Apple’s iPhone event last month was undoubtedly crucial for the company, but it left quite a few would-be customers wanting more. Much of Cupertino’s product lineup is practically begging for an update. There haven’t been new iPads in a year; both OS X Mavericks and the Mac Pro redesign have yet to ship; and two Mac lines are still stuck on last year’s CPUs. As such, Apple likely isn’t being hyperbolic when it claims that it has “a lot to cover” at its October 22nd event. But what, exactly, are we going to see on that fateful day? There have been rumors of everything from “natural” updates, like iPhone 5s-derived iPads, to more fanciful excursions like watches and TVs. While there may not be many surprises in store for tomorrow’s liveblog, we’ll help you make sense of it all.
The headliners: iPad and iPad mini redesigns
If there’s any new hardware that could be considered a lock for the event, it’s a revamped iPad line. The age of current models is almost proof enough, but there has also been an abundance of part leaks and rumors pointing to a major makeover for Apple’s tablets.
The fifth-generation iPad should get the most conspicuous overhaul. Based on casing photos obtained by 9to5 Mac (above) and others, the new iPad could inherit the iPad mini’s design language, including a flat back and uniform colors. This wouldn’t just be a cosmetic difference, however; more efficient display technology could lead to a thinner and lighter body. Both the third- and fourth-generation iPads were bulkier than the iPad 2 because they needed strong backlights and big batteries to drive their early Retina displays. If the leaks are real, the reworked iPad’s screen could produce a bright picture without using as much energy.
Some of the additional upgrades aren’t as clear, but are relatively easy to predict. The iPad has always used a faster processor than the preceding iPhone and, more recently, a superset of that phone’s technology. The A5X in the third-generation iPad was an upgrade to the A5 with stronger graphics. While there isn’t solid evidence that Apple will repeat history, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects the fifth-generation tablet to use an A7X chip that builds on the 64-bit, ARMv8-based A7 chip inside the iPhone 5s. That means performance competitive with the Snapdragon 800 inside rivals like the LTE variant of the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition).
That performance boost may just be the start of a longer feature checklist. Kuo recently told AppleInsider that both the iPad and iPad mini would tout 8-megapixel cameras. Unbox Therapy has meanwhile demonstrated that existing iOS device home buttons don’t fit in leaked next-gen iPad front panels, implying that Apple could implement a Touch ID fingerprint reader on both devices. Those parts leaks have also shown grilles for stereo speakers; finally, the big iPad could produce equally big sound.
The iPad mini isn’t expected to look significantly different on the outside, but it could be a much larger upgrade on the inside. The Wall Street Journal and others have heard that Apple’s smaller device will use a Retina display. If it does, it should immediately catch up to (and potentially surpass) the screen quality of big-name competitors like the current Nexus 7. Just don’t count on an abundant supply, as Reuters has heard of possible display shortages.
As you may have gathered earlier, some upgrades may be shared between the mini and its full-size counterpart, such as the camera and Touch ID sensor. What’s less clear is the processor choice. Logic would dictate that Apple use a previous-generation chip like the A6, just as the first iPad mini used an A5; we’re not bracing ourselves for anything more. However, AllThingsD and others have alluded to Apple using an A7 instead. This makes sense if Apple is using Touch ID, since the technology needs the A7’s secure memory space. It’s safe to say that the A7 would give a swift kick in the pants to the iPad mini’s performance, helping it fare well against many high-end (and sometimes larger) tablets.
Oh, and one important note for fans of flashy gear — if you believe the photos republished by Nowherelse.fr, the new iPad mini may come in an iPhone 5s-like gold hue.
Safe predictions: OS X Mavericks and Mac Pro availability
Mavericks is the shoo-in for software news at the event, since Apple finished developing the OS days ago. If history is any indication, it will release Mavericks on the Mac App Store in the near future. There’s likewise a good chance that any announced computers will ship with Mavericks already installed.
Which brings us to the question of the new Mac Pro. Apple said in June that the workstation would ship “later this year,” and there’s little time left for the company to act on that promise. While it won’t necessarily discuss the Mac Pro, it’s hard to imagine Cupertino passing up an opportunity for a high-profile launch. It teased the computer in movie theaters, after all.
Despite Apple revealing many of the specifications for the system — Xeon E5 chips, FirePro graphics and Thunderbolt 2 support — there’s still a lot we don’t know. What will a base configuration include? How much will it cost? Will Apple offer a 4K display to match the Mac Pro’s graphics prowess? The only certainties are that the system will be fast and expensive. Current models start at $2,499, and the redesign’s emphasis on pricey flash storage could drive the price higher.
Distinct possibilities: MacBook Pro and Mac mini refreshes
Apple hasn’t been very quick to embrace Intel’s Haswell processor architecture; the MacBook Pro and Mac mini are still stuck on Ivy Bridge, which makes them prime candidates for upgrades. That said, there has been surprisingly little discussion of either. The most credible leak has been a Geekbench report for a 15-inch MacBook Pro running a quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7 and 16GB of RAM. Apple may announce both new Macs, but they’re far from guaranteed.
If they do appear, we already have some idea as to what they’ll look like. Haswell’s chief upgrade is efficiency, which could improve the MacBook Pro’s battery life by leaps and bounds. Witness the MacBook Air’s five-hour longevity increase as an example. Any Mac that depends solely on integrated graphics should see a noticeable speed boost as well. Intel’s video architecture is much faster in Haswell, particularly in computers that use Iris graphics.
We’re not getting our hopes up, though, as other updates could be evolutionary. It’s possible that 15-inch MacBook Pros will get GeForce 700M series dedicated graphics, while all pro portables could move to 802.11ac WiFi and PCI Express-based solid-state drives. As a rule, we wouldn’t count on truly major Mac updates outside of the known Mac Pro revamp. Many of Apple’s existing designs are comparatively fresh, and there’s little pressure to reinvent the wheel.
Wild cards: Apple TV, smartwatches and software
We haven’t heard much regarding other introductions. There have been murmurs from Google Ventures’ MG Siegler of an Apple TV upgrade, and stock has run low at some resellers. However, it’s unclear just what would improve when the current model can already handle 1080p video and numerous third-party services. The remote is one (small) possibility. We’ve only just seen an Apple TV software revision, though, so it’s doubtful that the company is about to rethink its entire approach to the living room. And in spite of analysts’ frequent prognostications, there are no signs of a full-fledged TV set.
Don’t expect an Apple-made smartwatch, either. While we won’t rule out a surprise, everything we’ve seen to date suggests that 1 Infinite Loop’s wearable device strategy is still in the early stages. The company has a long history of entering categories only when it believes it’s ready, even if that means showing up late.
Minor software updates are more likely. Apple has already said that it will launch an update to Final Cut Pro that makes better use of the new Mac Pro. A few 9to5 Mac readers have also noticed some updated iLife app icons for iOS in iCloud’s storage settings; this implies that Apple is releasing iOS 7-optimized versions of those apps at its event. And while there hasn’t been hard evidence of a significant iOS 7 revision, an update might be necessary to take advantage of cross-platform features like iCloud Keychain. There isn’t talk of an iWork upgrade, however.
Many of the products rumored to launch on October 22nd are comparatively safe bets. Our only worry is that the company may play it too safe. Like last year, Apple could open its presentation with a slew of predicted (if welcome) Mac updates and finish by confirming widely circulated iPad rumors. However, some of those potential announcements could be big, especially for those who’ve been holding out for meaningful iPad and Mac Pro upgrades. We may have to wait a while for Apple to venture into uncharted territory, but we may not mind if it covers familiar ground in the meantime. by engadget