I love Kuo. He can go silent for three months and then, out of the blue, drop a wide-reaching report about seemingly every major new Apple hardware product coming this year. On a Sunday.
Kuo believes there will be a new MacBook Pro update with a 16 to 16.5-inch display. This is apparently an “all-new design” which, in Kuo parlance, means a substantial change to the chassis. This isn’t going to be the same MacBook Pro chassis we know today made to accommodate a 16-inch display. The obvious direction is to make the bezels smaller. Kuo provides no more details, but let’s hope the keyboard is “all-new” too.
Interestingly, a 16-inch panel implies that the laptop will almost certainly get larger. Even if you removed 100% of the black frame surrounding the current MacBook Pro screen, you would just reach a 16-inch diagonal. In reality, there is of course going to be some minimal expanse of bezel, and the report has enough wiggle room that screen could be up to 16.5-inches, so the dimensions simply have to be getting a little longer and wider. Maybe this will be a MacBook Pro that does not tout thinner, lighter and smaller as one of its flagship improvements. That’s significant in itself.
The other morsel in the Mac category is details about Apple’s upcoming external display, expected to ship alongside the Mac Pro. Kuo describes its as a 31.6-inch ‘6k3k’ high-resolution panel with a backlight similar to Mini LED. Unlike typical LCD monitors, Mini LED backlights enables portions of the display to be turned on and off independently. This results in a similar effect to OLED with high-contrast black levels. Mini LED lighting is also thinner and power efficient than standard LCD backlight components. All of these features firmly differentiate the Apple display from the LG UltraFine range. It certainly fits the bill of Apple’s promises that it would be a ‘high-end pro’ display. Also, expect a big bill when you buy it.
Kuo says that Apple will an Apple Watch ceramic body option after an Edition hiatus with the Series 4. He reiterates that AirPower is shipping in the first half of the year, and accompanying wireless charging AirPods case, so that’s good news. The 9.7-inch iPad is being bumped up to 10.2-inches but it’s not clear if the screen bezel is shrinking with that product as Apple still has to contend with the Touch ID home button. The iPad Pro, iPad mini and iPod touch are getting the short end of the product marketing stick, with mere processor upgrades anticipated.
Regarding iPhones, the report says that the iPhones will have a new ‘frosted glass’ casing finish. This sounds like a similar material to the Pixel 3’s matte glass back. I haven’t actually handled a Pixel 3 in person, but the matte glass is cool to look at in photos. Kuo says the triple camera setup will mean the addition of an ultra-wide lens. A fair few Android phones offer ultra-wide cameras currently, I don’t know how useful they are in the real world. I feel like it’s more niche than the zoom lens. Kuo calls out ‘larger batteries’ as a new feature. The XR embarrasses the iPhone XS (non-Max) so much when it comes to battery life it is actually insane. Hopefully, the 11 can bring those models closer together. The bilateral charging feature benefits from a bigger internal battery too, as you can use any excess juice to wirelessly charge up your AirPods in a pinch.
The other major thing Kuo highlights is support for ‘Ultra-Wide Band’ indoor positioning. UWB involves venues setting up little antennas in the corners of rooms, which the phone can talk to and locate itself with a very high degree of accuracy (often better than a 1 metre radius). Apple has been slowly expanding its indoor mapping features in Apple Maps, and I bet that this is the year they push it big time. Here comes augmented reality Maps navigation.