September is upon us, which in the tech world means it's time for Apple news. As it's done for the past four years, Apple is holding an event to unveil the next generation of its biggest products. This time around, it'll be held on September 7th and is expected to bring new versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Read next: Our iPhone 7 and 7 Plus review
It should be an interesting launch. This is technically a generational leap for the iPhone, but it sounds like Apple has taken a different approach this year, with subtler physical changes to the phone. This'll also be the first time Apple has updated the Apple Watch, so we can’t depend on history to tell us what kind of changes to expect.
As always, The Verge will be in San Francisco to cover the event live. You should check back here on the 7th for our live blog and nonstop coverage. But for the time being, read on below for all the nitty-gritty details on what we're expecting to see.
It's a new iPhone with a new number. That usually comes alongside a brand-new design, but this year it seems more like Apple is going to tweak its existing formula — improving things here and there and maybe laying the foundation for some bigger changes down the road. Here's the deal:
A new(ish) design: Hopefully you like the iPhone 6, because the iPhone 7 is supposed to look pretty much the same. The big difference is that it's expected to have a cleaner look, with some (but not all) of those unsightly antenna lines disappearing off the back. It's a small change, but this mockup at MacRumors suggests it could have a strong effect.
No headphone jack: This obviously isn't a new feature. In fact, it's the very opposite of a new feature. But it's turning out to be The Big Story of the iPhone 7. Apple is expected to remove the headphone jack — a standby of consumer electronics since the invention of consumer electronics — from the next iPhone, meaning all headphones will have to be wireless or connect through the Lightning port. There are certainly upsides to Lightning headphones, but there are a whole lot of downsides, too. If you have a lot of devices that work with a 3.5mm headphone jack (and who doesn’t?), you're going to have an annoying tradeoff to consider.
Some new Pods: Without a headphone jack, Apple will probably want to offer another way to listen to music. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects EarPods that terminate in a Lightning connector — instead of a headphone jack — to be included with all new phones, alongside a Lightning-to-headphone adapter to make the transition a bit easier. Some vague rumors have also pointed toward Apple making wireless earbuds, supposedly called AirPods, although that seems a lot less certain.
Another camera: It’s not for selfies. Apple is expected to add a second camera onto the back of the iPhone, which it could use to produce higher-quality photos or offer a zoomed-in view. For example, Huawei’s P9 uses a second black-and-white camera for added sharpness and detail, while LG’s G5 uses a second camera to offer a zoomed-out perspective. Bloomberg says Apple will have a twist on the latter approach, with the second camera offering a zoomed-in view.
The feature split continues between the standard and Plus models
The second camera is only supposed to show up on the larger iPhone model (the 7 Plus). But the smaller model will probably get some camera updates of its own, like image stabilization, which has been exclusive to the Plus model for the past two years.
Goodbye 16GB: I don't know that there's a new feature more deserving of a "finally!" than this. Apple is finally expected to stop putting 16GB of storage in its entry-level iPhones and instead bump them up to 32GB, according to The Wall Street Journal. Kuo, KGI Securities' Apple analyst, is actually expecting storage to double across all of Apple's pricing tiers, meaning this year's iPhones would be offered with 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB of memory. That'd a big and meaningful increase. It's a much more workable amount of storage on the low end, and on the high end, there'd actually be room to shoot and store 4K video.
A clickless home button: Apple is expected to make a very subtle but very big change to the home button — it won't click in. That's according to 9to5Mac, which says the new button will be pressure-sensitive and use haptic feedback to make it feel like you're pushing it in, even though it won't physically move. It’s a trick Apple has already pulled off on some of its MacBooks.
A blacker black: If there's one good reason to buy the iPhone 7, it may be this. After years of dealing with whatever that "space gray" nonsense is, the iPhone is supposed to get a true black again. Two of them, actually. KGI's Kuo says the iPhone 7 will come in two new colors: "dark black" and a glossy "piano black." You can probably think of them as analogs to the two black Apple watches. In fact, Apple probably wants you to match the two. Mac Otakara has a photo of some seemingly leaked SIM trays that may offer an early look at the new colors.
Everything else: You know the drill. The new iPhones will of course be thinner and faster, with new processors, maybe more RAM, and something that gets described as "magical." The removal of the headphone jack has people suggesting that the iPhone 7 could be more water resistant — Kuo even expects it to meet IPX7 certification, like the Apple Watch, although Apple could again choose not to advertise that. For some more nitty-gritty details on potential upgrades to the iPhone 7's processor, camera, flash, display tech, speaker, and some other sensors, go here to read more of Kuo's predictions.
Everything not: As always, there are a bunch of other sketchy rumors that pop up but seem like they probably aren't bound to come true. This year, that includes the iPhone 7 having a dual SIM tray, a blue color option, wireless charging, or a smart connector. It's possible Apple is looking into these things, but there hasn't been a lot of evidence suggesting they're happening this year.
When the keynote kicks off, it'll be almost two years to the day since Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch (though it was another eight months before it hit stores). A lot has changed about the Apple Watch in the time since — all through software — and this first hardware update is likely to reflect those changes. Namely, Apple taking a step away from the Watch as a communication device and a step toward its use as a fitness device. Here's what we're expecting:
Square as ever: There's no sign that Apple plans to significantly change up the Apple Watch's design this year. Or even next year. That said, don't be surprised if some new band options show up.
GPS: This is probably going to be the biggest new feature on the Apple Watch. And while it may not sound like much, the addition of GPS should be a real help for runners, since it'll let the Watch track them even when they leave their phone behind. Anything that makes the Watch more independent is an important step forward.
Getting faster: Normally a speed bump wouldn't be all that exciting — pretty much without fail, every new Apple product comes with a marginally faster processor than its predecessor. But that's particularly important here, since the first-generation Watch is pretty darn slow. Apple needs to do better on speed, and the updated Watch should be a start.
Everything else: Other rumors have suggested that the next Watch will have better waterproofing, a bigger battery, a barometer, and the ability to do more things over Wi-Fi — but evidence for some of those is shakier than others. One other big question is whether the Watch will have a camera. An early report from 9to5Mac last year said Apple was heading in that direction, but that's just about the last we heard of of it. Given Apple's shift away from messaging, it wouldn't be surprising if this feature got scrapped.
All the rest
Alongside the new iPhones, Apple should announce a release date for iOS 10 — probably a few days to a week before the phone launches. WatchOS 3 may roll out alongside it, but Apple could hold it back if the next Watch isn’t shipping until a later date. MacOS Sierra will likely come later as well.
There hasn't been any word about Apple planning other hardware updates for its September 7th event. But that doesn't mean for certain there won't be anything. Plenty of products are due for an update, including:
- The MacBook Pro, which is soon expected to get a slimmer design and a touchscreen strip above the keys
- The MacBook Air, which Bloomberg reports is being updated with USB-C
- The iPad Pro, which was announced at this event last year
- The iPad Air, which hasn't been updated in two years
- The iPad mini, which was last updated after this event last year
- The Apple TV, which had its new version announced at this event last year
But chances are most if not all of those are on hold until later, as word usually leaks out ahead of a planned unveiling. That means we could be looking at a second Apple event sometime in October or early November — or just a really, really long event come September 7th.
Update September 6th, 11:05AM ET: This story has been updated to include additional iPhone 7 predictions.