It’s officially 2017 and we’re already looking forward to what Apple has in store over the next twelve months. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and the grand opening of Apple’s ‘Spaceship’ Campus 2 headquarters in Cupertino where it will host events at a new 1000 seat auditorium, and that’s before we even get to actual products.
Head below for our look at what’s next for Apple as we ring in the New Year.
The best 4K & 5K displays for Mac
iPhone 8 | iOS 11
There are a few things to keep in mind for the iPhone launch next year that weren’t factors in 2016 with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus lineup. First off, if reports that Apple isn’t planning to update the iPhone SE, the last of the 4-inch iPhone models that it introduced last March, are accurate, that could be a reason to upgrade or a deciding factor for some looking to switch to a different device this year. At the same time Apple appears to be prototyping larger screen sizes for the iPhones with the latest intel pointing towards a pro model that includes a larger up-to-5.8-inch OLED display with curved edges.
Add in clues that Apple is considering wireless charging, a new all-glass design, an embedded home button, and more, and this year’s iPhone update looks like it will be a significant one for what will be the device’s 10 year anniversary. We’d also expect a preview of iOS 11 at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June if the company follows its usual timeline. Our full rundown on the latest iPhone 8 intel is here.
Back in August, typically reliable supply chain analyst KGI pointed to three new iPad models that Apple has planned for 2017. If that report is accurate, we could see a new second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a low-cost 9.7 inch iPad, and a new iPad Pro with a 10.5 inch display, which would be an entirely new screen size for Apple’s tablet range and could presumably replace the existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro that Apple introduced back in March.
In November, one report from Digitimes backed up reports of an incoming 10.5-inch model, while a separate report from Japanese site Macotakara said that a new 10.9-inch iPad rumored for release early next year will have the same footprint as the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro. In that case, perhaps that’s the same low-cost 9.7-inch model referred in KGI’s report.
When will we see the new iPads? March would make a lot of sense for a launch given past iPad launches. But a report earlier this month claimed low yield rates for the A10X chip could delay production of the tablets beyond the planned March timeframe. That chip is expected to be used in at least the new higher-end Pro iPads.
While the iPhone 8 is expected to see a switch to an OLED display for at least some models, the KGI report earlier this year claimed Apple was targeting 2018 for the launch of an iPad with a similar flexible or curved OLED panel.
Mac | macOS 10.13
With Apple’s recent launch of the new 2016 MacBook Pros and a collaboration with LG on new 4K and 5K displays, in 2017 we’re looking forward to updates to other Macs, namely an iMac update reportedly in the works. That doesn’t mean that MacBooks won’t see a refresh this year, though. While the 12-inch MacBook and especially the new MacBook Pro are still relatively new machines, Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Apple is at least currently targeting spec bump upgrades for both devices sometime over 2017. It also added to the earlier supply chain reports that iMac would receive an update with updated graphics chips and USB-C ports, which we are assuming will be Thunderbolt 3 like the new MacBook Pro.
Despite any intel as of yet, the Mac Pro is the Mac most in need of an update at this point, so that’s another possibility for the year ahead. Like iOS 11, we’d expect Apple to continue tradition of previewing macOS 10.13 at its annual WWDC developer conference in June ahead of a release in the fall.
Touch Bar and Touch ID on standalone keyboard?
As a side note to Mac updates, we reported earlier this year that Apple held talks with Foxconn startup Sonder, a company building dynamic E Ink keyboard tech in the form a standalone keyboard product and laptop modules it plans to offer OEMs. That was right before Apple introduced its new Touch Bar on the 2016 MacBook Pro later that month and The Wall Street Journal interestingly followed up with a report that Apple is planning to launch new Mac laptops with E-Ink dynamic keyboards in 2018 that include contextually-sensitive display emojis and special characters. That sounds a lot like Sonder’s tech and an expansion of the Touch Bar to a full keyboard, and that would also make it possible for Apple to release a standalone keyboard with similar functionality for desktop Macs– something that was a big topic of conversation following the introduction of the Touch Bar on MacBook Pro.
With the recent introduction of the Series 2 Apple Watch and Nike+ Edition model, we got a taste of how Apple will play the Watch upgrade cycle. It ditched the gold this time around and introduced a more mid-range but premium ceramic model, introduced a new and improved but lower-end Series 1, and in the process updated the entire line with new specs for Series 2 including an increased focus on health and activity features.
I’d expect a similar update for Series 3 in the fall this year, although not much is known about what Apple has in the works. Cellular connectivity and integrated cameras, perhaps for FaceTime, have been features many have speculated could be next. At the very least I’d expect to see new materials used– black ceramic is an option, as is titanium, both materials popular among high-end watchmakers without gold price points. As always, we could get a preview of new software features at WWDC in June.
Apple TV / Siri Speaker
Not much is known about Apple TV upgrades that might be in the works for 2017, but all the reports of Apple’s negotiations with cable companies and content providers for a TV service could hopefully result in something this year. Apple is also stepping up efforts with original content including its first documentary as a tie-in with Apple Music. The company notably released a new TV app for Apple TV late in 2016, which we noted could really be seen as a first step to a full-fledged streaming service. And it’s currently US only, as is the new single-sign on feature that makes it easy to authenticate your cable provider and access available content while we wait for that real streaming service. So there’s lots of room for expansion there.
Like the other OS updates, we’d expect tvOS 11 to be previewed at WWDC in June.
At WWDC last year Apple released its Siri SDK, a move that was reportedly made ahead of a planned Amazon Echo/Google Home hardware competitor. Reports of that device’s development have been plenty, including a recent report from Bloomberg that product is now in prototype testing ahead of an expected 2017 release. That report also noted that Apple once considered offering the functionality in the form of an updated Apple TV, but we’d expect the standalone Siri speaker to still be highly integrated with upcoming tvOS and HomeKit updates.
AirPods are out, but Apple’s other W1-chip enabled Bluetooth earbuds called BeatsX won’t arrive until February according to recent reports. These aren’t cord-free, and they are priced similarly to AirPods at $149, but they pack in longer 8 hour battery life, Lightning charging, and a more customizable fit than AirPods with all the pairing and connectivity benefits of the W1 chip.
Apple is expected to be moving over 13,000 employees into its new 176-acre “Campus 2” this year, making the site not only the company’s new Cupertino HQ but also the venue of future product unveilings and Apple events. That could give a new face to Apple events being planned for 2017, and the company could perhaps even have something special planned for early this year when it’s expected to officially begin moving in. It’s unclear if Apple could possibly host all of its future events at the campus and the location’s 1000 seat auditorium, or if it will continue to host larger events like WWDC at outside venues.
The company is currently thought to be planning a move to the location by the end of January 2017, that is at least according to Tim Cook’s latest memo to employees last year. Apple started hiring full-time staff for the new campus back in November, and it estimates landscaping work to continue into the first quarter of 2017.
Check out our recent 100th Happy Hour podcast episode where Zac and Benjamin discuss these and other possibilities for 2017: