Apple March 2020 Event Preview: iPhone 9, iPad Pro, AirTags

2015 brought us ResearchKit, the 12-inch MacBook, and the launch of the Apple Watch. 2016 was CareKit, the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro. 2018 was an updated entry-level iPad, Everyone Can Code, and a series of Education-centric announcements. 2019 was Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+, with new iPads Air and mini, and AirPods 2 moved into separate announcements to keep it all about the services.

This year, given all the concerns and closures in China surrounding the coronavirus, even if Apple originally wanted to hold a March event in 2020, it may not be able to.

But, if Apple does and there are no significant delays, if Apple holds either in one big event or a series of smaller releases, just what may Apple have in store for us this spring?

Services and updates

For the sake of this column, let's assume there'll be an actual March event. It could just as easily be a series of daily or weekly press releases. Things could get pushed to April or even to WWDC in June like in 2017. But, let's just assume an event.

First Tim's first. Cook hits the stage with his trademark… Good morning! Good morning!

We could get a few updates at first. Environment with Lisa Jackson. Education with Susan Prescott. Retail with Deidra O'Brien. Or maybe Services again, with everything new coming to TV+, Arcade, Apple Card, fingers crossed for international there, and News+, which along with international desperately needs a complete redesign, similar to what Apple Music needed and got in its second year.

We could also see health with Jeff Williams or Sumbal Desai, either separately or as part of an Apple Watch segment, because at the very least spring means new Apple Watch bands spring colors and collections.

Apple TV

Apple announced the 3rd generation Apple TV 1080p back in March of 2012, and the current TV app just last year, in March of 2019. So there's a chance Tim Cook could stay on stage, or bring senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue or a member of the Apple TV team up to take about the next big thing for our big screens.

There have been precious few rumors of new Apple TV hardware. That may be because the current Apple TV box still seems overpowered for what it does.

But… that's not exactly true. Sure, it has an Apple A10X processor inside, but if you start pushing it towards HDR and then add compositing, you start to peg it.

Apple's latest processor is the A13 and we may soon get an A13X as well. We won't need that in an Apple TV box until, like 8K wall sets are an everyday reality, but an A11 or A12?

More importantly, an updated Apple TV 4K would let Apple drop the price on the current Apple TV 4K. As nice as it is to have iTunes and TV apps on other platforms — even Samsung's Tizen and, hopefully, Android sooner rather than later — having a more affordable Apple TV 4K for everyone as a next-step from those apps would be even nicer. Especially if Apple's not doing that Apple TV stick I've been hoping they'd do for a couple years now.

Read more on the potential of an Apple TV stick

iPhone 9

Greg Jozwiak, Joz, Vice-President of Product Marketing, did the on-stage honors for the iPhone SE. Maybe we'll see him again for the iPhone 9. Maybe Kaiann Drance, newly minted Vice-President of iPhone Product Marketing, who handled the iPhone 11 last September.

I just did a whole video on the rumored iPhone 9, and I'll link it below instead of trying to recapitulate it all right here, right now.

TL;DW, it's widely expected to be similar in spirit if not size to the 2016 iPhone SE. That is to say, an older chassis with modern internals. In this case, the iPhone 8 design with the iPhone XR or iPhone 11 internals.

If the iPhone 8 design disappoints you, remember this phone is for two very specific markets — people who want a less-expensive iPhone and people who want a new iPhone with a Home button. And this, whatever the opposite of disappoints is… appoints? Exactly those people.

If the iPhone 8 4.7-inch size isn't smaller enough for you, that's just a side-effect of modern processors. As phones got bigger, the power and thermal envelop got bigger, allowing for faster, hotter processors — ones you just can't cram back into the smaller 4 point nothing sized phones of yore.

Apple would need to make a new processor to fit into a smaller chassis, and that would bring with it higher, above entry-level pricing.

And this iPhone 9 should hit $399, even with support for AirTags.

Read our full iPhone 9 round up


I originally thought we'd get AirTags with the iPhone 11 the way we got AirPods with the iPhone 7. But, alas, it was not to be. Rumor has it though, what wasn't then may well be now.

It'd be easy to flow right into from the iPhone 9 and the U1 chip. A small, disk-like accessory that you can attach to anything and track anywhere with the new Find My network Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering demonstrated back at WWDC 2019.

The network is incredibly privacy-centric, but a key part of any introduction will have to address all concerns about the tags being used as non-consensual trackers.

It's all fun and games when Spiderman sneaks one onto a supervillain, but the idea that someone could slip one into a bag or pocket or car or whatever to stalk someone else just has to be shut down, with things like range limits and ping limiters, long before the hot take headlines can even start writing themselves.

That done, we'll hear all about how the AirTags can be used, with super-sleek integration into iOS and macOS, to make sure you never lose your wallet, bag, hell, dog or cat or kid again.

Read more about the potential for AirTags


While I'm on the topic of accessories, whether AirTags charge wirelessly or have some form of longer-lasting battery situation, rumors are circulating that AirPower could make a come back in a slightly less ambitious form. Maybe without the only non-Qi device in the lineup — Apple Watch.

Apple doesn't need to make a charging pad anymore, not by any means, but if there is one and it's ready to ship immediately, it'd be a nice way to put the AirPower narrative behind them.

Read what went wrong with AirPower


Last year we got AirPods right around the same time as the march event but not during the March event. Still, if rumors of Apple-branded over-the-ear wireless headphones are true, they could well be worth some stage time.

Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of worldwide marketing, did the AirPod and HomePod honors previous years, and he straight out loves the computational audio tech Apple has been putting into all of their devices lately. So, expect them if you see him.

Given what Apple has gotten the 10-core H1 chip to do on the AirPods Pro, I can't wait to see what they can do with StudioPods Pro.

iPad Pro 4

John Ternus, Vice President of hardware engineering, handled the last iPad Pro introduction, but as this next one is heavily rumored to be photography-centric, maybe we'll see Phil Schiller, who handled the 9.7-inch iPad Pro back in 2016, and so many others over the years, and the iPhone 11 Pro, which has that fancy new 3-camera system that's supposedly coming to the next iPad Pro along with the monstrous A13X processor, U1 chip, and whatever else Apple has inside its iPad update sleeve.

Read our full iPad Pro rumor round up


If John Ternus doesn't do the iPad, maybe he or Tom Boger, head of Mac Product Marketing, or one of their team members could come out to wrap things up with the Mac.

Probably tops of everyone's list is to get that new Magic scissor-switch keyboard from the new 16-inch MacBook Pro into a new 14- or 13-inch MacBook Pro, and an updated MacBook Air.

Second is Intel 10th generation silicon all-around, if those specific chips are ready to ship. Otherwise, we may have to wait for WWDC in June.

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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.