March is upon us, and for Apple, the month is shaping up to be quite busy. Major software updates will likely be released and there’s a services-packed event rumored for the end of the month. There are also a number of new hardware rumors floating around that could materialize at any point. Here’s our preview of Apple’s eventful month ahead:
March Apple Event
Apple has a history of holding special spring events in recent years, including the original iPhone SE unveiling, 9.7-inch iPad Pro launch, and both $329 9.7-inch iPad events. While Apple’s June developer conference and September iPhone event are virtually guaranteed, spring events aren’t so certain — like in 2016.
This year’s spring Apple event is almost set in stone though. BuzzFeed first reported the time and place (and a focus on the news and magazines service), then Bloomberg was first to report that Apple would preview its new video service as well.
Apple hasn’t announced its next special event yet, but reliable reports point to Monday, March 25, at Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park in Cupertino, California. This would mark Apple’s first non-iPhone event at Steve Jobs Theater, but it makes sense for Apple to use its gorgeous California headquarters with Hollywood stars expected to be on the invite list.
For now, we’re awaiting the official event announcement which could come any day now.
What should we expect to see at this rumored Apple event? Based on what we know so far, it could be purely about software and new subscription services.
Apple News Magazines
Apple bought the digital magazine subscription bundle service Texture around this time last year. Apple has reportedly been working with both magazine and newspaper publishers to secure content for a subscription version of the Apple News app, and 9to5Mac has discovered assets for Apple News Magazines and more.
Magazine publishers are reportedly happier with the proposed revenue split than news organizations, however, so there’s still a big question about which publications will be included in Apple’s service. We also don’t yet know how Apple will price and present the paid version of Apple News. Bundled or standalone only?
Apple TV & Movies
News and magazines are only expected to be half of Apple’s major moves into new services. Apple has also been busy building a new original video content business since June 2017 when it hired two top Sony TV execs to run the effort.
Apple has content deals with Oprah and original TV shows being created with talent including Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Aaron Paul, directors J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, and many more top Hollywood names. Simply put, this won’t be Planet of the Apps Part Two.
Apple is also reportedly planning to offer subscriptions for other video services through its TV app. The move would work much like Amazon’s Channels feature. Viewers could subscribe to Apple’s original content video service and/or pay for HBO or other premium video channels with their own subscription streaming services. Apple, of course, would keep a percentage of the revenue from the transaction.
Much like Apple News Magazines, we don’t yet know quite what to expect for Apple’s video service marketing and positioning.
A third Apple subscription service opportunity that’s surfaced is an unconfirmed App Stores Games plan. Cheddar was first to report talks about a monthly subscription service that includes unlimited access to iOS games on the App Store.
iOS 12.2 and HomeKit TVs
Apple’s new services are expected to be included in upcoming software updates that are currently in beta: iOS 12.2, tvOS 12.2, watchOS 5.2, macOS 10.14.4, and maybe HomePod 12.2. Apple’s news and magazines subscription service is expected to be included in the upcoming software update, but Apple’s video service isn’t expected to debut until possibly as late as this fall despite the spring preview.
iOS 12.2 will also bring Apple News to Canada (joining US, UK, and Australia) with bilingual support for English and French — a first for the service. Four new Animoji are also introduced with the software update including giraffe, shark, owl, and warthog. Apple’s Wallet app also sees interface updates ahead of its rumored new credit card with potential spend tracking features.
The software updates also include support for smart TVs as smart home accessories through Apple’s HomeKit framework. Smart TVs from LG, Sony, and Vizio will work with AirPlay 2 and appear in the Home app for remote control, automation, and Siri support. Samsung smart TVs won’t work with HomeKit, but AirPlay 2 support is coming alongside a new Apple Movies and TV Shows app.
iOS 12.2 also expands the Remote tile in Control Center to work with HomeKit TVs, not just Apple TV-connected TVs.
Wildcard: iPad, iPod, AirPods
Apple’s eventful March is all but guaranteed to deliver new services, previewed or released, and software updates currently being tested as beta versions, but what about all that rumored hardware?
Last month we discussed in-depth how Apple could release rumored hardware through March, April, and May without an Apple event based on the March 25 event’s focus on services.
BuzzFeed’s report ruled out second-gen AirPods and the rumored iPad mini update, but rumors about both haven’t slowed down. Reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects new AirPods and Apple’s belated release of AirPower to happen sometime between now and the end of June.
Kuo also expects processor updates to hit the iPad mini and iPod touch, and the 9.7-inch iPad will be replaced by a resized 10.2-inch version. Kuo is quiet on iMac and 12-inch MacBook updates, however, both of which were not updated last year.