Music plays. The Apple logo dances something clever across the big screen. Then, the lights go down. Tim Cook takes the stage. Good morning. Good morning! And the September event is on.
But… what's on, exactly?
It's late fall and that means every tech enthusiasts hearts — or snarks — turn to Apple and the company''s annual fall extravaganza. Apple's been putting them on since iTunes and the iPod owned the digital music world. Since 2012, though, that event has been where Apple debuts their biggest product of the year, the new iPhone, most recently alongside the new Apple Watch as well. Some years, new iPads, Apple TVs, and entirely new products like AirPods also come along for the ride.
This year, the action once again takes place the second week of September — Tuesday the 10th, to be precise — and at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park in Cupertino, California.
Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, always kicks us off. Some years there's a video or skit, an update on Apple Retail or some other aspect of the business like education or the environment. We might see Diedra O'Brien now on new store openings or augmented reality installations, Susan Prescott or Lisa Jackson on new initiatives.
Other years things are so busy, Tim just says the business is fine, and kicks us right into the show.
And, for the last few years, that's started with the Apple Watch and Apple's COO, Jeff Williams.
Apple Watch Series 5
Series 4 was the big iPhone X moment for the Apple Watch. The redesign. Bigger displays and the beginning of the end of the war on bezels.
It took half a decade to get there so we shouldn't be expecting a repeat just one year later. Instead, we should be going back to relentless iteration.
I literally just wrote about the Apple Watch Series 5 so I'll spare you the long form recap. But, based on the rumors so far, what we'll most likely be getting are some new finishes. Or, more properly, the return of ceramic and the the introduction of titanium.
And, as I said in that video, every year since the Apple Watch launch we've gotten a new S-series systems-in-package — SIP as well. So, I'm interested to see what Johny Srouji's silicon team has whipped up this year for the S5 as well.
Sleep tracking sounds another year out, even with Apple's purchase of Beddit, and blood sugar sensors perhaps even more, despite Apple acquiring a ton of tech in that space. So, my sights remain fixed — maybe fixated — on an always-on display more.
Health and fitness are always the major focus, communications the minor, and this year, further independence from the iPhone is the watchOS 6 theme, so if there's any new hardware to support any of that, I expect to see it it in the highlight video.
Then it's Nike and Hermes partnership updates, if they remain unchanged and no new players have been added, pricing and availability, and Jeff out back to Tim.
If there's anything new to report about Apple TV hardware, Tim will hand off to Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of services.
But… We got new hardware and 4K Dolby Vision hardware back in 2017, and Dolby ATMOS enabled last year. As streaming kit goes, Apple's A10X processor means it's still massively OP — overpowered — and the price is already higher than all the budget boxes and sticks.
If Apple Arcade has some ultra-high-end games, especially an AR system, then a spec bump to an Apple A12 would make sense.
PlayStation and Xbox controller support have handled my previous gaming wish-list but the Siri remote remains divisive. So, that's still something Apple might want to address.
There's not much else we really need from the box at this point… except…
With Apple Arcade and Apple TV+, which should both be launching with all the new software updates a week or so after the event, there may be an opportunity for Apple to do what they did with the iPod — introduce a nano right under the classic.
Or, in this case, an Apple TV stick. That way, people without an Apple TV or even one of the smart TV brands Apple's partnered with, could still get all up in the new services on their big living room screens.
But, again, I don't every time get what I want. So, all I'm expecting is a recapitulation of what we saw in March, maybe with a few more celebrity and developer cameos, but with final pricing and launch content finally attached.
And then we're back to Tim.
HomePod + AirPod
There's so much I still want from the HomePod and hardware is still low down on that list. But, like I said in my HomePod video earlier this year, link in the description, I would still love to see a HomeBar theater and a HomePod mini.
Otherwise, there's a bunch of stuff coming to the existing hardware that Apple hasn't really talked much about yet, so we could also just hear more about that.
