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What to expect from Apple’s September 14 “California Streaming” event

Futuristic glass-walled building permits views of surrounding forest.

On September 14 at 10 am PDT (1 pm EDT), Apple will host its first product-launch event in several months. Once again, it will be an online-only event. But as with other recent online events from Apple, we expect it to be as jam-packed with announcements as ever.

It’s likely to focus on the iPhone, but revelations about the Apple Watch, AirPods, and maybe the iPad are likely, too. We’ll be liveblogging the event as it happens on Tuesday, of course, but until then, consider what you’re about to read our best attempt at setting expectations and making predictions about what’s coming.

In so many ways, Apple has gotten easier to read and predict in recent years—certainly compared to the years during Steve Jobs’ second tenure as CEO. Apple has settled into something of a cadence with its main product lines, making it a bit easier to see what may be coming. The company’s products are still disruptive, but now they do it in a subtle, iterative ways and often in areas that aren’t as flashy as what we saw in the 2000s—like health care, for example.

And sure enough, we expect health to be a focus for Apple’s upcoming products. But that surely won’t be the whole of it. So here’s what we’re looking out for.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro

As has usually been the case with Apple’s September events, the iPhone is likely to be the star. Apple will announce its new lineup of flagship iPhones.

There have been no shortage of leaks and reports indicating that the new phones will come in the same sizes as last year’s lineup: 5.4- and 6.1-inch variants of the standard flagship iPhone, and 6.1- and 6.7-inch variants of the “Pro” model, which last year was simply made of nicer materials and featured a more robust camera system.

Will Apple name these handsets the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, exactly matching the naming scheme seen for the last two years? That seems like a reasonable guess, but you never know.

In any case, rumors are swirling that Apple will finally introduce an iPhone with a 120 Hz display—something many Android flagships already have and that Apple itself did with the iPad Pro.

If that happens, we expect the display will be a feature that differentiates the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max over the cheaper iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.

Some leakers and supply line sources have said that the iPhone 13 will have a smaller front-facing sensor and camera notch than the iPhone 12. The Pro models might have a new kind of optical stabilization on the rear camera system.

Apple could do the same with its entry-level iPad, but we also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple didn’t do that. After all, the main role of that iPad is to stay cheap so schools can afford it. That said, a processor bump is due, so we might see that, at least.

If the iPad Air gets an update, expect it to be a bump to the A15 chip, with no other changes. And the current, M1-equipped iPad Pro is one of Apple’s most current products, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see a new iPad Pro this month.

We think it’s likely that Apple will announce an updated iPad mini and base iPad within the next few months, but it’s entirely possible Apple will hold off its iPad announcements until later in the year; the company hasn’t always been consistent about exactly when in Q3 or Q4 it reveals or launches new tablets.

What about Macs?

The Mac is in an awkward spot. All the lowest-end Macs have Apple-designed chips to replace the Intel CPUs that have been a part of the Mac for years now. But the high-end Macs like the 27-inch iMac, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac Pro are still living in the old paradigm.

It’s very likely that at least the MacBook Pro and maybe the large iMac will get their Apple Silicon updates this year. (All signs point to a Mac Pro desktop tower update in 2022, not 2021.)

But Apple has not usually announced Macs alongside the iPhone at its recent September events, opting instead to save those products for October, November, or even December. So don’t expect new Macs—yet.
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