October 2019 Apple Event Preview: iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, and more

You all know by now that Apple doesn't always host an event in October. Thanks to the iPhone, the September event is lock, but October…. it's much more like a… likely. Some years, it's brand new Macs and iPads for everyone. Others… press releases just dropped at the dawn.

This year… this year… it feels like Tim Cook and company might just put sneaker to keynote stage one more time. But… announce what exactly?

When and where?

Unlike the iPhone Event, which always lands on the second Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday, of September, the iPad and Mac Event has just been scattered around the second half of October. October 23rd, October 13th, October 16th, October 27th, October 30th.

The location has also moved around more. Where the September events have all been in and around the Bay Area, the October event has moved from its root in Town Hall at Infinite Loop to, last year, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

This year? Well… we'll just have to wait and see.

There is one thing I can guess at with a high degree of certainty, though — video montage or no, when the lights come on and Tim Cook walks out, he'll say…


Apple tags

The September event came and went, and with nary a mention of one of the biggest rumors of the year, and something I'd been particularly interested in seeing made manifest: Apple Tags.

We did get the new U1 spatial positioning chip in the new iPhones 11, though right now relegated to singling someone out for priority AirDrop. But we didn't get the little U1 disks to go with them. You know, the ones with tiny Apple logos that we could put on or in anything and use Apple's new Find My service to precisely track down.

If the tags simply weren't ready for September, and Apple didn't want to risk another over promise and under-deliver AirPower moment, well, maybe they're ready now?

Tim could do the honors himself but, since we didn't get to see senior Vice President of software engineering, Craig Federighi, back in September, and the bits here are going to be so much more interesting than the atoms, maybe he could do the honors?

If so, run and done, and back to Tim.

iPads Pro

Last year Apple started with the Mac. And they needed to. The MacBook Air hadn't seen a major update since Steve Jobs re-announced it almost a decade prior and the Mac mini had been stuck in a rut for years.

iPad Pro with MacBook

iPad Pro with MacBook (Image credit: iMore)

This year there's arguably a Mac that needs an update even more today, but I think it might just be a headliner worth holding off on until the end.

So, maybe this year the iPad Pro takes the lead? Tim could give us a recap of last year's big redesign, show us a video of what we're all doing with it, and then hand off once again to Vice President of hardware, John Ternus for the next iteration. After all, Joz already had his fun with the new 10.2-inch iPad last month, and Phil might be saved for that aforementioned headliner.

Now, some people might be wondering, even out loud, what Apple could possibly do to get those of us who bought the new iPad Pro last year to upgrade again this year. The answer is… that's the wrong question. Apple doesn't think that way. Outside of tech pundits, no one does. There are people who upgrade every year, sure. Personally and professionally. But they're basically a done deal. Apple has them at new. For everyone else, the vast majority of everyone else, Apple just wants to make int so that, whether you're buying for the first time in a few years or the first time ever, you have something good to buy. The best current product you can get.

What does that mean for this year? Well, rumor has it, a very iPhone Pro-like camera system with telephoto, wide angle, and ultra wide angle. And it wouldn't just be the first three-camera system. It would be the first multi-camera system and, if memory serves, the first time the iPad camera is treated with anything approaching iPhone parity. Given how good that camera is and how big the iPad Pro viewfinder is, that might just be a match made in cinematic 4K heaven.

An A13 or A13X processor is the closest thing we have to a sure thing, which should propel iPad performance even further ahead of what anyone else is doing at anything approaching mobile.

As to the rest of the usual nerd wish-list… Apple hasn't gone OLED on the iPad yet because of supply limitations, price points, and the problem getting uniform brightness on a panel that big. If any of that has been solved for, we could see it. But, recent Kuo Ming-Chi rumors suggest Apple is holding off for miniLED next year or the year after. Get your Beyond Retina XDR snarks ready!

We got USB-C last year, but Thunderbolt 3 would still require PCIe architecture, something which I think is still limited to just the internal storage controller right now.

Personally, I'd love it if the TrueDepth camera would move from portrait to landscape position, and for the Smart Keyboard to get a Smart Trackpad so the universal input circle would be complete.

But, as we know, I don't every time get what I want.

Maybe we'll get an update on Adobe Photoshop for iPad, if that's making progress, and we'll no doubt get a video.

Then back to Tim.

The Macs

Apple's been really aggressive with MacBook Pro updates lately. Even after we got Coffee Lake last year, we got Vega Pro in the fall, then Coffee Lake refresh again this spring. So did the iMacs. Non Pro, of course.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air (Image credit: iMore)

The other MacBooks, not so much. Sure, the Air is running Amber Lake, which cries every time it sees an Apple AX-Series… at least for now. But maybe Intel could do something to put just a little more punch in its performance… you know, before Apple announces the first MacBook on ARM at some point in what feels like the increasingly fast approaching future. Any event now. Seriously. Please.

The Mac mini, though, which absolutely languished until last year's October Event could use an overt sign of Apple's continued love. So, it'd be great to see Tim hand off to head of Mac Product Marketing, Tom Boger for that or Colleen Novielli, head oof iMac Product Marketing, for something similar on the iMac Pro side. Since those Xeon's are still the same as they were when Apple announced it back during WWDC 2017.

Roll it into a single "We're also updating some of our favorite Macs" slide or two if they have to, just keep that stuff regular.

And, yeah, a redesigned iMac would be terrific as well. It's been a 5K minute since the last one. But Apple sells far more portables than desktops, so I'm thinking they'll let those take the lead on leaps. Even though, now that there's a new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR coming this year, that iMac Pro is going to have to stay on its toes… and maybe even up its own display game.

Speaking of which, some final details on the Mac Pro, including how much those damn wheels cost… thanks Joz… would make the kind of sense that does. And so would exact availability.

Then, back to Tim.

New MacBook Pro

Is it One More Thing worthy? I don't know. But I know that I want it. The butterfly keyboards have been the most divisive thing to happen to the MacBook line in general, and the Pros in particular since… well, ever. And the failure rates have been one of their biggest failures.

So, what I want to see, is that new scissor switch keyboard. Rumor has it Apple's been working on it for a while, and hopefully give the Pro Workflows team full time and furious feedback on it to make sure it really stands up to pro usage. That alone would be a huge upgrade… regrade… fixgrade…? But rumor also has it Apple is going to continue their war on bezels by taking the 15-inch display all the way to 16-inches, and in roughly the same package size.

There could be other stuff thrown in as well. I for one would capitol L love Face ID on the Mac. But just fixing the keyboard and escalating the display would make it the upgrade pretty much everyone has been waiting for.

And if the Air gets the new keyboard too, so much the better.

Any more things…?

Apple TV+ is still coming up, so there's always the chance we'll hear more about that, and possibly more about the expansion of Apple's other services. An updated Apple TV with an A12X that could slay composited 4K HDR would be awesome. So would an Apple TV stick we could take with us. HomePod, HomePod mini, HomePod Theater, and all that would also be grand. But, I'm only going to expect all that when I see it.

Last year we had Angela Ahrendts up, in between Mac and iPad, talking about Today at Apple, so this year we could get an update from Deidre O'Brien, including highlights from the 5th Ave. Apple Store grand re-opening. Or, since Lisa Jackson didn't make an appearance back in September, we could get an update on environment this October. Maybe Susan Prescott if there are any big iWork or Education announcements to fold in.

And, while it still feels way too early for glasses, there are also rumors of over-the-ear AirPods — AirCans? — that have yet to see the light of… stage light.

Some, none, or all of that could make an appearance before Tim comes out one last time to wrap everything up with a big...


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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.