Will Apple's 'Christmas Surprise' be a fruit cake or something truly special?
Last weekend, a reliable Apple leaker, L0vetodream, said the iPhone maker plans on releasing a "Christmas Surprise" before the end of the year. This being 2020, it would startle no one if this gift turned out to be a five-year-old fruit cake emblazoned with the Apple logo that ships in AirPower boxes. And yet, I'm (somewhat) confident Apple's December plans will rise higher than some moldy baked goods.
For a December surprise, the most obvious candidate is the long-rumored AirPods Studio over-ear headphones. For months, various sources have said these headphones were likely to launch before the end of 2020. And yet, they didn't show up at any of Apple's recent special events this fall, which suggests Apple might have gotten cold feet by releasing $600 headphones during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
And yet, a December announcement still sounds about right, with or without COVID.
AirPods Studio, whenever they're released, could provide tangible proof that Apple plans on ditching the Beats Electronics name, which has also been long-rumored. Next month, announcing AirPod Studio would serve as a nice stepping stone for Apple as we get ready to say hello to 2021, a better year for sure. After all, we're likely to see other new audio products in the coming months, including next-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro.
Another candidate could be AirTags. Also rumored in recent months, the tiny would-be tracking devices had been expected to take on Tile and similar products and work with the existing Find My app on mobile and macOS. Though useful, any AirTags product doesn't sound like something that would warrant a separate year-ending announcement or "Christmas Surprise" moniker.
Apple could also use a December announcement to wow us with a special-edition iPad or iPhone model. If Apple's goal is to sell a few more mobile devices as holiday gifts, this type of plan makes sense. And yet, I can't see how there would be enough time to announce, accept preorders, and ship these items before Christmas. Besides, because of COVID, iPhone shipments were already delayed beyond the typical September timeframe, so the newness factor for the current options is still there.
Finally, consider how L0vetodream's tweet also noted the would-be surprise was "good for winter." In previous years, Cupertino had adjusted its Apple Watch band lineup to reflect the coldest months of the year. Doing so again would line up very nicely with the leaker's tweet. Like AirTags, however, new bands sound more useful than exciting and would only appeal to a small Apple audience segment.
So what's the prediction? Apple's most likely "Christmas Surprise" is the AirPods Studio. Though likely to be even more expensive than the already pricey Beats headphones, the headphones would appeal to a large part of the Apple family. Plus, assuming it offers a fresh new design, AirPods Studio would generate the type of buzz that the company craves.
We'll probably hear about Apple's plans soon enough, assuming there are plans. Anytime after Tuesday, December 1 sounds about right. If something new doesn't get announced by December 10, assume nothing is happening.
What big Apple surprise do you want to see in the final month of the year? Let us know in the comments below.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.
$600??? Really. There's no way I'm going to pay that much for some over ears. I'll go with Sony!!!
The rumors have allowed for some more reasonable models along with some premium ones.
Apple has been rumored to be releasing a standalone VR headset to compete with the Oculus Quest. Those rumors speculated a 2021 release. Apple has gone in big on Lidar for 6dof tracking. They would also need to get Vr right before releasing an AR device. I expect AR is ultimately where they want to be. I sure hope that’s the case. There needs to be competition in that space.
$600 over ear headphones? That's appealing to an awfully small market, when $350 gets you Sony or Bose. I get it probably works with Siri and Music or whatever, but still! I won't be interested at all for $600.
No way Apple drops a brand new product (an expensive set of headphones) right in the middle of the holiday season with just a press release. My guess - Apple Fitness+ goes live (they said it would drop before the end of the year) and an extra three months free (total of six) for anybody who purchases a new Apple Watch.