Apple kicks off their 2015 September event this Wednesday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, and we'll be there live to bring you all the action. Until then—all the previews! It's looking to be a jam-packed show (even by Apple standards), where we might see the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iOS 9, some Apple Watch fun and watchOS 2, a new Apple TV, and maybe even an iPad Pro. So what are we all expecting?
iPhone 6s + iPhone 6s Plus
Rene: This is an S-year, where the previous tock meets a tick. Previous S-years have brought us the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4s, and iPhone 5s, which included better cameras, better processors, better radios, video recording, Siri, and Touch ID, and last year, a new color.
iPhone 6s and the bigger iPhone 6s Plus will likely keep to this same pattern. A better 12-megapixel camera that improves sensor size but doesn't sacrifice pixel size, an Apple A9 chipset shows Apple isn't just leading in ARM-IP but pulling away, all the latest cellular and Bluetooth networking specs, and Force Touch which aims to make multitouch multidimensional. Oh, yeah, and rose gold.
Storage will remain at 16 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB for both technical and marketing reasons, but RAM will—can I get a finally?—hit 2 GB.
Nerds will want all those great new internals, hipsters will want the new colors, but as always Apple won't be positioning this for year-after-year upgraders but for the vast majority of people who are still on iPhone 4/s or iPhone 5/c/s devices, or still intending to switch from Android.
And it should make all of them very happy.
Ren: As we've talked about in our iPhone 6s roundup, I'm not expecting a revolutionary new iPhone design or improvements so vast that it burns the 6 in the dust. Like its predecessors, the 6s should feature camera improvements, a faster processor, and one or two "marquee" features—in the 6s's case, this may mean a new version of Force Touch, first seen in the Apple Watch.
For me, it's all about the camera improvements: Better sensor, better lens, better software. Any improvement that continues the iPhone's dominance in mobile photography is an improvement I can get behind.
Rene: We've seen iOS 9 shown off once before, at WWDC 2015. At least the highlights. Some of the details have changed since then and Apple typically saves a few additional highlights for when the new hardware is announced. In this case, how it's going to make that new camera sing ,that new Force Touch dance, and that bigger tablet shine (see below).
There are things still on the table, like ubiquitous dark theme and guest mode—expect them when Apple switches to OLED displays and gets finished stabilizing the platform—but a stupendous amount has already been done.
So much, in fact, even people on the betas will be pleasantly surprised as they discover it all.
Ren: Though Apple's talked quite a bit about iOS 9 over the last few months, it's got a lot under the hood besides its touted keynote features. I've been using it throughout the beta process and can't wait to see it come to all devices—there are a lot of smart decisions that have been made for power users, including—surprise!—a feature devoted to actual battery power.
Like Rene, I don't think we'll see any major new software introductions on Wednesday aside from device-specific improvements: We could see camera improvements and more-refined split-screen mode on the rumored iPad Pro, of course, but I'm most interested in specific examples of how the rumored Force Touch feature impacts iOS. I doubt Apple will redesign the operating system's menus and functions for one device, so we may see limited interaction from stock apps to start—duplicating More (•••) menu items as Force Touch items, and the like.
Rene: For years there were rumors Apple would release a Product Red iPhone for the holidays. Those rumors have long since died down but now that the Apple Watch is here, we're getting new rumors about new casing materials and new band colors.
Apple Watch shipped only five months ago, so it's still early for Apple Watch 2. Variants of the current Apple Watch, however, are always a possibility.
While Apple has always been conservative when it came to their flagship phone, the watch is more firmly in the world of fashion. And that leads to some interesting questions. Would Apple offer anodized aluminum Sport Watches in gold and rose gold to match the iPhone 6s palette, or would that devalue the real gold and rose gold Edition Watches? Would Apple offer Watches in Product Red and other colors, like the iPods touch, or would that position them too far towards the popular?
Bands are easier. Well, Space Black Milanese is still hard, but fluoroelastomer and leather bands easy. Apple has already shown off additional sport band colors at European fashion shows so seeing this week wouldn't be a huge surprise.
Ren: Sure, I have a bunch of watch bands already... but I want that midnight blue Apple Watch sport band. It's beautiful and it must be mine.
I think Rene's right on the money here: Watch bands, but no physical watch improvements until next year. Let someone else do aluminum anodization.
Rene: Again, it's only been 5 months since the first Apple Watch shipped and watchOS 1 debuted, so getting watchOS 2 such a short time later should help set expectations: This isn't a massive new operating system update, this is a rounding out of what's come before.
Some of the new features were even shown off a year ago during the Apple Watch introduction, like photo and timelapse clock faces, or hinted at, like the time travel on the Solar face. Others were flat out tipped, like native apps.
