Apple in 2021: Welcome to Season 2 of the Event Show!

Tim Cook
Tim Cook (Image credit: iMore)

Happy 2021! The beginning of a new year and a brand new product cycle for Apple. (Please don't make it the Snyder cut!) And, since the world is still on various levels of lockdown, welcome to Season 2 of the Apple Event show. This year's episodes — spoiler alert! — feature everything from M1X Macs to A15 iPhones, A14X iPads to maybe, just maybe... AirTags. At last.

S02E01-02: Spring 2021

Apple often but not always holds spring events in March. They were even rumored to be holding one last year for the iPhone SE and iPad Pro until last year turned into the… Wonder Woman 1984 of years.

So, instead, we got those in press releases, some video of Craig and the Magic Keyboard, an updated Intel Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, and that's about it.

This year, spring is just way too early to return to travel and in-person, but the virtual event team is just knocking it out of the Apple Park, so 2021 could start off with a big old March bang.

Rumors include an iPhone SE Plus, either an iPhone 8 Plus with an A13 chipset in it or a new design with a full LCD screen and iPad Air-style power button Touch ID. However, those rumors have been tampered down a lot recently.

Also, a proper iPad Pro update with an A14X processor, essentially the M1 without all the Mac-specific IP and probably less RAM and somewhere between none and only one thunderbolt controller. Also, and more specific to my personal interests, a mini-LED display that'll give most of the benefits of OLED without all the drawbacks.

Maybe also an updated iPad mini along with it, getting the iPad Air-style redesign to bring Apple's lineup fully into the modern future.

Then there are AirTags, which have been rumored since before Apple announced the new FindMy network at WWDC 2019 and stuck a U1 spatial positioning chip in the iPhone 11. They've reportedly been ready to go for over a year, but Apple's been holding onto them until the market seemed right. Which… could be 2022 at this point? Joz only knows.

Lastly, an updated Apple TV that, depending on who you listen to, will either just be a spec bump to the A12X or a full-on gaming console contender with A14X, U1, a dedicated controller, and maybe even some studio acquisitions to go with it. Apple Arcade+ anyone?

And while we're at it, with most of Apple's new services having originally been announced at the March 2019 event, it sure would be nifty — I said nifty! — to see more of them go truly international in March of 2021. Let all Apple customers finally be treated equally.

Depending on what's all actually ready to go, this could be no event, one event, or a couple of monthly episodes, like March and April, to kick off Season 2 of Apple's virtual event show.

Seeing how well that worked at the end of last year, I'd be more than ecstatic either way. But tell me what you'd prefer in the comments below.

S02E03: Summer 2021

WWDC 2020

WWDC 2020 (Image credit: iMore)

Apple's annual World Wide Developers Conference — WWDC — usually kicks off the first week of June, but last year, that ended up getting pushed back to near the end of the month instead.

Either way, it's where we're going to see iOS 15, iPadOS 15, tvOS 15, watchOS fift— no, that's going to be watchOS 8 and macOS… 12? We've already had an 11.1… I'm so confused. It'll have a landmark-themed marketing name anyway. Just like the rest of Apple's software… Oh… wait. Awkward. Can we get some continuity here?

After a super rocky 2019, Apple had a solid 2020, so here's hoping 2021 keeps that trend going. There's too much to get into here and now, but I'm working on all the OS preview videos as well, so stay subbed, stay tuned.

Because WWDC is mostly a software event. Mostly. Like last year. But many years, we see hardware as well. Like 2017, where there was just… all the hardware.

That's when the original HomePod was introduced, and there have been rumors of an update. Not the mini. Just the HomePod… Biggie. With a U1 chip so it can form a real multi-pod multi-position soundstage with multi-devices, including the mini. Like… computational ATMOS.

Also, a less expensive version of the AirPods Max, a sport version that's more… unabashedly plastic. And updated AirPods 3 that'll look more like AirPods Pro minus the active noise cancelation, and updated AirPods Pro 2 that'll look more like AirPods Pro… minus the stems.

WWDC has also seen more than its share of new Pro Macs. Including the 2019 Mac Pro. So if Apple has those new M1X MacBooks Pro, the new higher-end 13-inch, and the full-on 16-inch ready to go, it'd be great to see them. If the 13-inch is finally going 14-inch and both are getting their long-rumored redesigns, complete with mini-LED displays, well, that would be even greater to see.

S02E04-06: Fall 2021

iPhone 12 Pro review

iPhone 12 Pro review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

If Apple's got iPhone production back on schedule, then we could see a return of the annual September iPhone and Apple Watch event. Yes, you got it, instead of last year's Apple Watch and iPad.

Whether it's live or virtual will depend on how well the world is doing by then, but I'm not getting my hopes up until the numbers actually start going down. Like for real. Wear your masks. Seriously.

Rumors for the Apple Watch Series 7 have been few and far between, but a redesign with Apple's new, more squared-off look isn't out of the question. I'm also still hoping for true iPhone independence, so all you'll need to use the Watch… is the Watch. Also, maybe retiring the Apple Watch 3 and price dropping the Apple Watch SE to take its place?

Then there's iPhone 13, and the same mini, Pro, and Pro Max variants as this year. But this time, maybe all with LiDAR scanners and the Pro models with that glorious LTPO OLED ProMotion — the up to 120Hz refresh all us nerds have been waiting for all these years.

Maybe a version without the Lightning port… or any port as well. More on that, why and what it means for things like CarPlay, in a future column.

If September goes back to the iPhone, maybe October could go back to the Mac.

Sure, any new iPads we haven't gotten already could slot right in as well. But, I think everyone's really waiting to see those new M1X, and maybe M1T… M1Z… whatever Apple calls the even higher-end Mac silicon.

At worst, we get the same old, really old, 21.5 and 27-inch iMac shells with fresh new Apple system-on-a-chip hearts. At best, we get that iPad Pro-style redesign that's been rumored for a while. The 24- and 30-inch miniLED one that makes every other iMac, every other all-in-one, look instantly, ludicrously, outdated.

And with performance that does the same to everything up to and including Intel's Xeon Macs.

Plus, a display-only version that we can use with all the new MacBooks… without having to shell out 6K for the ProDisplay XDR. More like 1K for the miniLED Display… HDR.

And while I'm diving into fanfic, how about a new AirPort router to go with it, but mesh, and linked to the HomePod and Apple TV for a full on-full house, privacy-first internet gateway? Drop a comment below if that's something you want to see Apple get back into as well.

Now, that could be it… that could be mic drop 2021. Or… or… Apple could decide they want to talk about one of the augmented reality, virtual reality, or automation projects they have going on. I'm still thinking it's way too soon for the headset, never mind the glasses, never mind the Apple Batmobile, but if they have anything like the Apple TV in 2006 or the Apple Watch in 2014 that they really want to tease super early and right at the end of the year…

Well, maybe there'll be a 2021 Apple Event season finale in November with that as well.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.