Each New Year promises a few things: Broken resolutions, a fresh start for bad sports teams and a wave of new Apple gadgets. While you can count on Cupertino to make annual improvements on its iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, 2015 is shaping up to be the year Apple takes bona-fide risks with its product lineup.
We already know that Apple is taking the fight to Android Wear with the first-ever Apple Watch, but we're even more excited about what's rumored to follow. An even-slimmer MacBook Air, a massive 12-inch iPad and even a miniature iPhone 6 could all surface. Here's our Apple forecast for 2015.
The Apple Watch has been confirmed since September 2014, but that doesn't make us any less eager to get one around our wrist. Apple's debut wearable pairs with your iPhone to deliver a bite-size version of iOS, one that brings your phone's calls, texts, navigation and even cashless Apple Pay payments to the top of your wrist.
The device's sleek, rounded watch face is appropriately Apple, with elastic, stainless steel and leather wristband models available to cater to both sporty and fashion-first users. Smartwatches such as the LG G Watch R and Samsung Gear 2 have impressed us, but we feel the Apple Watch ($350 starting) will fully propel the wearable category into the mainstream when it arrives early in 2015.
12-Inch MacBook Air with Retina Display
If the iPad Air 2 taught us anything, it's that Apple will find ways to make its slimmest devices even slimmer. The company is reportedly prepping a 12-inch Retina display version of its MacBook Air, complete with a fanless design that's even thinner and lighter than the current Air's 0.68-inch-thin, 2.38-pound frame.
The 12-inch Air could rely on an Intel Broadwell processor to power the laptops' fanless construction, and is expected to ship in the same color variants that adorn Apple's iPhones and iPads (Space Gray, Silver and Gold). The notebook is rumored to borrow the MacBook Pro's 2560 x 1600 Retina display and Thunderbolt 2 port, and could introduce a new type of MagSafe charging port. New Apple notebooks typically debut in the middle of the year, so keep your eyes peeled for the revamped MacBook Air toward summer or spring of 2015.
iPhone 6 Mini, iPhone 6s or iPhone 7
A new iPhone in 2015 is as guaranteed as the sky being blue, but this year's iPhone evolution could take on several forms.
If history repeats itself, this could be the year we see an iPhone 6s that improves on the existing iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as a 6c version for budget shoppers. One recently rumored variation is an iPhone 6 Mini, which would bring the larger iPhone 6's feature set to a 4-inch frame reminiscent of the iPhones of old.
Looking ahead at a potential iPhone 7, Macworld speculates on new features such as a super-strong Sapphire glass display and an extra-durable, liquid-metal chassis. Other rumors include a possible 3D display, as well as a completely revamped dual-lens iSight camera that could rival your DSLR.
Macworld also entertains the possibility of there being two major iPhone releases in 2015: an enhanced iPhone 6s model in the middle of the year and an iPhone 7 during the smartphone's typical September release window. Time will tell if that actually happens, but you can bet on at least one brand new iPhone by this fall.
While 2013 and 2014 were the years the iPad got strikingly slimmer, 2015 could be the year the iPad goes big. Apple has long been rumored to be working on an "iPad Pro," which could tout a massive, 12.9-inch display, a Touch ID fingerprint reader and a variation of Apple's zippy A8 processor.
Apple's purported mega-tablet may arrive with a keyboard cover to rival Microsoft's Surface, and has been rumored to run both iOS and OS X for maximum productivity. Production of the iPad Pro was reportedly delayed due to high iPhone 6 Plus demand, so here's to hoping for a supersize Apple slate sometime in 2015.
More Retina iMacs
Apple released the sharpest iMac ever with last year's 27-inch 5K Retina display model, and we expect to see that super-sharp resolution come to the company's 21.5-inch desktops. Apple's smaller iMacs got a refresh last summer, so look out for a 5K, 21.5-inch variation around the same time this year.
Apple TV is long overdue for a refresh, and 2015 could finally be the year it gets one. The next generation of Apple's set-top box could gain Siri voice navigation, fully integrated games that don't require a connected iOS device and a steady stream of channels to help the box take on rival streaming devices like the Roku 3.
Apple TV's ace-in-the-hole could be its rumored built-in cable-TV tuner, which could let you watch live TV without the need for a separate cable box. Apple has reportedly been in talks with Comcast to bring subscriber-only content to its set-top box, and Computer World has hypothesized a potential "unbundled" model in which viewers pay for specific channels or even shows instead of full cable packages.
Other rumored next-gen Apple TV features include integration with Apple's HomeKit smart-home interface, as well as a possible re-design that would shrink the device to the size of a Chromecast.
iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
While details are currently scarce, you can count on Apple to release new software for both mobile and desktop devices by the end of 2015. Several Apple patents have pointed to full public-transit integration for Apple Maps, which could potentially debut as part of iOS 9. Improvements to Apple Pay seem like a no-brainer for iOS 9, though it would be nice to see Apple extend its support for the iPhone 6's NFC chip beyond the phone's mobile wallet app.
The iPhone's camera is expected to get a big bump this year, and, in turn, we expect new built-in shooting and editing options to complement the new camera. As with every year, iOS 9 is likely to launch alongside Apple's next iPhone in September.
2014's OS X Yosemite marked a major, iOS-style aesthetic shift for Apple's Mac software, so we expect this year's upgrade to make tweaks to that established foundation. Apple's Continuity — which lets your Mac and iOS devices work together seamlessly — was a touted as one of Yosemite's major new features, and we expect Apple to further bridge the gaps among your iPhones, iPads and Macs in 2015. There's even the long-standing rumor that Apple will merge iOS and OS X into one, but Apple's executives told Macworld last year not to count on it.
Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. He's looking forward to testing out the deluge of Apple products due out in 2015. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+