I did a double-take when I saw that the Mac mini was mentioned at all, but I’m not singing Apple’s praises on this one quite yet. Kuo specifically states that the Mini will get a processor upgrade. A product that last got a refresh four years ago deserves more than a simple spec-bump. There’s a lot of creative potential for the Mini form factor. It should be like the hey-day of the iPod nano, where Apple would try out wildly-different styles with each generation. If there really are no fundamental design changes to the product, then the Mini will carry on being a neglected part of the lineup, just not so neglected that it is allowed to be on a modern processor architecture.
The new low-cost notebook with a Retina display sounds like a perfect replacement for the Air line, and Kuo is backing down from his previous allusions to this new laptop being branded as MacBook Air, but there is still unanswered justifications for how this new computer is differentiated from its 12-inch MacBook brethren. Based on the fact that Kuo says the 12-inch is getting a processor bump, it seems to me Apple will continue to position it as the ultra-portable. I do not think the $999 13-inch will go out of its way to compete on thinness and lightness; it will very much comprise an Air-esque form factor featuring a high-resolution glass-bezelled display. It’ll be interesting to see what ports it has.
The iMac update is perhaps the most intriguing part of Kuo’s rundown. He specifically points out a ‘display performance’ upgrade in addition to new processors. The iMac display is already best-in-class, and there’s no obvious next step. High frame rate 120Hz ProMotion is the most natural progression in theory. Technically, I’m not convinced we are there yet. The bandwidth requirements alone are a huge challenge. I’m all for surprises, but I would be flabbergasted if Apple can ship high-framerate 5K displays this year, in a mainstream consumer machine.
As far as the mobile lineup is concerned, everything sounds great. I love the 12.9-inch iPad screen but, man, it’s a tank. Shrinking its bezels down helps curb its overall footprint, and it will look stunning in the hand. All this year I’ve been imagining an iPad with four bezels that are as slim as the 10.5-inch iPad’s side bezels. The dreams are coming true.
I’m also psyched by the details of the new watches. Kuo has been talking about 15% larger displays for Apple Watch Series 4 as early as March, but this time around he nails down exact dimensions; 1.57-inches and 1.78 inches. These numbers are easy to get mixed up because Kuo is referring to the screen diagonals. Apple markets the Watch as 38mm and 42mm but the size refers to the height of the overall case, bezel included. The current watches have a 1.34-inch and 1.53-inch screen, measuring diagonally. Assuming Kuo’s numbers are right, the new small watch will have a larger screen area than the current big watch.
These rumours are promising. I have complete confidence that Apple is not going to abandon the small watch market by making both of its watches physically 15% bigger. Watch customers are probably the most sensitive to form factor changes out of all of Apple’s products. When Apple moved from 4-inch to 5-inch phones, some people were annoyed that it would be harder to fit the phone in their pocket, or they’d have to start using two hands. With a wearable, if you make it bigger, it’s just not going to fit on people’s arms anymore. A bigger watch is not an inconvenience, it’s a practical alienation.
The screen size change has to be accompanied by a reduction in the surrounding bezels/chassis. A new look for the Watch is definitely due. The reality is, since the first model in 2015, the Watch design has only gotten worse (a couple millimetres thicker). Series 3 headlined LTE, Series 2 was swimming and GPS. Series 4 probably won’t have any major new feature like that. The bigger display obviously improves functionality, but the main appeal is cosmetics. This year, they are going to make the watch look different, modern, and new. I can’t wait.