The countdown is on as Apple watchers are at the ready for the next big thing: its product reveal taking place Tuesday morning at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. As the “What to Expect” headlines keep rolling in, Apple, as usual, will do its best to keep leaks at bay, so as to unveil its latest products in the typical, dramatic, Apple fashion we all have come to know so well.
Perhaps the only certainty regarding the launch is that Apple will unveil a new iPhone, in line with its fall mobile announcements. But how many, and more importantly, how big? And will we finally see the so-called “iWatch” after months of rumors and sketches?
Major news outlets think so, and if Apple wants to stay on top of its game, it had better. This past week alone saw major wearable tech announcements from Samsung and Intel, and while none of them (arguably) hold the fascination that Apple does, there’s no doubt that Apple acolytes are getting impatient waiting for CEO Tim Cook to unveil his first big product post-Jobs.[more]
Rest assured, Apple’s actions over the last year or so have pointed in the direction of wearables—and fashionable ones at that.
Its move to recruit former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as its new head of retail showed that the brand was taking a more serious interest in the business of fashion, and its most recent announcement, that designer Marc Newson has joined Apple design guru Jony Ive’s team, further supports the high regard that Apple is giving design. Apple also recruited Paul Deneve of Yves Saint Laurent and Nike FuelBand veteran Ben Shaffer in the last year, both of whom bring expertise in both fashion design and technology.
But brilliant design may be only a small piece of a wearable device’s success. As the New York Times notes, the fate of Apple’s first wearable will rest on how well it partners with other industries, especially healthcare, as the upcoming device will no doubt integrate Apple’s recently announced Health Kit and Home Kit.
Also, in light of the recent nude photo scandal that involved hackers breaking into celebrities’ iCloud accounts, analysts and consumers will be looking for Apple to take a leading position on security, especially as the Health and Home Kits will track, store and share user data with other apps and devices.
“Apple needs the support of partners, like app developers, healthcare companies and medical technology companies, that will help create the functions that give people a reason to want to wear a computer around their wrist all the time in the first place,” said Mark A. McAndrew, a partner with the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, according to the Times. “Lining up deals with music labels and persuading them to agree to a charge of 99 cents a song on iTunes was one of the reasons the iPod became popular.”
It’s a bit early to start speculating if Apple’s new wearable will see the success that the iPod saw, but one space that the brand has no wiggle room on is smartphones. Despite Apple’s cult-like popularity, rival Samsung is still the worldwide smartphone leader, and other players, like Lenovo, China’s Xiaomi and HTC are making major inroads with their mobile phones and phablets. (Amazon, meanwhile, just slashed the price of its new Fire Phone to an eye-popping 99 cents—with a two-year AT&T contract.)
The Wall Street Journal hears that Apple will show off two new phones, sporting 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch screens, as the company finally gives in to years of the market moving in favor of bigger screens and away from Steve Jobs’ view that small is beautiful. The new phones—including the iPhone 6, which some are speculating may be called the “iPhone 6 Plus”— will now directly, on every level, challenge Samsung’s S series and its Note series of phablets, though the larger-screen iPhones may in turn hurt Apple’s own iPad sales, especially that of the 7.9-inch iPad Mini.
Still, leveling the playing field might not be the goal that Apple has in mind. With a 42-percent mobile marketshare in the US, Apple isn’t looking to level anything—it’s looking to dominate and elevate, becoming a luxury brand at last, as Cook’s hiring of Newson, Ahrendts and the company’s other tech chic geeks, certainly indicates.
—Alicia Ciccone is associate editor of brandchannel. Follow her on Twitter: @aliciaciccone