Apple is eyeing 2020 releases for a new HomePod version, 'budget' iPads, and more

Apple is eyeing 2020 releases for a new HomePod version, 'budget' iPads, and more
There's been a lot of online chatter lately about whether or not Apple will be forced to push back its traditional iPhone fall release to early next year due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic, but of course, that's not the only big thing the Cupertino-based tech giant is working on.

Normally, you'd expect at least a couple of additional iPad variants and a new Apple Watch generation to see daylight by the end of 2020, but the entire world has had to adjust to a new normal in the last few weeks and the overarching long-term impact of so many factories and cities shutting down on the activity of major tech companies is still impossible to predict.

For the time being, Apple is trying hard to go about its business like it typically would, recently unveiling two upgraded iPad Pro models, possibly preparing to launch the highly anticipated iPhone 9 (aka iPhone SE 2) in the very near future, and according to a fresh Bloomberg report, continuing its work on "new versions of the HomePod speaker, Apple TV set-top box, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch and iMac", among others.

HomePod 2 or HomePod Mini?

While Bloomberg's Mark Gurman is primarily focused on Apple's forced shift from classic office culture to remote work during an unprecedented global health crisis, you can probably understand why we're far more interested in speculating what the company might have in the pipeline from a hardware release standpoint in this challenging context.

Unfortunately, Gurman doesn't go into too much detail in his latest report regarding the aforementioned product development efforts. Although "minor hardware development setbacks" are essentially guaranteed, the plan reportedly remains to release all that stuff "as early as later this year."

In other words, certain devices may need to wait until sometime in 2021 to make their commercial debut, and even though the original HomePod smart speaker is more than two years old already, we could definitely see its sequel further delayed. Clearly, making progress in the Amazon-dominated market is not a top priority for Apple, but a smaller, more budget-friendly HomePod variant might be able to make some quick and serious waves.

Rumors of a HomePod Mini or a low-cost Beats-branded smart speaker of some sort have been around for a long time, subsiding after a while but looking like they could make a comeback at any point. Of course, it's not wise to rush to conclusions right now, especially given how many other products Apple is purportedly working on.

"Budget" iPads and a new Apple Watch

As tricky as it might be for hardware engineers to work from home, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Apple Watch Series 6 is not released on schedule. For all intents and purposes, Apple's hugely successful wearable devices have become the core of its product portfolio, rising steadily over the past few years without requiring a lot of radical redesigning work.

Similarly, we expect the Series 6 model to look pretty much identical to its predecessor on the outside while tweaking a few things on the inside and focusing (as always) primarily on software improvements. By the way, Bloomberg's sources suggest Apple's "software releases for later this year" are still very much on track, which means iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 are essentially guaranteed to go official at an online-only WWDC event in June ahead of commercial rollouts in the fall.

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Because Apple's iPad release schedule has become somewhat erratic lately, it's not easy to predict how many budget-focused variants could see daylight "as early as later this year." We may or may not get sequels to 2019's iPad 10.2, iPad Air, and iPad mini, with a number of credible sources also expecting 5G-enabled iPad Pros in stores in time for Christmas.

Let's not forget about the so-called "AirPods Pro Lite", as well as those long-rumored premium wireless headphones and the reborn AirPower wireless charger, which add to a crowded product lineup and complicated 2020 release equation that Apple will need to solve using some pretty unconventional methods and a very challenging work environment.

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