Apple Event: Episode I for 2022 kicks off in a matter of hours and will likely star the iPhone SE 5G, iPad Air, and Mac mini, and could feature special appearances from refreshed MacBooks.
One of the highlights of the show will be a third-generation iPhone SE, the successor to the aging 2020 model. Other rumors point to the launch of a refreshed iPad Air and the possibility of M2-powered laptops making an appearance alongside several new Macs and a fresh iPhone 13 color.
Note the uncertainty in my writing: where the past few Apple events have been rather predictable, this March 8 “Peek performance” showcase is poised to deliver a few surprises. We’ll go over those potential product reveals in this post, but first, let’s talk about the when, where, and how to watch.
Apple’s “Peek performance” event takes place Tuesday, March 8 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET/6 p.m. GMT. This virtual-only event will be live-streamed on Apple’s event webpage and YouTube channel (or right here, below).
If you can’t watch it live, Apple makes the recording available after the event. We’ll also be liveblogging everything as it happens.
This is the first event in a long time where there are some real doubts as to what will be showcased. Many Apple products could show, but reporters and leakers aren’t entirely confident about their timeline. Below is a list of products that have been linked to the “Peek performance” event and our own thoughts on how likely they are to debut on March 8.
Apple’s least expensive smartphone is poised to receive a much-needed upgrade. The upcoming third-gen model, a sequel to the current 2020 iPhone SE, will receive an A15 Bionic chip, 5G mmWave support, 64GB of base storage, and either 128GB or 256GB options, according to noted analyst and leaker Ming-Chi Kuo.
The two big upgrades are the adoption of 5G wireless connectivity and the boost to an A15 Bionic chip—the same SoC found in the iPhone 13 Pro. Combined, this duo should bring significant performance gains over the current model, and the more efficient chip could even improve battery life (though battery-sapping 5G could pose an endurance problem). The camera system will likely continue to rely on a single lens, but the addition of a night mode would go a long way to helping the iPhone SE compete against Google’s Pixel 5a.
The more budget-friendly device is expected to retain the design of the current model and come in the same white, black, and red color options. Apple is rumored to start mass production this month with 25 million to 30 million (!) iPhone SE 3 units estimated to be sold in 2022.
There is no word yet on pricing but don’t expect a decrease from the current $399 price. If anything, Apple may raise the price by $50 or so to account for expensive 5G modems. Of course, trading in an old phone will help offset that cost.
Confidence Level: Very High. The iPhone SE will be at the event.
Gaining steam in recent weeks are rumors of a new iPad Air arriving at the March event. This device will receive similar updates as the iPhone SE, putting it on par with the iPad mini.
That means faster performance and future-proof connectivity (note: the iPad mini only has sub-6GHz 5G). The tablet could also get Apple’s Center Stage video call feature which uses AI to keep participants centered in the frame. Just don’t expect any other changes—the iPad Air 5 will be your standard gen-to-gen refresh.
Confidence Level: High. A tablet was recently registered to the Eurasian regulatory database, likely signaling the imminent launch of an iPad Air 5.
This is where things get interesting. A new Mac mini has been the subject of various rumors over the past year, and the latest reports claim it will debut on March 8. In fact, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says a new Mac mini is “ready to go” and will be powered by M1 Pro and M1 Max chips and feature four ports.
The current Mac mini was in the first fleet of products to get Apple’s M1 chip alongside the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, making the mini desktop primed for replacement. However, various reports claim the upcoming Mac mini could be a high-end Pro version with faster chips sold alongside the current model. There could even be separate M1 (standard) and M1 Pro/Max (high-end) options.
Confidence Level: High. Gurman predicts Apple will release “at least one new Mac” with Apple Silicon at the event and said the Mac mini was ready.
I don’t know about this one. The MacBook Air is certainly due for a refresh after debuting with Apple’s M1 chip in November 2020. Sure enough, plenty of rumors predict the MacBook Air M2 will be present at the March 8 event with Gurman stating that Apple recently tested an 8-core CPU (four performance, four efficiency cores) with a 10-core GPU—a setup that matches Gurman’s previously reported M2 specs.
Others claim Apple will first update the MacBook Pro, giving it the M2 processor and removing the Touch Bar for a standard row of function keys. The performance boost would help separate the MacBook Pro 13 from the MacBook Air (assuming the cheaper model doesn’t get updated) and move it closer to parity with the other 14 and 16-inch “Pro” models. Apart from those upgrades, the MacBook Pro 13 isn’t expected to receive any major changes.
Confidence Level: Medium. This is a tricky one. Both laptops are ready for an upgrade, but it’s unclear whether Apple is ready to debut its M2 processors. If it does, we anticipate the chip arriving first in the MacBook Pro as that model doesn’t feel so “Pro” anymore. The MacBook Air is also growing long in the tooth so we wouldn’t be surprised to see a refreshed model.
Apple has a long history of making its own desktop monitors, but the only option available today is the $5,000 Pro Display XDR. Don’t have the cash for that screen? Then you have to find a third-party monitor to connect to your $700 Mac mini (or pricier Mac Pro). We voiced our grievances over the omission last year after Apple debuted the iMac. This year, our prayers might be answered.
Last year, Gurman and leaker Dylandkt reported that Apple could be prepping smaller 24-inch and 27-inch standalone monitors made more for consumers than professionals. It would be a smart move by Apple, but will we see cheaper external monitors (rumored to be named Apple Studio Display) at the March 8 event? It’s something of a coin toss.
Confidence Level: Medium. It sounds like Apple is readying more budget-friendly monitors, but we don’t know when it/they will arrive.
Gurman expects at least one Mac to be revealed at the March 8 event. The Mac mini is likely but doesn’t really answer the event’s mysterious “Peek performance” tagline.
Putting ourselves in Apple’s shoes, we suspect the company to complete its transition from Intel to Apple Silicon by introducing a 27-inch iMac with M-series chips. As it stands, only the 24-inch iMac runs on Apple chips.
Apple also needs to update the Mac Pro, its high-end desktop. While an M-powered desktop will probably arrive this year, Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in early June would be a better fit for the computer.
There are also some rumbling about Apple re-introducing the iMac Pro though Kuo believes this model and the Mac Pro won’t arrive until 2023.
Confidence Level: Low. I doubt we’ll see another Mac besides the high-end Mac mini (Mac mini Pro?), but it’s possible.
Apple’s “Peek performance” phrasing suggests we’ll get at least a teaser of an upcoming high-powered device. I’m being vague here because we haven’t quite pinpointed what device Apple is referring to. It could be the aforementioned MacBook models or the high-end Mac mini, though neither is expected to raise the performance bar above existing Pro devices. So then, what is it?
Apple could be teasing a Mac Studio desktop that is said to fill the gap between the Mac mini and Mac Pro. As reported by 9to5Mac, Apple is supposedly readying two versions of the Studio, one with an M1 Max chip and another with an even more powerful processor. This aligns with Gurman’s previous report that Apple is working on a “smaller Mac Pro” with 40 CPU cores and 128 GPU cores. 9to5Mac predicts this product could replace the Intel-powered high-end Mac mini.
We know Apple is also bullish on augmented reality and intends to release an AR/VR headset within the next few years. At some point, the company will need to reveal its plans to developers so they can start optimizing apps for the upcoming platform.
Peek performance could also just mean 5G support for the iPhone SE and iPad Air. Let’s hope not.