Expect a glitzy show with plenty of new hardware at Apple’s September event

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The Apple September Event 2020 will surely take advantage of its virtual nature.
Apple software chief Craig Federighi is sure to take the virtual stage at Apple’s Sept. 15 event.
Photo illustration: Cult of Mac/Apple

Apple will hold an online event on September 15. That’s all we know for sure. But leaks, rumors and unconfirmed reports reveal much more, with multiple new devices supposedly on the docket — although maybe not the one you expect.

An event with no real people in attendance, it likely will follow the template of Apple’s virtual Worldwide Developers Conference from June, which drew much praise. Here’s what you can expect from Apple’s September event next Tuesday.

Apple reboots the keynote in 2020

Each September, Apple typically shows off the crown jewels of its hardware lineup — new iPhones — in front of a raucous audience filled with press and VIPs. However, in case you hadn’t noticed, 2020 is shaping up to be a year like no other.

Just as with WWDC 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Cupertino from inviting actual humans to next week’s launch of new products as it normally would. Instead, the Apple September event will take place entirely online.

That could actually be good news for Apple fans. The company pulled off the WWDC keynote in June very well, to the point where Cult of Mac’s Luke Dormehl said, “I don’t want Cupertino to ever go back to doing live keynotes.”

Rather than a predictable parade of Apple execs across one stage, this summer’s WWDC presentation took viewers on a virtual tour of the company’s campus. iOS 14, macOS Big Sur and other software advances were unveiled from a variety of locations. The production values were very high, giving the entire event a professional feeling. Just what you would expect from Apple.

You can assume the same will happen on September 15. Whatever is coming, the presentation won’t be boring.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s the iPad Air 4

A steady stream of leaks from inside Apple and its Asian supply chain indicate that one of the stars of the Apple September event will be the iPad Air 4. And this will be no small tweak.

No, this tablet is reportedly getting the most dramatic redesign since the original version. The clunky screen bezels likely will go away, giving the device a nearly edge-to-edge display. And that display will grow to 10.8-inches, up from the 10.5-inch screen in the 2019 version.

The rumor mill isn’t clear on whether the iPad Air 4 will include a Touch ID fingerprint scanner built into its power button or Face ID facial-recognition sensors. There’ve even been reports of an in-screen Touch ID scanner. We should know for sure next Tuesday.

This tablet, along with others from Apple, will get the benefits of iPadOS 14. That includes new uses for the Apple Pencil, including long-overdue handwriting recognition.

Over the years, Apple kept the starting price for this line of tablets steady at $499, and that’s expected to continue in 2020.

Check your Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6 might look much like Series 5.
The 2020 Apple Watch reportedly will focus on new health features.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

An updated version of Apple’s wrist wearable comes out every autumn, and this year will be no exception. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Apple Watch Series 6 will bring an even greater focus on health, appropriate for 2020’s ongoing pandemic.

The device is expected to have a sensor that tracks the oxygenation level of blood. That’s great for runners, but also could provide an early warning of a COVID-19 infection.

watchOS 7 finally will allow this wearable to do sleep tracking. And there are other new health features, too.

However, Apple Watch Series 6 isn’t rumored to bring really significant hardware changes, like a larger screen. So a price increase seems unlikely, leaving the starting price at $399.

That said, a recent unconfirmed report points to a new, low-cost model. This will supposedly replace the $199 Apple Watch Series 3 in the product lineup. Whether it will cost less, or offer more features at the same price, is anyone’s guess.

But something is missing from Apple September 15 event … maybe

The Apple September event is the traditional launch pad for new iPhones. But 2020 might be different.

Apple said in July, “Last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project supply to be available a few weeks later.” If the devices won’t arrive until at least October, Tim Cook and Co. might hold off announcing it. That’s what a reliable leaker says will happen, anyway.

But Apple seems to be dropping hints that the wraps will come off the 2020 iPhone 12 on September 15. Most notably, the invitation to this event contains an augmented-reality easter egg, even though neither the new iPad or the Apple Watch likely bring any new AR features. The next iPhone is expected to.

Also, Cupertino recently started taking down launch trailer videos for the iPhone 11 from its YouTube channel. That seems like preparation for the iPhone 12.

Other new stuff coming at Apple event?

There might be a couple of smaller announcements at the Apple September event, too.

Rumors of AirTags have been circulating since June 2019. These item trackers could finally be ready for unveiling. If so, they’ll be small devices that clip to keychains, purses, etc., and can be easily tracked down with an iPhone.

Various Apple services, which the company promotes with increasing vigor, could get some virtual stage time next Tuesday. And those who subscribe to multiple Apple services could get a price break. Apple One is supposedly a collection of bundles of Apple Music, Apple TV+, iCloud and other services, with lower prices for people who subscribe to multiple ones. Multiple leaks make the launch of an Apple services bundle look imminent.

Other revelations seem possible but less likely at next week’s event. We’ve heard rumors of Apple over-the-ear headphones, potentially called AirPods Studio. And a new, smaller HomePod is reportedly in the pipeline. And we might even learn more about upcoming laptops powered by custom Apple Silicon chips.

Whatever is announced on September 15, Cult of Mac will be ready to cover it in depth. And you can watch along: Everyone’s invited to stream the live Apple event, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Pacific.