On Monday, March 21, 2016 at 10 AM PDT/1 PM EDT, Apple-watchers around the world will be glued to their Macs, iPhones and iPads to watch a live-streamed event at which Apple is expected to announce new devices. The “Let us loop you in” event — named for the cryptic message on the invitations sent to members of the press — has already generated a lot of speculation. Today, we’ll sort through the rumors and tell you what to expect from Apple… and what might surprise everyone.
How To Watch The Event
The event is going to be live streamed for your viewing pleasure. Held at Apple headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA, you’ll be able to see it on Apple TV or on the Apple website. Just be sure to point your Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to this web page at the right time (once again, 10 AM PDT/1 PM EDT on March 21), then sit back and enjoy the show.
The most likely source of the “Let us loop you in” tagline for the event is that Apple has some new Apple Watch bands in store for Watch fans. Back in January, a space black Milanese Loop watch band was spotted for a short time on the Czech online Apple Store, so it’s pretty well a given that we’ll see that sleek band announced at the event.
Why a space black Milanese Loop? The $149 Loop is one of the most popular Watch bands, but it’s only available in silver stainless steel. Space black is one of the most popular Watch body finishes for both the Watch Sport and midline Watch lines, so it seems logical that the space black Milanese Loop will make an appearance.
The company will most likely use the event to highlight other new Watch bands, such as the Hermes luxury line that was introduced several months ago.
Expect Apple CEO Tim Cook or one of the other Apple executives to announce just how many Apple Watches have been sold in the first year. This has been a highly guarded secret, but it seems like it’s about time for the curtain to be pulled back on the sales figures. Apple loves to show off statistics at these events.
If you’re hoping for a second-generation Apple Watch, that’s probably not going to happen at this event. Most Apple pundits expect that to happen no earlier than September.
9.7-inch iPad Pro
Rather than announcing an iPad Air 3, Apple’s expected to announce the successor to the iPad Air 2 as a member of the iPad Pro family. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will most likely share the Smart Connector port found on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, allowing it to use a Bluetooth- and battery-free Smart Keyboard. Like the larger iPad Pro, the new member of the family will probably have four speakers for true stereo sound and an A9X processor.
How much will this new iPad Pro cost? Some pundits are expecting Apple to start at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model, but I’d venture a guess that Apple will skip the 16GB model and start at 32GB for the same price. Storage prices have been dropping enough that it makes no sense to sell an iPad Pro with just 16GB of storage.
Seeing that this will be the second member of the iPad Pro family and also the second Apple device with the Smart Connector port, I’d expect other Smart Connector accessories to be announced from Apple and third parties. The Smart Connector can handle two things — power and data — so why not use it as a simple connector for a Smart Cover with a monochrome OLED display that can show notifications while the iPad Pro is asleep?
The new 4-inch iPhone
The one thing most pundits are 100 percent certain about for this event is the announcement of a 4-inch iPhone, possibly called the “iPhone SE”. This device is expected to bring the curved edges of the iPhone 6 family, a 12-megapixel camera that’s expected to shoot Live Photos and 4K video, an A9 processor, and the NFC capabilities needed for Apple Pay. Should Apple decide to stop production of the iPhone 5s that the new iPhone would replace, the entire iPhone lineup would finally support Apple Pay. That could be a big selling point for those who want a newer phone that could handle Apple Pay, but don’t want the larger form factor of the iPhone 6 or 6s.
The best way to describe the 4-inch iPhone is that it resembles the iPhone 6s, but is of course smaller in size due to the screen. Many expect the small iPhone to have the same protruding camera lens as the iPhone 6 and 6s, and a price range similar to that of the iPhone 5s. At the present time, a 32GB iPhone 5s sells without a contract for $499. As with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I expect Apple to forgo a 16GB base configuration. The color scheme of Apple’s invite might also provide a clue as to which shades the new iPhone (and possibly iPad) will be available in.
What we probably won’t see
Some pundits are thinking that a new Thunderbolt Display is long overdue from Apple. When compared with the current 27-inch Retina 5K iMac display, the existing Thunderbolt Display is an antique. If Apple were to create a new display instead of phasing out the Thunderbolt Display line, it would have to meet three criteria: be thinner than the existing model, match or beat the resolution of the Retina 5K iMac, and handle Thunderbolt 3, which utilizes the USB Type-C connector found on the 12-inch MacBook.
How about updates to the various Mac models? The Mac Pro is long overdue for attention from Apple, although there have been absolutely no rumors about a boost to the high-end Mac. We all expect that Apple will bump the MacBook Pro and 12-inch MacBook families to the Intel “Skylake” processors, but that could just as easily happen at the WWDC 2016 keynote in June as at this event. A move to Skylake would be a boon to laptop lovers, as the 14nm architecture not only boosts CPU speeds by up to 20 percent, but could also improve MacBook battery life by up to 30 percent.
That’s a wrap. What do you want to see at the Monday event? The Rocket Yard will be keeping you updated with highlights from the announcements and we’ll have a deeper look at important announcements next Tuesday, so keep checking back!