The first Apple launch event of 2018 takes place today (March 27). The education-themed event is being held at Chicago's Lane Tech College Prep School, and we're there to see what new products Apple has to show off.
Apple has been making forays into the classroom for a long time, and with Google's Classroom initiative ramping things up in that area the Cupertino brand will be keen to respond, so in addition to new hardware we expect to see its new ClassKit framework for educational apps, along with new or refreshed apps for educators and pupils.
The event kicks off at 10am local time (Chicago) today, which means you're look at 8am PT, 11am ET and 4pm BST, which in Australia is 2am AEDT on Wednesday March 28.
We're liveblogging it right here, so you won't need to go anywhere but TechRadar to get all the latest information on what's coming next from Apple.
Apple launch event live blog
All times in Central Daylight Time (Chicago)
07.00 – We're awake! And the Apple Store is down! What does that mean? New hardware is almost guaranteed to be unveiled at the Apple launch event today.
What to expect
Ahead of the event taking place, we've rounded up what we're likely to see from the event.
New iPad 2018
We're almost certain that this one will be turning up – all the rumors are pointing towards a new, low-cost iPad arriving at the education event.
- New iPad 2018: everything we know so far about the new tablet
In terms of price, we're hearing rumors that it could be pretty cheap, with the cost as low as $259 (which converts to £190 or AU$340, although it'll more likely be £249 / AU350 based on the way Apple prices things these days).
The device itself will therefore be pretty low-spec, but applicable to the basic tasks – could that mean a smart connector with new keyboard, but a lower spec inside to save money?
We're expecting a 'standard iPad' look for the device, so 9.7-inch screen and chunkier bezels than the new iPad Pro.
We don't expect a new iPad Pro to be announced at this event, as that range was refreshed relatively recently, in the middle of 2017; education is all about lower-cost devices that can be offered to more students, so Apple will be keen to keep the focus on such devices.
A new Apple Pencil – or new features
The Apple Pencil is clearly going to feature heavily here, with the invite (which you can see at the top of this article) featuring the familiar swipes and swooshes of the Pencil's work.
We're pretty sure from the invitation that the aforementioned low-cost iPad we expect to see will work with the Apple Pencil, and given that we've recently heard that Apple is increasing production of that accessory it makes sense that we're going to get more compatible devices.
Will Apple announce a new Pencil with lesser features (such as lower sensitivity and battery life) to save cost? Or will it be the same model… which is pretty pricey. We'll be on the scene to find out.
A cheaper MacBook?
There have been whispers that Apple will be bringing a new, lower-cost MacBook to the proceedings, but that the 'cheaper' price tag would only be less than $1,000 / £1,000 / AU$1,500, which isn't all that cost-effective for a student.
The suggestion was that this would be to compete with Chromebooks, which have become a favorite of the education sector, but recently Apple sources have reportedly told Bloomberg that a student-focused MacBook “probably won’t be ready in time for [the March 27 event]”.
So it looks like we'll be waiting a little longer on that one – although on the plus side for Apple, not launching a MacBook at the education event will enable it to pitch it at a wider market beyond the education sector if and when it does launch.
ClassKit has been mooted in iOS 11.3, according to 9to5Mac, and seems a dead cert to be shown off at the Chicago event.
Not a lot is known about it, except for a screengrab which showed the ability for 'ClassKit-enabled' apps to be synced together, so teachers can assign tasks to students, and presumably collect in homework, remotely.
Apple already has a Classroom app to allow this, but we'd imagine that this would be improved and expanded upon at the event.
With that in mind, we'd expect a further announcement on iCloud storage, to make it more useful for storing materials for students.
On top of that, the iBeacon platform, which enables mobile apps to display relevant content based on a users' location, could get a refresh, with cheaper devices making it easy for all lesson materials to instantly flash onto a student's device when they walk into the classroom.
Updated iTunes U and coding plans
iTunes U, like the Classroom app, has already been used for years to enable teachers to access to courses and create their own materials for classes, and we'd expect this functionality to be expanded and developed.
The platform could be rolled into one platform – with a name we've yet to discover – to create a one-stop shop for all course materials, assignments and feedback from teachers, in the same way Apple often refines its portals like Home and Health.
Swift Playgrounds, an app designed to teach kids how to code and create apps, will likely be given its time in the spotlight too, with Apple demonstrating how easy it is to make i part of the curriculum with the new iPads.