Apple’s first big fall event is happening on Tuesday, September 15th, but it may be much different than previous September events.
Let’s address the elephant in the room up front: it doesn’t seem like there will be new iPhones. Typically, Apple’s September events mark the arrival of Apple’s latest and greatest smartphones, but you shouldn’t expect to see them on Tuesday, according to The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel and other well-connected journalists. And Apple has already said that the new iPhones won’t go on sale during their usual late-September timeframe.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting things to look forward to, though, since the Apple rumor mill has been as active as ever. The event’s “Time Flies” moniker suggests we’ll see Apple Watches at the very least. And because of gathering restrictions in place due to COVID-19, it seems likely Tuesday’s event will be another slickly produced video presentation, similar to what Apple put together for June’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
Read on to learn more about what we’re expecting during the show.
Apple Watch Series 6 and a new low-end Apple Watch
There aren’t a lot of rumors about the next flagship Apple Watch, but in addition to that “Time Flies” moniker, we do have another strong hint that a new Apple Watch could be making its debut. Developer Guilherme Rambo discovered that the metadata for the YouTube page for the event contained the phrase “Series 6,” which would seem to hint that we can expect to see a successor to the Apple Watch Series 5.
As for what that so-called Series 6 Watch might actually bring to your wrist, references to blood oxygen monitoring were found in code snippets of an early version of iOS 14, obtained by 9to5Mac, so that could be the banner feature. And we already know that watchOS 7 will have native sleep tracking, more customizations to watchfaces, and a rebranded Activity app called “Fitness.” But Apple hasn’t committed to a release date beyond “this fall.” Perhaps that firmware update will be available on the newest Apple Watch when it launches.
Bloomberg has corroborated that a follow-up to the Series 5 is on the way, but it also reported that Apple may release a new lower-end Apple Watch to replace the $199 Series 3. It’s unclear exactly how that device may differ from the rumored Series 6 or what it might be called. Perhaps Apple will mirror the convention it uses for the low-cost iPhone and call it the Apple Watch SE — and according to tech leaker Evan Blass, that could in fact be the name Apple uses.
Blass says that so-called Apple Watch SE will come in two sizes and have “BT and LTE versions,” which likely refers to whether they need to rely on your phone to connect to the internet (over Bluetooth) or whether they’ve got their own cellular connection. He also corroborated that Apple plans to announce the Apple Watch Series 6, saying that it will come in two sizes with “both BT and LTE” versions and have an S4 chip.
An S4 chip, which is used in the Series 4, might sound like a downgrade from the Series 5’s S5 chip, but the S5 reportedly only adds a gyroscope and 32GB of NAND flash memory to the CPU and GPU in the S4. Blass’ tweet could suggest that Apple might reuse the S4’s CPU and GPU architecture again for the Series 6. Or, it could suggest his info is wrong.
A redesigned iPad Air with iPad Pro-like bezels
The iPad Air might get a redesign with an edge-to-edge screen like the iPad Pros, reports Bloomberg. That would be a significant design change from the current Air, which currently sports thick top and bottom bezels, and a button for Touch ID.
If you want to get an idea of what that new iPad Air could look like, a rumored manual of the device may have leaked on social media, revealing the new design and features that might be coming to the new device.
That apparent manual says that Touch ID has moved onto the power button on top of the iPad Air. If that’s true, the new tablet would be the first iPad with biometrics built into the power button.
It appears that the iPad Air could adopt the iPad Pro’s gesture-based navigation system, as shown in diagrams in the manual. The manual also shows a Smart Connector on the back of the iPad Air, like the one on an iPad Pro, so perhaps it will be able to connect to accessories designed for the 11-inch iPad Pro.
The current-generation iPad Air starts at $499, but it’s unclear if Apple plans to keep the iPad Air at that same price.
Blass, in his Monday tweet, reiterated that Apple plans to release a new generation of the iPad Air, saying it would have a USB-C port instead of a Lightning port, like the iPad Pros, and an A14 chip, which would be new silicon from Apple. Interestingly, Apple may also update the base-level iPad with an A12X chip, which was first included on the 2018 iPad Pros and would be an upgrade to the A10 processor in the current model, but keep the Lightning port, according to Blass.
The possible release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14
Apple usually releases its newest version of iOS alongside iPhones in September, but since we aren’t expecting new phones at Tuesday’s event, it’s hard to predict exactly what Apple’s plans are for rolling out iOS 14. The update is set to bring a new home screen with widgets, a redesigned Siri interface, system-wide picture-in-picture, the ability to set default email and browser apps, and more. iPadOS 14 will get some of those updates as well as improved handwriting recognition and rebuilt search. The rumored arrival of the new iPad Air could mean that Apple announces the release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 for all, but we’ll have to wait and see.
We could see new hardware and new subscription bundles
Apple isn’t just rumored to be working on new iPhones, Apple Watches, and iPads. There is apparently a smaller and more affordable HomePod along with new over-ear headphones in the pipeline for this fall, according to Bloomberg. Perhaps they’ll show up at the event. Apple is also working on a competitor to Tile’s location tracking tags called AirTags, Bloomberg reported. In fact, Nikkei says they may already be in production, which could indicate an imminent release.
And strings for an “Apple One” bundle have shown up in code for an Apple Music app for Android, according to 9to5Google, suggesting Apple may be close to launching its rumored range of subscription bundles, which were detailed by Bloomberg in August. Apple also registered domain names related to that “Apple One” moniker, according to MacRumors, and strings mentioning “Apple One” were spotted in iOS code by 9to5Mac as well.
If you’re looking forward to updates on Apple’s plans for an ARM-based Mac or further details about macOS Big Sur, though, you might have to keep waiting. Rumors aren’t pointing toward Apple sharing anything about the Mac on Tuesday.
We just won’t know what Apple plans to release until the event itself, which kicks off at 1PM ET on Tuesday, September 15th. We’ll be covering the whole thing right here at The Verge.
Update September 14th, 7:50PM ET: Added Apple Watch and iPad rumors from leaker Evan Blass and additional discoveries about the Apple One subscription bundles.
Correction September 13th 1:57PM ET: The article originally misstated that the iPad Air would be the first Apple device with biometrics on the power button, instead of the first iOS / iPadOS device. The power button on some MacBooks have had Touch ID for some time. The Verge regrets the error.