Ben Dodson

Freelance iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple TV Developer

What to expect from the 'Let us loop you in' Apple event

Later today, Apple will be holding a special event entitled ‘Let us loop you in’. I don’t often post my predictions for such events but I’m intrigued by this one as all rumours seem to suggest there is very little to announce.

It is clear from supply chain rumours and other sources that there will be two hardware releases; an iPhone SE1 and an iPad Pro in a 9.7” form factor. Neither of these are terribly exciting nor worthy of a big event as they are things we’ve seen before in sizes we’ve seen before. It will not be easy to talk for 15-20 minutes on each of these devices as it’ll essentially be “this thing we made 6 months ago is now available in a smaller size you are familiar with”.

So what else is there? Apple Watch bands seem to be a certainty with a black milanese loop, some new sports bands, and a NATO-style nylon band2. As watchOS 2.2 will likely be released today, there will probably be some shiny new watch faces which haven’t been present in the betas over the past couple of months. Speaking of software updates, there is also iOS 9.3 coming today (which was publicised heavily by Apple on a special website) and a minor update to the Apple TV OS both of which I expect to be showcased.

Whilst that could be everything, it seems very lacklustre for an event; everything here could be done by press release which leads me to think there may be more.

First of, I’m hopeful that there will be a minor Apple Watch hardware revision. There would be no new features or any changes to the design, but the internal S1 chip would be replaced with a faster S2 chip. There is no doubt in my mind that the Apple Watch is being held back by its slow processor and so this would be a good upgrade until a hardware refresh comes before Christmas. I have a couple of reasons for believing this might happen:

  • One of the main features of watchOS 2.2 is that you can pair multiple watches to an iPhone. This doesn’t seem like it would be necessary until there are two versions of watch hardware. In my own case, I would likely buy a 2nd generation Apple Watch Sport for everyday use and then use my 1st generation Apple Watch if I was dressing up. Whilst you could argue that some people may have multiple watches already, it seems like odd timing when this multiple watch support could have been earlier.

  • There haven’t been any leaks from the supply chain but I believe that is because it would just be a case of changing the fully integrated chip inside. There would be no external changes, no massive shipments (like with iPhone), and even the packaging would likely give nothing away as the product name would be the same. I believe Apple could maintain secrecy of a chip change for the Apple Watch in a way that isn’t possible for other hardware updates.

Some people are hoping for Mac updates, especially to the MacBook, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro, but I do not believe these will make an appearance until WWDC at the earliest. All of them require significant hardware changes which would have leaked through the supply chain, especially as they’d all have exterior changes3. I’m in the market for a Mac Mini so I’d love to be wrong about this, but I think these updates are a few months away yet.

This leaves the one thing that Apple are incredibly good at keeping completely secret; software. As nearly all of their software is written in Cupertino, they can keep a very tight lid on it and prevent leaks in a way that is almost impossible with hardware. There have been a few rumours that iTunes may finally be getting a makeover; whilst I think that is ultimately coming4, I think it far more likely that the Apple Music part of iTunes and the Music app on iOS will be getting minor design changes in order to avoid some of the many UX problems that have been evident since its debut last year. This would fit in well with iOS 9.3 which is otherwise fairly light on features5 for something that is likely to get a lot of stage time. Aside from that obvious issue, I have no idea what software they could be announcing6 but I’m fairly confident there will be something.

The only other thing to mention is that I’m fairly confident Tim Cook will mention the current fight with the FBI over encryption at the beginning of the keynote. I also expect numerous mentions to privacy and encryption throughout.

A note for those in the UK: Whilst Apple events typically happen at 6pm for us, this event falls within the 2 weeks after the US has moved their clocks back for Daylight Saving Time but the UK hasn’t. This means the event is at 5pm UK time. You can watch it on Apple’s website.

Update

I thought I should come back and update where I was right and wrong on these predictions…

  • New Apple Watch bands
  • watchOS, tvOS, and iOS updates coming today
  • CareKit
  • No Mac’s
  • FBI mention about privacy

Wrong

  • No new Apple Watch internal hardware (just a price drop)
  • No update to Apple Music
  • iPhone SE did get the front-facing flash of the 6s
  • Whilst not specifically mentioned, I expected the iPad Pro 9.7” to be exactly the same as the 12.9” one; it’s actually got a much better screen and cameras (although slower clock speed and less RAM)

Conclusion

You can hear me discuss the event in detail in Episode 10 of The Divide.

  1. Basically an iPhone 6s (minus 3D touch and front-facing flash) in an iPhone 5 size. ↩︎

  2. This is the only thing I can see myself buying from this event at present. ↩︎

  3. The Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and Mac Pro are all due a design refresh. The MacBook, at just a year old, is unlikely to change much but I imagine they will give in and add a 2nd USB-C port possibly at the expense of the 3.5mm audio jack which is in their crosshairs on the iPhone. ↩︎

  4. I mean it has to, right? I know I’ve been saying that every year since the iPhone came out but surely it has to come soon… ↩︎

  5. When your 2nd headline feature is “you can secure your notes with TouchID” then it evidentally isn’t as big a release as it is made out to be. ↩︎

  6. Although an iMessage upgrade and new health apps would be my educated guesses. ↩︎

The Divide #10 - Let us loop you in. Again. » « Show Me The Next