Forget iPhone 12 — Apple's most exciting tech is coming next year

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(Image credit: BRITTANY HOSEA-SMALL/AFP via Getty Images)

This year, Apple has already revealed the iPhone SE 2020, a redesigned 13-inch MacBook Pro, and an updated MacBook Air. And with the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 on track for a fall reveal, it looks like the year isn’t slowing down for the folks at Cupertino. 

But despite all of these releases as well as the upcoming AirPods Studio headphones, I feel 2021 is going to be the more interesting year for Apple. A major reason for that is the potential for it to release a load of devices with mini-LED displays. 

According to Apple oracle Ming-Chi Kuo and more recently Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research company GF Securities, we can expect to see mini-LED gadgets from Apple next year. These will likely start with mini-LED displays on the next-generation MacBook Pro laptops and the iPad Pro, as well as a new 27-inch iMac, potentially arriving in the second half of 2021. 

For those who don’t know, mini-LED displays consist of millions of tiny LEDs with individual pixel elements, leading to screens that deliver superior contrast response times and better energy efficiency over normal LCD panels. They also don’t suffer from the limitations of OLED panels (currently found in flagship phones like the iPhone 11 Pro and high-end TVs from Samsung and LG), such as burn-in and also beat such panels on contrast and black levels. Essentially, mini-LED is set to be the next major screen technology. 

We’ve already seen mini-LED displays pop up in a few laptops, such as the MSI Creator 17, but they are still few and far between. But when Apple adopts certain technologies, others seem to follow — even if it’s not first to the table. 

The iPhone X arguably normalised the display notch, the iPad set the bar for tablet experiences, and the MacBook Pro tends to set the standard for build quality and performance expected from professional laptops. So if Apple does indeed adopt mini-LED display tech, we could see it set a standard for other hardware makers to pursue.

And once other devices with mini-LED displays pop up, the screen tech will likely get cheaper as it becomes more of a standard, which is a big benefit to the technology industry as a whole. As such, 2021 could be a year where Apple has a real impact on the tech world. 

A welcome change

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(Image credit: Future)

Apple has arguably been treading water for the last few years. Many of its products have simply been iterative upgrades, such as tweaks to the MacBook lineup or evolution on the established iPhone X design rather than a proper redesign. Even with newer products such as the redesigned MacBook Air, Apple doesn’t seem to be driving forward device design like it once did. 

But next year that could change, and it won’t just be driven by Apple’s alleged adoption of mini-LED displays. If Cupertino’s engineers manage to come up with a well-priced new 12-inch MacBook that runs on an ARM-based chip, we could see Apple shake-up what people expect from machines running on mobile chipsets. That could be a big deal, especially as it would upset the status quo of Intel being the leading laptop chip provider. 

In short, 2020 will see some interesting Apple products. But 2021 may see the most exciting and impactful hardware from Apple, and could see the company regain its position as a proper tech leader — all while forcing Samsung, Google and Microsoft to catch up. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.