Apple has started selling the new RED iPhone, new iPad, iPhone SE with more storage, and new Watch straps. But could Apple be about to launch new Macs too? Read on to find out what's new from Apple and whether to expect more from Apple this spring. (Click here for the latest version of this article.)
What's new from Apple?
We'll start with a quick overview of what's new from Apple as of 21 March 2017. The Apple Store came back online after several hours of downtime with the following new additions (click on the links to find out more about each announcement):
- A Special Edition iPhone 7 (PRODUCT) RED.
- An update to the iPad Air and with a new name (it's just iPad now).
- A new video editing app called Clips (Read more: Clips vs Snapchat)
- Double the storage in the entry-level iPad mini 4
- Double the storage in the entry-level iPhone SE
- New Apple Watch straps
What hasn't been updated?
In recent years, Apple has established a new tradition: the spring launch event. We had anticipated that some of the updates mentioned above would happen during such event, but Apple kept these new launches pretty low key with simply a website update and a few press releases.
That doesn't mean we won't see a spring event, though, and we're sure many of you are hoping we will. After all, there are several products that are due an update any time now but didn't get launched on 21 March, including the following (you can click on the links for the latest rumours about each product):
Why are we still expecting a spring event?
At its 'Spring Forward' event in March 2015 the company launched the first-gen Apple Watch (which had been previewed in autumn the year before) and announced the 12-inch MacBook (and, less excitingly, new MacBook Air models with Broadwell processors). Then in March 2016 Apple unveiled the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as well as the iOS 9.3 point update, and some new straps for the Apple Watch.
With this in mind, we had expected Apple to organise a third spring launch event in March 2017. However, given it is now late March and we've just seen the iPad & iPhone updates, it is looking increasingly likely that the event will be in April, potentially centred around new Macs and the iPad Pro, maybe even the Apple Watch 3.
Read next: Apple predictions 2017
When is the iPad Pro 2 coming out?
We expect multiple iPad Pro models to be announced at Apple's spring 2017 event, although the latest iPad updates do make us less sure about this than we had been earlier this year. Some pundits expect a new size category to be unveiled - with a 10.5-inch screen - alongside the existing 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch models.
The iPad Pro 2 was our top bet for a spring launch, although there have been rumours of production delays pushing the release back to May or later and this rumours are now looking a bit more likely.
Chances of happening: Moderate
Read more: iPad Pro 2 rumours
What about the iPad Pro mini and iPad mini 5?
With the very small update to the iPad mini 4 (you'll now get more storage without having to spend more money), it's unlikely we'll see the rumoured iPad mini 5 anytime soon.
The iPad mini 4 seemed popular with both reviewers and the general public and a major turnaround after the mini 3's damp squib of a launch, but it's getting on for a year and a half since the mini 4 was unveiled in September 2015. Tablets in general seem less of a priority these days, given customers' tendency to update them less often than their smartphones, and there is some feeling that the iPad mini overlaps with the larger iPhones anyway. Will there be another iPad mini?
We think there probably will be eventually, even if an iPad mini 5 (or iPad Pro mini) is unlikely to be the headline announcement of any company press event soon.
Read more: iPad mini 5 rumours
And the iPhone SE 2?
It's a similar story for the iPhone SE, which also got a storage boost among Apple's latest updates. We had hoped to see a new iPhone SE this spring but the slight update to the original model makes a new version unlikely. Don't rule it out, but the odds on this one are lengthening.
Read more: iPhone SE 2 rumours
When are new Macs coming out?
New 12-inch MacBook
This is a product that saw its first launch at a spring event back in 2015. After being updated in April 2016, the 12-inch MacBook could do with an update - perhaps incorporating the Touch Bar from the MacBook Pro? - and seems like a good bet for March's announcements.
Read more: New 12-inch MacBook rumours
The iMac is looking rather neglected. Apple's last iMac update came back in October 2015, when it introduced a Retina-class screen resolution to the smaller Macs for the first time and equipped the larger models with new Skylake processor chips; a refresh to the line feels overdue.
Speaking in a Q&A session recently, Apple boss Tim Cook gave some hints about the future of the iMac.
"The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world," he said. "Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we're committed to desktops. If there's any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that."
Read more: New iMac rumours
New Mac mini
Apple last updated the Mac mini on 16 October 2014 after a two-year wait: the previous model came out on 23 October 2012. Mac mini fans are currently wondering if Apple has given up on the smallest and cheapest Mac.
If not, we would expect the mini to be updated in early 2017. Intel's Kaby Lake processors were made available to OEMs in Q4 2016, and it's possible that the new Mac mini could feature chips from this batch.
Chances: Low to medium
Read more: New Mac mini rumours
New Mac Pro
It's admittedly a niche line for Apple, but we always thought the Mac Pro was partially a branding and positioning exercise: the high-end pro/creative branding rubbing off on the rest of Apple's desktops. (Not that the iMac and Mac mini have seen much attention lately either.)
There are various theories concerning the Mac Pro. One of our contacts in the industry told us confidently that the Pro would be updated by the end of November 2016; so much for that. Some industry watchers, indeed, think it's been so long since the Mac Pro was updated that Apple has given up on it entirely and won't make another. Others believe the Mac Pro will be replaced by a kind of 'iMac Pro' that bridges the gap between the two categories.
Whatever happens to the Mac Pro, we'll have a better idea after Apple's spring launch event. If it's coming this year, this would be the most obvious time to tell us.
Chances: Low to medium
New MacBook Pro
This seems like (and is) a long shot, because the 2016 MacBook Pro is only five months old. But it doesn't quite make it to the bottom of the list because of a leftfield theory.
The MacBook Pro has many good qualities but it is widely felt that it may not be quite as 'pro' as Apple's hardcore fans would like, with RAM capped at 16GB and no Kaby Lake processors. It's possible (albeit unlikely, in our view) that Apple could release a minor update of the MacBook Pro with the same design but higher spec upgrade options, including Kaby Lake. It would annoy early adopters, mind you.
Read more: New MacBook Pro rumours
Should we expect to see the Apple Watch 3?
The first-gen Apple Watch may have launched at the spring event in 2015, but don't expect a repeat here. The Apple Watch Series 2 was launched in September 2016, only six months ago, and Apple doesn't seem inclined to update its wearables on even an annual basis.
Chances: Very unlikely
What to expect at Apple's spring 2017 event: Likely date
Apple's spring event in 2015 took place on 9 March, a Monday. The company's spring event the following year was on 21 March 2016, which was also a Monday. Clearly a Monday in mid-March seemed like a fair bet, but Apple went for a low-key launch on a Tuesday instead.
There are a few clues that suggest the actual event might be pushed back to April, however. Apple World Today recently noticed that in the US, many Apple Stores were showing stock of the 12.9in iPad Pro as 'Available Apr 4'. This could of course simply be a stock issue, but it could also mean (and Apple Word Today enthusiastically took it to mean) that Tuesday 4 April is when Apple will host its first event at the new Apple Park. (Given that the company has announced that Apple Park will open in April, it would make sense also for it to delay the event until it can be held in its swanky new digs.)
While we certainly hope new iPads are only that far off, we'll have to wait for some more concrete information before furiously circling dates on the kitchen calendar. We checked stock of the 12.9in iPad Pro in London, and on our side of the pond all stock is available on 30 March. Maybe that would be a more likely date: it's almost exactly a year after the iPhone SE and 9.7in iPad Pro went on sale, and the day after Samsung's inevitably headline-grabbing Galaxy S8 launch.
On the next page we discuss the launch announcements last year, with our roundup of the news from Apple's spring event 2016.