Sept. 12: Let the iPhone 15 games begin

Speculation about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 15 series will finally be laid to rest on Sept. 12, when the company is expected to announce four new smartphones.

There are also expectations of a new Apple Watch Ultra, AirPods, and perhaps an iPad, all with USB-C. (Nothing is official until Apple announces it, but this is what we think is happening.)

The new devices will be introduced at a pre-taped special event scheduled to begin at 10 .a.m PT/ 1 p.m. ET. The invitation to the event (above) shows an Apple logo and the word “Wonderlust,” which seems to combine two thoughts: Wonder, as in something great, and wanderlust, as in a desire to travel.

Media engineering

In a feat of media engineering, what’s dawn for Cupertino is evening everywhere else, which means Apple’s news gains a better chance of front page coverage globally once the subsequent dawn breaks. It’s thought the company recorded the presentation earlier this month; a small number of mainly US media will attend a launch event in Apple Park.

It’s customary that Apple’s invitation invites speculation, and the great and the good are already arguing that the phrase suggests amazing new features for the iPhone’s camera. Those probably relate to the creation and consumption of the kinds of augmented reality (AR) experiences Apple intends to make popular with Vision Pro.

The Apple logo in the invitation looks to me like the multipoint reality nodes created by a LiDAR camera, and the idea that you can use your phone to create and share immersive experiences seems to combine both a sense of wonder and a desire to travel, albeit virtually.

With the all-important winter shopping season looming, Apple must surely also pay some attention to services during the event, given the growing importance of that segment to its revenue.

The range of phones should consist of the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, though the latter may be renamed iPhone 15 Ultra. Apple is also expected to introduce two new watches during the event, the Apple Watch Series 9, and a second-generation Apple Watch Ultra.

The new iPhone range

All of these slimmer phones should carry USB-C slots, thanks to the EU regulations. Dynamic Island should arrive across the range, rather than just on Pro models.

Wi-Fi 6E support and improvements to the UWB chips are also expected, but we’re not expecting these devices to include Apple’s home-made 5G modem; that is most likely to first appear with iPads at some point next year. The side button may be replaced by a solid state ‘Action’ button that can be configured for different tasks, but reports conflict on how definite that change actually is.

Apple really wants to upsell the planet, which is why all eyes (and most of the marketing) will be on the iPhone 15 Pro, highlights of which will include:

  • A high-end periscopic telephoto system.
  • A much faster 3nm A17 Bionic processor.
  • A new titanium frame.
  • A possible price hike of up to $200.
  • And a possible late arrival for Pro models. Production of all these devices has already begun, but last-minute challenges allegedly delayed the Pro models rolling off production lines.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the new phones will weigh less than the last generation, and anticipates the Pro model colors will include gray, silver/white, black, and blue. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will be available in black, pink, yellow, blue, and green, he said.

Apple will ship iOS 17 within days of the announcement, shipping the phones themselves a little later alongside the first point upgrade to the OS.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Apple extend support for its satellite-based Emergency SOS system to additional nations, and potentially some extension of the capabilities of that feature, which will remain free for at least one more year.

The new Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 9 and a second-generation Apple Watch Ultra are expected, but not a great deal of info has leaked. With a new chip inside, these will be faster and should have better battery life, and we may see a pink model of the watch; you can anticipate a more major upgrade on the 10th anniversary of Apple Watch in 2024.

New AirPods and more

We expect Apple to introduce new AirPods, also equipped with USB-C and an H2 chip for better audio. The AirPods Pro may get a little sprucing up, but the main change is likely to be a new USB-C case. The jury is out on AirPods Max and HomePods.

It is also plausible the company could discuss plans to switch all its systems to USB-C, in line with recent EU directives. That includes its Magic accessories, which may see an upgrade at the show. Apple should announce new M3 Macs and USB-C iPads the following month.

What Apple wants to achieve

Apple has three primary aims with this generation of iPhone:

  1. To maintain sales momentum and continue to upsell customers to the more expensive higher-end models.
  2. To convince existing iPhone 12 owners and Android users to upgrade.
  3. To convince every iPhone user to subscribe to additional services, and to deepen loyalty from those who already do.

Building life after iPhone

We know Apple is battling the same kind of weak demand faced by other smartphone manufacturers. However, despite sales declines, Apple is actually generating greater market share in the industry.

Right now, assuming no unexpected production problems, the company is becoming the world’s biggest smartphone vendor for the first time . That gives Apple a solid bedrock from which to generate additional growth when consumer confidence returns. It also gives the company a solid launch platform from which to build life after the smartphone, which is what Vision Pro is all about.

That’s why Apple wants to keep its customers hooked on its technological vision.  Will it do so? The signs seem good so far.

Deepwater Asset Management analyst Gene Munster says these products will help Apple turn a 1% revenue decline in the September quarter into a 5% increase in the December quarter. He also argues that the pixelated logo used in the invitation suggests new materials or finishes for the products. I’m imagining more use of recycled materials and materials processes in these devices.

You’ll be able to watch the event in all the usual ways — online, on YouTube, and through the Apple TV app.

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Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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