A notable no-show at every year's CES is Apple.

Not that the Cupertino-based company needs to be at the annual tech convention in Las Vegas anyway. Its product announcements early in the year tend to have a bigger bang than CES itself.

But as we enter the brand new year with the world's tech companies already showing off their wares early in the first quarter, the tech press's eyes and ears await big news from Apple.

In fact, 2016 stands to be Apple's biggest year yet with a newly designed iPhone 7 in the works, along with a more refined Apple Watch 2, upgrades across the iPad and Mac line, and a few software tweaks here and there.

Will 2016 also be the year when Apple TV finally takes over our living room? Will we see Apple Cars parked in our garages? Probably not, but these are the surefire hits Apple is bound to make in the coming months.

The Almighty iPhone

The iPhone 7 – lighter, thinner, faster and more "er" than ever before.

That's how we would imagine hearing the voice over of Apple's Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, over a cinematically beautiful montage of Apple's next Big Thing. The iPhone is what Apple is known for and it is the company's fattest cash cow, so expect it to be its star product of the year.

Since we're done and over with the "S" phase of the last iPhone, the upcoming seventh generation of the device should sport an overhauled design. Thinner and lighter is the name of Apple game and if they stay on that track, the rumors may just be true.

What's Missing

Apple will finally ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack – there just wouldn't be enough space for it anymore. And if that's the case, expect white Bluetooth earbuds to be the staple earpiece included in that clean, white box.

But why stop at the headphone jack? What else could Apple get rid of in the iPhone 7 to make room for more stuff? Stuff like a larger screen maybe? Well, the only thing in the way of a larger screen is the iPhone's iconic circular home button.

With the addition of 3D Touch and other advanced biometric technologies, the iPhone 7 may no longer have a physical home button. Whatever functions the home button now serves in previous and current iPhones will be obsolete in this year's upcoming device. That's a good thing.

Without a physical home button, Apple now has plenty of space to increase the screen size of the iPhone while retaining the handy dimensions of the current iPhone 6S.

What's New (Or Not)

Now for the goodies Apple will be adding into the iPhone 7, we're looking at waterproof capabilities, a new AMOLED display for better battery life (and deeper blacks), an upgraded rear camera, an HD selfie cam with flash, and the next A10 processor powering all those features.

Will we see a bigger battery? Support for Apple Pencil? Optical zoom? New colors? We'd venture a solid denial for almost all of the above.

A bigger battery means a bigger phone and that would go against the iPhone's longstanding design philosophy. That doesn't mean, however, that the next iPhone will have the same battery life as previous iPhones.

In fact, the iPhone 7 could even have better battery life than its predecessors if Apple does indeed use an AMOLED display and if its software engineers tweak the A10 processor to be even more power efficient.

As for rumors aiming at support for the Apple Pencil (which honestly looks ridiculous considering the Pencil itself is larger than the iPhone 6S Plus) and optical zoom, we wouldn't hold our breath for either. It just doesn't make sense to use a stylus on a display that's smaller than the actual stylus itself. Also, just like a bigger battery, an optical zoom would just increase the thickness of the iPhone.

But new colors? That's totally possible. A "Pitch Black" iPhone sounds super slick.

The iPad Air 3 With No 3D Touch

Apple's iPad was the company's next greatest rising star that gradually fell back to Earth. Apart from the iPad Pro, the rest of the iPad lineup has generally been kept a step behind the iPhone.

In 2016, the upcoming iPad Air 3 will probably include the usual internal upgrades from its predecessors. A bump in specs would be no surprise since the design of the tablet is being kept similar to the first-generation iPad Air.

Rumors suggest the iPad Air 3 won't be equipped with a 3D Touch display. Now that's surprising as the same feature is already included in the current iPhone, and to some degree, in Apple's Macbook trackpads. Hopefully, the rumors aren't true as 3D Touch on the iPad would be a welcome feature on the device.

The Apple Watch Comeback

The Apple Watch is Tim Cook's baby. It's the first Apple product release since he reigned over the company after Steve Jobs' death.

Like the iPad, the Apple Watch seems to be the company's next rising star. Its launch was well-covered but its actual reception by the buying public wasn't as hot as Apple probably expected. Nonetheless, it is the single bestselling smartwatch so far.

Apple's second shot at its wearable should propel it even further into the mainstream. A front-facing FaceTime camera, smarter sensors for skin conductivity, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, and Wi-Fi should keep Apple loyalists glued to their watches just as much as they are to their iPhones.

The MacBook Air Lives

Everything but the Macbook Air got an upgrade last year. Fears of the well-loved laptop getting phased out heightened when Apple released the 12-inch Macbook. More svelte and yet just as powerful, the tiny Macbook seemed to be replacing what once was Apple's lightest, thinnest laptop.

This year, however, the Macbook Air may still live on but at the expense of the 11-inch model and with the addition of a 15-incher. Will it finally have the Retina screen Macbook Air fans have been begging for the past few years? 2016 might just be the year Apple grants us our wish, and hopefully even more.

Photo: Jan-Willem Reusink | Flickr

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