We're almost half way through 2018 and WWDC is just around the corner. The year got off to a flying start with the launch of the HomePod and then the new iPad with support for the Pencil - but what else does 2018 have up its sleeves for Apple fans?
Well, here at Macworld we've donned our prognostication hats and investigated every rumour and trend we could find to bring you our predictions for 2018. Read on to find out what could be in store, from new iPhones, iPads and Macs, enhancements to software, and some exciting news in terms of music and TV.
Read on to find out more...
Let's start with Apple's biggest money-maker: its smartphones.
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 2017.
We do still expect a new iPhone SE model at some point in the future. 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 iPhone 7 and a more powerful camera.
There are even reports that it could get an iPhone X-style look, but we're not sure Apple is ready to bring Face ID to its entry level iPhone just yet.
Read more here: iPhone SE 2 preview
When? We think WWDC 2018
To be honest we've got no idea what the follow-up to the iPhone X is going to be called, but this guess is as good as any. (Many feel that Apple is about to finally give up on version numbers for its phones, and just call the next model the iPhone.)
Theories about the iPhones coming in autumn 2018 are already many and various, indeed there are rumours that there will be not one, but three new iPhones coming in September 2018.
Many expect that Apple intends to take the iPhone X and its relatively small chassis, and supersize it - producing what could perhaps be called an iPhone X Plus.
There are also reports that there will be a cheaper version of the iPhone X with an LCD screen, so the price of entry to the world of Face ID should be lower by autumn 2018.
Speaking of which, it looks likely that Face ID will be coming to more iPhones (and even the iPad), but we'd love it if Touch ID could make a comeback. This would be possible if Apple can incorporate a fingerprint scanner under the glass, something which was too technologically challenging in 2017 but may be feasible now.
Read more here: iPhone 2018 rumours
When? Sept 2018
Next we'll look at what's in store for the iPad in 2018.
The iPad mini received a minor update in March 2017, gaining more capacity for the same price, which was £419 at the time, but is now £399/$399 for the 128GB Wi-Fi model and £549/$529 (now £529) 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.
During spring 2018 we saw the introduction of the new, cheaper iPad. We don't just mean cheaper in terms of that product seeing a discount - the iPad is now cheaper than the iPad mini at £319/$329 (you can buy an iPad from Apple here).
Perhaps the mini is destined to be discontinued in 2018. Or maybe we 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. We think that's unlikely though...
Read more: iPad mini 5 new feature rumours
When? Probably never...
Speaking of the iPad Pro, it's looking like Apple will be bringing iPhone X-style looks, along with Face ID to the iPad Pro in 2018.
This new iPad Pro could have smaller bezels allowing for a bigger screen - reports suggest we could see an 11in screen on the iPad in 2018 (up from 10.5in) while the 12.9in iPad Pro could shrink in terms of size and weight, rather than get an even larger screen.
We expect to see a A11X Bionic processor in the new iPad Pro models, bringing the pro iPad into line with the super-fast iPhone X.
When? WWDC, possibly...
These days Apple's marketshare of the computer world is growing while the rest of the industry languishes (although in recent quarters we've seen a year-on-year decline in Mac sales). Here we will look at what Apple could have up its sleeve in terms of the Mac.
The MacBook Air has had little attention over the past few years. In fact we have been fully expecting Apple to discontinue the MacBook Air. However, we are now hearing rumours that a new, even cheaper, model could be on the way soon.
The most popular theory seems to be that this will be an update to the MacBook Air. Although, it could be a remodelling of the MacBook (which we'll discuss next).
Read more in our new MacBook Air rumours article.
When? Could be as soon as WWDC!
As we mentioned above, there might be a new MacBook coming from Apple - and it may have a lower price and a bigger, 13in screen.
Alternatively, the new MacBook might just see the latest Intel Coffee Lake processors and an improved keyboard (there are currently lawsuits being filed against Apple relating to the keyboard on the MacBook and MacBook Pro which are claimed to be faulty, read about the keyboard problems on the MacBook here).
Read about the rumoured update to the MacBook here.
When? We think WWDC
Like the MacBook Air, the Mac mini has had little attention over the past few years. 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 2018 will see a resurrection of its fortunes, but all here at Macworld are rooting for the little guy - and Apple has even said that the Mac mini is still important, so maybe there is a small chance it won't be forgotton in 2018.
Read more in our new Mac mini rumours article.
When? Some time in 2018, we hope
If you just read about the MacBook keyboard issues, you won't be surprised to learn that the MacBook Pro could also see a keyboard update in the 2018 model. Apple's been getting a lot of negative attention for the butterfly mechanism keyboards used by it's current line up of laptops, so a change is certainly necessary.
There have also been calls for Apple to offer a 4K display on the MacBook Pro, and we'd hope that the company might have something up its sleeve there. Another request is for a 32GB RAM option, but unfortunately that looks less likely now that Intel's Cannon Lake chips are delayed as the Coffee Lake chips that are likely to be used won't be able to power that much RAM unfortunately.
The Coffee Lake chips will bring 6-core processors to the line up though, which is certainly exciting.
Read about the rumoured update to the MacBook Pro here.
When? We think WWDC
2018 is actually a big year for the iMac - it's now 20 years since the first iMac launched! Will Apple celebrate this anniversary with a new design? Probably not, although we have seen the suggestion that by removing hard drive options and making a few other tweeks to the internals the iMac could lose it's 'chin'.
Despite the big birthday, we're not expecting a big change in terms of the iMac in 2018, but we are excited about the prospect of more cores. Thanks to the new Coffee Lake processors from Intel, we could see the top of the range iMac ship with 6-cores.
Read more in our iMac 2018 rumours article.
