For the last two years the iPhone has anchored Apple's September event. Gone are the days of iPods and music. This is the era of the phone. With the iPhone 5 we got the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since iPhone. With the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s we got the most colorful and the most forward thinking iPhones yet. What, then, should we expect from an event that might have even bigger and more forward thinking iPhones? And from an event where Apple's wearables not only make a comeback, but take a leap ahead?
What Apple believes
Tim Cook should hit the stage first as he's done at all keynotes in recent years. He's become the exemplification of the modern Apple, of their core values, of what they believe and what only they can do. Cook will tell us how Apple's been doing that to date, including sales performance and customer satisfaction, usage metrics and perhaps a few jabs at the competition.
Cook might also give us an update on Apple Stores, including visitor metrics and highlights of any new, major openings. He might even highlight benefits of the new combined online and retail system now headed by Angela Ahrendts.
It'd be even more interesting if Ahrendts herself gave that part of the keynote. Not because she's a female executive in an industry with disproportionately few, not because Apple has been focusing on diversity and inclusivity lately, but because she's good. She's a fresh new voice with a solid background in fashion, and that's also something Apple has been focusing on lately, if only behind the scenes for now.
The iPhone 6. Plural.
Phil Schiller typically handles the new hardware these days. His first major keynote, the Macworld introduction of the sealed battery MacBook Pros in 2009 was affable. His last two, the introductions of the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPad Air, and iPad mini, were masterful. His unveiling of the iPhone 6 should be no less so.
The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 seems like a lock at this point. It'll be bigger but also thinner and rounder, not only matching the design language of the iPod touch and iPads, but moving it forward. Thinness affords lightness, which is an advantage as phones grow in size.
The screen should be just as sharp as ever, and show us more than ever before. The 64-bit Apple A8 chip that powers it should be faster and better than ever as well. The camera, breaking free of the thinness of the phone for the first time, should leverage that chipset to produce even better everyday photos. Schiller will likely focus on all three of those features, as has become typical for new iPhones.
802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE Advanced should also get some slide and bullet time. The star, however, might just be Apple's new mobile payment system and NFC.
Which retailers appear on the launch partner slide will depend on which ones have finished integrating and testing the system — AirPay, iPay, iWallet, Paybook? —and that could change at the last minute. It could also be entirely U.S. centric at first. Apple Retail will no doubt be a cornerstone. Any big retailer that's had credit cards compromised in the last couple of years will likely be eager partners as well.
Apple will have to address security, given recent events but the new payment system should be like Touch ID — reliant not on the cloud but on the device in-hand and the secure enclave locked inside its chipset. A case will have to be made, but it's a make able one.
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 hasn't had parts leak in any significant quantities yet, which could mean it's simply not entered the production process in any significant way yet.
So, if the 4.7-inch iPhone ships on September 19, the 5.5-inch iPhone could ship later, much like the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini last year. While showing it off might encourage some people to hold off on buying a 4.7-inch iPhone so they can get a 5.5-inch one, and hurt Apple's opening weekend numbers, they'd still be buying an iPhone. (What are the odds of Wall Street understanding that, though?)
Branding will be interesting. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6L or 6X? iPhone and iPhone Pro? iPhone Air and iPhone Pro? iPhone 6 and... something else?
As will pricing. Starting at $199 for a 4.7-inch iPhone at 16GB, $299 for a 5.5-inch? Would that put 128GB at $499 and $599 on contract?
Phil Schiller will tell us, and we'll get some Jony Ive videos and commercials to show us.
iOS 8 and iCloud
Craig Federighi did a superman's job introducing iOS 8 back at WWDC but as is always the case with new hardware, previously unannounced software features follow.
We'll likely get a summation of the WWDC presentation first, including highlight of Extensibility, Health, and HomeKit. Since OS X Yosemite likely won't ship until October, Continuity and iCloud Drive might not get as much attention, or if they do, they'll be like iCloud Keychain last year — coming soon.
New features should include the mobile payment system, which should make Passbook far more useful. It could also include "turn-to-iPad". As detailed at WWDC, Apple has brought split views (2 column layouts) to iPhone. That means, when you turn your iPhone to landscape mode, it can show you the iPad interface instead.
That would make a ton of sense on the newer, bigger iPhones.
How they handle iCloud, again given the recent celebrity photo data theft will be interesting. iCloud Photo Libraries are a big part of iOS 8 and Yosemite.
If they want to ignore it, Federighi could just reiterate the WWDC talking points. It's unlikely Apple's ready to show off Continuity for media yet, or the other specific iTunes, Beats, and music features — those may wait for an October event or even next Spring's Apple TV update — but Eddy Cue could include it in a general online services overview.
Tim Cook could also come back on stage, take ownership, define the ongoing conflict between convenience and security industry-wide terms, and then announce what Apple is going to do to help their customers manage it. Online security isn't good enough, it isn't human enough, but there's no clear path forward. Apple is a company uniquely positioned to tackle that problem.
The iWatch — or whatever Apple calls their new wearable won't be as big a business as the iPhone, but given the expectational debt the markets and the media have piled on Tim Cook and Apple in general in the post-Jobs era, it could be an even bigger deal.
Who handles the iWatch presentation? Tim Cook could do it to show new products launch under him the same way they launched under Jobs. Schiller could do it to show that, regardless of hype, this is still business-as-usual for Apple. Jony Ive could do it, though he reportedly dislikes taking the keynote stage and hasn't since the October 2008 unibody MacBook Pro event, to emphasize the design aspect. One of the new, more fashion- or fitness-focused hires seems less likely, though if there's handoffs for specific segments, like materials or functions, they could make appearances.
Whoever does it will have to make the case, just like Steve Jobs did for the iPad back in 2010, that this new category of device deserves to exist. That it does certain things better than a smartphone — or that a smartphone and watch together do certain things better than a smartphone alone.
Logging health and fitness data, controlling accessories and home automation, authenticating mobile payments, alerting to notifications, and iWatch apps that help with all of those things, could make that case.
Craig Federighi could once again leap to the stage to explain the SDK, if so.
Just like the original Apple TV debuted in the fall of 2006 but didn't ship until spring 2007, the iPhone in winter 2007 but didn't ship until summer, the iPad in winter 2010 but didn't ship until spring, the iWatch will likely get shown off but not ship, at least not until developers have had time to work on the SDK, and the FCC and FDA have had time to process it.
The name is a big question, so is pricing. But we should at the very least find out how Apple takes iPod-style wearables fully into the iOS and iCloud age.
There have been some rumors that the new, Touch ID equipped iPads will be shown off tomorrow as well. If so, it likely means their upgrades aren't as significant, but also that what Apple has to show off at the October event will be massively Mac.
For the last couple years iPad and Mac co-starred that event. With a tock update for iPads this year, however, and rumors of a Retina MacBook Air and 4K Apple desktop displays, maybe an argument could be made to have September serve all iOS devices?
If not, expect more from Apple on both iPad and Mac in October.
You iPhone 6 event predictions?
That's what I expect — and don't expect — to see from Apple tomorrow. We'll be there live to bring you all the action, of course, but until then, let me know — what do you want to see from the iPhone 6, iOS 8, and the iWatch?