Although Apple only officially announced its March 25 It's Show Time event last week, we've known it was coming for much longer — after all, with the logistics behind a major media event like this, it's become virtually impossible for Apple to keep it entirely under wraps.
It's also not usually too difficult to get at least a sense of what's coming at such an event, even before the actual media invites are sent out — where Apple usually obliquely telegraphs its intentions. For example, rumours that Apple is about to unveil its streaming service have been swirling for weeks now, so an event title like "It's Show Time" is almost too on the nose.
There's still a bit of mystery behind Apple's upcoming event, however, offering the usual fun for those of us who like to watch and speculate about what Apple is up to. While we didn't expect any hardware announcements during the actual event, Apple has already surprised us by quietly releasing the anticipated new iPads a week early, and even refreshed its iMac lineup earlier today, clearly wanting to make sure that it clears the stage for much bigger announcements to come. Continue reading to learn more about what we think Apple is still waiting to show us next week.
The fact that Apple is going to launch its new video content service is a given at this point — every single rumour in the past few weeks points to this, and Apple has invited a star-studded case of hollywood personalities like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and J.J. Abrams to attend the event.
What we don't yet know is what form the service is going to take. Almost every rumour suggests that it will basically be an extension of Apple's existing TV app, and will incorporate premium paid services like HBO, Showtime, and Starz, and include Apple's original content. There are still a lot of questions for Apple to answer, however, with the biggest one being when the service will actually be available.
Most reports already suggest that the company's original content won't be coming until later this year, although an announcement this month will be key to putting Apple in a position to start actively promoting its content to compete with an annual fall TV lineup. Further, with Disney expected to launch its own streaming service in the coming weeks, this allows Apple to get ahead of the game (although Disney itself hasn't ruled out participating in Apple's service as well).
The lack of any new features found in the iOS 12.2 (and tvOS 12.2) betas related to Apple's video service could also be further evidence that the actual release won't come until later on, possibly after iOS 12.3 or even iOS 13 are available.
One thing that is certain, however, is that Apple's plans for the service are ambitious in the longer term. The company doesn't even have its first original movie or scripted TV shows finished, and yet it's already making plans to win Academy Awards and even more Emmys.
Apple News and Magazines
While it's been largely eclipsed by the impending launch of Apple's video service, we should also expect to see a release of Apple's new premium news and magazine service. In fact, the first leak of Apple's March event suggested that this would be the headline announcement, before Apple's video service stole the centre stage.
Like the video service, the nature of Apple's News and Magazine service still has questions to be answered. The expectation is that Apple will charge a flat fee for unlimited access to participating magazines and major news publications, but while magazine publishers are already on board, Apple has been having more difficulty working up enthusiasm among major news publications.
We've known magazine subscriptions were coming since Apple acquired Texture last year — a publisher-backed service that basically did the same thing, and new code found in recent iOS 12.2 betas suggests that Apple already has the foundations in place. It's a safe bet that Apple will have this one ready to go very soon after next week's unveil, with the only real question being how much it's going to cost, and which publications will be participating at launch.
Apple Pay and Financial Health
While we know that Apple's event is going to be focused on the company's shift into new services, video and news have been getting almost all of the attention. Yet Apple work in one other area has been flying just above the radar: financial services.
A report last month confirmed that Apple and Goldman Sachs are almost ready to release an Apple-branded virtual credit card, while also revealing that Apple would be taking this partnership a step further by providing intelligent "financial health tracking" features that would most likely be built into the iPhone Wallet app.
According to reports, Apple is already preparing to start issuing the new card internally to its own employees as a pilot project — and may in fact have already started doing so. Recent iOS 12.2 betas have also revealed a redesign in the Wallet app, and most notably underlying code that shows that Apple is preparing to add a feature that will help users monitor their spending, using a ring-style interface like the one in the Activity app.
While most reports suggest that actual public release of the Apple Pay credit card is still at least a few months away, it wouldn't surprise us to see Apple take some stage time to announce the new card and unique financial health features.
It may or may not get any stage time at the event, but it's almost certain that we'll see the release of iOS 12.2, most likely on the very same day.
Apple has already been ramping up its iOS 12.2 beta cycle, with very minor "polishing" releases now only coming a week apart, and iOS 12.2 will definitely be required to access Apple's new premium news service, which by itself will be reason enough for it to be released concurrently with the event. Further, iOS 12.2 also contains code for new Apple Pay and Wallet features, and the necessary code to support new AirPods and Apple's AirPower charging mat, which are also likely right around the corner.
AirPods & AirPower
We're honestly not expecting this to be announced at the actual event, but we're still convinced that the new AirPods and Apple's long-awaited AirPower charging mat are coming before the end of the month.
In fact, we could see a quiet press release later this week, much like Apple just did with the new iPads and iMac updates, but since this new hardware is tied to iOS 12.2, Apple will likely wait until after iOS 12.2 is publicly released — likely immediately following Monday's event.
It's still unclear exactly what we're going to see in new AirPods — rumours have ranged from a whole new "AirPods 2" with new color and health monitoring options to the idea that we may simply see a new charging case for the existing AirPods. However, putting all of the rumours together, we're betting on a feature refresh that retains the same design while adding a wireless charging case, "Hey Siri" support, and improved water- and sweat-proofing.
None of these changes will likely justify the new AirPods getting any stage time on Monday — especially since there's not even an obvious tie-in to Apple's other announcements. Further, Apple would likely prefer not to draw attention to its failure to deliver AirPower as originally promised, although we always like to leave a little bit of room for the company to surprise us.