If you’re ready for a new phone from Apple, you’re not alone. One couple is already camping out in front of the Fifth Avenue Apple store in order to be the first ones in line to buy the iPhone 6, which probably won’t come out for another two weeks.
The company will reveal its latest devices Tuesday, September 9 in an event it has teased only by noting “wish we could say more” on its invitation. The day promises to be a watershed moment for the company; it is expected to announce a wearable “iWatch” device, as it is unofficially called, as well as new sizes of iPhone with major hardware upgrades.
Despite the promise of new gadgets, Apple is facing a major question: Can it come up with another killer original product under CEO Tim Cook just as it redefined the smartphone market with the iPhone? At the upcoming reveal, the company will have to prove its vision once again. Here’s what to expect.
The Multipurpose iWatch
With the iWatch, Apple is moving into the wearables market—the term of choice for technology that integrates into clothing and accessories rather than just fitting inside a pocket. While Google Glass presents itself as a high-end wearable accessory and Samsung’s new Gear S, a smartwatch with a curved screen, is receiving positive reviews, no one device has emerged as the front-runner of the field. The iWatch could change that, but as Cook said in 2013, “For something to work here… you first have to convince people it's so incredible that they want to wear it.” The iWatch won’t simply have to work well; it will have to integrate itself into our daily routines immediately.
Though there have been no leaks as to the design of the iWatch, The Wall Street Journal reports that it will be offered in two different sizes, both with curved, 2.5-inch screens, according to Reuters. What’s more significant is that Apple’s smart watch will feature health- and fitness-tracking capabilities as well as near-field communication (NFC). Apple is moving to compete with newly popular fitness-tracking wristbands like the Jawbone, which measure step counts and can even chart nightly sleep quality.
NFC means that the device will be able to communicate with other technology over short distances through radio waves. The secure system is perfect for mobile payments, another area that Apple is moving into. Apple already stores your credit card information through iTunes and the app store—the iWatch will integrate into that system as well. Users will be able to simply tap the screen to confirm a payment anywhere with an NFC-enabled register, no cash or credit card needed.
Joining the Phablet Race
No Apple event would be complete without a new phone, and the iPhone 6 will present a major jump over the last generation.
The “phablet” trend for larger and larger phones that end up somewhere between a phone and a tablet has led to products like the Samsung Galaxy Note, which sports a screen ranging anywhere from 5.5 to 10 inches. Apple is expected to join in with a 4.7-inch model as well as a phablet-style 5.5-inch version (the iPhone 5 has a screen size of just 4 inches). As with the fingerprint scanner of the iPhone 5s, the larger screen means that the phone will cost more. A leaked photo suggests that the smaller version could cost $861, while the larger will run as much as $1,024—of course, carrier contracts will subsidize these high prices.
Less obvious design changes will also be made. The iPhone 6’s screen will likely be made from sapphire, far less likely to fracture than the previous Gorilla Glass. The edges of the new phone will be curved and smooth, in contrast to the sharp edges of the metal band running along the outside of the previous generation. Touch ID will be improved and, to deal with larger screen, Apple will introduce “one-hand” and “two-hand” modes that make it easier to type for those users with smaller hands. The phablet bet is as much about piggybacking on a new market as innovating on the iPhone. According to Business Insider, sales of both tablets and normal smartphones are plateauing while demand for phablets grows exponentially.
The New Apple Ecosystem
Overall, this new set of Apple launches does show the company’s plan for its next iPhone-style triumph, but it’s also a sign that its product lines are maturing. Rather than rebuilding its core devices, the company is filling out the Apple ecosystem in an attempt to create an entire suite of lifestyle technology that it controls from top to bottom.
The iPhablet fills out an obvious niche that Apple wasn’t occupying, while the iWatch enters two different device markets that have only emerged in the past year or two. These various devices will be connected by Apple’s payments system—a feat no other mobile payments company has been able to accomplish. Companies like PayPal, Venmo, and Square simply don’t have the reach that Apple already does with its pre-existing devices, making it much more likely to succeed in the space where others have failed.
Welcome to the new Apple ecosystem, where you’ll wake up to your iWatch, pay for coffee with your iWallet, commute with your iPhablet, work on your Macbook, and check your iHealth stats before going to bed and starting it all over again.