SAN FRANCISCO, September 8, 2015 – It’s almost Apple Event time again. With the keynote slated to begin at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) on Wednesday, September 9 at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Apple flags are flying high over the venue. It’s already a given that we’ll hear about a new or updated iPhone and an all-new Apple TV device. But maybe there’s also “one more thing,” that annual technological game-breaker the late Steve Jobs was always so masterful in introducing.
Preparation for the event has been ongoing for at least a week in and around the convention space, and a huge staging area outside the closely guarded auditorium has been reserved. That, plus the presence of a large crane outside the hall along with an obscured outside staging area has led some to speculate that some early prototype of an ambitious Apple Car (the “iCar”?) will make a surprise debut appearance at the event.
Alternatively, other rumors claim that U-2 will make a showy appearance at the 2015 event. But once again, those rumors can’t be confirmed.
Here’s a short list of what to expect and what to speculate about, based on the buzz from Apple rumor sites and established news sites as well:
- New iPhones. Betting is for an impressive yet incremental update to last year’s big hit, the iPhone 6. Talk is that the new models will be approximately the same form factor, but will be considerably enhanced by the presence of a lightning-fast new A-9 processor and a significantly more sophisticated camera. Cases for the new phones are expected to be strengthened by the use of a new aluminum alloy and minor but significant structural changes to avoid any “bendable case” problems such as those that may have occurred with some of the early production current models. We’ll likely have the introduction of the latest iOS as well, although there seems to be no agreement on when it might become available.
- New iPads. Technically similar upgrades seem to be in store for Apple’s latest iPads, whose flagging sales have helped blunt the usual exuberant performance of Apple stock over the past several months. Rumored are faster processors and a much bigger screen for the larger iPad model.
- The debut of Force Touch for iPhones and/or iPads. This “haptic” improvement being introduced in the upcoming iOS rev could very well be a game changer, offering a greater variety of inputs to these devices via greater and more sophisticated touch and tap sensing that could provide a wider range of responses available via the user interface.
- Macintosh computers. No new models of either desktops or laptops are expected, but it’s likely we’ll get an announcement as to when Apple’s latest Mac OS X upgrade—El Capitan—will be available.
- Apple Watch. Nothing spectacular is expected here either, as Apple appears to be moving this speculative project along slowly, incorporating subtle improvements along the way. Rumored here is another iteration of the original watch, offering different watch faces, bands, and perhaps most importantly, new capabilities for full-fledged, third party Apple Watch apps. Also a possibility: an ability to play and hear music. We’ll see. A better battery should be at the top of the list.
Apple TV. According to a great many sources, the really big news at Wednesday’s event could involve a major hardware and software upgrade for the company’s Apple TV device. Apple has clearly had big plans for Apple TV for years, but what they’ve been selling has been ridiculed by many competitors as not being particularly compelling. That may indeed be the case to some extent. But the device’s relative previous paucity of innovative features may be due more to opposition from the entertainment industry. TV and movie moguls have long feared a major incursion by the company into their lucrative (and barrier-laden) TV, cable and Internet turf, as happened once before when the music industry embraced the iTunes store. Rumor has it, however, that Apple TV may be lining up some competition for Netflix on the new box by getting into the entertainment industry itself.Even more interesting is the hot rumor that the new Apple TV device will also have game console functionality, possibly positioning it to compete with the industry dominant Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation. Finally, the rumor mill also suspects that Apple’s new TV device will have sophisticated Siri functionality, allowing it to respond to voice commands and perhaps paving the way for Apple to offer whole-house device control. Apple itself seems to be behind that particular rumor, sending out event invitations online that included the query: “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” Siri remains tight-lipped on the Maven’s iPhone this evening, so it looks like we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to figure out what new superpowers Apple has really given to its new Apple TV device—which, BTW, is rumored to be more expensive, too. But Apple fans are used to that.
- No, this probably isn’t the Apple Car either, or at least we don’t think so. It’s yet another imaginative prototype from the fevered brain of a puckish Internet artist at FreakingNews.com.
- Finally, there’s that Apple electric car skunk works project, currently code named “Titan.” Even the most speculative rumor mills don’t really think Apple can come up with a groundbreaking new automobile, whose alleged features would include an all-electric engine and a self-driving feature that, hopefully, would not be powered by Apple Maps. Apple’s CarPlay is already showing up in an increasingly number of 2016 auto models from a growing list of companies that now includes GM.It’s clear that iOS and our friend Siri will have a big influence on the direction of this project—one that Steve Jobs was said to be keen on prior to his death. But whether we’ll get a look-see at Apple’s alleged Tesla-killer still remains open to debate. The genuine innovation here would be if Apple could pull off such a project without massive U.S. taxpayer subsidies, currently the real reason behind the economic genius of Elon Musk. We don’t really expect to see a prototype of the car this year. But you never know.
All in all, what’s probably most important to Apple’s recently beleaguered shareholders would be the generation of some real excitement surrounding the debut of the latest iPhone models. Active traders, hedge funds and HFTs have been battering this still extraordinarily profitable stock (symbol: AAPL) based on the assumption that the stressed out Chinese consumer will fail to buy the new devices in record numbers.
That said, numerous sources are stressing that Apple has placed the biggest initial orders ever for this new iPhone. If they sell briskly, the stock could experience a very rapid market turnaround, possibly even leading a bear market reversal at least in the tech sector.
Again, this all remains to be seen. Further, AAPL tends to fall on the day of its annual major event and languish for some time thereafter. So the surprise here would be if the opposite reaction were to recur. (UPDATE: As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, EDT, Apple stock, once up over 3 points this morning, is trending back down, up only $1.38 at the moment at $110.60 per share.)
Meanwhile, we’ll just have to wait for the upcoming Apple Event to unfold. Streaming video fans will be able to catch the event live via the Internet at Apple.com and at numerous other news sites around the world, with other sites offering liveblogging of the event, sort of like a football play-by-play. But by some time Wednesday afternoon, we should have learned which rumors were true and which were not.
Last but not least, which way Apple’s shares—now part of the Dow Jones Industrials—might regain leadership of the currently battered U.S. stock market. But don’t count on it. At least not yet.
(Note: This article contains corrections and updates from an earlier article.)