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Apple Spring Event 2021: New iPad, iMac, AirPods, and More

The disruption of the past year has forced Apple to do all its events online, and it turns out the company is rather good at them. That is just as well because Apple is widely expected to hold a spring event for new products in the coming weeks.

What are we likely to see at this event? As it turns out, quite a lot — from iPads and iMacs to AirPods and AirTags, we could see a real feast of Apple products make an appearance. We have rounded up everything we know about these upcoming devices, so you know exactly what to expect as soon as Tim Cook steps out onto the stage.

When will the event be?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In previous years, Apple’s spring events have traditionally been held in March. In 2015 and earlier, they were usually held in the first week or two of the month. Since 2016, though, that has shifted to the last fortnight of the month.

In 2016 the event was held on Monday, March 21, in 2018 it was Tuesday, March 27, and in 2019 it fell on Monday, March 25. Looking at the calendar, the following dates seem to be likely candidates for 2021’s show:

  • Monday, March 22
  • Tuesday, March 23
  • Monday, March 29
  • Tuesday, March 30

Apple likes to hold events on Mondays and Tuesdays because that allows a full week’s worth of news coverage before the busy weekend, when news stories can get lost. Considering the dates of the company’s spring events over the past few years, the four dates above seem like strong contenders this year.

New iPad Pro with a brilliant display

Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad, the iPad Pro, is currently the best high-powered tablet money can buy. The 2020 model has almost everything you need in an iPad, and while it is expensive, our review explained it “won’t be fazed by any task you throw at it.” So, with such a great starting base, is there much Apple can do to improve it?

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes — and the rumor mill has stepped in to explain just what Apple is apparently working on. The most persistent rumor regarding a future iPad Pro is that it will come with a mini-LED display. This packs in as many as 10,000 LEDs into the tablet’s display, massively ramping up its brightness and performance. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has been a strong proponent of this rumor and he has a solid track record, so this could be one to look out for.

Elsewhere, Apple might upgrade the LTE connectivity of its cellular iPad Pro models to 5G, offering a big step up in terms of speed. If you are looking to buy an iPad Pro for productivity or simply need a tablet with super speedy connectivity, this could be worth holding out for. We would also expect Apple to outfit the new iPad Pro with a new version of its A-series iPad chip for improved performance.

A redesigned iPad Mini

iPad Mini Apple Pencil

The iPad Pro is not the only iPad said to be getting a revamp this spring — the iPad Mini is also on the agenda. According to Japanese site Macotakara, the iPad Mini 6 will come with an 8.4-inch display (up from the current 7.9-inch screen) and thinner bezels. Those slimmed-down bezels will allow Apple to fit the larger screen inside the device without having to increase its footprint, much like what has already happened with the iPad Pro and iPad Air.

Interestingly, the report from Macotakara says the design of the new iPad Mini “goes with iPad (9th Generation), which continues to use Touch ID and Lightning port.” This suggests Apple might decide to keep the Home button on the iPad Mini while simultaneously expanding its display, reducing the bezels slightly but not enough to eliminate the button. This would set it at odds with the iPad Pro and iPad Air, which lost their Home buttons when their bezels were stripped back.

Ming-Chi Kuo has also stepped in, saying the iPad Mini would be updated to come with a display that sits somewhere between 8.5 inches and 9 inches. He believes it will be released in the first half of 2021, while Macotakara has pinned the release date on March this year, so the two sources seem to be roughly aligned. The last iPad Mini update came in March 2019, so it is due some retooling.

An overhauled iMac is a possibility

Of all Apple’s current products, the iMac is the most long-lived. But at the same time, it feels like it is the most long in the tooth, having not had a design update since 2012. According to industry rumblings, though, it is due for its first redesign in almost a decade, and we could see it as early as this spring.

