With Apple’s big fall product launches behind us and the last of its 2015 lineup launching with the iPad Pro, we now turn our focus to what’s on deck for 2016. Should you buy a new Apple Watch, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone now? Or wait until Apple’s inevitable refreshes coming later this year?
Below we roundup all of our info on what we expect from the company this year, starting with a March Apple Watch 2 event through the much rumored 4-inch iPhone, new MacBooks, iPad Air 3, an Apple TV streaming service and much more…
The best 4K & 5K displays for Mac
Apple Watch 2 in March |
Apple Watch first went on sale in April of last year, and its second generation Apple Watch is currently scheduled for a similar timeline. An unveiling is currently scheduled for March 2016 based on our reporting and it will likely be the highlight of Apple’s first half of next year alongside other new product introductions at the event.
We reported earlier this month that the company has internally scheduled a press event for March and that sources say it’s for Apple Watch and possibly other new Apple products. Possibilities for the new device include a FaceTime camera, more iPhone-independent features over Wi-Fi, sleep tracking, and health sensor technologies, but it’s always possible Apple will have a feature or two or new designer accessories. The product line last got a refresh in September when Apple released new straps and Sport model colors.
And if Apple goes ahead with these plans, the updated watch models would be ready to ship in April. But what else might we see at that event…
A 4-inch iPhone |
Apple still has a ton of customers who want 4-inch phones and it isn’t going to continue to try to sell these users iPhone 5ses. If an alleged leaked roadmap from carrier China Mobile turns out to be legit, then Apple’s much rumored new 4-inch iPhone will arrive in April. That would make the March Apple Watch 2 event an ideal time to officially unveil the device publicly.
The iPhone 6c (or 7c), as it’s currently being referred to, is rumored to sport a smaller 4-inch display that Apple hasn’t used since the iPhone 5s. It will, based on several reports in recent weeks, sport upgraded specs over the iPhone 5s, however, including a 1642mAh battery, an A9 processor, 16GB of storage, Touch ID, and 2GB of RAM. So it will essentially be a metal, faster version of the 5c, but with rounded rather than squared edges to fit in with iPhone 6 design (something like our render above showing what the device might look like next to other iPhones in the lineup).
New Mac/Books |
Apple upgraded most of its MacBooks recently, and also introduced its new 12-inch MacBook in 2015, but next year it could introduce an update to its extremely popular MacBook Air. According to reports, that might include a new 15-inch model and a thinner, redesigned form factor.
But what that means for the rest of the MacBook lineup remains to be seen. Where does would a new MacBook Air fit into a lineup with an upgraded Air and other MacBooks models, for example? It’s possible a few Retina MacBook configurations will be released and the MacBook Air line paired down, but you can likely expect to see the usual refreshes to other Macs this year as well with at least the typically upgraded internals. One thing you can expect to show up in Apple’s Macs this year: Intel’s upcoming Skylake processors. Expect performance and battery improvements courtesy of Skylake to be a highlight of upgrades this year.
It’s likely we’ll see Macs in 2016 get USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 across the board as well as the new Intel chipsets. We expect the MacBook Pro to get updated early with Skylake, and USB-C ports that do Thunderbolt 3, alongside some other internal spec bumps. Heck, Dell already did it, and Thunderbolt 3 will make for a great opportunity to finally introduce an updated 5K Apple Thunderbolt Display.
iPad Air 3 |
The most recent reliable report on new iPads came from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. His report predicts an early 2016 released for an upgraded iPad Air based on supply chain sources. Apple upgraded its iPad mini model alongside the introduction of larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro in September, so the iPad Air is certainly next in line for the product category in terms of a refresh.
The iPad Air 3 is expected to include the usual upgraded internals but largely remain the same as the second-generation iPad Air in terms of design. But don’t expect Apple to bring its 3D Touch pressure sensitive touchscreen tech to the new iPad, as Kuo predicts it’s currently unlikely for the upgraded iPad Air 3 expected to arrive early
next this year.
The timing would also make an upgraded iPad Air 3 a contender for stage time at Apple’s March event.
