Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.
Given the imminent release of the Apple Watch – come on, that can’t be a spoiler at this point – it’s all too appropriate to compare Apple to the clock. Like the clock we all live by day in and day out, Apple observes a fairly strict set of cycles and patterns. Springtime is quiet time, with all the cooks busy in the kitchen preparing the second half of the year’s goodies. With June comes WWDC, Apple’s first big event, alongside Mac notebook hardware and new major versions of iOS and OS X. Then September – iPhone time – and finally late October, the iPad.
This year had to be different. When Apple announced the Apple Watch at last September’s media event, it was also announcing its first new product category since the iPad in 2010. It was announcing a product unlike one ever to come out of Apple; intimately customizable, from watch face to watch band to watch price. Are you in the market for the potentially five figure Apple Watch Edition, by any chance?
The Apple Watch makes predicting Monday’s event impossible. Traditionally, anybody who knew how to read Apple’s product release cycle and what type of product they traditionally released could make fairly accurate predictions on what to expect – it’s why we’ve been correct in all but one of our nearly twenty predictions thus far. This time, the only thing we can know for sure is that the Apple Watch is coming. Everything else?
Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.
What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming industry events. This Monday’s event promises to be one of the largest Apple events in recent memory, making this one of the most difficult – and interesting – events to predict. Read more to hear what we think.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first – this is the Apple Watch launch event.
This one isn’t so wild, and it only takes a look at the time pun on Apple’s own invitations (“spring forward”) to reach this conclusion. Last September’s event may be remembered as the day that the world met the Apple Watch, but Monday’s will be the one that we actually learn what makes the Apple Watch. Apple has remained tight lipped about what the Apple Watch does, how it does it, and even how you’ll be able to get it. I expect Apple to answer all the major questions with an in depth look at its user interface, first party applications, third party applications, battery life, configurations, pricing, and more.
Priced for (most) audiences – $349 Apple Watch Sport, $500 Apple Watch, and…
Pricing of the Apple Watch’s various collections have been a major topic of discussion since the Watch’s unveiling, and while we know that the product line will start at $349, Monday we’ll learn the specific breakdown. Given the materials, I agree with most that believe that the Apple Watch Sport is the “low-end” $349 model, shipped with the colorful (and white and black) sport bands.
From there, the Apple Watch collection could start at $500 with those nice aluminum bands bundled. Apple has been so proudly showing off in all their marketing material. The real question mark is the Apple Watch Edition collection. In his Apple Watch Prelude published on Saturday night, Apple analyst John Gruber of Daring Fireball made a bold prediction that the Edition lineup will start at $10,000, given its heavy reliance on gold as a manufacturing material.
Gruber may be a little off here. Apple will almost certainly sell a model of the Edition collection for $10,000, but I don’t think that will be the entry point. Instead, I think the Apple Watch Edition will start at $5,000 – a decidedly four-digit number. This is based on the cost of the gold used in the Apple Watch, which will likely come in at well under $5,000 (likely closer to $2,000, as Gruber seems to agree), and Apple’s traditional profit margins. If the total production cost of the base model clocks in at, let’s say $2,200 (which may even be a little high), Apple would still be making an over 100% profit on the device.
Mark Gurman had the scoop, and the Apple Watch has an A5-equivalent processor, 8GB of storage, and 1 day (real world) battery life.
9to5Mac has been killing it with the scoops lately, and a report published a couple of weeks ago that suggested that the Apple Watch’s S1 processor is roughly equivalent to the A5 first found in the iPhone 4S, and (horribly, awfully, please-make-it-stop-ly) used today in the base model iPad mini. For hardware smaller than the palm of my hand, this seems perfect. That gives the Apple Watch the speed to work through a stripped, iOS based operating system with aplomb.
Battery life has been another big talking point in the run-up to Monday’s event, and I don’t think the situation is even nearly as dire as some would have you believe. You’re not going to get weeklong battery life; if that’s a mandate for you, can I introduce you to the Pebble Time? But for most, it’ll do fine. The Apple Watch will last a full day under real world usage. Given some comments made by both Jony Ive and Apple CEO Tim Cook, I heavily suspect that most people will be able to squeak more than a day’s worth of battery. Hopefully you have one of those new, inductive chargers on your workbench.