Like many Apple products, from the iPad Pro to the MacBook Pro 16, the iMac is expected to get vastly slimmed-down bezels, bringing it closer to the Pro Display XDR and allowing for a larger display without increasing the physical size of the device. Specifically, rumors point to a new 23-inch size with an affordable price. That indicates this will be an update of the 21.5-inch model with a larger screen and thinner bezels. What’s more, the design is said to be more angular with a flat back instead of the current curved rear, resulting in something that takes on the iPad Pro’s design language.

We would expect the new iMac to come with an Apple Silicon chip on board. Whether this is the M1 from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro or a next-generation ARM-based chip from Apple remains to be seen, but regardless the performance should be way above the current iMac 5K. And while Face ID is apparently on the way, it likely will not arrive until the second iteration of the redesigned iMac.

AirPods move closer to AirPods Pro

Digital Trends

The original AirPods were a surprise hit for Apple, but the company has since cemented its strong position by upgrading them and supplementing them with the high-end AirPods Pro. Such is the success of the AirPods Pro that Apple is said to be seeking to emulate their look in the new version of the standard AirPods.

These will come with a shorter stem, much like the stubby stalk on the AirPods Pro. Not only will that make them more compact, but it will bring them closer to the Pro earphones from the outside. Inside, though, there will be differences, with the standard AirPods lacking the noise cancellation features found in the AirPods Pro.

It is possible Apple will bring out a new entry in the AirPods family called AirPods Pro Lite. Details are scarce on these, other than that they will sit between the entry-level AirPods and the AirPods Pro. What we consider more likely is that the AirPods Pro Lite is actually the revamped base-model AirPods, with their shorter design causing confusion that they might be a cheaper version of the Pro buds.

A long-overdue Apple TV update

This is probably one of the least nailed-down rumors of the lot. While industry analysts have been predicting an Apple TV update for a while now, details are still very thin on the ground. In May 2020, prominent Apple leaker Jon Prosser tweeted, “new Apple TV 4K with A12X – 64GB/128GB ready to ship. Code name: Neptune T1125. Another one of those things that could drop any time.” Yet coming up to a year later, we still have not seen the update surface. In fact, the last new version came in 2017.

So, what could we see if Apple finally decides spring 2021 is the right time for a new Apple TV? Well, the A12X may not be a goer — this year the chip will be three years old, and we would expect a much more recent alternative will make it into the finished product. Look out for either the A12Z Bionic in the current iPad Pro or whatever chip ends up in the iPad Pro refresh.

According to Bloomberg, a new version of the Apple TV 4K will ship with a revamped Siri Remote with a “find my remote” feature not unlike Apple’s current Find My tool for its other devices. Bloomberg has an excellent record for Apple rumors, so this is one to keep an eye on.

Device-tracking AirTags

We have known Apple is working on Tile-like tracking devices called AirTags for over a year now. Aside from the usual leaks and analyst reports, evidence has surfaced from Apple itself, including references in iOS code and an Apple support video that accidentally mentioned the AirTags name.

According to the rumors, AirTags are small circular discs that can be fixed to your valuables, such as to a MacBook or a keychain. Once paired with your iPhone, you will be able to track the AirTags using the Find My app. Despite the delays, the mountain of evidence pointing towards their existence suggests it is only a matter of time until we see AirTags make an appearance. With any luck, they will finally debut at Apple’s spring event this year.

Other possibilities

iPhone SE 2020 Screen Front
iPhone SE (2020) Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

This being Apple, there are even more things that are being talked about as possibilities for the spring 2021 event. Most of them are unlikely, but there are a few worth mentioning.

Macotakara has reported Apple is working on an updated iPhone SE due to be released in April 2021. The report contains no further information, though, and given the most recent iPhone SE only came out in April 2020 (and is quite a niche product for Apple), it is by no means certain that Macotakara is correct.

It is also almost certain that Apple is going to replace the MacBook Pro 13 with an all-new 14-inch model. Apple occasionally releases updated MacBooks in the spring, but numerous reports have pegged the MacBook Pro 14 for a fall launch date. Still, a spring release is not totally impossible, so watch out in case we get a pleasant surprise.

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