Well, that’s that: Apple has just announced a special event on September 15th, where it’s expected to show off plus new Apple Watches and an updated iPad. You’ll be able to follow along with the news as it unfolds starting at 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern on Apple’s website, or via a live stream on YouTube.
Today's announcement comes after weeks of speculation about Apple’s fall event timing, which historically hasn't been too difficult to guess. The company has been holding its annual iPhone press conferences in September since 2012, and tends to stage those events on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of the month. Simple enough. This year, however, Apple CFO Luca Maestri confirmed during the company's Q3 2020 earnings call that the new iPhones would be available "a few weeks" after the usual late-September launch window, presumably due to production and supply issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
That threw the usual timetable into disarray and led to a handful of off-the-mark guesses, which are unavoidable even now. Persistent rumors have suggested that the iPhone 12 series won’t actually be unveiled until some time in October, so it’s possible this event could exclusively be about devices like the iPad and Apple Watch. Meanwhile, the event’s tagline — “Time Flies” — indicates that the Apple Watch will be the show’s major player.
Update (9/8, 12:02PM): Bloomberg’s Mike Gurman, who correctly predicted a launch event would be announced today, strongly suggests that Apple won’t unveil any iPhones next week:
I am told Apple won’t announce the iPhone until October. This is for the iPad and Apple Watch in all likelihood. https://t.co/pw1oVXVoaL
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 8, 2020
That updated version of the Apple Watch — the Series 6 — that’s said to pack a larger battery, no Force Touch, and all of the improvements available in watchOS 7. If we’re lucky, we’ll also get our first glimpse at a new low-cost Apple Watch, which the company has allegedly been developing to replace the Series 3 as the company’s budget option.
Rumor has it we may also see a refreshed version of the iPad Air, which Apple re-introduced after years of dormancy in 2019. It will reportedly use a slightly larger 10.8-inch display that stretches almost from edge to edge across the iPad’s fact, which would mean only the basic iPad and iPad mini retain Apple’s classic tablet design. The old-school Touch ID sensor is said to be too, in favor of a new fingerprint sensor baked into the power button. (Don’t worry: Face ID almost certainly isn’t going anywhere, and was almost certainly left out here due to cost.) Throw in an updated chipset, a proper USB-C port, and a magnetic Smart Connector for magnetically attaching accessories, and we’re left with a reasonably priced tablet that packs some nearly Pro-level flexibility.
If Apple does decide to show off its new iPhones at the same time, we’re in for a long haul of an event. The company is expected to reveal four models this year -- two standard iPhone 12s and two slightly upmarket iPhone 12 Pros. That would be the most new iPhones the company has ever unveiled in one shot, and speaks to the continued importance of the company's more affordable devices. And most important, these new models pack the most significant changes Apple has made to its smartphones in years.
All versions of the iPhone 12 are said to use OLED screens and pack Apple's new A14 chipset, which -- in addition to being more powerful than its predecessors -- is based on a more power-efficient 5nm process. Those energy savings are made even more important by the fact that these iPhones will (finally) support 5G networks, though it's not clear exactly which ones. Sub-6 networks are by far the most common around the world so support for that standard is a given; the real question is whether the iPhone 12s will play nice with the faster-but-rarer mmWave networks used by carriers like Verizon. (You can check out our full iPhone rumor round-up here.)
Correction (9/8, 12:02PM): This story originally claimed that Apple would launch the iPhones on September 15th, based on the company’s track record and chatter prior to the announcement. We published this story after Apple’s event page was updated, and it did not include the “Time Flies” tagline that invites later sent to members of the media saw. We therefore incorrectly identified the focus of the event, and apologize for the error.