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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

What to look for at Wednesday’s Apple event

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Apple’s big fall media event is Wednesday, and I’ll be there bright and early to cover the whole thing here on Six Colors. Thanks to the leaks from Apple and its supply chain, most of us think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what will be announced—though surprises are welcome!

The devil’s in the details, though. This event is Apple’s big chance to put all of its fall product offerings in context, to tell stories that explain why these products do what they do (or in some cases, don’t do what they don’t). This is product marketing at its highest level, and the way Apple introduces a product can be enlightening.

So here are a few details I’ll be keeping my eyes out for tomorrow:

Justification for removing the headphone jack. All signs point to the new iPhone models dropping the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Close Apple watchers have had months to mentally prepare for that. What’s going to be interesting is how Apple explains the move. Does it play it off quickly with a shrug—”wireless is better”—or does it go into detail? Does the jack’s removal get blamed on some other great iPhone feature that required the space? Does Apple have a bigger story about wireless headphones that it uses to distract from the removal issue?

To me, that’s the single most interesting bit of stagecraft and script that I’m expecting Wednesday. Not the removal of the headphone jack itself, but how Apple spins the benefit to users who will have to deal with adapters and short-term incompatibilities if they buy a new iPhone. We can endlessly argue about why Apple should keep or remove the headphone jack; what I’m interested in is which argument Apple chooses to make.

Is there an additional wireless audio story? There have been rumors swirling around for a while that part of the headphone-jack removal would be a new set of Apple-branded wireless headphones, dubbed AirPods. Whether or not that rumor is true, I’m curious how Apple promotes wireless audio. Does it highlight Beats? Does it unveil new Apple-branded headphones? Does it use an alternative technology to Bluetooth?

What’s the adapter story? If Apple removes the headphone jack from the iPhone, Apple certainly will make a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter for people who currently rely on that jack to connect their iPhones to other devices. The real question is what does it cost? Will Apple include one in every box for free, or will it be a separate purchase? And how much will it cost? (I joked on Twitter last week that it’ll cost $19 if Apple’s sort of sorry, $29 if it’s not sorry, and if it’s free in the box then Apple’s really afraid of consumer backlash.)

There’s another adapter detail, too: Is there only one? There are several scenarios where you’d want to play audio out of the jack while charging your phone. I do this in the car all the time, for instance. I’m curious if Apple will also offer an adapter with an inline Lightning jack, too, or if it’ll leave that for third parties to squabble over.

How Apple demos a two-lens camera. Another rumor is that Apple will put a two-lens camera system onto the iPhone Plus, increasing picture quality through clever integration of software and hardware. How will Apple promote the improved camera on the larger model while acknowledging that its most popular iPhone model, the non-Plus edition, won’t be able to generate the same images?

I also love to see the sample photos Apple generates during its presentations. Apple generally hires professional photographers and has them shoot amazing sample images using the new hardware, often featuring beautiful models hired as a part of the photo shoot. I’m always fascinated by these photos, and I’m looking forward to seeing what scenarios Apple chooses to use to highlight the features of the dual-camera system.

How does Apple position the Apple Watch? It’s been two years since Apple announced the Apple Watch. Let’s assume there will be some new Apple Watch announcement, presumably with a hardware update. It will be interesting to see where Apple leans in terms of use cases for the watch. Will it push fitness features above all else? Or will it mostly stick to the all-things-to-all-people approach that it’s used up to now? The choice of demos and examples may give us a clue about what areas Apple feels have the most potential for the Apple Watch.

Anything more than a mention of the Mac or iPad? The Mac and iPad will probably get mentioned during the event, even if it’s just a perfunctory mention of macOS Sierra and an aside during a demo of iOS 10. My question is, will Apple do anything more than that? Last year, the September event was the last product of the year for Apple—there was nothing else the rest of the year. Two years ago, Apple followed up the September event with a smaller event in October that covered the Mac and the iPad.

So, will Apple announce any new Macs? Will it tease future updates to the iPad coming next spring? Will it suggest that great news for the Mac is forthcoming later this year? My guess would be no, but I’m ever hopeful that we’ll see at least a bit of a nod toward the future of those two product lines, even if tomorrow’s event is all about iPhone and Apple Watch.

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