What else might we see from the iPad line? Following the launch of iPad Pro and its companion Smart Keyboard, we think Apple still has a lot of room for improvement in the keyboard arena for one. We’d like to see a clamshell version for all versions of the iPad. Also, price reductions (which are already happening at retail partners) and getting rid of the 16GB tier make a lot of sense. On the software side, making the iPad OS more like a desktop OS with more windowing options and a file browser/access makes a lot of sense, too, if Apple wants to continue to eat up computer maker market share with its tablet lineup.
iPhone 7 |
Currently expected for its usual fall release timeframe, iPhone 7 will continue Apple’s relentless march towards thinner products with rumors of the headphone jack being ditched for Lightning only. Don’t worry Apple fans, the company will sell you a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter for a reasonable price if you need that old set of wired headphones to work. And opening up Lightning for headphone makers a couple years back puts it in a good position to make the transition. Most people will be pushed to wireless headphones, of which Beats and those making Lightning headphones have plenty to offer. Will there be Beats Wireless headphones (or Lightning) in the iPhone 7 box? That’d be interesting!
In addition to losing the headphone jack and all that implies, I think Apple will again strive to improve the display perhaps (or perhaps not) with AMOLED. Apple’s display technology of choice on the Apple Watch could save battery life and give those pixel off blacks that Samsung and other Android makers have been bragging about for awhile. The display isn’t the only thing coming from Apple Watch however. I think Apple will go the next step on waterproofing and ruggedizing. While the iPhone 6s can withstand a lot of water, Apple doesn’t officially cover or claim any amount of waterproofing. Giving it IPX7 waterproofing would also a great excuse for the removal of the 3.5mm audiojack.
A technology that Apple should steal from Motorola is its unbreakable display. I’ve cracked the screens of 5 iPhones in my life both in and out of cases. This technology ends that. Apple should buy it from Motorola if it has to. It is a game changer.
Apple TV streaming service |
Apple is planning its first TV streaming service of sorts, as Mark first reported last year. For now, Apple’s newly launched Apple TV 4 and App Store still requires logins to cable networks to unlock most content from TV networks, but a streaming service offered by Apple could see bundles of multiple television channels or paid video services in a monthly subscription. How exactly that will position Apple and Apple TV in terms of competing with other services from Amazon, Netflix and others remains to be seen.
And not just new Apple TV 4 owners will benefit. We reported Apple is planning on brining the service to older Apple TV 3 users as well, unlike the new Apple TV’s App Store and redesigned user experience, although plans could change depending on timing.
The Beats Go On |
Even the people running Apple’s new free, 24/7 live streaming radio station Beats 1 don’t know if it will prove to be an integral part of the Apple Music listening experience. But Apple does indeed have plans to expand the service that it makes accessible for free outside of Apple Music subscriptions and touts as a major differentiator of its service compared to competitors.
Beats 1 played host to on-air hosts Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga, as well as shows from celebrity guest hosts, but what might Apple have planned for the Beats 2-5 trademarks it’s registered behind the scenes? The possible addition of other live streaming channels could mean Apple has plans to have a network of live streaming audio shows, not unlike competitors such as Sirius Radio.
There are lots of opportunities for other Beats channels beyond music— sports, talk, podcasts, news, etc—and Apple is already home for a lot of the most popular audio content creators via iTunes.
Apple Pay |
As Apple continues to add more retailers, banks, and card issuers to the list of those officially supporting Apple Pay in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada, Apple is also doing work to bring the platform to more users as it plans a launch in one of its biggest markets, China. The service is scheduled to launch there as soon as this year through a partnership with local bank China Union Pay, and it’s likely Apple will look to bring Apple Pay to other markets this year as well.
Other advancements on the horizon for Apple Pay: Apple is reportedly interested in developing a person-to-person payment service, which in theory would allow it to offer money transfers between friends and family not unlike PayPal, Google, Square and other services.
Wild Card |
Thunderbolt 3 means 5K video at high frame rates, so we think Apple FINALLY updates its Thunderbolt Display in 2016 with essentially the same look and display of the 27-inch iMac. Because it will be USB-C/Thunderbolt, which can also carry over 100W of power, it will require just 1 cable to go into the Mac/Book. Living the dream.