Apple’s annual iPhone event is almost upon us, which means it’s officially raining Apple hardware and software.
As is the customary tradition, the company is expected to unveil a number of products at the Steve Jobs Theater on its Apple Park campus tomorrow.
While iPhones are de rigueur, the “By innovation only” event is much more than that. With iPhone sales hitting a plateau, the company has been steadily diversifying into services and wearables over the past couple of years. We’re most likely to hear some updates on that front as well. Here’s what to expect:
The iPhone 11
The marquee announcement at the keynote is undoubtedly the iPhone. Apple is expected to unveil three iPhones to succeed the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Although there are no definitive details, the company is likely to drop the ‘R’ and ‘S’ from its naming for a straightforward numerical moniker: the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the iPhone 11.
The new Pro and Pro Max iPhones, while largely unchanged in terms of design from the previous models, will have one notable bump: a triple camera sensor for wide-angle photography, higher-resolution pictures, and much-improved video recording. The iPhone 11, on the other hand, will have a dual-camera setup.
It’s also expected to pack in improved Face ID, which will now work at different angles, including when the phone is lying flat on a table. There are talks of a two-way wireless charging feature, allowing your AirPods to be charged just by placing them on the back of your iPhone. But given Apple’s struggles with AirPower, it’s highly doubtful if the feature will see the light of the day.
Aside from the above, the iPhone 11 (or whatever it ends up being called) will rely on some major spec boosts such as a faster A13 processor, better waterproofing and shatter-resistance.
What’s unknown is the pricing. With China and the US imposing additional tariffs on each other’s goods effective September 1, it remains to be seen if the escalating trade war will have any impact.
In addition, rumors are swirling about a potential iPhone SE follow-up set for release next year. Bloomberg reports that the new device will look a lot like the iPhone 8, complete with a 4.7-inch display. With iPhone 7s production kicking off in India earlier this year, it wouldn’t be a shock if the model relied on the same design aesthetics.
But if 2019 iPhones are merely an evolutionary upgrade, it’s because Apple is already setting its sights on September 2020 with an all-new design for the iPhone and support for in-display fingerprint scanning tech, according to Bloomberg.
Apple Watch Series 5
This year’s Apple Watch revamp follows big changes from last year, so keep your expectations pretty low on this one. Early leaks suggest that updates will focused on adding new versions in ceramic and titanium, and a slew of new straps.
But the lack of hardware upgrades could be compensated by software, including sleep tracking, the long-overdue menstrual cycle tracking, and a standalone App Store as part of watchOS 6 update that will allow apps to be installed and run independently without having to be tethered to an iPhone.
By naming this event “By innovation only,” Apple is really raising expectations for Tuesday, an event thus far expected to focus on iterative iPhone and Apple Watch updates. Internally, I’m told, attention has turned to more groundbreaking 2020 devices. Let’s see.
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 7, 2019
Rumor mills are predicting an Apple TV refresh, with MacRumors reporting last week about references to a new Apple TV that have popped up in an internal build of iOS 13.
But it won’t be entirely unexpected if Apple releases new TV hardware, as the last three versions were updated once every two years — a third-generation Apple TV in March 2013, the fourth-generation Apple TV in September 2015, and the Apple TV 4K in September 2017.
Apple is also anticipated to officially release software updates for its iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Watch lineup, as it has done in the past.
MacOS Catalina will bring a much-needed overhaul of the ponderous iTunes, splitting the app into three: Apple Music, Podcasts and TV. Apple Music now even has a place on the web.
Possibly the most exciting update is Project Catalyst, a developer feature that allows app creators to make Mac apps based on existing iOS apps.
On the iOS front, things are a bit different this time around, what with iPads getting their own flavor of iOS called iPadOS. In an unprecedented break from tradition, Apple has also released developer betas for iOS 13.1 before iOS 13 is even out, suggested the company is stretching its development process and ensuring software kinks are fully ironed out before adding new features.
While earlier betas of iOS 13 had support for Shortcut Automations — workflows that can be triggered when they meet specific conditions — they were removed in subsequent betas. The feature has made a return in iOS 13.1. But if Apple does release iOS 13 as the gold master version, you’ll have to wait till Apple rolls out iOS 13.1 to get some of the other features.
Charles Arthur of OneZero, however, has an interesting theory on the update situation. “Apple did this to preempt tariffs on iPhones that were due to be applied in the U.S. from September,” he posited.
The services pivot
Services has been a focus area for Apple for a while. With the smartphone market maturing and successive product upgrades becoming progressively less-than-revolutionary, Apple has been steadily looking to offset shrinking revenues with a pivot to software-oriented services like the App Store, iCloud, Apple Pay, and Apple Music.
Earlier this March, the company took to the stage at Cupertino to unveil a trio of subscription bundles for news, games and video, inserting itself as a middleman in an ever-growing number of transactions that it hopes will lock loyal users into its walled garden, at the same time turning them into a recurring, steady source of revenue.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple takes some time to go over its roster of original programming for its video on demand service Apple TV+. Bloomberg suggests TV+ could go live in November for $9.99/month, and game subscription service Apple Arcade is said to cost $4.99/month when it launches this fall.
What’s more, Apple Arcade will also be compatible with iPads, Macs, and Apple TV, adding fuel to the whispers of an imminent Apple TV update.
With Disney offering a subscription re-bundle of Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu, there are also possibilities that Apple could follow suit with an Amazon Prime-like discounted bundle comprising of Apple Music, News+, iCloud (depending on storage), TV+, Arcade, and Apple Care Plus. Frankly, that would be a steal!
A continued focus on privacy
Apple has repeatedly focused on the privacy benefits of embracing its ecosystem, and has built an entire services strategy with privacy as a selling point.
With Facebook and Google coming under the regulatory lens for their data scandals, the keynote gives Apple a platform to tout that it’s not in the business of collecting personal information as its rivals do.
There’s every chance that Apple executives will bring that up once again at the event tomorrow.
Then there are plenty of other rumors to chew on. References have been spotted in iOS 13 code to the effect of something called the Tag, a physical tracking device that’ll help you track Apple devices and items. Also said to be in the works are a new MacBook Pro with a 16-inch screen, a new iPad Pro, and entry-level iPad. It’s possible the company could shine light on these products.
Oh, and then there’s the $6,000 Mac Pro, a cheaper HomePod, and a supposed AirPods refresh. Apple just released a redesigned AirPods earlier this year, so the news of a second update within a year needs to taken with a pinch of salt. But you never know.
That’s it for the roundup. We’ll be live tomorrow and bring you all the updates as the event unfolds starting 10:00AM PT/ 1:00PM ET/ 6:00PM BST/ 10:30PM IST. Apple is also live streaming the keynote for the first time on YouTube, but we’ll keep this post updated if any other news pops up in the hours leading up to the event. Stay tuned to Plugged for more.
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