Updated 09/07/21: Apple has announced its “California Streaming” event for September 14 at 10am Pacific Time. We expect Apple to announce the iPhone 13 lineup, Apple Watch Series 7, and perhaps new AirPods.
Apple doesn’t often participate in big industry-wide events like CES or E3. The most valuable company in the world holds its own events, thank you very much. Several times a year, Apple invites the press and industry professionals out to a theater to hear all about its latest products and services. Apple calls these “Special Events,” and streams them online to its millions of fans.
There’s also WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, a multi-day event in the middle of the year focused on sessions for developers, helping them make the most out of the latest Apple tools and products. It kicks off with a big keynote that serves to announce new products (typically the latest versions of iOS and macOS, as well as a few hardware products).
Here’s a list of the events we expect Apple to hold in the remainder of 2021, and what we expect the company to announce at each one. We’ll update this list throughout the year as we get a clearer picture of when Apple will take the stage and what it will announce.
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September 14: “California Streaming” iPhone 13 and Apple Watch Series 7
Apple almost always unveils the new iPhones and Apple Watch (or Watches—Apple released two in 2020) during an event in September. Specifically, this event almost always takes place on a Tuesday or Wednesday in the second full week of September. True to form, Apple has sent out invitations to a Special Event on Tuesday, September 14 at 10am Pacific Time.
The event tagline and imagery often give us a clue as to what will be announced, but this year it is rather vague—a California lake at dusk (or perhaps dawn), the Apple logo, and the tagline “California streaming.” It would be appropriate perhaps for a new Apple TV or huge changes to the TV+ or Apple Music services, but we haven’t heard that any of those are on the way. The complete invitation graphic is below.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, this event was broken in two. In September, Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 6, and a couple new iPads. Then the iPhone 12 line was announced at an event in October. We expect Apple to go back to a single event for those products this year, with later events for Macs or other products. It’s going to be a virtual event once again—the world is not yet ready to safely pack the Steve Jobs Theater.
We’re expecting to see four new iPhone 13 models (roughly similar to the four iPhone 12 models) and an Apple Watch Series 7 with a new flat-edged design. Apple’s also apparently working on new AirPods with a fresh new design, and this would be an excellent time to announce that too.
Apple regularly hosts events in late October (2018) or early November (2020) to round out the year with a few last-minute product releases. These are often new iPads or Macs—last year’s event saw the release of the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and MAc mini—but there’s no reason Apple couldn’t announce something crazy like AR glasses at its own event later in the year. (We don’t expect Apple to announce AR glasses this year, but you never know.)
In 2020, the “October” event was virtual and delayed a month to November, just as the “September” event was. It introduced the wonderful M1-based Macs. It’s too early to know whether Apple will have an event in October this year, but with so many products on the way, it seems likely. Our best guess is that Apple will hold an event in October or November where it will introduce the new MacBook Pros with the M1X or M2 processor, a new design, and several new features. We’ve also heard rumors of a new high-end Mac mini with the same M1X processor arriving in late 2021.
Throughout the year, Apple holds online virtual developer events meant to help developers make the best use of Apple’s products, software, and ecosystem. Examples from early in the year include “Building Great Widget Experiences,” “Bring Your iPad App to Mac,” and “Building Great App Clip Experiences.”
Apple doesn’t announce products (hardware nor software) at these events, and there’s no need to focus on them if you’re not a registered Apple developer producing software for Apple products. It’s always interesting to see what areas Apple feels it needs to bolster, however. In this case, it seems the company doesn’t see as much use of Widgets, App Clips, and Catalyst as it would like.
Awards and honors
Apple has given out app awards for years, but 2019 was the first time there was an actual ceremony for such. The Best of 2019 app awards were held at a small December event in New York, with mostly the nominated developers and some press in attendance. It was not streamed online.
Also for the first time in 2019, Apple held an awards ceremony for Apple Music. There was a live-streamed performance by Artist of the Year Billie Elish as part of it, the event as a whole was kept mostly to the music industry. In 2020, these events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards were still given, but there was no event. This year, Apple will certainly honor app developers and musicians with awards, but it’s too early to know if there will be an event around it or not.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.