Sources and hints have provided a fairly good feel for the products we can expect Apple to announce on September 9. Instead of just another list, I have some some ideas about what we should be watching for as the event proceeds. Especially Apple's strategy and messaging.
iPhone 6s/Plus. While the list of enhancements for each new iPhone to the next may not seem spectacular, the thing to remember is that Apple's messaging is also directed towards all the owners of previous models. In that case, the quantum leap from, say, an iPhone 5 from 2012 will be compelling. That's especially true with respect to Apple Pay.
Remember that if you have an Apple Watch, you can use Apple Pay with a companion iPhone back to an iPhone 5, but if you don't have an Apple Watch, you need an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to use Apple Pay. Only those latest iPhones have NFC. Because Apple has only sold, perhaps 3-5 million Apple Watches to date, the Apple Pay angle is strong for a much larger audience of customers in the US and UK. I would expect Apple to lead off with a mention of the success of Apple Pay, new banks added, etc., and then seal the deal with an opening blitz on the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
With rumored ability of the iPhone 6s/Plus to shoot UHD/4K video, it will be interesting to see how Apple messages the storage requirement, especially in light of the fact that we expect Apple to keep the base 16 GB model for cost conscious customers. Or will the presenter gloss over that completely?
iOS 9. Apple's focus for iOS 9 includes the News app, a better iPad experience, proactivity, and better power management. These are areas ripe for really nice demos, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Apple spend a lot of time talking about and showing battery management features, thin apps that take up less space, News, the performance of Metal (with games), Apple's brand of proactive help without the creepy factor, and the Android migration feature—designed to help former Android users migrate their data.
Apple TV 4th Gen. From what we've heard from multiple sources, Apple is working on a subscription TV service. However, Apple appears not to have acquired all the rights it wants to close the deal with serious cord cutters.
In that respect, one should watch for supporting technology that will make a subscription service more fun and easy in the future. That includes things like a better remote, Siri on the remote, a positive control of the remote's microphone, and a better way to enter passwords and universal search. Watch for a humorous and pointed explanation of how the microphone on the remote is always under user control to allay privacy (and legal) concerns.
Word has it that this new Apple TV won't support 4K video. Will that be just for starters? Will it be enabled later? Is 4K content being withheld from Apple, making the feature moot? Apple won't admit that, but there may be subtle signs to interpret. Look for reports from technical reviewers afterwards whether it retains HDMI 1.4. Or can the HDMI port be upgraded to HDMI 2.0a for 4K and HDR down the road? Essentially, with the iPhone 6s/Plus able to shoot 4K video, will Apple completely sidestep the 4K issue on the Apple TV altogether—leaving a deafening silence? Or will there be an explanation?
One might suspect that with Siri highlighted in the invitation, it will be time to announce significant improvements to the functioning of Siri. That's because it's one thing to ask Siri, informally, simple questions on an iPhone. It's quite another to expand Siri to the living room, amongst TV watching family members, where the tolerance for error is not nearly as great. Look for details about how Siri is ready for the family and Apple TV.
Next Page: The iPad Pro, El Capitan and (Maybe) a surprise.
The iPad Pro, El Capitan and (Maybe) a Surprise
iPad Pro. If I read Tim Cook correctly, there is a vast gulf between his outwardly calm explanations for the malaise in iPad sales and his inward focus on figuring out what's wrong. When the CEO asks hard questions about why sales aren't rising, VPs tend to jump. So look for how the iPad Pro is couched in terms of its expanded audience and markets, integration with iOS 9 display capabilities, new UI possibilities with Force Touch (if called that) and accessories such as the stylus and keyboard.
Concept: iPad Pro next to MacBook by Martin Hajek.
Watch for whether Apple poses these new technologies as a new era for iPad usage in general or proposes that they be of special interest only on the larger iPad Pro.
Apple may not be ready to ship the iPad Pro in the near future, so watch for how Apple discusses the availability date and, perhaps, a pre-order process and date.
Rumors and sources suggest that there will be no iPad Air 3 at this time. Instead, it appears there will be an iPad mini 4. Again, the upgrades aren't expected to be dramatic and the focus will be on all those customers who have an iPad mini, 2, or 3. Since it's probably not worth it to add NFC for Apple Pay (because who would carry an iPad mini 4 into a store but not an iPhone?), how will Apple present and promote it? Or will the iPad mini 4 be a neglected footnote?
OS X El Capitan. Apple's stated focus for El Capitan is to improve the experience and the performance. Emphasis has been reduced on glitzy new user features. Therefore, we should watch for demos showing the speed improvements of Metal and the expanded capabilities of Search. Given the lack of high drama features, Apple may instead dwell on the enhanced security of El Capitan as a way to entice users into the free upgrade. Watch for that angle.
Watching the progress of the OS X El Capitan betas, this OS seems in find shape at Beta 8, and so a launch date in September rather than October may well be possible.
Finally, Apple product updates can seldom be taken in isolation. First and foremost, Apple does this to move technology along, make life better and serve the customer. However, everything Apple does must also be seen in the context of global consumer electronics competition.
As Apple rolls out each product or update, the real question to ask is not just how the change affects individuals but rather how it improves and creates a path for Apple's competitive position in the kinds of products and services it competes with.
I don't think we should assume that we know everything about what Apple will present on September 9. Leaks, intentional or otherwise, have created the feeling that everything about the event is now known.
But spice and surprise are still a lot of fun, and I have a hunch that something, even if relatively small, will be held back until the end. Just to show that we can still be surprised and delighted. Without that, these affairs can become too buttoned down and routine, and that's not good for a company like Apple.
We'll know more soon. TMO will have live coverage, including our Bob LeVitus on location at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.