9to5Mac also recently revealed that the Apple Watch may have 8GB of internal storage, which lines up with the Apple Watch’s intended uses. Apple Watch app file sizes will be small, letting you easily install dozens of apps without putting too much of a dent in your storage. Instead, Apple intends for you to fill up your Apple Watch with your favorite running jams. Music will play a big part of the Apple Watch and will be one of the few things you can use it for without your iPhone being in the Watch’s line of sight, because music is a big part in most people’s fitness routines. Which leads me to…
Apple’s not blind to the rest of the market, and it knows that there are arguably two wearable devices that have been truly met with success. There’s the Pebble, which acts as a mini-computing platform and a terminal for notifications, and there’s the Fitbit, which is a complete fitness-tracking band. It’s like eBooks were a large part of that initial iPad event all those years ago. Fitness will be one of the Apple Watch’s justifications for existing.
Apple will show videos of joggers jogging, marathoners marathoning, and whatever else they can use to show how you should never go to the gym without your Apple Watch again. Apple has already talked this up tons at the September 2014 event, but expect to hear it all over again in much more detail on Monday.
There may be some love for the Mac, but this is the Watch event. No big upgrades, just spec bumps.
Apple is certainly working on a revamped version of their popular MacBook Air lineup. The release of the new, Retina equipped MacBook Air with that crazy Type-C USB port and a 12-inch display may very well be imminent, but Apple won’t want to distract from the main event. There will be no Retina MacBook Air at Monday’s Event.
MacRumors points to slipping shipping times for the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the entire MacBook Air lineup, and I think it’s likely that we will get updated MacBooks. But don’t be surprised if these reveals are deligated to just press releases on Apple.com. We’re talking minor upgrades: processor swaps in the same enclosures, the sort of upgrades that the average mom and pop consumer wouldn’t be able to distinguish themselves. Upgrades to Intel’s Broadcom processor family seems likely, and I think the MacBook Pro 13” in particular is well overdue for some graphical processing improvements. Hopefully that’s the sort of thing that excites you.
What about the iPhone? iPad? Or, good was gracious, the iPod!?
If your definition of iPhone and iPad news includes release of a fairly insignificant software update that brings Apple Watch support to iOS, sure, we’re going to get some phone and tablet upgrades. Like everything else in this event, the context of these upgrades will be solely the Apple Watch. “With the new iOS 8.2, you’ll be able to manage the applications installed on your Apple Watch,” is what I’m talking here.
Yes, that means you’re not going to be seeing the long rumored 12-inch iPad “Pro”, either. The Wall Street Journal thinks that this is the result of a delay, but I sincerely doubt that such a device was ever in the cards for Monday’s event. The closest product announcement we can compare the iPad Pro to is the iPad mini, which shared an event with big news for the rest of the iPad lineup. My guess is that the iPad Pro was always going to be a Q4 2015 thing, appearing alongside the iPad mini 4 and the iPad Air 3. This also explains why development on iOS 8’s hidden and incomplete multitasking mode has been so slow.
Also no, no iPods.
Physical Apple Stores are going to see a big revamp.
This is a part of the rumor mill that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention, but I strongly believe that this is a necessary part of the Apple Watch launch. Today’s Apple Stores simply aren’t made to sell products like the Apple Watch. Apple is going to at the very least announce the revamp, and will very likely go into some detail about what’s changed.
Have you ever walked into a luxury jewelry store? If so, I think you’ve got a very good idea about what a substantial part of the new Apple Stores will look like. From Apple’s hiring of new head of retail Angela Ahrendts to Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive’s rumored direct involvement of the project, Apple will be reworking the Apple Stores to be better equipped to sell Apple Watches. Expect big, glass cases showcasing the many configurations of bands, assistance with trying on the available configurations, a reworked Genius Bar system, and lots more.
Monday’s event promises to be one of exactly two things, depending on your level of interest in the Apple Watch. For some, it will be one of the most interesting Apple events in recent memory, revealing not only the exact future of the Watch product but also, very likely, the very future of Apple itself as a company. But for those who scoff at the idea at a “smart” watch – for those who never want to part with their Rolex, or who don’t see a place for a watch, no matter how smart it is, in the 21st century, the Monday event may be a snoozer.
What side of history are you on?