By Jason Snell
September 4, 2019 5:03 PM PT
The rest of my Sept. 10 event wishlist
Earlier today Macworld posted my pre-event 2019 iPhone Wish List. But there’s more to an iPhone event than just the iPhone. Here, then, are some other items I’m hoping we see next Tuesday.
Apple Watch interest
Apple Watch Rumors have been so light that it’s led to speculation—including my own—that there might not be an Apple Watch update this fall at all. But let’s face it, there probably will be a Series 5 Apple Watch, if only to stoke the upgrade fires of users of older models and make potential holiday watch buyers not feel like they’re buying last year’s merchandise. Still, it seems like the hardware upgrade in Series 5 might not be quite as dramatic as the ones we’ve seen the last couple of years.
The big Apple Watch rumor is about sleep tracking, something that we’ve been speculating about for a few years now. Apple Watch battery life has certainly improved to the point where I suspect most people could get through the night without charging, which is the premise of numerous third-party sleep-tracking Watch apps. Assuming you charge your Apple Watch when you’re in the shower or bath every day, you can probably sleep while wearing it.
Sleep tracking seems like it’s right up Apple’s alley, since it’s a wellness feature that’s broadly applicable and doesn’t require any new, specialized (and regulated) sensors. Getting a good night’s sleep is important to everyone’s health, and I can see Apple gamifying sleep hours just as they have gamified standing, being active, and exercising. I also wonder if it’s possible for Apple to warn about potentially dangerous conditions like apnea if the Apple Watch is regularly monitoring vital signs during sleep.
Then there’s the concept of “smart alarms”, the idea that the Apple Watch could sense your sleep rhythms and tap you on the wrist when you’re in a more conscious state and it’s almost time to wake up, rather than letting you start a new sleep cycle—and then interrupting it.
So, maybe we’ll finally get sleep tracking. That will be great. I still want the option of having an always-on screen, but that seems to just not be in the cards. Maybe in 2020.
Apple TV and Apple TV+
It sounds like Apple might be revising the Apple TV 4K hardware, but the rumors suggest that this will be a relatively minor hardware update.
I’m more interested in how Apple uses the enormous attention of the iPhone event to promote its soon-to-launch video service, Apple TV+. Will we finally get a launch date for the service? How about some clarity on what its monthly price will be? Will we see any more trailers for new series coming to the service?
And the big question, for me, is this: How does Apple feel about bundling its services together? Thus far, everything Apple offers is its own, standalone service. That has the benefit of simplicity, but it can also make someone feel like they’re already paying Apple too much money every month. With Disney+ coming in November for $6.99/month, Apple’s going to have a hard time trying to charge $9.99/month for its limited selection of content.
Bundling it with other services, on the other hand, could make Apple TV+ seem more valuable and make people more inclined to try it. I’d love to see a bundle with Apple Music, which seems natural. But I’m not convinced that Apple thinks it needs to bundle anything it does, and it’s entirely possible Apple will launch its TV service at a price that will not fare well in today’s competitive video-streaming landscape. I hope we get a better idea on Tuesday.
Apple Arcade: Bring it on
It seems like this will be the coming-out event for Apple Arcade, the monthly subscription service that will provide access to mobile-exclusive games without any free-to-play coin-grinding mechanics. Of all the services Apple has rolled out this year, this has always seemed like the most likely to succeed, given the strength of iOS as a gaming platform and the prospect of paying a small monthly fee to not be nagged endlessly when you’re just trying to enjoy a game.
The real question here is about the details. When does it launch? (My hope is the day that iOS 13 comes out, which is the day that the new iPhones ship. September 20, maybe?) What will it cost? (My hope: $4.99 or $5.99, not $9.99.) And most importantly, what are the games? We have gotten some teasers and there are some hints on the Internet, but in the end, this is a service that will stand or fall based on the catalog of games.
Yes, that means the catalog needs to continue to be good as the months go by… but you’ve got to start somewhere. And in this case, that means a very strong collection of games at launch.
And one more thing…
Will there be a surprise, something that’s only now getting buzzed about in rumor circles? I sure hope so, because what we know so far is not exactly the most exciting collection of Apple announcements ever. I wouldn’t put it past Apple to have something else to drop into this event that hasn’t been widely expected, but what would it be?
There’s talk about Apple’s augmented-reality glasses coming sooner than maybe many of us had expected, but it still seems premature for that. Unless Apple thinks it can make and sell an awful lot of them during the holidays, it might be worth holding off until early 2020 and giving itself a long gap before it needs to gear up for a holiday sales rush of AR gear.
The rumors of a tracking tile, on the other hand, seem like the perfect kind of fall-event announcement. An Apple tracking tile, which you can attach to your stuff and find using Apple technology when it gets lost, would be a low-cost product (relatively speaking—this is Apple, after all) that would also show off Apple’s new technology, its cleverness, and the broad reach of its ecosystem.
If you haven’t read any of the articles about this tracking tile, the idea is that it will be a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter that can be spotted not just by your devices, but by any Apple device that’s nearby. Meaning that your kid’s backpack doesn’t need a cellular or wi-fi connection to the Internet to phone home; it just needs to be within Bluetooth range of an Apple device that’s connected. And that’s most places on Earth, these days. This is existing technology that Apple has built into macOS Catalina and iOS for its own devices, and it’ll be available in the new Find My app this fall.
It’s a cool story that hits so many of Apple’s favorite product-announcement spots. And that’s why I think Apple won’t be able to resist rolling out that product. No, it’s not a pair of AR glasses or a new Apple TV soundbar or a redesigned HomePod or Apple-branded over-ear headphones or fancier AirPods, but it’s still a cool product with the potential to sell a bunch over the holiday season. What better time to announce it than next Tuesday?
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