There are also rumblings of new AirPods. Sure, we just got the 2nd generation this past spring, but 3rd generation models with noise cancellation and sweat-resistance may just make an appearance.
Maybe also over-the-ear versions as well. AirCans…? ProPods…?
Apple is making more and more money off of wearables and accessories, so expanding on the category makes a ton of sense.
If Apple's ready to do just that, we could see Phil Schiller, senior Vice President of marketing, up on stage for a little longer than usual this year.
iPad & Mac
There are rumors of new iPads Pro with much better cameras and a completely new 16-inch MacBook Pro.
There are also likely updates pending for the iMac Pro, more information on the release of the new Mac Pro, and maybe a rev of the Mac mini announced last October.
But that's when Apple typically talks iPad & Mac… in October. If there's not much to announce, Greg Jozwiak, Vice President of product marketing and John Ternus, Vice President of hardware engineering, could be brought on stage to fold it all into one fall show.
But, otherwise, we'll have to wait another month.
Tim Cook typically introduces the new iPhone and then hands off to Phil Schiller for the walkthrough. This year, that's widely expected to be the iPhone 11… and iPhone 11 Pro.
Rumor has it, Apple will be rebranding the R line as the new normal and then letting the more expensive models sit on top of it as the Pro line. If that's what happens, I think it's a change for the much, much better.
It matches the rest of Apple's branding and better aligns price points with the much more mature market.
So, iPhone 11 will be the 6.1-inch LCD model, updated with a second camera, and the iPhone 11 Pros will be the 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch OLED models, updated with a third, ultra-wide-angle lens. And bigger sensors all around.
Yeah, for the new Pro models, it sounds like Apple will be taking a page from the iPhone 7 playbook. Extra cameras and amped up finishes. Instead of jet black, though, frosted glass and maybe a green model and a shimmering Apple logo treatment.
No judgment until I see it.
Last year Kaiann Drance, head of iPhone product marketing, walked us through the A12. I'd legit been waiting years to see her on stage, and it'd be great to see her again for the A13.
Though, this year it's probably going to be all about the camera.
We'll get updates on the storage SKUs and pricing, if there are any, and then Phil will hand it back to Tim.
If this year plays out like I suspect, in other words, very similarly to 2016 and the iPhone 7 event, then AirPods could also give way to Apple Tags. Think Tiles but with full Apple integration and better — integration with the new Find My network introduced at WWDC 2019.
Basically, any Apple device with offline finding enabled will use Bluetooth low-energy to detect any other potentially lost Apple device within range. Including, we gotta assume, these new tags.
It's a super energy- and data-efficient process. Apple uses things like network coalescence to piggyback off of other activity so any and all extra usage is kept to the barest minimum.
So, for example, when a notification comes in or when someone texts, the location support will fire off at the same time, so the processor and radio aren't being woken up any more than they would be otherwise.
If it detects something, in this case, your keys, it'll use Wi-Fi mapping and cellular triangulation, if available, to anonymously report an approximate location back to Apple.
This is exactly the kind of accessory, like AirPods, that when done right, with tight integration, and an awesome experience, don't just help make Apple's existing ecosystem more valuable — and sure, they can use all the post iPhone dollars they can get — but help push the technology forward.
AirPods weren't the first Bluetooth earbuds, not by a long shot, not by decades, but look and how many companies are pairing them with their headphone-jack-free phones now, and replicating the entire set up and user experience as best they can.
Apple Tags may or may not end up being as memorable — or meme-able — as AirPods, but I think they have huge potential.
One more thing?
Apple can still surprise us. Even when there are spoilers, it's always the how for me more than the what. Apple Watch was a one more thing. Apple Music. Maybe Apple Glasses one day as well.
As to One More Thing, what I'd love to see is an Apple Prime bundle with all the stuff at one easier to manage price. I'd sub the hell out of that.
But you let me know. What do you think we'll see at Apple's September event this year?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.