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What to expect at Apple’s big launch event tomorrow

Based on credible reports, sources, and leaks, a trio of new iPhones and a breakthrough Apple Watch will likely top the marquee.

What to expect at Apple’s big launch event tomorrow
[Photo: Gabriel Freytez/Pexels]

Apple is set announce a slew of new products at its annual fall press event in Cupertino this Wednesday. While the company hasn’t given any clues as to what it’ll announce, fortunately a good number of credible media reports and leaks have. There’s still plenty of room for surprises, but we have enough information to whet your appetite. Note that all information below is unofficial and unconfirmed.

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Three iPhones

The marquee announcements, as usual, will be phones. According to reports from several media outlets, the company will introduce three new phones, all styled after 2017’s iPhone X. That is, they’ll all have stainless-steel rounded edges, a display that takes up most of the front of the phone, and a notch at the top (where various sensors live). There will be no home button–the new phones will use the iPhone X’s swipe gestures for returning to the home screen and navigating apps. All the phones will feature Apple’s TrueDepth camera system and FaceID facial recognition for authentication.

The 5.8-inch iPhone, reportedly named the iPhone Xs, will likely have a 5.8-inch OLED display (the “s” in “Xs” may stand for super retina display, Apple’s term for OLED displays). The phone will also have a better camera, a faster A12 processor, and possibly a gold color option. Analysts say pricing could start at $899.

The 6.5-inch iPhone, reportedly named the iPhone Xs Max, will likely have a huge 6.5-inch OLED display, an A12 processor, an improved camera, and possibly some additional color options. Analysts say the phone could sell for between $999 and $1,099. (iPhones are getting more expensive. The average selling price of iPhones during Apple’s June-ending quarter was $724, a 19% increase from the same period a year before.)

The blog 9to5 Mac got its hands on what looks like an actual marketing shot of the two phone models, with their gold color option.

The website 9to5 Mac is reporting a leaked “iPhone XS” design. [Screenshot: 9to5Mac]
But the biggest seller may be a third phone, a 6.1-inch model reportedly called the iPhone Xr. The model will reportedly cost much less than the XS and XS Max, possibly as low as $600 by some analysts’ reckonings. To get the phone’s price down, Apple is said to have given it an LED display instead of OLED one, and an aluminum body instead of a stainless steel one. Reports have said the 6.1-inch phone could be delayed until October because of production issues.

Apple Watch Series 4

The costar of Apple’s event will probably be the new Apple Watch Series 4. 9to5Mac got its hands on a glamour shot of it, too.

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Source: 9to5 Mac

The Watch will come in the normal 38mm and 42mm sizes, likely in aluminum, stainless steel, and ceramic options, and with a new set of watchbands. The Series 4, like the Series 3, will likely come in GPS-only, and a more expensive cellular option. Credible media reports, sources, and analyst leaks have suggested these new features in the Watch:

Bigger display. The Series 4 will look bigger without actually being bigger than earlier watches, owing to its unchanged body size and 1.9-inch (15% larger) display. Apple accomplishes this by removing the black bezel space normally surrounding the display. As on the new iPhones, the screen will appear to extend to the edges of the device. Consequently, there will be much more room for more information on the watch face. Based on leaked images, there will be room for nine “complications” or bits of useful information (such as temperature, date, exercise progress, etc.) situated around the analog or digital clock.

Faster processor. The Watch will likely be powered by the new S4 processor, which will carry the load of the larger display area and make app switching and scrolling smoother.

ECG/EKG. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the new Watch will have electrocardiogram (ECG) capability, which may be used to sharpen the accuracy of the heart monitor or detect markers of other health conditions.

Always-on display. You may no longer need to dramatically jerk your wrist around to turn on your watch face. The new Watch’s more efficient OLED display may allow the display of a dimly lit clock face all the time.

Improved battery life. The Watch Series 3 battery lasts longer than a day, but the Watch 4 may push the capacity up closer to two days, reports say.

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Possible: solid state buttons. We reported this summer that Apple has been working on new solid state Watch buttons that don’t move up and down but rather sense the touch of a finger. The new buttons–the function button and the digital crown–will vibrate slightly under the fingertip when touched. Based on the leaked photo, which shows the function button on the side of the Watch to be almost flush with the body, the Series 4 has this feature. We also reported that the solid state buttons could be used together to take a two-finger ECG reading.

The Series 4 will run WatchOS 5, announced last spring, with its new podcast support, watch-to-watch walkie-talkie mode, and support for third-party music apps.

iPad

Apple is also likely to introduce two new iPads on Wednesday, an 11-inch model and a 12.9-inch model, according to credible reports. The devices will likely borrow some design themes from the iPhone line:

More display. That is, the iPads may have smaller bezels around the display area.

No home button. The iPads may dispense with the home button, opting instead for a swipe gesture approach to navigating between apps and returning home.

USB-C. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the new iPads might switch to USB-C for power and data, dispensing with its own Lightning standard for ports and cables. Kuo also believes Apple might ship the new iPads with an 18-watt power adapter instead of the 12-watt adapter bundled with iPads today.

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Mac/Macbook

Low-cost MacBook. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman says Apple is working on a lower-cost MacBook laptop with a 13-inch display. The model would replace the MacBook Air, and could be targeted at the education market.

Mac mini refresh. Apple hasn’t refreshed the Mac mini since 2014, and some mini fans are getting restless. No telling whether Apple will give the mini stage time this Wednesday, but the company is said to have a refresh for the desktop computer. The update, reports have said, would aim to give the mini more pro user features.

Other

AirPods. Apple has been working on the follow-up for its AirPods wireless earbuds, which were announced almost two years ago. The new ones would be water-resistant (although I dropped one of mine to the bottom of a stream in Montana and pulled it out, put it back in my ear and it was working fine). They’d also offer new noise-cancellation and wireless charging. There’s a chance we might see the AirPod 2 onstage Wednesday.

AirPower. Finally, Apple announced its AirPower Wireless Charger at last year’s fall event, saying the wireless charging pad, which can charge AirPods, a Watch, and an iPhone at the same time, would go on sale during 2018. But it hasn’t shown up yet. It might debut on Wednesday.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Apple may debut a smaller and lower-priced HomePod smart speaker, a new subscription TV service, a refreshed Apple TV, or an upgraded iPhone SE budget phone.

My colleague Harry McCracken and I will be at the September 12th event, and we’ll have full analysis of the iPhones and other products once they’re announced.

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