Apple October event — 3 things we expect to see (and 3 we don’t)

Apple Unleashed October 2021 event invitation
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's got One More Thing up its sleeve — another product event a month after the last launch gave us new iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. So you can expect the company to use the latest Apple event to finish rolling out new products just as holiday shopping starts to heat up.

Thanks to all those devices Apple unveiled in September, it doesn't take a lot of guesswork to figure out that Apple's Mac lineup could use some time in the spotlight. But unlike the Google Pixel Fall Launch that will be held the day after Apple's Oct. 18 shindig, Apple really hasn't tipped its hand about what to expect when its live stream gets underway at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT on Monday. So while we may have a broad idea about what's on the agenda, the actual specifics remain a mystery.

Still, we can make some pretty informed guesses about the new Apple products coming our way, based on the rumors we've heard so far about what's in the works. Here's a closer look at what we're expecting to see at Apple's October event and what could get left out of the picture.

Apple October event: What we're expecting

New MacBook Pros: This one's pretty obvious, even if we weren't hearing a steady drumbeat of rumors surrounding a new 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple's event invitation alone is the tip-off — entitled "Unleashed," it suggests we're going to see further news about Apple's efforts to release more Macs powered by Apple-designed chips.

In the case of the new MacBook Pro models, that would be the M1X processor. This is anticipated to be a variation of the M1 chip that debuted last year, only this version will offer more CPU and GPU cores. Additionally, the M1X is said to offer more Thunderbolt channels and support for multiple external monitors. Sounds like the kind of pro-focused processor that's right in line with the audience for Apple's professional-grade MacBook Pro models.

MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 render

(Image credit: Antonio de Rosa)

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is rumored to offer a mini-LED display and a new flat-edge design. Those additions are slated for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, too, along with, you know, a bigger screen. Expect the Touch Bar to disappear while HDMI and SD card slots make their return. MagSafe could also be returning to the MacBook Pro lineup — that's the breakaway charging cable and not the similarly named wireless feature included with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13.

A new Mac mini: The Mac mini boarded the M1 chip train last year, but Apple apparently already has a revamp in the works. Rumors suggest that the small desktop could also get the M1X chipset, while renders indicate that the Mac mini could get even smaller. The new design isn't as large as the current Mac mini, and leaker Jon Prosser has gone a step further, claiming the revamped Mac mini would have a plexiglass top over its aluminum closure for a two-tone look.

New Mac mini just leaked — what you need to know

(Image credit: Jon Prosser & Ian Zelbo)

Is the Mac mini crying out for an update? Not exactly, but the extra CPU and GPU cores, along with the additional Thunderbolt channels are right in line with what users turn to the Mac mini for. A jump up to the M1X chipset seems like a natural.

A ship date for macOS 12 Monterey: In September, Apple rolled out the software updates it first previewed back at its June developer conference — well, all except for one. macOS 12 Monterey is awaiting its release, and a Mac-focused product event seems as good a time as any to put the new software out into the world. At least there will be new hardware to run it on.

It's been several months since the macOS 12 Monterey preview, so here's a brief recap. The new Mac software adds Mac support for a lot of the same features introduced in iOS 15 — that includes Live Text for capturing text from images and support for FaceTime SharePlay, assuming that feature's ready to be available for iPhones and iPads, too. Just like on those devices, Safari is getting a major revamp on the Mac, and Notes adds organizational features along with a handy Quick Notes feature. Universal Control, a new feature that lets you control up to 3 iPads and Macs with the same keyboard and mouse, has been MIA from macOS 12 betas, so it's possible Apple updates us on that feature's status.

The fact that there's so many changes coming with macOS 12 Monterey leads us to assume that we might get a recap of what's new during the Oct. 19 Unleashed event.

Apple October event: What we're not expecting

AirPods 3: OK, I'm probably wrong about this. Like the MacBook Pro announcements above, the rumors are flying fast and furious about Apple's updated AirPods, which are expected to add more sophisticated audio features like support for Dolby Atmos support and spatial audio. Active noise cancellation could be in the cards too, as Apple also redesigns its wireless earbuds to have shorter stems.

So it seems like the AirPods 3 are coming at some point. I'm just not show an event largely focused on the Mac is the place to do it.

AirPods 3 clone

(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

It's true Apple could give us a recap of the iPhone 13 — the company never passes up a chance to take a victory lap — and in that segment, it could roll out its latest AirPods. But otherwise the connection between the Mac and the AirPods is a tenuous one. Besides, the AirPods 3 are starting to get the same aura about them as the Apple AirTag — a long-rumored feature that doesn't appear at several different Apple product launches before finally popping up.

Still, given how far along in development the AirPods 3 seem to be, you could make the case that Apple won't let a holiday season pass by without giving people new AirPods to choose from. That may force the issue, whether an AirPods announcement fits in at a Mac event or not.

Apple's M2 processor: We mentioned the M1X above, which is an extension of and not a successor to the M1 chipset introduced last year. The successor role will be played by the M2, and that chip's not expected until next year.

When it does arrive, the M2 will be built on a 4nm process, compared to the 5nm M1 family. That should mean improved performance and efficiency over the M1. (For more on the differences between the two chipsets, check out our M1X vs. M2 comparison.) Still, no one's expecting the new MacBook Pro models to feature the M2. Instead, the next MacBook Air is supposed to be the lucky recipient, and that laptop isn't slated to arrive until the first half of 2022.

Anything other than a Mac: Right before Apple's September announcements, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that a second Apple event was likely in October, with that event focusing on Macs and iPads. He's clearly right about the timing, but we think the iPad part isn't going to happen. That's mostly because the iPad Air 5 — the most likely candidate for the next tablet to come out of Cupertino — seems to be more likely to appear in early 2022 instead of next week.

iPad Air 5 rumors

(Image credit: Apple)

Indeed, Apple figures to have a very busy time ahead of it in the first few months of next year. That's when an iPhone SE 3 is supposed to appear, bringing 5G connectivity to Apple's compact and cheaper smartphone. Throw in the iPad Air and — if it's MIA again next week — the AirPods 3, and Apple has plenty of products waiting in the wings without having to distract from its Mac efforts at the Oct. 19 launch.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.