Apple’s first-ever event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino is happening on Tuesday, and it will be jam-packed with announcements and new products. We’re expecting three new flagship iPhones including a redesigned model which may start around $1000, a new Apple Watch with LTE, a new Apple TV with 4K HDR, and much more. Here’s everything to watch for at Apple’s upcoming keynote…
Three new iPhones
Apple is expected to unveil three new iPhones for the first time this year: updates to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and an all-new design with an OLED display and almost no bezel. These could be called iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone Edition, but what Apple has ultimately decided to call the new iPhones is one of the big questions we’ll see answered at the keynote. Names aside, we know an awful lot about the new iPhones this year thanks in large part to the infamous HomePod firmware leak this summer.
4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD iPhones. These are what we’ve generally called iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus (and may be iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus) as they are updates to the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus hardware design.
While the screen size and display type remains the same, the rest of the casing is expected to change from aluminum to stainless steel borders and glass front and backs. The color lineup is also expected to shift from the current set of options (black, jet black, silver, gold, rose gold, and red) to just three options at launch: black, white, and a single version of a new gold.
Aside from the usual speed boost, both new models are also expected to feature support for wireless (inductive) charging from a standalone accessory that may not ship at the same time as the new iPhones. Apple typically upgrades at least something about the iPhone camera every year, too, although we’re still expecting Portrait mode and 2x optical zoom to be missing from the 4.7-inch model.
5.8-inch OLED iPhone. Heard about that $1000 iPhone this year? This one is probably that. The updates to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are likely going to stay around their $650-$970 price points, but expect the redesigned model to carry a hefty premium. If you want to have the state-of-the-art iPhone, it just might be worth it.
This model will feature a nearly bezel-less design that’s almost all screen save for a small notch at the top of the screen for the speaker and camera sensors. The shift from LCD to OLED also means perfect deep blacks, and the 5.8-inch display will be a new aspect ratio compared to the 16:9 iPhones on the market today. The benefit will be maximum screen real estate in a device that’s easier to use one-handed than the iPhone 7 Plus.
Oh, and the screen eating up the chin and forehead means the Touch ID Home button has moved… errr been removed. It was briefly rumored that Touch ID would be relocated to the back like on some Android phones, but Apple seems to be going all-in on facial recognition in place of fingerprint recognition. How well this works is anyone’s guess at this point, but Apple has set a high bar with Touch ID. Will Face ID be as reliable and convenient for unlocking your iPhone, authorizing Apple Pay transactions, and unlocking apps? I hope so.
Face ID is expected to be powered by a new 3D front-facing camera system that could deliver new features to the Camera app as well. No Home button and a new display size also means iOS 11 will be very different on this iPhone. We’re expecting a more gesture-based interaction model. Also expect plenty of talk about augmented reality and ARKit.
Stronger water resistance, a rear dual camera system, and wireless (inductive) charging features are also expected. Despite the premium price, demand is still expected to far outweigh supply for this model which may not launch at the same time as the updates to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
Expect pre-orders to start as soon as 12:01 am PT on Friday, September 15, and the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones to be released on September 22. The 5.8-inch iPhone may not be ready until late October.
Apple Watch (Series) 3
While the three new iPhones could easily make up half the event, we’re also expecting to see at least two new Apple Watch models be unveiled on Tuesday. Last year Apple released the faster Apple Watch Series 1 and GPS-equipped Apple Watch Series 2 with waterproofing. The exact makeup of the Apple Watch lineup this year hasn’t been totally spoiled yet, but cellular connectivity will be the big addition.
Adding LTE to the Apple Watch should enable apps to work without a nearby iPhone which could enable messaging, audio streaming, and more accurate fitness tracking. It’s been reported that Apple won’t support voice calling aside from VoIP services like FaceTime Audio and Skype, however, but we’ll see how this shakes out on Tuesday. Adding LTE surely means there are parts of watchOS 4 we haven’t seen yet.
Also expected are new models without LTE connectivity which will presumably see speed boosts if nothing else. The mystery here is what other new features might we see? Apple bought a sleep tracking company called Beddit, but that feature hasn’t been rumored for this cycle. Neither has an always-on display. Perhaps we’ll see new colors, band styles, and maybe even new sensors for more comprehensive health tracking. If Apple Watch Series 3 does include new sensors, it’s possible we could see watchOS 4 features not previously disclosed as well.
4K HDR Apple TV + iTunes
Two years after the introduction of the current Apple TV and tvOS, we’re expecting to see the fifth-generation Apple TV unveiled. Higher-resolution 4K content with HDR (high dynamic range) display support will be the flagship feature, and a faster chip could enable new features in tvOS 11 that we haven’t seen unveiled yet.
Tim Cook opened Apple’s developer conference in June with the promise of Amazon Prime Video and much more for tvOS later this year so we’re fast approaching that time. iTunes has already been leaking suggestions that 4K HDR content is on the way, and Apple has been reportedly wrapping up deals with the industry to bring the high-quality content to iTunes. (This also likely means 4K HDR content from iTunes on Macs as well.)
Also interesting to watch will be which partners support 4K content, 4K HDR content, and which apps take advantage of the higher resolution support.
A few more things to watch for in the Apple TV space: will the 1080p Apple TV stick around? It currently ships for $149 and $199 for 32GB and 64GB capacities. My guess is the 32GB version drops to closer to $99 with $129 being the likely price point. The Siri Remote on its own is priced at $79 so it’s hard to go much lower without falling back to the $19 Apple Remote or dropping the price of the Siri Remote too.
As a total guess, I could see the 4K HDR Apple TV shipping with a redesigned Siri Remote with the same features like voice input and gesture control. The current Siri Remote is poorly reviewed (too much accidental input) but has impressive features so a modification could help.
The current Siri Remote is also backordered 2-3 weeks on Apple’s website which may suggest a new version is on the way. What might change? My shot-in-the-dark guess is the addition of a new button (that helps break the symmetry). The current Siri Remote features a Home button with a TV icon. This originally mapped to the Home screen of apps, but was later remapped to Apple’s TV app when it shipped (and everyone changes it back). Having dedicated buttons for both the Home screen and TV app seems plausible.
Aside from the three new flagship product updates, we could also see another demo of the HomePod before Apple’s Siri-powered smart speaker ships in December. Apple also promised AirPlay 2 support in new Beats speakers that haven’t been unveiled, but that reveal could wait until after HomePod ships.
Both the Mac and iPad saw their major announcements take place back in June with the new release of the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, revised MacBooks and MacBook Pros, USB-C iMacs, and the pre-announcement of the iMac Pro coming in December. It’s possible we could hear more about the modular Mac Pro or see something change about the Mac mini and AirPort router lineup, but it’s already a packed event without these updates.
This event also marks one year since the unveiling of Apple’s AirPods, but stock of the wireless earbuds is only just now starting to catch up with demand. I’d expect a price drop (or mayyybe a second color) to happen before any major revision. AirPods are powered by the W1 chip and Apple is releasing new Beats Studio 3 headphones using that chip in October so a W2 will likely wait until Bluetooth 5.0 is more prominent.
9to5Mac will be on the scene at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino on Tuesday so stay tuned for full coverage! The event kicks off on September 12 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET.
9to5Mac Happy Hour Podcast: This week Benjamin and Zac discuss the App Store overhaul on iOS 11, Family Sharing and iCloud, Apple’s new Beats Studio 3 headphones, progress at Steve Jobs Theater, and expectations for the 4K Apple TV/LTE Apple Watch/iPhone 8 event on Tuesday.