What’s in store (and in stores) for Apple this fall

Fall is just around the corner and you know what that means: Apple announcement season!

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Though it might still only be mid-August, fall is rapidly approaching. That’s not only significant because it will hopefully mean the end of the heat that’s been barraging my home for the last several weeks, but also because it’s traditionally Apple’s busiest time of the year.

I say “traditionally” because this year, well, everything’s a little bit off-kilter. Still, it does seem as though the Cupertino-based company is getting its ducks in a row for its usual deluge of product releases, even if the actual event might look more like this year’s WWDC keynote than fall Apple events of years past.

So, in advance of everything kicking off, let's take a moment to go over what might be the most exciting announcements to come out of Apple Park in the next few months, and what we all might have to look forward to. (Because, in this day and age, we all need something to look forward to, don't we?)

Apple silicons and pros

Even six weeks after WWDC, I’m still riding high on the idea of Macs powered by Apple’s custom silicon. It’s the news that we all thought was coming, but to have it officially confirmed—and, moreover, blown away by the news that iOS apps will just run on the Mac—has only reinforced the idea that the Mac is about to make a big jump.

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We could learn more about Apple silicon Macs later this fall.

We’ve gotten only a few tantalizing tidbits since that announcement, including some unofficial benchmarks of the developer kits that are out there, and Tim Cook’s comment during Apple’s most recent earning call that the transition lets Apple “envision some products that we can achieve with Apple silicon that we couldn’t achieve otherwise.”

This could mean anything from Macs that provide substantially better performance at lower power consumption, to the first Macs with touchscreens, to kinds of Macs we've never seen—or perhaps even dreamed. The Mac may be approaching its 40th birthday, but as someone who's lately hit that milestone himself, I’d like to believe there’s still some new tricks left in that old dog.

Small things come in small packages

Of course, no fall would be complete without Apple rolling out improvements to its crown jewel, the iPhone. We haven’t yet hit the fever pitch of this year’s rumors yet, but already the speculation seems to be that it will include support for 5G, a LiDAR sensor à la the most recent iPad Pro, and well, a dramatically lighter box.

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People want more display out of their phones.

But of all the rumors, the one that has the most buzz around it is that this year’s iPhone line-up will add a smaller sized phone to the mix. A vocal segment of customers have been clamoring for that ever since the original iPhone SE was discontinued. The most recent iPhone models definitely all tend toward the larger end of the spectrum, with the iPhone 11 Pro surprisingly smallest in last year's new models. But even the 11 Pro comes with a large 5.8-inch screen—larger than some hands are comfortable holding, and too big for smaller pockets.

Here’s the thing: fundamentally what people want is not so much a big device as a big display. The good news is that Apple’s edge-to-edge OLED screens have proved it's possible to eke more screen real estate out of a smaller case by expanding the amount of the object covered in screen. So a rumored 5.4-inch iPhone could provide a display that’s plenty large without becoming unwieldy. And don't worry big-phone fans: it's not as if the smaller option will be the only one; you'll still be able to get your iPhone 12 Pro Max, or whatever it's called this year.

Bundle in the oven

Apple hasn’t been shy about its interest in driving Services revenue. On that recent financial results call, Tim Cook patted the company on the back for beating its goal of doubling service revenue with six months to spare.

But customers are paying for an increasing number of services: some might be paying for five or six from Apple alone. How to deal with this subscription fatigue, these endless dribs and drabs of money leaking out of our wallets?

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Apple offering its services in a bundle is smart, but it needs to offer a savings that's significant enough for customers to buy.

Rumor has it that Apple will finally be bundling its services together this fall, providing a variety of tiers that would offer discounts on services when you subscribe to more than one. That said, we’ve seen from a long history of Apple’s Black Friday sales that the company’s understanding of “discounts” is...let’s say paltry, at best. But I’d be pleasantly surprised if we were to see an actual competitive offer that doesn’t just feel like a sop to customers who are tired of forking over multiple subscription fees to the same company.

If nothing else, it proves that the company hears what users are saying, even if its response is on the underwhelming side. Of course, the real question is whether Apple can convert all those customers whose free year of Apple TV+ is about to run out into paying subscribers. A bundle is one thing that might make them feel like they’re getting a better deal, though there's always the chance that it just makes them feel like they're paying more for services they don't care about.

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