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Apple 'Spring Loaded' Event: What to expect — new iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and more

iPad Pro
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Mark your calendars if you haven't already; Apple's spring event is taking place on Tuesday, April 20. Called "Spring Loaded," the digital event is set to introduce the world to a range of new Apple products. 

What those products are remains a mystery. As you probably know, Apple is as tight-lipped as they get, content to leave us rummaging through the rumor mill for answers. We think we know what Apple will uncover at the event based on various rumors, leaks and past releases. Then again, the company has a knack for catching us off guard with its 'One more thing" announcements.

What we can say with some confidence is that new iPad models will be revealed at the event as well as software updates to iPadOS and iOS. If a new iPad Pro arrives, we could see the first mini LED display on an Apple product before they find their way onto new MacBook models. 

Apple's custom chips will also be a main talking point. The iPad has long benefited from using in-house processors, and could get upgraded to a variant of the A14 chip (A14X?) found in the latest iPad Air. Then again, there is some speculation that the new M1 chip used in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro could find its way into the Pro tablet.

There is a lot to unpack as we near Apple's big spring event, from new iPad models to the debut of a Tile-like tracker. Here is everything you can expect to see at the April 20 event. 

Apple iPad Pro

The iPad Pro desperately needs an update. It's not that there is anything wrong with the current model; we gave it a 4.5-star rating and dubbed it the best tablet for those without a budget. 

The problem has to do with hierarchy. You see, Apple refreshed the iPad Air with an A14 chip that outperforms the A12Z Bionic in the iPad Pro. You can't have your more expensive product getting outrun by a $599 mid-tier option. No, Apple needs to give the iPad Pro a boost, and it is expected to do so by either using an A14 variant (perhaps an A14Z Bionic) or by turning to the new M1 chip or an entirely new chip with equivalent performance.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2018 with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The other major upgrade coming to the iPad Pro is a mini LED display. This long-rumored feature would replace the standard LED screen with a panel that can compete with OLED but without suffering from burn-in. Only the 12.9-inch model is expected to get the display upgrade while the 11-inch version will keep the LED panel (and presumably cost much less). 

It's possible Apple delays the launch of mini LED panels because of limited supply. If so, the iPad Pro could get an iterative update with new processors, 5G support, a Thunderbolt port and camera upgrades.

What we're almost 100% certain to see is a new Apple Pencil stylus. Images of a new Apple Pencil 3 have leaked online showing a new tip design, and the event name "Spring Loaded" suggests Apple could adopt a spring-loaded tip similar to what Wacom uses. 

Apple iPad mini

If the iPad Pro needs an update then the iPad mini is limping on its last leg. Apple's smallest tablet hasn't been updated since 2019, making it a questionable value compared to its iPad siblings.

iPad mini

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

We don't know much about the iPad mini 6, but we can assume it will receive a generous performance boost with either an A12, A13 or A14 chip. If we had to guess, the new iPad mini to be running on at least an A13 chip, as predicted by the Chinese site MyDrivers.com. The A13 seems like a good candidate considering the 2020 iPad has an A12 SoC and the iPad Air has an A14.

We hope Apple goes a step further and updates the design with thinner bezels then ditches the home button for an IR camera. This small-form tablet also needs to gain Apple Pencil 2 support as it relies on the aging stylus — and USB-C would be nice, too.

Apple could also launch a new entry-level iPad with a larger 10.5-inch display and thinner bezels. We don't expect too many upgrades because Apple will want to keep the iPad at around the same $329. 

Apple AirPods 3

Another product that hasn't received an update in nearly two years, the AirPods, could get a third generation at the spring event. Rumors suggest the new earbuds will adopt the AirPods Pro design, meaning they will have shorter stems and interchangeable eartips.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

As for the sound quality, we expect them to support Spatial Audio for a simulated surround sound effect. Moreover, reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the AirPods 3 would sport a similar system-in-package technology as the iPad Pro, so the two earbuds could have the same sonic performance. Noise canceling, however, is expected to be exclusive to the AirPods Pro. 

Our confidence rating on seeing new AirPods at the April 20 event is fairly low. Kuo said he expects the AirPods 3 to be sold in Q3 of 2021, so a reveal at the iPhone event in September seems more likely. 

Apple AirTags

How much longer do we need to wait? A perennial favorite on every 'Apple event: What to expect' article in the past few years, AirTags are a rumored tracking device similar to Tile or Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

AirTags are expected to be small, circular tags you can clip to your valuables so they don't get lost. The tags will use Bluetooth, radio chips and the U1 chip found in the iPhone to pinpoint your lost items with precision. 

MacBook Pro or iMacs?

Waiting for Apple to place its new Apple Silicon chips in the rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro refresh? Don't get your hopes too high at this event. WWDC is set for June 7, and that is when we're placing our bets for new MacBook models. 

The iMac is the more likely candidate for a spring update. Reliable leaker known as l0vetodream says new iMac models could arrive in various spring-friendly colors (green, blue and pink). The all-in-one will run on new Apple Silicon chips and get a major redesign to match the Pro Display XDR monitor with whittled-down bezels. Instead of a 21.5-inch model, we could see a 24-inch version alongside the 27-inch+ iMac.