Apple is holding a major event, titled “Time Flies”, during which it is expected to reveal a host of new products and updates.
Notably, the event won’t include the iPhone: for the first time in years, perhaps the biggest consumer product in the world is late.
Here’s everything that’s expected from the “Time Flies” event, which will be held virtually on 15 September.
New Apple Watch
It seems fairly clear that the Apple Watch will be the big focus of this year’s event. From the “Time Flies” name to the loops on the invitation, everything seems to gesture towards the new watch being the centre of proceedings.
Or that might, in fact, be new watches: Apple is likely to release the Series 6, as well as something to replace the Series 3, which has been on sale recently as the cheaper option and has been available since 2017.
Less clear is what those new watches might have on their predecessors. Extra battery life seems a near-certainty, given the focus on sleep tracking; there have been suggestions that it could also include a pulse oximeter, for checking how much oxygen is being carried by the blood; it seems almost certain that it will have a faster chip. But there’s likely to be more, especially if the watch is taking centre stage at its own event.
Apple is also rumoured to be getting rid of the “Force Touch” option that was one of the key innovations of the Apple Watch when it first arrived. It has disappeared from new versions of the software, and the iPhones have dropped it too, suggesting that the Series 6 could be the first Watch not to have it.
New iPad Air
The other big and near-certain hardware release this year is a new iPad Air. Apple is said to be adopting the design of the iPad Pro in its cheaper model, bringing the same screen that stretches right across the front and more square design.
On the iPad Pro, the lack of home button and TouchID is made up with FaceID in the top of the display. That’s not going to be the case for the iPad Air, according to rumours; instead, there will be a fingerprint sensor in the power button, which would be a first for Apple.
As well as that major design change, the new iPad will probably bring the USB-C port from the Pro, as well as an updated, faster processor.
For some time, this has felt less like a rumour than an obvious development: when Apple held its big services event last year, introducing its paid-for games, news and TV subscriptions, it seemed to make sense that they’ll all be bundled into each other. And now it finally seems to be happening.
The subscription appears to be called Apple One and will include a variety of options, allowing users to choose which of the online services they want to stick in. That will include not just TV+, News+ and Arcade, but other longer-standing ones like Music and iCloud Storage, rumours have suggested.
References to Apple One have started to appear, presumably by accident, in Apple’s own software, all but confirming that it is coming, and probably soon. But the Bloomberg report that revealed the name and other details of the service suggested it would be ready alongside the new iPhones, and so it could be one for the October event.
Apple revealed iOS 14, iPadOS 14, WatchOS 7 and MacOS Big Sur at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Now, the company is likely to reveal some information on at least some of those products, though the MacOS updates are sometimes left for later in the year.
iOS 14 could be the most interesting of those updates in itself. Usually, the release of the new phones and new software for them come at the same time – this year, the iPhone 12 is delayed, but iOS 14 is seemingly not. Apple is still likely to announce an iOS 14 release date at this event, but it will be unusual to see them do so without any reference to the phone.
iPadOS and WatchOS will presumably get their time to shine alongside the new versions of the products they run on. WatchOS has already included some indications of what might be coming in the new hardware: it gets rid of the “Force Touch” gesture that has allowed users to press hard on the screen for extra menus, suggesting that won’t be in the watch, and the sleep tracking features suggest that better battery life could be on the way.
And Big Sur appears to be further through its development cycle than MacOS often is at this stage of the year. As such, it could get an earlier than normal release – especially if it is needed for new computers.
A new Mac
This would be something of a wildcard, but not one that is entirely impossible. Apple promised major new Macs by the end of the year, and that time is approaching.
At its WWDC event in June, Apple revealed that it would be moving to use chips of its own design, rather than those from Intel, bringing the computers in line with the iPhone and iPad.
The first of those computers is rumoured to be a new 12-inch MacBook, and that is said to be coming fairly soon. As such, it could be announced or at least previewed at the September event.
Apple has been fairly transparent about the process of moving to its own silicon – in part because it has to be, since it is relying on developers to support the changes. So even if the laptop doesn’t arrive this month, there might be mention of it at the event.
New HomePods and AirPods
Apple is rumoured to be working on two big new ways of actually getting music into your ears: a smaller and cheaper HomePod, and new AirPods that are shaped as headphones rather than earphones.
Both have been rumoured to be in the works for the upcoming season. But Apple might opt not to do so at any event: the demonstration of the HomePod at its first unveiling was technically challenging, and the AirPods Pro were unveiled through a press release in October last year. So even if they’re coming, they might not do so at ether the September or October event.
There almost certainly won’t be any phones at all at this event. The phone has been delayed, and there has not been a single reliable rumour to suggest otherwise.
But Apple will presumably have to say something, even if only in passing, about the iPhone, if only to stop people waiting all the way through the event for it and being disappointed when it doesn’t arrive. So it might at least confirm, subtly, that the handsets will be revealed next month, or at least at some point in the future.
Apple has been notably open about the fact that its phones have been delayed by lockdowns, announcing that they would be a “few weeks” later in a call with investors over summer; if nothing else, it has to do so because the calendar of iPhones release is both very reliable and integral to Apple’s fortunes. So it could be similarly open at the new event, perhaps revealing roughly what the new release schedule is.
The delay of the iPhone also surely has another effect: given that the company will now almost certainly hold an event in October, anything else that’s not ready can presumably be pushed back until then. That could mean anything else from this list – with the possible exception of the Apple Watch, given the name of the event – might also not arrive for a few weeks.