Everything we expect from Apple’s big iPhone event

Brian Heater

Tomorrow’s the big day. Apple’s annual fall unveil kicks off tomorrow at 10AM PT, christening the company’s opulent new Steve Jobs Theater in the process.

We’ll be resting our butts in those reportedly $14,000 seats, bringing you the news as it breaks. But from the looks of it, there may not be all that many stones left to turn over by the time Tim Cook hits the stage tomorrow morning.

As is fairly standard for your average Apple event, the rumors and leaks have been trickling out for a few months. Things hit a sort of climactic finale over the weekend when a ton of code leaked out, revealing, among other things, the names of the three phones that will almost certainly debut onstage tomorrow: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X, the tenth anniversary edition of the handset that’s a premium device and commemorative figurine all rolled up in one.

Of course, Apple events have never been about just one device. And from the looks of what we’ve seen so far, there’s likely to be a LOT of stuff to crawl through tomorrow morning (including, most likely, a surprise or two). Here’s what we think we know about the event so far.

iPhone

Let’s start with the most obvious one, right? Like punching out the biggest guy when you arrive at the prison yard. At this point, the new phones are basically all but announced. Here’s a pretty good rundown of all the things we know so far about the new handsets (I'm mostly saying that because I wrote it).

For those who don’t want a stale, day-old story, here’s the Cliffs Notes version:

  • There will be three phones: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. The first two are basically what they sound like, logical extensions of last year’s model. The X is essentially Apple’s way of throwing everything into a device without giving much consideration to things like, you know, price.
  • A new color, which may or may not be called “Blush Gold.” It’s kind of a bronze, coppery thing.

    Speaking of, the X is expected to be the most expensive iPhone ever. A bit of a dubious claim to fame, so far as those things go. Pricing is expected to be around $1,000 and as much as $1,200.

    That cost is due in no small part to the company’s decision to go with an OLED display, most likely provided by Samsung. You get all of your standard OLED benefits: more accurate colors, better image uniformity across the screen, etc. But it’ll cost both Apple and you. The company is reportedly paying ~$125 per panel.
  • A supply shortage for those OLEDs could also mean the X will ship later than the standard 8 handsets.
  • Also of note on the display front is the fact that Apple looks to finally be doing away with the bezels, aside from a notable notch at the top of the phone, flanking the front-facing cameras.

    Speaking of cameras, the dual rear-facing lenses look to be back, albeit with a new vertical orientation. Expect a lot more on the depth-sensing front for more AR capability and additional security for face scanning.

Face ID

Let’s break that one out, as it’s likely to be one of the biggest iPhone-related unveils tomorrow. Apple seems to finally be joining the facial-scanning crowd. A new face-scanning unlock feature looks like it’s coming to at least one of the phones. From preliminary software leaks, it appears that it will have a depth-sensing element on board, which offers a couple of clear advantages. First, that should help a phone unlock even when it’s, say, lying on a table, as was previously reported, because the phone should know what your face looks like from all angles. It could also mean added security. As I noted last week, many existing face-unlock features are easily tricked with a 2D picture of a face. Adding depth means it would be harder to fool and therefore potentially more secure.

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There have even been some hints that the company could use the technology to power Apple Pay, potentially doing away with Touch ID (and the fingerprint sensor) in the process. Of course, that would require a tremendous level of security on Apple’s front. Unlocking a phone is one thing — actually tying that feature to your bank account is another can of worms entirely. If I had to guess, I’d say Apple announces the functionality at the event, but notes that it’s shipping at a later date.

ARKit

This is going to be a big show for augmented reality. Cook gave a taste of what’s to come at its last event, and the availability of ARKit has resulted in some legitimately amazing demos. The company has long been much more bullish about AR’s near-term potential versus VR, and now is the moment when he puts his money where his mouth is. Expect some big, flash demos from big, flash companies like Disney (more Star Wars, please and thank you). Apple’s also been good about highlighting startups and small developers that utilize its platforms in innovative ways.

An AR headset has been rumored in recent months, thanks in part to some patent applications and the company’s generally bullish approach to the technology, but that seems like little more than a pipe dream at the moment. Among other things, the company would benefit from building up a library of ARKit apps before introducing devoted hardware.

Apple Watch

Details on new Apple Watches are still pretty scant right now. The one thing that seems like close to a given is an LTE model. The tech has been rumored for every Apple release so far, but while the company would be far from the first to offer this on a smartwatch, it’s well-positioned to get people to consider it for the first time. Among other things, Apple is a rare bright spot in an otherwise lackluster smartwatch sector. The company also operates its own music streaming and mobile payment services, both key benefits to leaving the smartphone at home while you, say, go for a jog.

Most of the other leaks we’ve seen so far seem pretty tame, including new colors. It stands to reason the company may also drop the price on the Apple Watch 2 when the new models arrive.

Apple TV

“Apple TV 4K” is the name we’re working with now. So, one of the biggest features is right there in the name. The set-top box is also said to be sporting the A10X — the same super powerful chip the company packed into the new iPad Pro, coupled with 3GB of RAM. New 4K functionality also points to 4K content for the iTunes store. We could also get some gaming demos, as Apple has slowly made this a capable machine. And, of course, more HomeKit functionality, as the company has long pushed to make the Apple TV a core of its connected home play.

Odds on this one are fairly likely — after all, this is Apple’s big chance to showcase all of its holiday offerings, and the Apple TV is a no-brainer.

HomePod

We saw quite a bit of the other big hardware piece of the HomeKit play at the last Apple event. We could see a little more from Apple’s high-end Echo competitor — and at the very least, the company could offer more specific insight into its release date. For the time being, we’re looking at a vague “Q4.”

AirPods

The timing is also right for some new AirPods. A leak has revealed some minor cosmetic changes, including an LED charging bar on the case. The insides will probably get a more dramatic overhaul, including, hopefully, improved battery life.

Odds and ends

  • An iOS 11 release date.
  • macOS High Sierra could get one, too.
  • Animated 3D Emojis. 3. D. Poop. Swirl.
  • A little more time with the iMac Pro, perhaps.
  • Extremely comfortable seats. I admit, this one’s more about us than you. Though, hopefully you have one, too. It’s going to be a long one.
  • Surprises — okay, this one's a cheat, I admit.