There's still a lot here to love, however, including the new networking that lets the Apple Watch jump on known Wi-Fi access points to do simple things like send and receive messages even when the iPhone is out of range, and the ability to have a workout app effectively become the lock screen while you're exercising. And, of course, Activation Lock as a theft-deterrent.
watchOS 2 won't make it feel like a new Apple Watch, but it will make it feel like a complete Apple Watch.
Ren: If the Apple Watch's original operating system felt somewhat of a beta-test, watchOS 2 brings the Apple Watch to full functionality. It adds little features the company clearly wanted in watchOS 1 but didn't have time to implement and refines and evolves others.
I'm personally most interested in full third-party app implementation—bring on the skating tracker apps!
Rene: It's been three years since Apple last updated the Apple TV. That's an eternity in technology. It's tough to say getting it now will have been worth the wait but easy to say it's about time.
A more modern Apple A8 processor, and the Metal frameworks that come with it, will help the Apple TV not only crunch video better but, for the first time, real third-party apps and games. At least the ones that make sense on a ten-foot interface.
There's no iTunes 4K yet for movies or TV, and many people still don't have the bandwidth to make it an acceptable default streaming option, but getting better chips in there now makes for a better future eventually. (I'm more excited about HDR than UHD.)
Universal search, after years of being blocked by content providers unwilling to compete at the atomic level, should make everyone's lives easier. So should Siri, and how Apple solves for the potential of multiple, potentially competing voices for Siri in a room, and multiple, potential Siri's in a room.
The new controller is still cheaper than forcing everyone to get an iPhone, especially for multi-controller situations. And the new interface will hopefully brighten everyone's day.
Whether it elevates the Apple TV from a hobby or not isn't the point. Like an Apple Watch, it makes everything else Apple does more valuable.
Ren: Could Wednesday finally be the time we see a new Apple TV? All signs point to yes, and I'm thrilled about that. All of the rumors build a picture of a new Apple TV that's faster, smarter, and more interactive than before, with the capacity to truly compete with some of the bigger game boxes in the form of an App Store.
Apple's behind some of the other players in the living room at present, but that's just how the company likes it: Wait until you have something truly revolutionary to present. I, for one, can't wait to see what they have in store.
Ren: Ah, the rumor I've been wanting to be true for years. It looks like 2015 may finally be the year we get an larger iPad for creative professionals and the enterprise, and it couldn't come at a better time. The tablet market is still in an odd "We're not sure how to market this device" stalemate, and a specifically-targeted Pro model could shake things up in that arena.
I'm crossing my fingers for the introduction of true pressure sensitivity on the iPad Pro—something to rival Wacom's Intuos or Cintiq models—with a stylus that learns all the lessons of styluses past and focuses exclusively on precise drawing and writing.
The iPad Pro's price tag will be undoubtably closer to that of a laptop, and I don't expect to see it until much later this year—much as the Mac Pro revamp didn't ship until close to Christmastime. But I hope it will be the tablet that creative professionals are dreaming of.
Rene: Confession: The illustrator in me has been eying the Microsoft Surface for years. The doesn't-want-to-have-to-deal-with-Windows-again in me has been winning out, but not without taking some petty retribution. So, the idea of a MacBook Air-sized iPad has always held a lot of appeal. Especially now, given the multi-app multitasking interfaces are shipping as part of iOS 9.
It's a more niche product to be sure, targeted at harder-core creative and productivity types. Because of cost and size it won't appeal to the same masses who flocked to the iPad mini when the smaller screen shipped. But that doesn't make it any less important, or its impact both outside and inside the company any less interesting.
Whether it's ready for Apple to show off this month or next and whether you ultimately buy one or not, it's going to be a product to watch.
Any more things?
Rene: Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue race an Apple Car into the building, multicolor, multi-wave light pulsing back and forth up front, and boom "Hey Siri, Turbo Boost" to clear the demo area.
Okay, probably not this year, but that could totally go to series, right?
There are several other things Apple could bring out during the show, including updated Macs, OS X El Capitan, and the rest of the usually-in-October lineup. And some more surprising things as well.
The question is, does Apple want to clear the skies in one huge event or do they want to focus on a few important things? My guess is, this year, it'll be a little bit of both.
Ren: This show will be so packed already that it's hard to imagine Apple fitting in anything else—even their traditional witty banter—between product announcements. Non-pro iPads should get a brief mention, and we may see a hat tip to CarPlay during iOS 9. But, as Rene says, there are many more products beyond the ones we've mentioned to talk about: we do have OS X to look forward to, and an expected Mac refresh sometime down the line. There's the fact that Apple Music is nearing the end of its three-month trial this month, and all the fun that entails. I still want a version of the Music app for the Mac. And so much more.
But hey, Apple's executives only have so much time on stage, and time is precious.
(... Leading people, of course, to speculate about the 2016 Apple Time Machine.)