Apple Inc. is about to give two product lines much needed upgrades after the gadgets slipped into the towering shadow of the iPhone.
On Tuesday, the Cupertino, California-based technology giant will take the stage in Brooklyn, New York, to unveil new Mac computers and iPad tablets. The theme of the event is “making,” and it will take place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – both clues to how Apple plans to reignite sales of the products.
Macs and iPads have larger screens and keyboards, more versatile software and typically faster processing speeds than iPhones. Those features are particularly useful for people who create graphics, build websites, edit movies, write music, and in the case of Macs, develop their own software. While the iPhone won over consumers, and the Watch is on a growing number of wrists, Apple is pushing content creation for its other major devices.
The main news on Tuesday will be revamped iPad Pros with Face ID and a new charging port, a new laptop destined to replace the ageing MacBook Air, and a new Mac mini geared toward professional users, according to people familiar with the plans. They asked not to be identified discussing unannounced products. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
The update to the iPad Pro will be the most significant in the product’s history. The device was originally launched in 2015 in part as a counter-measure to Microsoft Corp.’s Surface Pro, which gained a following with business users seeking large tablets with support for attachable keyboards and styluses. The iPad Pro models, which have larger screens, better cameras, and faster processors, are more expensive, which has sustained revenue growth.
Here’s what Apple is planning for the new iPad Pro, according to people familiar with the plans:
- Nearly edge-to-edge screens with slimmer, symmetrical bezels like the latest iPhones.
- A USB-C connector for charging and syncing data, the first time Apple is bringing this charging standard to its iOS devices. This will leave the iPhone as Apple’s only major product to use the Lightning connector. It will also be the first time Apple has changed the charging port on iOS devices since 2012.
- Face ID will be used for unlocking the new iPad, and the Home button and fingerprint scanner will be removed. Unlike with iPhones, Face ID will work in both portrait and landscape orientations.
- Face ID will enable Animojis (and the personalised variety known as Memojis) on iPads for the first time.
- The screens will be less expensive LCD panels, rather than the OLED screens on the iPhone XS.
- The iPad’s external look will be redesigned as well. It will include more squared-off sides like the iPhone 5, 5S, and SE from a few years ago.
- A faster processor that’s a variant of the A12 Bionic chip recently added to the iPhone XS and iPhone XR.
- A custom Apple graphics chip, the first time this would be included in an iPad.
- An updated Apple Pencil, succeeding the original version launched in 2015.
The iPad Pro update comes at an important time for the device, which hasn’t been refreshed since mid-2017. While the tablet market is contracting overall, the iPad has been slowly regaining momentum thanks to new software and lower-priced models, but also because competitors like Amazon.com Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. haven’t wowed the market lately.
For the Mac, Apple is planning its first wide-ranging upgrades since June 2017. The MacBook Air and Mac mini, a small desktop machine without a screen, have gone several years without notable changes. This, combined with interest in larger smartphones and competing PCs, led Apple to report the fewest Mac sales since 2010 in its fiscal third quarter.
Here’s what the company is preparing for the Mac line, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. Some or all of these products could debut at Tuesday’s event.
- A new entry-level laptop to replace the ageing MacBook Air – the company’s entry level laptop that Steve Jobs originally pulled out of a manila envelope a decade ago. It will have a higher-resolution 13-inch screen, as well as slimmer bezels around the display.
- The first update to the Mac mini since 2014, adding new processors and features for professional users.
- Apple’s also working on refreshed iMacs, iMac Pros, and 12-inch MacBooks with faster processors, and at least some of these updates could be ready for the October launch.