Apple’s upcoming September 12th event is more than just its annual hardware event: it marks 10 years of iPhone launches, which first shipped in June 2007 and is undeniably Apple’s most important product. So, it’s not surprising that many of the early reports and rumors about this event have been focused on the iPhone. Will it have an OLED display? Will there will be a “pro” version of the phone? And just how much will it cost?
But over the past decade, there have been just as many other notable product developments for Apple, on its path to becoming the world’s most valuable tech company. It created the App Store, and the app economy. It shipped the long-rumored iPad. It got into wearable computing and health and fitness tracking with the launch of the Apple Watch. Its “services” business became one of the fastest-growing areas for the company.
So this event could very well be about other products and services as much as it’s about a new iPhone. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from the event.
Okay, with all of that said: this event is really about new iPhones.
We are expecting as many as three different iPhones. First and most obviously, there should be updates to both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The cadence between a new, numbered iPhone and an "S" update is something Apple has been doing since the iPhone 3GS. All rumors point to that happening again this year. S models usually include faster processors and better cameras, so that's probably a safe bet, too.
We’re expecting as many as three different iPhone models
As for naming, we still don’t know whether Apple will continue its tradition of affixing an “S” to an existing model number, or if it will be called iPhone 8. Our best guess is on some sort of “S” model, because there’s another new iPhone that everybody’s expecting, and this one could be called the iPhone 8, iPhone X, or iPhone Pro. Update: As of Saturday, September 9th, it appeared more likely that the anniversary edition phone would be called iPhone X, after an iOS developer spotted references to an “iPhone X” with a “bezel-less display” in a firmware leak.
It’s widely expected that the iPhone X will be some advanced version of the iPhone, one that could possibly ship later this year. Rumors and leaks point to an edge-to-edge OLED display, a new 3D face-scanning camera, wireless charging capabilities, and a nonexistent home button.
Many of the new iPhone headline features are new for Apple, but not new in the broader industry. Other high-end smartphones have bright, edge-to-edge OLED displays, are using biometric sensors like iris scanners, or have done away with a physical home button, opting instead for fingerprint sensors on the backs of phones. And inductive charging isn’t even entirely new for Apple, since the Apple Watch charges this way.
What would set Apple’s phone apart is the way it integrates this new design with software features, or gesture or voice controls, since Apple’s distinct advantage is having control of the full stack in its products. We've also not yet seen a consumer phone with a face-unlock solution that wasn't insecure or slow (they're usually both). So if Apple has figured that out, it will be a genuinely new thing that it can claim to take the lead on.
Apple Watch 3/LTE
The wearables business isn’t nearly as important for Apple right now as its phone business, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making vague claims about the Apple Watch being comparable to the size of a Fortune 500 company all on its own. And, according to recent data from IDC, Apple is now only second to Xiaomi in terms of worldwide wearable shipments. So it’s still a noteworthy product area for Apple.
That’s why it’s not surprising that we may see another update to the Apple Watch, one that adds an LTE modem to the device. This means that certain features that currently require having your phone nearby — like making phone calls, sending text messages, streaming music, or even installing new software — could work on the Watch independently of the phone. Other smartwatch makers have tried this before, including LG and Samsung. But one thing that often suffers when you try to make a tiny smartwatch act like your phone, and not an accessory to your phone, is battery life. So it’s still TBD what LTE would do to Apple Watch’s 18-hour battery life.
Apple’s new Watch software, watchOS 4, is also expected to roll out in the coming weeks. This will bring new features like a Siri-ready watchface, a tri-sport (or multisport) mode, and some direct integration with gym equipment.
This may be the year that Apple finally catches up with Amazon, Roku, and Chromecast by offering 4K support on its streaming media device. The next generation of the Apple TV, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this year, will stream videos in 4K and in more “vivid colors.” (We're hoping for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision.)
It’s a move that will likely help boost sales of the box, which were down in the 2016 holiday season from the previous year, because it’s a shiny new thing. But Apple TV has still been more expensive than many of its competitors, and it has an “app”-like interface rather than one that models a more traditional TV “channel” experience.
Apple, unlike Amazon, has also struggled to make compelling original content that hooks people into its services the way it undoubtedly hoped it would. But if WWDC was any indication, Apple is also fully aware of that: the company said at the developers conference that the Amazon Prime Video app would come to Apple TV sometime this year.
HomePod, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro
All three are products that Apple has announced, but has yet to ship. So whether they'll get stage time is anybody's guess. The HomePod's planned release date is December, and Apple has, so far, marketed it more as a high-quality speaker than a digital assistant. Apple will surely remind us that it's coming, but probably won't do much more with it.
The iMac Pro is also slated for a December release, but there probably won't be time to touch on it during this month's event. As for the fully redesigned Mac Pro, that won't arrive until next year, and it's hard to imagine that Apple will unveil it now. Sorry, Mac fans. You'll have to wait a little longer.
iOS 11, ARKit, and macOS High Sierra
New hardware is great, but Apple’s software rollouts are a lot more critical for people who aren’t planning on buying new Macs or iPhones in 2017. And this year, iPad users are arguably going to benefit the most: the new iOS 11 software could very well transform the iPad into an actual productivity device, with a redesigned dock, advanced multitasking, and new drag-and-drop features. And on both iPad and iPhone, iOS 11 brings a bigger, consolidated Control Center, a new, grid-like app switcher, and a new file-storage app called, simply, Files.
Apple’s software rollouts are a lot more critical for people who aren’t planning on buying new hardware this year
These are just a few of the features — there’s even more stuff to come around Siri, Notes, screengrabs, and file markups — but one of the biggest advancements that’s rolling out with iOS 11 is the launch of ARKit, Apple’s new app platform for augmented reality apps. We’ve already seen a bunch of AR apps on iPhone and Android (the tremendously popular Pokémon Go is a favored example), but most AR mobile apps to date have been basic, 2D or “flat” imagery. ARKit, on the other hand, lets developers build advanced, 3D AR apps without requiring months of work or computer imaging expertise. It’s expected to be a Big Deal in the AR world — especially since Google has also just rolled out its own version of this, ARCore, for Android devs.
We still don’t know exactly when Apple’s newest software will roll out — it happened in mid-September last year — but it’s safe to guess that it will likely coincide with when the new hardware goes on sale.
Steve Jobs Theater
There’s another new product out there that most of the world hasn’t seen yet, and that’s Apple’s new $5 billion campus in Cupertino, California. (In fact, most Apple employees still haven’t been inside of it yet.) The September 12th event will mark the first public event taking place in the Steve Jobs theater, a brand-new, 1,000-seat auditorium named after the late co-founder and CEO of Apple. The auditorium is also underground, according to floor plans, which hopefully won’t impact Wi-Fi signals. As always, The Verge will be on the ground (under the ground?) bringing you all of the latest news.