 2018 or even early 2017
Ah Mac Mini, where did it all go wrong? After being hobbled in 2014 by what can barely be considered an upgrade, Apple has left the Mini to fall fallow. Now we don't know whether 2017 will see a resurrection of its fortunes, but all here at Macworld are rooting for the little guy.
Read more in our new Mac mini rumours article.
When? We think September 2017
macOS High Sierra
At WWDC 2017, Apple unveiled the new macOS alongside iOS 11. High Sierra is coming this year, probably in September or October, and is currently being tested by developers. If you're keen, you will be able to install it on your Mac soon as part of the public beta. (See: How to get macOS High Sierra now)
Improvements are mostly under the hood but will all contribute to making using your Mac a smoother and faster experience. For details, visit our macOS High Sierra preview.
Other Apple rumours for 2017
'Wireless mystery device'
Recent photos reveal a mystery wireless device submitted to the FCC by Apple bearing the model number A1844. The mystery device, of course, caused huge stirs in the Apple community. The application claimed that it was a low-powered device with both Bluetooth and NFC wireless functionality. This led some to believe that it was either going to be a new, smaller Apple TV or possibly even an accessory for Apple Pay, allowing small businesses to accept wireless/Apple Pay payments.
However, while we'd all hoped it'd be a cool new Apple device, further investigation seems to suggest that it's nothing more than a badge reader that attaches to a door assembly, most likely for use in Apple's Apple Park HQ opening in April 2017. There's a snap of the wireless device above, but those that want more information can check out the full FCC filing here.
Mergers & acquisitions
From time to time these suggestion-cum-predictions come true, as with Apple's acqusition of Beats in 2014, but it hardly needs stating that the company isn't in a hurry to divest itself of that cash cushion. Any merger & acqusition activity is likely to be comparatively conservative: rather than going for the big names that crop up in prediction articles like this one, Apple is far more likely to pick up smallish but promising firms on the way up and take their products in house - just as it did with Siri.
We do know of a few big deals that Apple has considered recently, though. The Financial Times reports that in May 2016 Apple sat down with Time Warner, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, and spoke seriously about an acquisition deal. The deal never got beyond the exploratory phase, but this does strongly suggest that Apple is in the market for an acquisition that will give it a foothold in video content - something that would prove valuable in the event that its rumoured TV-streaming service comes to pass.
With Time Warner apparently out of the picture, many analysts believe that the next target could be Netflix, but we're still in the realm of the mega-deal, so don't bet your live savings on the deal happening.
On 22 August 2016 Fast Company reported that Apple had made an intriguing new acquisition: Gliimpse, a startup that enables users to collect and collate personal health data. It's not known at this point how much the acqusition cost Apple, but the company has confirmed the deal, albeit with its usual boilerplate statement that it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and generally [does] not discuss [its] purpose or plans".
Gliimpse was created in response to the bureaucratic difficulties in the US related to health documentation: the lack of an overarching authority or standardised system makes it exceptionally difficult for patients to access and usefully analyse their own data. And this makes it an obvious fit with Apple's recent health-related announcements. With the launch of HealthKit and CareKit, the company intends to revolutionise the health and medical care sector, and has a track record of providing umbrella services - in music, fitness and mobile software most successfully - that make complex markets easier for consumers to approach.
Related fact: one of Gliimpse's founders, Anil Sethi, started his career at Apple in the 1980s.
At the start of August 2016, Apple acquired a Seattle artificial intelligence company named Turi, according to a report by GeekWire. The site's sources peg the deal at approximately $200m, although both Apple and Turi have declined to comment on the matter.
Turi's specialities, artificial intelligence and machine learning, are hot right now and the acquisition represents Apple's way into an increasingly crucial area of the tech sector. Google is big on artificial intelligence, as are Facebook and Amazon, but Apple itself has discussed the subject in numerous recent product launches.
iOS's QuickType keyboard uses artificial intelligence to predict what you're trying to type; iOS also uses it to suggest apps it reckons you're likely to use and contacts you'll want to speak to, and the new automated album creation tool in Photos uses deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects and create coherent compositions. watchOS 3's Instant Apps feature is dependent on being able to predict which apps you'll want to use next.
But Apple's products are only going to get smarter over the coming years, as Turi's tech is integrated into the portfolio.
Apple's Tuplejump acquisition
Further to it buying Turi, Apple followed up the next month, September 2016, by buying Tuplejump. Like Turi, it is a machine learning company that allows better data management for businesses. According to TechCrunch, Apple's interest in the acquisition was down to Tuplejump's focus on open source ways of applying machine learning and analytics to big data.
This again points to Apple's increasing interest in improving its artificial intelligence products such as Siri.
After its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus launch, Apple invested a huge $1bn in the uber-competitor, Didi Chuxing - a Chinese company that forced Uber out of its local market.
The company is valued at $35bn, and with a further $1bn investment from Apple, it seems that there is certain weight behind the movement in China - this came come in a form of advertising of Apple products in China, to Apple-product integration within taxis.
Given the boom of the Chinese market, it seems that investors are happy with this move.
But don't expect…
The Apple Car, was the hot rumour of 2016, but now it seems that Apple has scaled back it's ambitions and now thought to see working on a software solution rather than the hardware. The company is said to have had up to 1,000 developers working on the so-called Project Titan, and to have set up various different front companies, including Faraday Futures and Sixty Eight Research. We'd love to see it on the roads in 2017, but industry chatter suggests 2020 is a more likely date. If they're right, it might not be worth holding back on an interim upgrade to your existing run-around next year. And if you were hoping for an actual television set from Apple it's time to give up on that idea too.
We won't see an Apple car this year, but you can expect the rumours to continue.