Apple’s next online-only launch will be Sept. 15 with Apple Watch, iPad on tap


Apple’s event invite, which was sent to reporters, suggests the launch could be about the Apple Watch. 

Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple has set the date for its next event. The company’s latest devices — which will likely include the sixth-generation Apple Watch and a new iPad — will be unveiled on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. PT. Like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the event will be held entirely online amid continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Apple’s event will be streamed via its website.

Apple’s invite, posted on its website, included a variation on its logo, done in swirling blue lines that turns out to be a bit of AR trickery. When viewed on an iPhone, the Apple invite logo morphs into the event’s date: 9.15. The invite sent to reporters included another clue — the phrase “Time Flies.” That hints at the event focusing on the Apple Watch, the tech giant’s popular wearable, instead of the first 5G iPhone. 

Apple typically holds a flashy product launch in September to show off its newest iPhones. The Apple Watch, iPad and other devices typically take a back seat to Apple’s key smartphone, and the company at times holds another event in October for its iPads and Macs. 

This time around, though, Apple likely will focus on its wearable and tablet for its Sept. 15 event. Apple has said its newest iPhones, which will sport super-fast 5G connectivity, will be delayed “by a few weeks” this year because of production issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s likely the new iPhones will arrive in October, and Apple will hold a new event at that time to focus on its phones. 

While the bulk of Apple’s revenue still comes from the iPhone, the company has been diversifying its operations. The Apple Watch was its first major new category under CEO Tim Cook, and since that time, it’s taken over the watch market. Instead of positioning the Apple Watch as a luxury item, Apple has shifted focus to emphasize health and fitness features built into the watch, elements that are particularly important to users as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last year, the Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry by a huge margin, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple shipped an estimated 31 million units in 2019, while all Swiss watch brands combined accounted for 21 million shipments, the research firm said.

At the same time, Apple’s iPads and Macs have been in high demand as consumers work and attend school at home during the pandemic. Thirteen out of the country’s 15 biggest school districts are holding virtual classes this fall, and devices for students have been facing steep shipping delays. Apple’s new iPad, likely a midrange iPad Air, could come with a larger display and Touch ID. It wouldn’t be as expensive as Apple’s high-end Pro lineup but would have a lot of the feel and performance of the pricier devices.

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This fall’s Apple product lineup is expected to touch off a wave of upgrade purchases, analysts say, with fans eyeing the iPhone’s rumored new 5G capabilities and its new boxier look, similar to that of the iPad Pro. Flashier rivals — such as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 2 5G, with its foldable display, or Microsoft’s Surface Duo, with two screens sandwiched together — offer new spins on the standard metal-and-glass smartphone construction. 

But perhaps the biggest standout of Apple’s product lineup in late 2020 may be its newest computer, which will be the first device powered by what the company calls Apple Silicon, or its own microprocessing chip

The company hasn’t shared many details about its newest computers, which will replace the Intel processors Apple’s relied on for 14 years with chips similar to the ones powering its iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. Apple said it’ll continue to sell Intel-powered computers for now, but it’s clear where the company is headed.

“Hardware and software is fundamental to everything we do,” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said when announcing the effort this summer. “It will take Mac to the next level.”

It also appears there’s an augmented reality component to Apple’s event on Sept. 15, based on the interactive invitation. 

AR could provide Apple with a way to show people its new devices without having to be there in person. Tech companies have been trying to figure out the best way to hold virtual demo rooms, a key part of any product launch. Last week, Samsung released a gamified tour of a digital home with its new devices.

Apple has been pushing AR over the past several years. The most notable example is the popularity of the Pokemon Go game on its iPhones. The company also has been working on AR and VR goggles, but it’s unlikely to launch the device in September. 

Apple’s augmented reality aspirations have always been driven by apps and services, and education has been an AR goal on the iPad for years. An upgraded processor on an iPad Air could help enable Apple’s latest ARKit features, and a larger screen could take advantage of some of the bigger-canvas ideas that exist now on the iPad Pro. It’s unlikely that a new Air would have the Pro’s depth-sensing Lidar sensor, however.

CNET’s Scott Stein contributed to this report. 

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