Apple appears to have big plans for March. The rumor mill is once again abuzz with speculation that a special event is being planned for that month, in which Apple will unveil the new iPad Air 3, and a new MacBook. We also may see the Apple Watch 2 and a new 4-inch iPhone reportedly called either the “5ce” or the “6c.”
UPDATE (Feb 3): A new unconfirmed report indicates that Apple will unveil these new devices at a press event on March 15.
Apple used to be very predictable in that it announced new iPads in the early spring and new iPhones in the fall. It’s mixed things up a bit under Tim Cook, however. Last March it announced a new MacBook and showed off the previously-announced Apple Watch. Given that the iPad Air 2 is overdue for a refresh, it’s nearly certain we’ll see a new Apple tablet sooner rather than later. As for the a new Apple Watch, that’s pushing a year on the market and due for an update. But our focus here is on tablets and notebooks. So we put our collective ears to the ground and rounded up some of the top rumors swirling around about what Apple probably has up its sleeve. Here’s what we (think) we know so far.
iPad Air 3 Rumors
At the moment, nobody’s even sure if the rumored iPad Air 3 will even be called that – but for the sake of focus, let’s allow the name to stick until we hear official word otherwise. So far, the most widely reported (and thus likely to be true) rumor is that the display size will measure 9.7 inches, as it as since the original iPad first launched. Another fairly reliable rumor tells us that 3D Touch, which is available on the iPhone 6s, will not be included with the iPad Air 3 due to reported bottlenecks in the supply chain for components. If true, that’s a shame as it has a lot of potential to bring utilitarian value to the iPad.
We’re not sure exactly what to make of other rumors that indicate the iPad Air 3 display may offer 4K resolution. For one, 4K at this screen size is a bit of overkill; for another, a move to 4K could significantly impact battery life.
Lastly, there have been rumors circulating for some time that the iPad Air 3 may come with an OLED display. At the present time, most of the talk seems focused on 4K versus OLED. Still, we’re betting the 4K rumor is rooted more in wishful thinking than reality. As for OLED, we’d love to see it on an iPad as it is a superior display technology over LCD/LED (see the Samsung Galaxy S2 9.7 for evidence of that). But only one Apple product to date has an OLED display: the Apple Watch. For whatever reason, Apple has resisted OLED displays on its tablets and smartphones. Apple and OLED has been like oil and vinegar. This is the sort of rumor we’ll dismiss until we see it firsthand.
Whether the display will support the Apple Pencil remains a mystery, though there are many potential buyers who are hoping it will.
UPDATE (Feb 3): The Air 3 will reportedly include the Smart Connector that debuted on the iPad Pro, which would strongly imply that a smaller version of the Apple Smart Keyboard is in the offing.
Underneath the chassis, speculation has it that the iPad Air 3 will run on an A9 or A9X processor and will come with optional 16GB, 32GB and 128GB internal storage. Neither of these would be much of a surprise and appear to be safe bets. Apple may keep the A9X iPad Pro exclusive for the time being, but the iPad Air 2 has an A8X. Either way, expect an upgrade.
What would be a surprise, however, are reports that it will come available in two versions: one offering 2GB RAM, and another offering 4GB RAM. We give this a slim chance of being true, especially considering that historically Apple has rarely revealed RAM data on initial product announcements. That said, there may be some validity to the claim, given that increased internal storage capacity is a tough upsell in the age of cheap cloud storage. Some extra RAM may be necessary to get buyers to splurge on more expensive units. We see smartphone makers like Huawei already doing on Android smartphones.
The rumored addition of a smaller battery has also led to the presumption that the iPad Air 3 is going to be significantly thinner than its predecessor by more than a full millimeter (and as an aside, OLED is a more battery-friendly display technology). The iPad Air 2 bears a depth profile of 6.1mm, whereas whispered word says the iPad Air 3 may come in at just 5mm thick. Additional unconfirmed data on the iPad Air 3 chassis says it may be waterproof and dust resistant.
We expect rumors of a rear-facing 13MP camera and a front-facing 5MP camera – which are in alignment with iPhone 6s specs – to be wholly true. Although there have been no reports about 4K video recording, we consider this to be highly likely considering the new iPhones have this capability.
UPDATE (Feb 3): There’s a new rumor that this tablet will be the first iPad with an LED flash.
Word that the iPad Air 3 will be available in the now-standard color options of silver, gold and space grey are also extremely likely – as is the rumor Apple will also launch a keyboard and a cover that can perform double-duty as a stand.
There appears to be no further propagation of rumors that Apple would be transitioning its iPad line to USB-C in favor of Lightning, however this could be further down the line. Fairly reliable rumors that the iPhone 7 will also ditch its headphone jack in favor of a Lighting port do not appear to have migrated over to the supposed design of the iPad Air 3, however there is a possibility this change may also be implemented in future designs if the backlash isn’t severe.
MacBook 2016 Rumors
The intel on possible improvements to the MacBook Air 2016 are slightly fewer and farther between than they are for the iPad Air 3, but they’re making the rounds. First of all, there is some confusion over the MacBook Air name. Apple launched a 12-inch MacBook in early 2015, which was thinner and lighter than the 11.6-inch MacBook Air that preceded it, calling it just “MacBook.” It seems logical that the next refresh would keep the moniker while Apple liquidates older MacBook Air stock, with Apple perhaps only delineating between its Pro/powerful and standard/thin-and-light laptops going forward.
Outside of that, some of the rumors, like the suggestion that the MacBook Air 2016 may be solar powered, smell particularly funny. This suggestion was floated following the spotting of an Apple patent, which doesn’t mean a lot considering the number of patents the company files.
More reliable MacBook Air 2016 rumors tell us it may be powered by an Intel Skylake processor and is likely to hit market in a 12-inch, 13-inch, and 15-inch display option. According to the same rumors, the 12-inch display may be equipped with Retina resolution, but no further information about the resolution of the larger screens is known yet. The smart money says they all will have Retina, however. Last year’s 12-inch MacBook has one, and Apple recently updated its 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina displays.
A track pad equipped with Touch ID is also rumored to be in the design, with some indications that it will also support Force Touch. Considering the latest 2015 MacBook model only came with a headphone jack and a USB-C port, we don’t put much stock in the rumors that connectivity options will support HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.1, and USB Type-C.
Ultimately, expect an iterative update with better performance and a spec boost all around. Apple likely launched the template for future MacBooks with its 2015 thin-and-light model. Any new devices will build off of it.