What to Expect From Apple’s Big Event This Week
The Apple event schedule is nearly clockwork. There are a handful of keynote addresses every year, and most things never change: Tim Cook’s going to stand in front of a large screen scrolling through simple slides. He’ll talk about how great Apple is, how well all its stuff is selling, probably get in a dig or two at the competition, and then he’ll get to the new stuff. There might be One More Thing. This is how it always goes.
The September event, for the last few years, has been where Apple talks about iPhones. And Apple, don’t forget, is an iPhone company. It’s the most transformative product the company makes, and by far the most important to its bottom line. Yet the iPhone may not be the most exciting thing Apple has to talk about this time.
The event begins at 10am PT on Wednesday, September 9, in San Francisco, in a huge auditorium normally reserved for rock stars. It’s going to be a show.
If you’ve been holding out for an upgrade, rest assured: There will be iPhones. Apple’s release schedule tends to go back and forth—one year, a big redesign, the next, an under-the-hood upgrade. This is upgrade year, so don’t expect your mind to be blown straight out the back of your head when you see the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. (Or whatever it’s called—at some point, Apple’s going to need a new naming strategy.)
There will almost certainly still be two phones, and they’ll almost certainly be the same sizes: 4.7- and 5.5-inches. What’s less certain is the fate of the smaller phone, the iPhone 5C. There’s still a market for it, and don’t be surprised if it gets a nominal upgrade to appease the few remaining tiny phone lovers. For the most part, though, Apple has moved firmly into the glorious world of gigantic phones.
The most important upgrade to the new phones is expected to be the camera. The always-prolific leakers at 9to5Mac have reported that the 6S and 6S Plus will have a 12-megapixel camera, instead of the 8 on the current models. It’ll have a new image processor, thanks to the power of the new A9 processor. There will apparently be a flash mechanism on the front of the phone, for taking even sicker selfies. And you might also, finally, be able to shoot 4K video on the iPhone. Apple’s been ahead in the camera game for years, even while resolutely refusing to play the megapixel-counting game—only now are Android manufacturers starting to catch up.
Otherwise, the phones should be exactly the upgrade you expect. Faster processor, new software with iOS 9, improved and enhanced Siri functionality, and Force Touch integration that lets you press extra-hard on the screen to do…something. We’ll see about that one.
Not that exciting, right? Luckily there’s more. Potentially way more.
Finally: TV Time
No. Apple isn’t making a television. But it’s almost certainly about to unveil an enormous upgrade to its set-top box, which we’ve been waiting for and speculating about for years.
A few things are relatively certain: The box will cost $149, and be much faster than before. It will have a redesigned remote, with a touchpad for easier input and motion controls so you can play Wii-style games on your Apple TV. It’ll run a much more complete version of Apple’s software, including Siri and an App Store.
That’s where things get dicey. Apple’s had trouble getting cable and content companies on board for a sort of cable-box replacement device; it’s even apparently considered getting into original content as a result. Will an App Store mean those providers get on board, and instead of channels you just have apps for ESPN, HBO, and all the rest? We’ve heard a lot about the universal search capabilities that will come through Siri, but will that apply to every service on the device? Even if so, what will Apple offer that separates it from, say, Roku, which already supports a wealth of content and a powerful search engine?
Initially, the TV’s likely going to be all about gaming. It’s a strength of the App Store, it’s an easy pitch for Apple to make—a $149 game console!—and it neatly obfuscates the fact that Apple doesn’t have the streaming movies and TV shows it wants. Apple’s not coming for the Xbox, or even the Wii, but it has a better shot than anyone to bring the casual, simple kind of gaming you do on your phone over to the big screen.
It’s been delayed for so long, so why now? Apple’s move could be to get the new device in enough people’s hands that it has leverage over developers and content providers. Or, it could be to make it so easy to port your apps from the iPad to the Apple TV that everyone just does so. Either way, we’re about to see by far the biggest play Apple has ever made in your living room. And you won’t have to buy a new TV to enjoy it.
Here’s a late-breaking rumor, once again courtesy of Mark Gurman and 9to5Mac: Apple might announce new iPads this week too. Normally, that’s what its October event is for, but Gurman reports that alongside an upgraded iPad mini, the long-awaited larger iPad, called “iPad Pro,” will be shown off for the first time.
It makes obvious sense that this is coming—iOS 9 is built to make a tablet more like a computer, and a bigger tablet would do that even better. But why now? Even the report says the device isn’t shipping until November, and with this announcement out of the way there would be very little to talk about come Columbus Day weekend (and the presumed next Apple event).
This could happen, but color me skeptical.
Odds and Ends
Apple’s shown iOS 9, WatchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan already, so don’t expect fireworks on the software front. But do expect release dates, and maybe even a surprise “it’s here…today!” move from Tim Cook or Craig Federighi.
Oh, and the Watch. Don’t get too excited, because it seems much too early for Apple to release an entirely new Watch. With the software upgrades the device becomes much more powerful anyway, and a new model less than six months after the overly-grand unveiling of the first one would look like an admission of failure. Apple just refreshed and upgraded the Mac line, too, so there shouldn’t be much to see there either.
This September, the stars of the show will be the iPhone and the Apple TV. The iPhone because it affects so many people, and the Apple TV because it’s finally going to shed the we-don’t-really-care “hobby” label. We’re going to get the best sense yet of what it looks like when Apple comes stomping into your living room.
The event starts September 9, at 10am Pacific. We’ll be there live, covering all the news as it happens. And crossing our fingers that we can finally play Monument Valley on the big screen.
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