2017 has been a busy year for Apple, with the launch of the 10th-anniversary iPhone X and new iPhone 8, new iPads, a slew of new Macs and the announcement of an all-new product called the HomePod.
But what does 2018 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 2018.
What has Apple announced in 2017?
Let's start with a really quick overview of what's happened in 2017. 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
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.
Then on 12 September, in another special event we saw updates to the iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV, as well as final versions of iOS 11 and High Sierra. The star of the show, though, was undoubtedly the 10th anniversary iPhone X, with its brand-new virtually full-screen OLED design.
Read on for the lowdown on what we're expecting from Apple in 2018.
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.
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.
When? We think spring 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, but perhaps the most popular is the idea that Apple will take the iPhone X and its relatively small chassis, and supersize it - producing what could perhaps be called an iPhone X Plus. We're not convinced this would be wise (the X already has the biggest screen Apple has ever put on a phone), but the market usually gets what the market wants.
We'd also love it if Touch ID could make a comeback in addition to Face ID. 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.
After the tremors of 2017, however, Apple may well consolidate in 2018, offering incremental upgrades and perhaps spreading existing features to more models - giving the 4.7in model a twin-lens camera, say.
Read more here: iPhone 11 (2018) rumours
When? Sept 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 spring 2018 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: iPad mini 5 new feature rumours
When? We think spring 2018
iOS 11 was released to the public on 19 September 2017. (See: How to get iOS 11 now) The next update to Apple's mobile OS, iOS 12, will be unveiled at WWDC in June 2018, before a public rollout in September.
You can read more here: iOS 12 release date & new features 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 able 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.
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.
Read more here: tvOS 12 release date & new features rumours
When? Sept 2018
Unveiled at WWDC 2017 after months of rumours, Apple's Siri speaker, which is actually called the HomePod, was scheduled for a December 2017 launch. But we've since been informed that it won't make its debut until 2018.
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.
When? Early 2018
Brand new to the Mac line-up is the iMac Pro, which Apple unveiled at WWDC 2017. It isn't out yet, but Apple still maintains that it will be launched before the end of 2017.
The stunning new device 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. But 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.
When? Dec 2017 (although there may be shortages or supply delays at first)
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.
Apple is working on what sounds like a radical redesign of its Mac Pro line. Until this appears (which will be 2018 at the earliest), 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 2019
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? 2018, we hope
Other Apple rumours for 2018
'Mystery wireless 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 Park. 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.
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 won't see an Apple car in 2018, but you can expect the rumours to continue.