When? Some time in 2018, we hope
As for the iMac Pro,which arrived in December 2017, we might see an update towards the end of 2018, but Apple might hold fire on that model while it prepares to launch the next Mac we will discuss...
Read more about the new iMac Pro here.
When? Maybe at the end of 2018
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.
There wasn't 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.
Then in April 2018 Apple revealed even more about its radical redesign of its Mac Pro line. However, the company confirmed that we won't be seeing the new Mac Pro until 2019.
Read more in our new Mac Pro rumours article.
When? We think WWDC 2019 is most likely for an unveiling, but perhaps Apple will hold a special event in April 2019
iOS 11 was released to the public on 19 September 2017. The next update to Apple's mobile OS, iOS 12, will be unveiled at WWDC in June 2018, before a public rollout in September.
Apple says it's focussing on stability in this update, which sounds a bit boring (although necessary given the issues with iOS 11 noted here).
You can read more here: iOS 12 rumours.
When? September 2018
Like iOS 12 - and Apple's other major OS updates - watchOS 5 will first be unveiled in the summer of 2018, before a public launch in autumn. Unlike the others, however, watchOS 5 probably won't be made available in the form of a public beta.
We suspect that this may be the first watchOS update that won't be certified to run on every Apple Watch model, after seeing our first-gen Apple Watch struggle with the watchOS 4 update in 2017.
Read more here: watchOS 5 release date & new features rumours
When? Sept 2018
macOS High Sierra launched on 25 September, but we're already thinking about the follow-up: the as-yet unnamed macOS 10.14.
Following its usual pattern, Apple will reveal and demo macOS 10.14 at WWDC in June 2018, before a series of beta versions and eventual public rollout in the autumn.
We're hearing that there won't be as many major changes to MacOS in 2018 beyond a move away from 32-bit apps (that could mean some of your apps stop working - read about which apps may stop working in macOS here), and improvements to security and performance.
We were excited to learn that Apple is apparently planning to make it possible for apps made for the iPhone and iPad to run on the Mac, but those claims are looking less likely following comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook that: "if you begin to merge the two [iOS and MacOS] ... you begin to make trade-offs and compromises."
Read more here: MacOS 10.14 release date & features
When? Sept 2018
The last and least heralded of Apple's OSes, tvOS is nevertheless a Pretty Big Deal for everyone with a fourth-gen or 4K Apple TV. tvOS 12 will be unveiled in summer and launched in autumn.
One big change coming to the Apple TV in 2018 coud be the new subscription movie and TV series service that Apple is said to be planning on introducing. The company is already making it's own shows so something is definately in the works, read about Apple's plans for a TV and film subscription service here.
Read more here: tvOS 12 release date & new features rumours
When? Sept 2018, although it may take until 2019 for Apple to start distributing its own content
Other Apple Software
How about a redesign of iTunes? As one of Apple's most bloated pieces of software the iTunes interface on the Mac could certainly use a few tweaks or a complete overhaul.
And the TV app - that really needs to bring back some of the functionality of the older Video app (namely being able to auto play the next episode!)
When? Maybe alongside the new versions of macOS and iOS in September
Other Apple Products
Apple makes more than iPhones, iPads and Macs. The company has already introduced the HomePod in 2018, what else is in store?
Apple's now launched the HomePod smart speaker - you can read all about the HomePod here. But there could be more *Pods on the way.
The company is said to be working on over-the-ear headphones to accompany its AirPods and the EarPods - the other earphones Apple makes. Apple's drive into wearable technology could also eventually mean we can buy Apple Glasses or a VR headset, but we don't expect to see them in 2018.
Read all the news about the StudioPods here.
When? Autumn 2018, we hear
As part of the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X announcement, Apple revealed that it's going to make its own wireless charging pad to go with the new phones (which have glass backs, and are thus able to support wireless charging). The pad is called AirPower.
Two things stand out. It can charge multiple devices (an iPhone, an Apple Watch, a pair of AirPods and a new wireless charging AirPods case all at once). And it can apparently manage the charging of these multiple devices intelligently, analysing their charge levels and maximum capacity and then telling them each to 'take' the most efficient proportion of its power.
Fancy features mean a fancy price, most likely, but this is probably going to become the best wireless charger on the market - for owners of recent iPhones, at any rate.
Read more: AirPower release date rumours
When? WWDC 2018, surely!
Apple Pay Cash
At WWDC 2017 Apple unveiled a new, person-to-person application of Apple Pay that works through Messages. Apple Pay Cash eventually rolled out in the US as part of the iOS 11.2 update in Dec 2017, but we're still waiting for the worldwide (and especially UK) launches.
We have already seen Apple Pay Cash appear on some of our iPhones so we are hopefully that a UK launch will happen soon.
When? The UK launch is expected at WWDC 2018
Mergers & acquisitions
What Apple has done already in 2018 is buy Shazam - although that one is with the regulators right now. Hopefully it will all go through and we'll get some nice new features to enjoy thanks to the acquisition.
However, it hardly needs stating that the company isn't in a hurry to divest itself of that cash cushion. Any merger & acquisition 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.
But don't expect…
The Apple Car was the hot rumour of 2016, but it's since emerged that Apple has scaled back its ambitions on this front; it's now believed to be working on an automative 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 2018, but industry chatter suggests 2020 is a more likely date. If this is correct, it might not be worth holding back on an interim upgrade to your existing run-around next year.
We don't think you'll see an Apple car in 2018, then, but you can expect the rumours to continue.
Apple's AR glasses probably won't be coming out any time soon either, but that doesn't mean they aren't in the works at Apple. Read about the Apple AR headset here.
Yes, it certainly sounds like Apple's working on some sort of virtual reality/augmented reality device, but we probably won't be seeing that one until 2021, if ever.