What's Up With Apple: AirTags, Apple Event, AR Headset

Along with iPhone announcements typically held in the fall, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) also usually hosts an early spring event to reveal other new products. One of many Apple watchers and leakers, Kang, reportedly tweeted out early Monday morning: “The OnePlus 9 new product launch and Apple event are held on the same day.”

For those who don’t follow every twist and turn in the Apple story, the OnePlus 9 is a new smartphone from Chinese maker OnePlus, and the product launch announcement is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23. If Kang is correct (and he or she has a pretty good track record, according to MacRumors), then the Apple event will occur on March 23 as well. Both events will be virtual in this time of COVID-19. See TechRadar for the latest news/leaks on the OnePlus 9 specs and price.

What is Apple expected to announce at a March event? The general consensus favors new iPads, updated AirPods and new AirTags. The expected new iPads, which are rumored to use mini-LED display screens and faster processors, are due out in the first half of this year. Mini-LED technology allows display makers to stuff even more pixels on a device’s backlighting assembly. The visual effect is brighter colors, darker darks and less haloing.

The iPhone 12 series uses a display technology known as OLED (organic LED), the current gold standard, but mini-LED and, soon, micro-LED are reportedly more power efficient and mini-LED is (somewhat) less expensive than OLED. Here’s a summary of the technical details.

If you haven’t heard of AirTags, you soon could be. These are reportedly small, coin-sized devices that attach either with adhesive or a keychain and use Bluetooth to broadcast a signal that helps people find items like misplaced keys, wallets or purses. A company named Tile makes similar trackers and sells them for prices beginning at $49.99 for a starter pack of one device that attaches to a phone and another that can be attached to a key ring. The adhesive devices come in packs of two for $4.99.

Apple’s coming update to the iPhone operating system, iOS 14.5, reportedly includes an “item safety feature” that prevents an unknown person from tracking you if they have somehow placed an AirTag or other tracker on a device you own. By disabling the feature, according to a MacRumors report, “the owner of an unknown item will be able to see your location.” There is some chatter that the iOS update will be announced at the March 23 event as well.

The good news is that these Bluetooth trackers have a relatively limited range. The Tile Pro tracker claims a range of 400 feet while the adhesive Sticker device’s range is 150 feet.

Now for one long-lead-time rumor. By the middle of next year, Apple could launch its augmented reality (AR)/mixed reality (MR) headset, followed by a glasses-type product in 2025 and a contact lenses product sometime between 2030 and 2040. The rumor comes via AppleInsider from Ming-Chi Kuo, who expects a price of around $1,000 for the headset.