The second half of 2014 has been shaping up as a busy year for Apple Inc. A month after the unveiling of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch, the company is gearing up for yet another media event on Thursday.
Unlike with Apple’s September iPhone 6 launch, held at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, the company is hosting its media event in its smaller, Town Hall auditorium located on the tech giant's corporate campus. The fanfare surrounding the event may seem subdued compared to that of the iPhone launch, but make no mistake: This is a very important day for Apple.
IPad sales have been falling for most of the year, so the question is whether Apple can breathe new life into the product. Parts of its Mac line, particularly the Mac Mini, are long overdue for an upgrade, and Apple Pay, the company's new mobile payment system, has yet to officially launch. Of course, Apple might have another “one more thing…” ready for this event like it did in September. But we’ll have to wait till Thursday to see if that key phrase is uttered.
In the meantime, here’s what you can likely expect from Apple tomorrow:
iPad Air 2
Apple’s thinnest iPad ever is about to get even thinner and more powerful. Among the changes expected in the tablet are a redesigned chassis, a faster A8X processor and 2GB of RAM. Touch ID is also highly anticipated, as the Apple Pay service is expected to expand to Apple’s tablet line.
Some believed Apple wouldn’t release a new iPad Mini, as indicated by a research note from KGI Securities Thursday. But those rumors were extinguished when the company accidentally published a user guide ahead of its media event, which revealed the iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2. The document is currently inaccessible through iTunes, but its page still remains on the Web.
Of the features most anticipated on the iPad Air 2, increased storage options ranked highest at 58 percent, according to a survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by YouGov on behalf of FeedHenry, a cloud app solutions provider.
Apple’s iPhones, iPads and MacBook Pros have all received upgrades to high-resolution Retina screens over the years. But the iMac hasn’t seen such improvements since its redesign debut in 2012. This time around, the desktop computer looks to grab some attention as Apple is expected to unveil a 27-inch iMac featuring a Retina display with “greater-than-4K” resolution.
A 21-inch Retina iMac is reportedly in the works as well, but it isn’t expected to ship until 2015, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi-Kuo.
Among the items in Apple’s Mac desktop line, the Mac Mini is the one that has been long overdue for an upgrade. The smallest member of Apple’s Mac lineup, the $599 budget-friendly Mac Mini doesn’t come with much to begin with as it lacks a display, keyboard and mouse. So the lack of performance updates has become more apparent as it approaches the two-year mark since its last update.
There have been some indications that Apple plans to upgrade the Mac Mini, but reports have been sparse on the desktop computer.
Complementing the expected launch of a Retina iMac, Apple may also release upgraded Retina Thunderbolt displays. Current 27-inch models boast a 2560x1440-pixel resolution display, a marvel at the time they debuted. With a number of cheap 4K resolution screens starting to trickle out into the market, now may be the time for Apple to upgrade the 3-year-old Thunderbolt display.
OS X Yosemite
The Mac operating system has been in beta testing since Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. After numerous updates and tweaks, it looks like Apple is ready to publicly release the OS X update at its Thursday event. OS X Yosemite will include a number of improvements and new features, including greater integration with iOS through Handoff, Continuity and iCloud Drive, along with a fully redesigned interface.
Apple Pay, a mobile payment service, was unveiled by Apple during its iPhone event on Sept. 9. But the company is expected to reveal more details about the service on Thursday and launch the service this coming weekend through an iOS software update. Apple Pay will enable iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users to make purchases at stores via near-field communication (NFC) technology built into their smartphones. The addition of Touch ID to Apple’s iPad may also enable users of the tablet to make online purchases and App purchases using the service.
Revisions to Apple’s MacBook line, along with the introduction of a fanless 12-inch Macbook Air were initially expected to debut during Apple’s Oct. event. But supply issues with Intel Corp.’s Broadwell chips have reportedly pushed back the Mac laptops to 2015. While some were hoping Apple would unveil the new Macbook design during its Thursday event, the latest reports indicate that is unlikely to make an appearance.
Apple events have come and gone without a revision to Apple’s living room streaming media center, the Apple TV. At two and a half years old, it’s quite a dated device, especially considering the number of competitors on the market, such as Amazon’s Fire TV and Chromecast. Though there have been murmurs of a new Apple TV in the works, content provider negotiations have reportedly impeded its release.
That obstacle could be out of the way in 2015, as HBO prepares to offer its content to online users without a cable subscription next year. But it remains to be seen if other content providers will follow suit.
Though an Apple TV update is anything but certain, a recent redesign to the Apple TV’s page could indicate that Apple is preparing to release a remodeled version.
Here’s a comparison of Apple TV’s updated page to its Apple Store page:
Apple’s media event will start at 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT and will be livestreamed through its website.