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Apple has just sent out invites for its annual September launch event, where it’s widely expected to unveil the “iPhone 13” lineup along with a potential slate of other upcoming products.
While last year’s iPhone launch event was held in October due to production delays caused by the global health pandemic, there’s every reason to believe that Apple is back on track this year. In fact, until 2020, every iPhone launch event since 2010 has been held in September, with the mainstream new iPhone models generally going on sale less than two weeks afterward.
While Apple is holding this year’s event a week later than all of its past September iPhone events, which have always occurred in the second week of September, last year’s September Apple Watch event occurred around the same time, so this third-week placement may be Apple’s new normal for a new decade.
As with all of Apple’s events over the past 18 months or so, this one will also be held virtually, likely following the same online format as last year’s, in which Apple debuted the iPhone 12 lineup, the HomePod mini, the Apple Watch Series 6, the new fourth-generation iPad Air, and more.
As with these prior events, this one will be simulcast on Apple’s website, Apple’s TV app on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and likely on its YouTube channel, starting at the usual time of 10:00 a.m. PDT.
What’s Coming on Sept. 14?
The media invitations this year feature the tagline “California streaming” which is a slightly more oblique reference than many of its past events. For example, last year’s September event, Time Flies, was a clear allusion to the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE models (although Apple announced new iPads as well), and October’s Hi, Speed event was undoubtedly intended to herald the unveiling of Apple’s first 5G iPhone.
It’s a bit harder to discern what “California streaming” could mean. The obvious interpretation is something related to Apple’s video or music streaming services — especially since it’s a clear wordplay on the song California Dreamin’ made famous by the Mamas and the Papas — but that seems quite out of place at an event that’s expected to be almost entirely focused on the iPhone.
In fact, the new iPhone lineup is the only given for next week’s event. Although we won’t know for sure what it’s going to be called until Apple takes the stage, most of the safe money is on “iPhone 13.”
Multiple sources have also suggested that, unlike last year, Apple plans to have all four iPhone models available for pre-order and sale at the same time. The new iPhone lineup will follow in last year’s footsteps, with standard 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch models accompanied by Pro 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch versions.
The new iPhones are expected to feature significant camera improvements, along with better displays on the Pro models as the two biggest improvements, although we can also expect bigger batteries and possibly even a 1TB model in the Pro lineup.
In keeping with tradition, Apple will also likely unveil the Apple Watch Series 7 at next week’s event. Despite recent reports that it’s run into production problems, Apple is unlikely to push back the announcement just for the Apple Watch alone, although it could do so if it has something else it already plans to unveil at a later event.
Although Apple usually prefers to announce products within a couple of weeks of their availability, over the past four years it’s been fairly common for at least some iPhone models to be pushed into October or November. With the entire iPhone lineup expected to ship by the end of this month, Apple can afford to pre-announce the Apple Watch, even if it won’t go on sale for a few more weeks.
We’ve also been expecting third-generation AirPods for a while now, so these could debut alongside the new iPhone models. If so, it would be the first time AirPods have gotten any stage time since the originals were unveiled in 2016. Given the virtual format of the event, Apple may only give the new AirPods a passing mention, as it did with the new Apple TV 4K this past spring, but there’s also the possibility that it could choose to announce them more quietly via press release instead.
We also know that Apple has at least two new iPad models to announce this year — a long-awaited iPad mini 6 update along with a ninth-generation iPad that will likely feature the typically modest year-over-year improvements.
It remains a more open question whether we’ll see these new iPad models at next week’s event, however. Sources say Apple has other events planned for this fall, so it could repeat last year’s iPad-iPhone-Mac trifecta, merely in a different order. If an iPad event is indeed planned for October, this could also be enough to shift the Apple Watch announcement into next month, allowing Apple to put all the focus on the “iPhone 13” next week, much like it did with last year’s iPhone 12 event.
The latest rumours suggest that the Apple Watch Series 7 will be unveiled next week, although nobody has yet been able to peg when it may actually go on sale. Either way, the production problems suggest that you may have a hard time getting your hands on one whenever it does finally launch.
The “California streaming” tagline does leave us wondering if Apple may have a “one more thing” planned this time around, however, since it’s hard to find any direct correlation between the event title and any of the products we’re expecting to see Apple unveil.
Of course, it’s equally possible that Apple is just messing with those of us who try to read too much into its event titles. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and there are no other hidden meanings to be discerned.