The iPhone 7 is being officially announced tomorrow, but we already know basically all there is to know. But it’s rare that Apple’s events are a one-trick pony, so what else might Tim Cook and Co have in stock?
Apple Watch 2
One of the biggest unknowns is if we’ll hear anything about new Apple Watch hardware tomorrow. A few leaks have shown off improvements like a better battery, a thinner display, and at some point Apple was thinking about putting an LTE radio in there.
An Apple Watch announcement this year would line up nicely with the original Watch announcement, which came alongside the iPhone 6 launch in 2014. The Watch itself wasn’t released until April the following year, to allow for production to ramp up. That would make sense — we haven’t seen as many Apple Watch leaks as you’d expect if a new Watch was coming to stores in a few weeks.
I’d expect any new Apple Watch to be more of a marginal improvement and spec bump than complete overhaul. Apple put a huge amount of work (and marketing money) into talking up the design of the original Apple Watch, and aesthetically, there’s little to change. At the very least, a new Apple Watch would likely be compatible with existing Apple Watch straps, otherwise there will be some very annoyed customers with very expensive accessories.
Macbook Pro Refresh
Another Apple product that’s long overdue for a refresh is the Macbook Pro. While the Retina Macbook has made the Macbook Air virtually redundant, the Pro is still Apple’s only laptop for doing serious work on the go. But the body is a little thick, battery life only so-so, and the lack of discrete graphics in the 13-inch model means it’s not an option for photographers or programmers, exactly the kind of core demographic that Apple spent so long wooing last decade.
Rumors strongly suggest that we’re getting a new Pro this fall, so there’s a decent chance it will be alongside the iPhone 7 at Wednesday’s event. The only detail that has been consistently leaked is the existence of an OLED touchscreen running along the top of the keyboard, which would replace the Fn keys. The Command Bar would change depending on what app you have open, giving keys for copy/paste while in a document, or switching to specific commands when you open Photoshop.
Other likely changes include the addition of a Touch ID sensor, adding at least one USB-C port, and making the body a little thinner. If Apple does manage to show off a lightened Macbook Pro, it’s probably the end of the road for the Macbook Air, which will be trapped in purgatory between that and the Retina Macbook.
New Thunderbolt Display
Apple’s Thunderbolt Display is old enough to be drawing a pension, and certainly old enough for an update. One of my favourite Apple rumors that has never come true is an updated Thunderbolt display with a discrete graphics card inside. I think I can trace the origin of this idea back to a 2013 Slashgear post from Chris Davies, which envisaged a new Thunderbolt display with some kind of GPU tucked inside.
Since then, the idea has gotten even better, and the time is ripe. The 12-inch Macbook is a beautiful computer, but woefully underpowered for any kind of graphics-intensive application. It would be fantastic to plug your tiny laptop into a 27-inch 5K display when you want to do some desk work, but there’s no way the onboard Core M graphics would handle that.
But imagine if your 5K display had a discrete GPU inside. The time is perfect for this: Nvidia’s new graphics cards are (relatively) cheap, and efficient enough that they can fit inside a display without needing some special cooling system or outrageous power supply.
The connectors are also all there. USB-C (which, remember, Apple should add to the Pro!) can happily handle an external GPU, so you’d only need to plug into the special Thunderbolt station with one cable.
There’s precious few rumors pointing to this actually becoming reality, but some kind of updated Thunderbolt display is probably in the works. Apple discontinued the old display back in June, so expect to see a new one either tomorrow or in October.