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Today’s Apple event, where it’s expected to unveil new iPhones and a smartwatch, isn’t like any other.
Apple’s iTunes and iCloud head, Eddy Cue, said at the Code conference in May that the company’s upcoming product pipeline is the best he’s seen in the past 25 years. The event also comes at a time when Android’s rising market share seems unstoppable, wearables and smartwatches finally seem ready for mainstream consumers, and Apple’s investors are worried about slowing iPad sales.
Needless to say, Apple has a lot riding on the products it unveils today.
Just like the past few years, we’ve seen a slew of rumors leading up to Apple’s big event. By deconstructing all that chatter, we can get a better sense what Apple will announce ahead of time.
You can watch Apple’s keynote right here (live stream) starting at 10 am Pacific.
[Last updated on September 9.]
Two larger new iPhone models
Since last year’s iPhone 5S was just a spec upgrade of the iPhone 5, Apple likely has some big changes ahead for the so-called iPhone 6. We’ve also been hearing that Apple has been exploring big iPhone screens since last year.
Given everything we’ve heard so far, I expect Apple to unveil 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 models on September 9. A 4.7-inch screen would be a significant upgrade over the 4-inch display on the iPhone 5 and 5S, and it would finally allow Apple to compete with leading Android devices, which typically offer screens around 5 inches. That screen size is also a good balance between portability and offering a larger display (and it’s something we also saw on the Moto X last year).
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 model would give Apple a way to compete with the rising popularity of phablets — smartphones so big they might as well be tablets — like Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. Apple historically hasn’t felt pressured to compete with other smartphone makers when it comes to screen size, but as I’ve mentioned, things are very different this time around.
A rounder iPhone design
Apple spent the past few years tweaking the retro-future design of the iPhone 4, but with the iPhone 6 we may finally see a significant change. A slew of leaks point to a flatter and rounder case in the iPhone 6 — it looks as if someone flattened an iPhone 5.
The leaks still look similar to the design we saw in the iPhone 4 through iPhone 5S, but the edges are no longer flat. That should make it easier to hold in your hand for longer periods of time (it reminds me a bit of HTC’s new One case), but it’s probably disapppointing for people who liked to stand their iPhones up on their sides.
The “iWatch” cometh
But don’t expect the device to be release until 2015, Recode reports (along with a bunch of other sites).
There’s also a good chance that the device won’t be called the “iWatch,” which quickly became its go-to media moniker, according to the Financial Times.
Given how little we know about Apple’s wearable so far — aside from it being a health-focused device — I suspect that Apple is still in the process of finalizing its design. If it were in production by now, we’d see a ton of leaks coming from the manufacturing end.
Stronger sapphire displays
Given Apple’s recently opened sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona, it’s clear that the company is gearing up to deploy the material in a big way. Apple already uses sapphire, which is tougher and more resistant to scratching than Gorilla Glass, on the iPhone 5’s camera cover and for the front of its Touch ID panel. But sapphire is also an ideal material for all sorts of mobile devices.
Plenty of conflicting rumors have circulated about how Apple plans to deploy sapphire in its next iPhones, but the most recent one points to Apple using the material across in all 5.5-inch iPhone 6 models and some higher-end 4.7-inch models, 9to5Mac reports. The Wall Street Journal also reported that sapphire will be used in the more expensive new iPhone models.
Sapphire is both expensive and difficult to manufacture, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple limit the amount of devices it appears in this year.
YouTube gadget hound Marques Brownlee got his hands on what’s supposedly an iPhone 6 sapphire screen, and it sure looks tougher than Gorilla Glass.
NFC, mobile payments, and wireless charging
Apple is finally ready to bring near-field communications (NFC) to the iPhone, a source told VentureBeat’s Mark Sullivan a few months ago. Wired also corroborated that report with its own source yesterday.
NFC is one of those things plenty of smartphones have included over the past few years. It allows for things like wireless payments and secure data transfer. But given the lack of useful NFC payment options, it’s also been kind of a useless feature.
But if Apple’s going to include it, you can bet that it will do something different (sources tell us Apple has a lot cooking for the NFC feature). The Information reported last month that Apple’s mobile wallet plans are finally coming together. That’s something that could likely rely on NFC for mobile transactions.
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