The last Apple WWDC event in June was all about software. It was the announcement of iOS10, an upgraded Siri, redesigned Apple Music and, perhaps most importantly, an abundance of new emojis. This time around, however, Apple is bringing out its star lineup of hardware, with the announcement of a new iPhone, new Watch, and much needed improvements to the MacBook Pro and Air lineup all expected to be revealed.
It seems like there have been rumors about the seventh iteration of the iPhone since the release of the 6S and 6S Plus, but the biggest change coming to the iPhone 7 is the headphone jack. It was originally rumored that the current jack, a 3.5mm plug, would be replaced with USB-C, but now it has all but been confirmed that Apple will stick with a lightning adapter for headphones for those that want to remain wired. For those that don’t, however, this is Apple’s big push into getting consumers to adapt wireless headsets.
On the Watch side, it feels like Apple is getting ready to announce the device that it wanted to make from the beginning. There have been rumors that the new edition of the Watch, which will retain its square shape and roughly remain the same size, will now have GPS built in, longer battery life, more Wi-Fi options, and perhaps the most interesting to us at Polygon, it may support certain types of touch screen games.
Of course, nothing will be confirmed until Apple CEO Tim Cook walks across stage and announces everything, but let’s examine some of the biggest rumors that we’ve heard in the weeks and months leading up to tomorrow’s event.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
The Big One: The most talked about rumor surrounding the iPhone 7, and one of the longest running, is that the 3.5mm headphone jack will be removed. This, for many reasons, may be upsetting to those that were looking to buy the new iPhone and use their current wired headphones, but this seems to be the direction that Apple wants to head in.
So what does this mean? Like any other iPhone, the device will come with a pair of complimentary earphones, but this time around it will have a lightning connecter on the bottom instead of a 3.5mm jack. While the new model will still definitely put limitations on the type of headphones being used, there are some other options. The biggest, and the trend that Apple seems to be banking on, is that more and more people will go with wireless, bluetooth enabled headphones that will pair with the new device. Of course, Apple hasn’t had the best experience with bluetooth on its devices and that could be a legitimate cause for concern for some people.
Despite the limitations, however, here’s an important note to remember. The iPhone is still one of the most popular phones on the market, and if Apple plans to introduce a new method of listening to music, then headphone makers will follow suit. Think about it this way: Beats is now owned by Apple and it seems pretty unlikely that Apple wouldn’t have consulted with Beats to design some new wired headphones that use the lightning connector, as we well as some new wireless headphones.
Goodbye 16GB! The big question is why it took so long for Apple to decide to stop manufacturing and selling a 16GB version of the iPhone? According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple is finally set to announce that it won’t be selling 16GB versions of the iPhone anymore, but will instead bump up the basic model to 32GB. Again, it was about time that the company decided to do this and it seems pretty unlikely that there’s anyone who will miss the lack of space on the 16GB model.
A second camera: Chances are if you’ve turned on a television in the past few months, you’ve seen Apple’s ad campaign that features stunning photographs, all underlined with the very simple but effective statement, "Shot on an iPhone 6." The iPhone, for many, has become the go-to camera when out and about, and directors like Spike Jonze have used the device to shoot entire music videos. Bloomberg is reporting that the second camera will include a feature that allows users to zoom in on something and take macro-style images in a way that the former rear-facing camera simply couldn’t. Unfortunately, there aren’t any plans right now for Apple to introduce a second front-facing camera, so your selfie game isn’t going to improve anytime soon.
Back to black: One of the best things about the iPhone, especially in a world where competition from HTC, Samsung and other companies has never been stiffer, is its appearance. The iPhone is still one of the slickest phones on the market and according to a report from Apple Insider, Apple is going to bring back the black color option for those that have gotten tired of space grey.
Other bits and pieces: There are so many rumors about the iPhone 7 that come out almost daily, it’s hard to determine what seems likely and what doesn’t. While the features listed above seem to be the most likely to come out of the event, there are a couple of interesting rumors that should at least be highlighted, even if the probability of them being announced isn’t as high. For example, the click-free home button that was reported by 9to5Mac. Instead of users feeling like they have to press down hard and far enough to feel the click, the new home button will be pressure-sensitive. All this means is that users will still click the button but it won’t feel like it’s actually moving, which is something Apple has toyed around with on other devices.
