Apple is holding its first event of the year on Monday next week, and we’ve already reported everything that you should expect to see announced including its much anticipated 4-inch iPhone SE, the first 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and new first-gen Apple Watch models and bands. But there’s also a whole list of things Apple should update and release but likely won’t next week.
There are a few products in need of updates that aren’t currently being planned for the event, with new MacBooks the most obvious of candidates, but some aging products like Mac Pro, the Thunderbolt Display, AirPort products, wireless EarPods, and more also due for updates. Here’s everything Apple needs to update, but likely won’t announce at its event on Monday:
The best 4K & 5K displays for Mac
Thunderbolt Display | Apple’s standalone desktop display is in desperate need of an update. Still selling for $999 with 2011 specs, the product looks old-fashioned compared to the 4K and 5K displays that are now the norm, not to mention just how thick it is in comparison to iMacs with whole computers inside.
Even Apple managed to get 4K and 5K displays on its latest iMac line. Add in current component specs to drive it all, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 for 5K video at high frame rates, and so on; we think it’s way past time Apple finally updates its Thunderbolt Display in 2016.
We’d be happy with essentially the same look and display of the 27-inch iMac, but Apple could always do something different and maybe make it to match the new space blackish Mac Pro design.
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.
MacBooks | While there haven’t been any reports that Apple is planning a MacBook refresh for its event next week, there is a lot of reason to believe one needs to come based on the state of the current lineup. All MacBooks are approaching the one year mark since last being updated — MacBook Airs in March of last year, the new 12-inch MacBook in April, and the Retina MacBook Pros in March and May — so there’s at least justification for a not-so-surprising mid-year refresh to one or more models in the current range, although we’re not expecting it next week.
The two that would come first if Apple were to keep the current models and just refresh internals would be the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs, which happen to be rumored for a mid-2016 refresh with possibly a new 15-inch model. And the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, all last updated a year ago in March of 2015. Intel’s new Skylake processors will reportedly not be ready until June, but it’s possible Apple could introduce other minor component refreshes to the MacBooks currently running Broadwell and Haswell processors. We’re also keeping an eye out for whether or not Apple brings USB-C to the rest of its laptops after the 12-inch MacBook last year.
But there’s a good chance Apple could do some house cleaning with the lineup this year, especially if it really introduces an ultra-thin 15-inch MacBook and perhaps loses the 11-inch as it pushes the new 12-inch MacBook as its best small-screen laptop.
And in case you forgot, Apple is still selling a MacBook with a SuperDrive. To me, the question for the MacBook Pro 13-inch is not whether or not Apple updates it, but what happens to the rest of the line when Apple inevitably ditches it. Will it bring pricing changes or reorganization of the lineup in general? Or can Apple lose the aging 13-inch MacBook and carry on with the rest of the Pro lineup starting at $1299 for the 13-inch Pro with Retina display.
Mac Pro | The Mac Pro received a major refresh a little over two years ago back in December 2013, but it hasn’t since received any update while most of Apple’s other Macs have. It’s not likely Apple is to make major changes to the overall current design; after all, the Mac Pro has traditionally lagged behind the more consumer friendly Mac models in terms of updates in general. But it wouldn’t be too shocking to see some sort of refresh that introduces upgraded processors, graphics, and other specs. It would be an obvious choice to add Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and unveil it alongside a new Thunderbolt Display eventually. And there have been suitable processor and graphics upgrades to the Intel Xeon E5 Haswell processors and AMD graphics currently shipping in the machine for quite some time.
Apple had issues with some of the new Mac Pros, and even issued a recall for graphics issues, and we’d expect a few refreshes to work out the kinks on the first of the models post-redesign. To top it off, the Mac Pro is getting called out by VR company Oculus for not meeting minimum requirements (although we managed to build our own Hackintosh with off the shelf parts that did).
AirPort Express/Extreme/Capsule | The current AirPort Express last received a notable update in 2012, and the Extreme and Capsule are straight out of 2013. There have been rumours a few times that Apple was experimenting with products that could combine these and or other router/storage products, or even with the Apple TV, and there is a lot of potential for Apple to do so. Google and other companies have been pushing their own intelligent routers through Google’s OnHub platform. Features like Siri could compete with Amazon Echo, although the Mac is making progress in that area later this year, and Apple’s HomeKit connected feature could be enhanced by smart AirPort products. We’ll keep hoping for now.
Mac mini | If the Mac mini follows the pattern of the past two updates, we’ll get a refresh of the device in late 2016. It’s not clear how many of these Apple is still selling, but it’s currently offering them with specs that haven’t been updated since October 2014, and before that October 2012. So the Mac mini is on track to get another spec update in the fall this year possibly, but despite fairly regular updates every other year recently, the Mac mini still feels like Apple’s long forgotten Mac in the lineup. Might USB-C be in its future at some point?
New Beats/Apple wireless EarPods | Apple Watch being totally wirelesss, iPhone 7 reportedly losing its headphone jack, and the fact that Apple really hasn’t had its hand in a new Beats product from start to finish beyond its role with the Beats Pill+ after acquiring the company makes us think that Apple will likely have some new wireless Beats products to show off this year. Truly wireless earbuds may be a bit early — although we know they’re being developed — but if Apple truly loses the 3.5mm headphone jack on the upcoming next-generation iPhone as rumored, you can expect it to sell some wireless, Bluetooth headphones that will likely charge with Lightning.
Apple Pencil accessories & international Smart Keyboards | Pencil tip replacements are on the way eventually, as we noted in our review, and Apple could offer up some other Pencil accessories to go alongside its new 9.7-inch iPad Pro expected for the event. We’d be happy with additional Pencil tips and brushes too, not just replacement tips. And at the same time, it would be a prefect time to bring out those international layouts we’ve heard about for the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard that are currently available in a U.S.-English configuration only. If there is one thing on this list that might actually launch next week, it would be these to go along with the new iPad Pro.
USB-C lightning cables | Having just USB-C only on the new 12-inch MacBook means you can’t use your current iPhone cable to charge off the notebook without using an adapter that adds a standard USB port. There have been a lot of great accessories made for the USB-C MacBook, and some, like battery packs, made possible by the new I/O, but Apple still controls its proprietary Lightning connectors through its Made-for-iPhone program and we’ve yet to see Apple or its partners actually release any USB-C to Lightning cables for iPhone charging/syncing. If Apple is to keep pushing forward with the USB-C for at least some of its MacBooks, we think this is bound to be an accessory it launches at some point in the future.
For what Apple will announce next week, check out our updated roundup of what to expect at Monday’s iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro & Apple Watch bands event.