iPhone 7 launch: Why the phone will be the least important thing at Apple’s biggest event of the year

The Apple Watch 2, the future of audio, Macs and of the home might all play a significant part at the event on 7 September

Andrew Griffin
Friday 02 September 2016 15:39 BST
Tim Cook walks off stage after speaking during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California
Tim Cook walks off stage after speaking during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California (Getty)

Apple is about to launch the iPhone 7. And a lot more.

The company is about to hold its biggest event of the year, where it shows off the newest version of its handset. The new phone will be extra important this year – coming as iPhone sales start to slump - and is expected to introduce new camera technologies as well as getting a huge speed bump.

But despite all the hype, coverage and excitement that will surround that phone, it might not really be the most important thing that will be announced. Instead, the future of Apple might be hiding in the smaller products.

The iPhone isn’t traditionally the best way of seeing where Apple is pointing – it is now a fairly developed product, changing little each year, and tends to have the most sophisticated technologies that Apple has built in. It will be even less useful as a way of doing that this year, since most reports suggest that the changes will be minimal ahead of a huge upgrade coming in 2017.

Instead, the more important releases might be the Apple Watch, Beats, Macs and other products that Apple might choose to announce while it has the world’s eyes.

Some of those will be directly related to the iPhone. The company is rumoured to be introducing new Beats headphones, for instance – that is extra-important because Apple intends to get rid of the headphone jack in the new phone, according to rumours.

Without the headphone jack, iPhone users wills have to plug in either to the Lightning port on the bottom of the phone or using Bluetooth wireless. And it will be up to Apple to convince people that they want to do so – a large part of that will be the headphones that it opts to sell, and whether it can sell them will depend on the story that they tell.

The Apple Watch 2 will be useful as a way of seeing what Apple plans to do with its only major new product in recent years. Apple has been changing the way that it markets the product, and is likely to focus on fitness – as such, it will be an important way of watching whether Apple can still innovate in those newer categories.

Apple might even choose to enter even more new categories at the September event. It has been rumoured to be looking at new ways of controlling the home – perhaps with a devoted speaker, like Google has introduced – and though no rumours have suggested that is coming just yet, Apple might at least nod to its plans for the house.

And it might too show what it is planning for the car. The Apple Car itself might still be years off – many years indeed, according to some reports – but as Apple’s biggest rumoured project it would make sense if there was at least some indication of Apple’s vision for the future of the car.

5 things to expect on the new iPhone 7

But it will be the Macs that might be the closest product to watch. Apple might not actually announce them at the September event – deciding instead to do so soon after – but whatever they do is likely to set off controversy.

Many of Apple’s Macs haven’t received an update for years. The bin-shaped MacBook Pro – which was introduced as a scoffing rebuttal to people who say Apple can’t innovate any more – hasn’t been updated in three years.

If Apple chooses to show off new computers, then it will be an important sign that it is still committed to the Mac platform and that the delays are probably the result of other, external problems. If there is little mention of the Mac and its operating system, then some people might start to worry that Apple is thinking its future lies in the iPhone and the iPad, not its laptops and computers.

All of those various things will combine in what is perhaps Apple’s greatest strength: its marketing. And that’s what we’ll really get to see the strength of on 7 September.

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