The Big One: There are a lot of things the Apple Watch should have had when it first launched almost two years ago that it looks like it may have this time around. The biggest new feature, however, will be the reported inclusion of phone-free GPS. This may not sound extremely exciting, but the addition of GPS in the watch means that there will be a ton of new features that can be included. For example, if you wanted to use a service like Yelp or Seamless, the watch could theoretically operate like a phone or computer and do so. Even more importantly, this opens up a number of doors for people who want to use the watch for navigational purposes, like running along a specific route or using Google Maps. Or, erm, Apple Maps, rather.
Again, the addition of GPS may not be the most exciting or flashiest upgrade, but for someone who uses the watch on a daily basis, it makes it that much more essential. Right now, there’s still no real incentive to have buy the Apple Watch, but the more the company invests into it and tries to turn it into a device that benefits the user in a way the phone can’t — running with a watch and being able to play music directly from it without having to worry about lugging around a phone, for example — the more likely it is we’ll start to see bigger changes coming to the watch.
Right now, the market for the Watch is pretty slim — just this year, sales dropped 55 percent — but despite that, it seems like Apple is pretty hellbent on making the watch stick. That means there needs to be more third-party applications on it and that’s only going to come with essential upgrades to the device. With that in mind, the inclusion of GPS isn’t just a wanted feature, but a much needed one.
Gotta go fast: One of the worst aspects of the first Watch was the speed, or lack thereof. The watch was almost unbearably slow and made doing anything on it a complete drag. Now, according to The Verge, the Watch is going to get a new processor, which will make it way faster than it’s been. This is especially important if other rumors about more third-party apps coming to the device are true. If Apple is planning on bringing more developers on board, and the company is most certainly trying to do that, then the speed of the watch needs to be increased tenfold. There have also been rumors that games may be coming to the Watch, and while that definitely seems more likely, this could only really happen if the speed was in fact being boosted. Otherwise, trying to play a game on a screen that small with absolutely no speed and a small battery seems like a nightmare for the player and a pretty challenging task for the developer.
Other bits and pieces: There have been rumors that the new Watch will have a camera, better battery and other hardware features that while any one would seem like big news, don’t seem very likely. Apple’s trying to figure out how to make the Watch work as an essential item and that means working on things like speed and GPS before moving onto flashier aspects like a front-facing camera.
Apple’s computers: MacBook Pro and MacBook Air
MacBook Pro: There have been a few rumors about a new line of Pros that will have some hardware upgrades. The new line of 13-inch and 15-inch laptops will, most notably, come with an OLED touchscreen bar, USB-C (like the new line of MacBooks), and Touch ID. It’s been a while since there’s been a pretty massive upgrade to the Pro lineup of Apple’s computers, and according to reports, these laptops are expected to become available this fall. While some sites are reporting that the laptops will be unveiled at the event, others like The Verge aren’t. The laptops are expected to be released this fall, but it remains to be seen if they’ll make their debut at the event tomorrow.
MacBook Air: The fate of the MacBook Air has been in question for quite some time. For a while, it seemed like Apple was ready to get rid of the line entirely and replace it with its M-processor powered MacBook series. This seemed like great news at the time, but there are still some major issues with the MacBook lineup including less than stellar battery life and speed problems. Now, however, it looks like the MacBook Air line isn’t quite dead, with a new model reportedly on the way equipped with USB-C ports.
What about the rest of it? Well...
iPad: It has been unusually quiet on the iPad front and for fans of the tablet, don’t get your hopes up that there will be any major announcements at this event. If anything, there may be some news about iOS10 and how that will look or operate on the iPad, but there won’t be any major hardware news coming out of it.
Apple TV: Apple talked about its TV back at WWDC, and it seems pretty unlikely that the company will have anything else to add at this point. Not to mention that Apple just launched a new Apple TV last year, so the chances of hearing any other hardware details seem pretty slim to none.
An iPhone event usually manages to slide in one or two surprising announcements, but this year’s seems to have been figured out pretty early on. Other things to keep an eye out for are the announcement of iOS10 going live either during or after the conference and the pre-sale date for the new iPhone. My guess is that the phone will be released on Sept. 23 with a pre-sale date of Sept. 9.
The entire event can be livestreamed on an iPad, iPhone, Mac or MacBook Pro using the latest version of Safari. It begins tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET.