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M4 iPad Pro and more: What is Apple likely to announce next week?

But what is being let loose, exactly?
4 minute read
But what is being let loose, exactly?

Apple is staging its Let Loose event next week and what started as a likely iPad and accessories reveal now has a boatload of new rumours attached from M4 iPad Pros to a worldwide Vision Pro launch.

Apple’s ‘Let Loose’ event takes place in a week’s time, and what started off as a fairly innocuous online-only event that was thought to be launching some new iPads, and probably a third generation Apple Pencil judging by the graphic, has had a whole load of rumours attached to it since the invite dropped into people’s inboxes.

Partly this is because the company’s WWDC takes place in a month and is widely considered to be when Apple goes big on AI, making it one of the company’s most important events for years. Partly it’s because Cupertino is reporting its latest quarterly earnings on Thursday evening after the markets close (and Wall Street is expecting revenue to fall 5%). And partly it’s because of one intriguing detail that has emerged about a satellite event taking place in London at the same time.

Here’s what we know so far:

London calling

The timing of ‘Let Loose’ was always unusual from the get go. It takes place at 7am Cupertino time, which is a good three hours earlier than its in-person events at the Steve Jobs Theater typically kick off. But that makes it mid-afternoon in Europe and even folds in a late evening slot for China (10pm in Beijing) where the company is trying to reboot its sales as a matter of some urgency.

And then European journalists started getting personal invites to Apple’s new London HQ and promises of some hands on time with the new products and the plot thickened. It’s not the first time Apple has held small gatherings for journalists and influencers to watch a presentation and play with some kit, it did it for last October’s ‘Scary Fast’ event, but the London invites seem to be on a scale that suggests something major is brewing. 

Apple Vision Pro goes worldwide?

The main suggestion is that this is the worldwide launch of Apple Vision Pro, or at least a European and other territories release. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the big beasts of the Apple soothsayers circle, has said that he expects this to happen before WWDC and the (probably largely iterative) new visionOS 2 announcement more than once. 

If it is, it looks like the company is not going to have to beef up manufacturing to meet demand - it can probably just do it out of its warehouses. We’ll know more after Thursday’s call, unless the company somehow manages to fudge the figures, but demand for the $3500 device seems to have fallen off a cliff. Another Apple soothsayer, Mark Gurman, says that sales are down, demos are down, and those that own a Vision Pro are using it less.

Looking around the industry yes, the device has reignited interest in all things AR/VR/ and spatial computing. But that interest is more likely to be driving people to other, cheaper devices, than it is to the Vision Pro itself. For example, whilst a long way from perfect and mostly lauded for their audio quality and as an alternative to in-ears, there is a noted buzz around the $300 Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. They are also cool shades in their own right. No-one is ever going to look at someone walking around the streets in an Apple Vision Pro and think anything positive. Unless perhaps it’s an ex wearing it.

meta ray bans ferrari

These limited edition Ferrari Meta Ray-Bans timed for the Miami GP this weekend add $160 to the price and are still only 13% of the price of the Vision Pro

Simply put, Apple overshot. The Vision Pro is over-engineered and over-priced, and now the company is going to have to take all that experience in development and software engineering and bring out something that’s 20% of the price or less if it wants to stay in this market long-term.

New iPads to feature OLED and possibly M4

Quite what iPads will launch is still under wraps. These are the first new iPads since the end of 2022, so it’s reasonable to expect a fairly decent level of change. Speculation has therefore been running at a level normally characterised as fever pitch and new features include everything from a new OLED display for the iPad Pro (this is fairly nailed on), to a mini-LED display for the iPad Air, matte screens, landscape-oriented front cameras, and more.

The OLED screens won’t be just any any old OLEDs, either. According to analyst Ross Young from DSCC (Display Supply Chain Consultants):  “The OLED iPad panels are expected to be by far the best OLED tablet panels on the market with LTPO, 120Hz refresh, a tandem stack and glass thinning resulting in ultra-thin and light displays with high brightness, extended battery life and long lifetime.”

Apple understandably runs down inventory before it releases a new model, and Mark Gurman has looked at the stock levels across the US and says that iPad Air levels are down while iPad Pro stock levels remain high.

“That could mean Apple just has a lot of inventory to work through (a likely scenario) or the company plans to keep the current model around even after it debuts the new one. That second scenario could be a challenge from a marketing standpoint: Who wants the older, lower-end version of what’s supposed to be a high-end iPad? But it could make sense if the new model has a big price increase,” he writes.

Which brings us to the M4 rumour. The next gen M4 Apple processor is going to feature a neural engine to really make the most of the AI capabilities that are going to be introduced into the next OS releases. Received wisdom has it that that will take place later this year, after all it wasn’t that long ago that the M3 debuted. Gurman, however, reported at the weekend that Apple might be reacting to an upsurge in AI interest (or at least not wanting to be perceived as being left further behind) and kitting out an iPad Pro with the chip. That would allow it to announce it as its first true AI-powered device ahead of WWDC to add some hardware meat to the software bones and, of course, it doesn’t even have to release it into the wild, which may also explain the inventory levels mentioned above.

Hardware meat to the software bones? My, times have changed. That very much used to be the other way round.

An M4 powered iPad Pro would, of course, have that big price increase that Gurman referenced. A more powerful iPad available than a Mac? Oh brave new world…

Apple Pencil 3

apple logos

Rotating Apple icons on the homepage suggest something artistic coming. Pic: Macrumors

And finally — and admittedly this almost feels like an afterthought compared to the stuff above — for those that use an Apple Pencil as part of their daily lives there is potentially a whole new experience coming their way. Rumours here are few and far between, but there have been a whole truckload of patents filed in recent years by Apple that point to new features.

iMore has a good run down of a lot of them. Haptic feedback tops the list and has been confirmed by Mark Gurman, but to summarise the other features Apple Pencil 3 is likely to debut, we have:

  • Touch-sensitive buttons
  • Color and texture sampling
  • ‘Find My’ function
  • Rotating digital crown cap control
  • Interchangeable nibs
  • iPhone compatibility (this comes from code found in iOS 17.1)

We will, of course, have more next week from 15.00 London time onwards on May 7. It’s going to be an interesting five weeks for the company…

Tags: Technology Apple