“Gather round,” suggests the event invite that Apple sent to journalists today. Above it, the center of attention is a single rose gold ring, divided into concentric lines.
How does this universal symbol for totality, perfection, and eternity hint at what we should expect on September 12, 2018, when Cupertino announces its next slew of smartphones and products? There are a few plausible explanations for what Apple may be planning for Year Seven of the Tim Cook Era. Here are two–along with plenty of grist from the rumor mill.
Say goodbye to the home button
One of the most persistent rumors is that Apple will release three iPhones: 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch higher-end models with OLED screens (an organic display technology that offers superior color, contrast, and battery life, akin to the one sported by the iPhone X) along with a 6.1-inch lower-end model that will have the same design, the same Face ID cameras, and the same dumb Animojis, but with a lesser LCD screen.
If the rumor is to be believed, all three models will have one more feature in common: They won’t have the home button that has been the staple of Apple’s flagship phone since its birth on June 29, 2007.
Such a major design change could shock users (a lot of them, since 70% of all new iPhone buyers will reportedly upgrade over the next year). One of the most popular iPhone “how-to” articles of 2017 and 2018 are simple guides that detail how to close apps in the iPhone X, suggesting that people are having a hard time adjusting to a no-home-button world.
Nonetheless, if Apple does do away with the conventional button, millions more users will have to relearn the most basic UX of the iPhone (one that Steve Jobs frequently touted). While most of Apple’s iPhone hardware itself may remain the same, if this leaked image of a gold “iPhone XS” is to be believed, nixing the button will force a reckoning with the messy UX and gestural UI tangle that Apple has pushed this year.
The Apple Watch Series 4
Still, why would Apple make the home button the focus of the invite, if it’s going away? That rose gold circle could also allude to the other alleged big protagonist of the event: The Apple Watch Series 4 and its circular crown.
Rumor has it that Apple may announce a new Apple Watch, possibly with a bigger updated screen, better heart rate-detection, and perhaps even going fully LTE, making all of the new models into potential phone replacements. In theory, the Series 4 may be the biggest Apple Watch redesign since its debut four years ago. The series may also sport a highly enhanced watchOS 5.0 with better fitness features and a walkie-talkie mode that lets you pair two watches and talk like you’re in The Future (circa 1950, that is).
Then again, maybe the ring isn’t about a new product at all. Maybe it’s a sign that Apple is about to finally admit that Apple Park really is a spaceship destined for Steve Jobs’s home planet. Or maybe it’s just Apple’s way of getting us to talk about Apple. If the stream of leaks is any indication, we may find out sooner than September 12.