The event has already raised eyebrows as it clashed with the already announced OnePlus 6T launch in New York, which was brought forward twenty-four hours to get some oxygen . I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader just how much of this is a co-incidence.
First up, the main message from the event may not be the tablets, desktops, or laptops. Apple will have gathered the world’s press (or at least they will be waiting by their keyboards for details) so this is the perfect time to reinforce just how successful the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR have been in Apple’s eyes.
It’s a chance to address the poor communication around issues such as the failure to charge, the beauty filter being applied to the selfie mode, and the weakness of iOS 12 in a number of areas. Or we might be told they are “the most successful launches in Apple’s history” and that customer reaction to the branded features are “off the scale”. Which option do you think Cook will choose?
Reinforcement aside, the big message is likely to be the new iPad Pro picking up many of the features of the iPhone X family and doing its best to usurp the lighter MacBook machines.
There is evidence in iOS 12 that Apple is moving to a ‘home button free’ design which will mean gesture support similar to the iPhone X. The image resources in the code also point to the power button staying in the top right corner with the volume keys in the traditional high placement on the right hand edge.
The screen also shows rounded corners and a reasonable sized bezel. While Apple’s definition of edge-to-edge rarely means ‘right up to the edge’ tablets do need a certain amount of ‘dead’ space to be held comfortably.
With no home button the expectation is that both sizes of the iPad Pro (the current 12.9-inch model and a slight bump in specs of the smaller tablet to 11 inches) will be updated to use FaceID for biometric security, but the larger bezels will mean that a notched screen will not be needed.
There’s also a number of sources pointing towards a reworked iPad Mini, but this may not be ready for the end of October. This may be held back for an extra PR push of the range in November, or it may be a ‘surprise’ launch with a lead time measured in weeks.
With a new model number sitting with regulators, expect at least one new MacBook, which in the process will answer the question of what happens to the MacBook Air. The Air is currently the entry-level MacOS laptop, but the specifications are very long in the tooth. Apple could update the Air brand name, it could simply match specs with the competition, or it could drop the Air branding and introduce a lower-specced MacBook in the $999 slot.
While it has been close to eighteen months since the iMac line-up was updated (and twelve months for the iMac Pro) a spec bump to keep the machines feeling current is also expected and ties in with the model numbers filed by Apple.
And fans of the Mac Mini will be crossing their fingers. Again. That said, Apple is throwing so many new models and choices at the wall across the various hardware ranges that this may be the year the Mac Mini is refreshed. Maybe.
With both the iPad and the Mac families being updated, the event will cast a harsh light on the choice of iOS over macOS by Apple. I’d expect the lion’s share of time to go on the iPad Pro hardware and promoting it as the portable computer, with the redefinition of the MacBook relegated to a supporting role. This is in keeping with other indicators from Apple’s recent history – the desktop is for developers and some specialist media tasks, while the general purpose computer is the tablet running iOS with a detachable keyboard cover.
If the September iPhone event showed off Apple’s star pitchers, the October event shows off how much depth Tim Cook’s team has in the bullpen. It’s certainly stacked towards the iPad and complements the iOS pitchers from last month. The macOS line-up can still pull out some surprises but the southpaws needs a little bit more love and attention from the pitching manager to get stage time.