Apple's Fall 2016 Event §

There have been a lot of words spilled over the idea that Apple will remove the apparently much-loved headphone jack from the rumored iPhone "7" this year. Countless hot takes and news stories have already labeled it "user hostile" and claim it will be disasterous for the company. I disagree with mostly all of these assessments.

Meanwhile, the aging of the Mac lineup has also been a hot topic lately, with some models having gone nearly 3 years without a refresh. This, my sad Mac mini and I ageee, does reflect quite poorly on the company.

Rumor has it that the event will take place on the first Wednesday of September 2016. Often divided into 3 acts with a prologue, and the occasional Epilogue in the form of a "one more thing…" Apple’s events are like clockwork. I’ve decided to place my bets on product announcements and positioning, following the same format as the show.

Prologue

There will be nothing special here, CEO Tim Cook will take the stage and walk us through some record setting numbers (e.g., iPhone has sold a billion units), there will be some feel good video, and probably one featuring the new flagship store in San Francisco.

Act One

New iPad Air and iPad Mini.

I haven’t seen rumors around this, but these are the consumer iPad line and I don’t think the updates will warrant a different event later in the fall; however, they will want to have something new going into the holiday quarter.

The iPads Pro will see a refresh in a Spring event.

Act Two

Apple Watch 2.

There have been rumors circulating around this, and the timing is right. I think there will be minor updates physically, but definitely a speed bump and new sensors.

Existing bands will continue to work with the new Watch.

I think they will also do a quick recap of watchOS 3. Since the hardware update won’t be huge and the software update kind of is, it would seem to make sense.

Taking the wager a step further: there will be no Apple Watch Edition. That line is dead.

Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport will remain, and there will be no lingering "older" model selling as new.

Act Three

iPhone 6SE.

Okay, I don’t know for sure what Apple will call it, but I don’t think they’ll assign a new number to it (á la iPhone 7), because the updates will be numerous, but not truly significant. This is kind of a throw away bet, but I’m putting it here anyway.

This new iPhone is the main event, and so it is the final act. Following the rumors, here is my guess at what we’re going to see:

  1. Same form factor and sizes, but slightly different antenna lines (as rumored). I suspect the numerous photos we’ve seen leaked are accurate.
  2. New camera features. For sure sensor improvements, maybe a better lens. Seems as though the double-lens on the Plus is a go. No surprises here.
  3. Same mechanical home button, same retina display. I don’t think Apple will remove the physical home button until they introduce a better display, which will come with a new form factor, probably next year, when we’ll also see a haptic home "area", much like the new trackpads.
  4. No headphone jack. This is happening, and it’s going to be okay. Yes they’ll include stereo speakers. But here’s the key, the thing that makes it matter, they will include in the box: a pair of bluetooth earbud headphones that can charge via lightning just like the Apple Pencil. There will be no cabled headphones, there will be no included adapter (though I’m sure you can buy a lightning adapter for $29 if you want to stay wired without buying a new pair).

Here’s the thing, Apple is betting on wireless, and they’re going to walk the walk. I strongly believe they will not provide a pair of crap headphones. One might argue that any bluetooth headphone is crap, but I disagree with that assertion. I’ve been using bluetooth exclusively for the past 2 years, and I don’t want to go back.

Yes, 2 years ago it was a pain. But just 2 months ago I bought a brand new pair of Bose Bluetooth earbuds, and they are fantastic. There is NO latency, the battery lasts long enough, and, here’s the key, charges extremely quickly. I can plug them into my laptop via USB for 15 minutes and get a full charge.

Many will suggest that Apple won’t forgo their margins to provide a decent pair (and a lot will say that there is no such thing as a decent pair of Bluetooth earbuds, I’m ignoring them because, for most people, those people are just wrong), that’s absolutely not true. Apple is on a mission for the thinnest, fastest, best products. What gets in the way of all of those factors? WIRES.

So there it is. I’ve been watching people on my commute (yes this is anecdotal San Francisco Bay Area bullshit) and it’s noticeable that most people just use the default headphones included with their phone. Easily 80% of the commuters I see on the train and buses in my 3 hours of commute are wearing white earbuds, after that probably 10% using some other wired variation, then 10% using Bluetooth anything.

Currently, a good Bluetooth headset is very expensive for most, cost prohibitive for some; I’ve seen recently a $10 pair of Bluetooth earbuds at Target. I’m sure they’re crap. Crap compared to Bose, but for someone who doesn’t have that reference, they’re probably good enough. Prices will fall and Bluetooth technology will continue to improve.

By the way, Apple currently stocks mainly Bluetooth Beats in the Apple Store.

On the software side, I have noticed a distinct improvement in Bluetooth performance on my iPhone 6S Plus. Using the iOS 10 beta for the past several weeks including beta after beta, hiccups, drops, and battery draining, I see they’re all improving. The software is being tweaked for Bluetooth performance.

This is happening. Period. And it’s going to be okay.

One more thing…

The New MacBook Pro.

This has been long rumored, and I’m guessing it will come as an infamous "one more thing" for a few reasons.

First, because it’s going to be a complete overhaul. As has been rumored for months, and recently reported by Gurman at Bloomberg, we’ll see a thinner form factor with some kind of OLED touch screen function key row. Expect at least one product marketing video. (More thoughts on the OLED touch screen from Stephen Hackett)

Second, it’s going to signify a much needed refresh to the Mac line of products. Sadly, I doubt there will be any other new Macs along side it, but remain hopeful for a Mac event in the Spring (I’m guessing together with the iPads Pro, which will further the messaging that iPad is a laptop replacement).

Finally, the epilogue will include an overview of new macOS features (and APIs) that utilize the OLED touch screen. Not a recap of macOS Sierra per se, but some software demo will go along with the hardware announcement.

Fin

So that’s my bet. Can’t wait to see what I get right. I think this will be the order of things and these products at minimum will be refreshed. And who knows? Maybe more.

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