Apple debuted a new Series 9 Watch with a more powerful processor on Tuesday ahead of an expected announcement about the iPhone 15 with new charging ports and better cameras – and possibly higher prices for top models.
Apple also introduced a new feature to the Series 9 watches called “double tap” where users tap thumb and finger together twice, without touching the watch, in order to perform tasks like answering a phone call.
It uses machine learning to detect tiny changes in blood flow when the user taps their fingers together, freeing up the other hand for other tasks like walking a dog or holding a cup of coffee, said Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.
CEO Tim Cook also said Apple is “on track” to ship its Vision Pro mixed-reality headset early next year.
The event at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters comes amid a global smartphone slump and lingering economic uncertainty, especially in China, Apple’s third-largest market where it faces challenges from expanded restrictions on using its iPhones in government offices and the first new flagship phone in several years from Huawei Technologies.
Apple is also expected to debut new AirPods models at the event, but the star of the show will be the iPhone, which still made up more than half of Apple’s $394.3 billion in sales last year.
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By far the biggest change for most Apple customers will be a switch from Apple’s propriety “Lightning” charging cables to USB-C, a standard that Apple already uses on its laptops and some high-end iPads.
Apple was forced into the change by European regulations, but analysts believe that the company will position the change as an upgrade, taking advantage of faster data speeds that can transfer high-quality videos made with iPhones.
Analysts are also expecting a new “periscope” camera technology that could give phones better zoom capabilities and titanium cases, as well as upgraded chips. Such “periscope” lenses can use mirrors or prisms to get a longer lens without having to make the camera module much larger.
The biggest question of the day will be whether Apple reserves those features for a new top-end device and makes smaller upgrades to its cheaper models.
“Just like we saw people who aren’t Ultra athletes buy the Apple Watch Ultra, we’re going to see a bunch of people buy this even if they aren’t camera or photography enthusiasts, just because they like the latest and greatest,” said Ben Bajarin, chief executive and principal analyst of Creative Strategies. “That by itself creates that buzz and momentum and allure to the top end.”
Apple is expected to increase the average price per phone sold to boost its revenue, but the question is whether it does that by raising prices across the board or just on premium versions. The global smartphone market has slumped from shipping 294.5 million total phones to 268 million in the second quarter, but Apple’s shipments declined the least of any major smartphone maker, dropping from 46.5 million phones to 45.3 million, according to data from Counterpoint Research.
“The truth of the matter is, we’re in a very down smartphone market,” said Bob O’Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research.
O’Donnell said he will also be on the lookout for any hints about Apple’s plans with what is known as generative artificial intelligence, the technology trend behind applications like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s “Copilot” assistant technologies for its Office software.
Analysts have repeatedly prodded Apple about its plans for such technology but the company has given few hints so far, other than Chief Executive Tim Cook’s comments in July that the company’s secret work on the technology is driving up its research spending.
“Will Apple tease an advanced form of Siri? That would be something that would generate some excitement,” O’Donnell said.