Apple is expected to officially unveil its first computers powered by custom Arm-based silicon chips at its “One More Thing” event on Tuesday. The company is promising the new chips will deliver improved performance with less power consumption, and the switch also means Apple computers will support native iOS apps due to Apple’s A-series mobile and tablet chips sharing 64-bit Arm architecture.
The fact that Apple silicon-based computers are likely launching on Tuesday isn’t exactly a surprise; Apple said at WWDC in June it expected to ship the first Mac with an Apple-designed CPU by the end of the year. But naming the event after Steve Jobs’ iconic phrase indicates Apple thinks this will be a significant moment for the company — and hopefully these computers will be worth the wait.
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There’s always the chance Apple will discuss other products as well. The company’s September and October events didn’t focus on just one product line; the September event featured both the Apple Watch and iPad, while the October event focused on the iPhone and the new HomePod mini. Rumors, as always, indicate Apple is working hard on lots of other products that may or may not see the light of day.
The event kicks off at 1PM on Tuesday, so we won’t have to wait long to learn what Apple will be announcing. Here’s a rundown of what you can look out for.
The first laptops that run on Apple silicon
While Apple has only publicly promised to ship one Apple silicon-powered Mac computer by the end of the year, the company apparently plans to introduce more than one, according to Bloomberg. Apple is reportedly ramping up production of a new 13-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 16-inch MacBook Pro, and will show “at least” the two 13-inch laptops on Tuesday. Yet if you were hoping for a big design change to accompany the new internal architecture in the laptops, that’s not in the cards, according to Bloomberg.
The processors in the new laptops will be “based on” the A14 chip found in the iPhone 12 lineup and the new iPad Air, Bloomberg reported. To help developers get a jump on porting their apps to the new chips, Apple has been offering a Mac mini Developer Transition Kit that’s powered by the A12Z, a variant of the A12 with an 8-core GPU that’s also found in the most recent iPad Pros released in March. Perhaps Apple will take a similar approach for the A14-based chip in the upcoming laptops.
We found the A14 was quite capable in our reviews of those iOS devices, and presumably, Apple will show some impressive demos of the chip in the new laptops at the event to give us an idea of what its custom silicon will be capable of in computers, too. It was hard to tell just how fast the new chips will be when Apple first discussed them at WWDC, but it seems likely the company will go into a lot more detail about the processors’ performance on Tuesday.
It also seems like a safe bet that Apple will talk more about Rosetta 2, which can automatically translate some existing Intel apps, and how developers can make their existing iOS and iPadOS apps run natively on Apple’s silicon-based Macs.
If you’re hoping that Apple introduces a desktop Mac with Apple silicon on Tuesday, though, you might be out of luck, as Bloomberg’s report didn’t indicate that a new desktop will be announced at the event. Apple apparently does have a number of other Apple silicon-based Macs in the pipeline, though, including a redesigned iMac and a new Mac Pro.
macOS Big Sur should get a release date
If this is a Mac event as expected, then it seems likely that Apple will also give a release date for macOS Big Sur, the next major macOS update. Big Sur brings a huge visual overhaul to macOS, with things like new iOS-style icons for Apple apps and a translucent menu bar that blends into your wallpaper. There’s a dedicated control center to help you manage settings like Wi-Fi, display brightness, and volume, all in one place. And it’s not just visuals that got an overhaul — Big Sur has new system sounds, including the return of the Mac’s famous startup chime.
Many Mac apps get updates as well. Safari in Big Sur has a customizable start screen, tab previews, and a privacy report feature that shows you what trackers the browser has blocked. Messages finally gets message effects, as well as features you might have already used in iOS 14, such as pinned replies and in-line conversations. Maps has a number of new features, too, including cycling directions and EV routing.
We might see non-Mac products as well
Although we’re expecting Tuesday’s event to be primarily about the Macs, Apple could certainly unveil non-Mac products.
Apple has long been rumored to be developing new high-end, over-ear headphones, so perhaps the company will finally unveil those on Tuesday. The headphones are rumored to have swappable ear pads and headbands, noise cancellation, Siri controls, and built-in touch controls. The headphones have recently run into some development difficulties, though, according to an October 26th Bloomberg report.
The headphones were apparently set to go into production “weeks ago,” but that milestone was pushed because the headband was too tight. Apple also reduced the size of the touch pads on the sides of the headphones, and the headphones may no longer have a replaceable headband, according to Bloomberg.
We’ve also been hearing rumors about Apple-made Tile-like trackers for quite awhile — references for the product appeared in iOS 13 beta code last June. The trackers, which could be called AirTags, are rumored to be small circular discs that could let you track things like a bag or your wallet via Apple’s Find My app. It’s expected that AirTags will have ultra-wideband technology to help with more precise tracking.
Apple is also apparently working on a new Apple TV with a faster processor and an “upgraded” remote control that may not come out until next year, according to Bloomberg. Given that rumored release date, though, it doesn’t seem likely that Apple will announce it on Tuesday. And since Apple announced new Apple Watches and a new iPad Air in September and new iPhones in October, we probably won’t see new versions of those products on Tuesday, either.