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All Contents © 2018The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Brad Moon, Contributing Writer
| August 17, 2018
Apple (AAPL, $209.75) has been on an incredible run over the past decade, shooting nearly 1,200% higher and becoming the first American company to reach a trillion-dollar market capitalization.
And when you look back at its meteoric rise, it’s unquestionably tied to a tireless march of blockbuster Apple products.
Year after year, Apple’s biggest quarter is traditionally its fiscal Q1 (ending in December), when the company reaps the rewards of its fall releases — led by new iPhones and other products — and holiday sales.
This fall is shaping up to be a pivotal one for Apple, and AAPL stock as the company tries to make a meaningful move above $1 trillion in market cap. Naturally there will be new iPhones, but Apple is rumored to be making some other big moves after the iPhone X’s 2017 launch was met with mixed results. The company also could open the floodgates across multiple product lines; if even half these new Apple products hit shelves for the holiday shopping season, the next Q1 report could be incredible.
Here are 11 new Apple products to expect at its Sept. 12 product reveal date – from sure bets to long shots.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and Apple took a gamble to kickstart an iPhone upgrade super cycle. It released the iPhone X – a new flagship smartphone with a $999 starting price.
But the company’s plans ran into three issues that spoiled the party: manufacturing delays, pushback over the high price and a maturing smartphone market that saw the first-ever quarterly global decline in shipments.
This year, Apple is expected to be releasing a refreshed iPhone X and a larger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5-inch display. The bigger version is predicted to have a starting price in the $1,099 range.
Manufacturing issues involving the TrueDepth camera have been resolved, meaning the iPhone X models should be on hand in volume at launch — eliminating a repeat of last year’s delay that saw iPhone X preorders pushed back until the end of October.
With a $1,099 iPhone X in the lineup, the iPhone’s average sale price (ASP) could be even higher, allowing Apple to continue growing iPhone revenue even as overall smartphone sales soften.
But what about consumers who won’t — or can’t — fork over $999 and up for a new iPhone? Well …
The Apple rumor mill says a third new iPhone is in the works, and this one has the potential to be the runaway hit of 2018.
Reports out of Apple’s supply chain indicate the company is pulling out all the stops on a new, affordable iPhone (somewhere in the $700 to $800 range). It’s a 6.1-inch model that incorporates the TrueDepth camera introduced with the iPhone X. That means it would have the minimal bezel, “notch” design with no Home button. The company would keep costs down by using an LCD display instead of the expensive OLED panels in the iPhone X.
Apple also is reportedly also playing the “new colors” card that goosed iMac and iPod sales, and also was used with the iPhone 5c. This new third iPhone could be offered in bright colors including red, orange and blue.
The combination of iPhone X looks and functionality at the price of a “regular” iPhone, plus a bigger display and all-new colors, may be enough to tempt consumers holding onto older iPhones to upgrade en masse.
Apple did well with last year’s Apple Watch Series 3. The third-generation model added optional LTE, eliminating the need to be connected to an iPhone.
This holiday season, competition will be fierce. Fitbit’s (FIT) new Versa smartwatch is selling well and new Wear OS (Android) smartwatches are expected, including the possibility of the first Google-branded smartwatch.
In response, Apple is expected to release the Apple Watch Series 4 this fall. And for the first time since the original was launched in 2015, all signs are pointing to a change in form factor. The 2018 Apple Watch could have a display that’s 15% larger. It’s also expected to have an improved heart rate sensor and better battery life.
Despite the larger display dimensions, Apple probably will do everything possible to retain compatibility with current Apple Watch bands — preserving the competitive advantage it has in original and third-party replacement bands, and making it easier for current Apple Watch owners to upgrade.
Apple’s AirPod wireless earbuds were a surprise hit.
The AirPods – designed with prominent stems that stick out of people’s ears – were widely mocked when they were first announced in 2016. But it’s hard to argue with the results.
The $159 wireless earbuds were less expensive than many competitors (unusual for Apple), offered solid performance with excellent battery life, and eliminated many connectivity annoyances – at least when used with Apple mobile devices – with a custom W1 wireless chip. They repeatedly sold out through early 2017. AirPods soon became the best-selling wireless headphones in the U.S.
It has been roughly two years since the original AirPods were released, so expect the company to introduce an upgrade this fall. The new version is expected to add hands-free Siri support and a new charging case that would support wireless charging when used with Apple’s AirPower pad.
In summer 2017, Apple’s iPad recorded its first quarterly increase in sales since 2014. That was good news for Apple; while the iPad has shrunk in importance, it still represented 11% of revenues at the time.
Apple upgraded the iPad this spring with the aim of goosing consumer and educational sales. This fall, it should be the iPad Pro’s turn.
The iPad Pro, which is aimed at “prosumers” and businesses, has carved out a niche by adding keyboard support and competing against Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface Pro. Apple is expected to announce at least one new iPad Pro model this fall that will leverage the TrueDepth camera from the iPhone X. Doing so means Apple could eliminate the Home button, make bezels smaller and fit an 11-inch display into an iPad Pro the size of the current 10.5-inch model.
Naturally, it would get a faster CPU and likely would be a little slimmer. A move to an OLED display is unlikely, given the cost of large panels. And an accidental release by Apple of an iPad Pro icon strongly suggests there will be no iPhone X-style notch.
Apple introduced the AirPower wireless charging mat along with the iPhone X and iPhone 8 in fall 2017.
With both of Apple’s new iPhones supporting wireless charging for the first time, it only made sense that Apple would release a wireless charger. The AirPower also would support the Apple Watch, making for a convenient all-in-one solution for people who own multiple Apple products.
Since then? Crickets. The AirPower has been MIA.
We’re not certain what the delay has been, but a couple reports indicate Apple may finally release the AirPower wireless charger this fall. With all its new iPhones, the Apple Watch and likely the new AirPods case supporting wireless charging, Apple won’t want to face the embarrassment of yet another delay. Apple also has slapped an “Available 2018” sticker on the AirPower product page, so it seems pretty confident that whatever issues were there are licked.
Here, we will cross from products Apple very likely will release this fall to several products that are distinct possibilities — but by no means a lock.
One of the Apple products most subject to speculation over the past several years is the MacBook Air, Apple’s most affordable laptop and a top seller. But while the MacBook Pro had a complete redesign last year, the MacBook Air remains hopelessly out of date. Its CPU is generations behind the competition – it uses 2015 vintage Intel (INTC) Broadwell chips – and it remains the only Apple laptop without a Retina display.
There was speculation Apple would simply discontinue the MacBook Air (it axed the 11.6-inch version in 2016), but that would leave the company without an affordable option. Rumors have been growing that Apple will release a new 13-inch laptop to replace the MacBook Air. Whether it keeps the same name or not, it would become the new entry-level Apple laptop, and finally gain both a modern CPU and a Retina display.
This fall would be a decent time to release a new laptop, as it could still participate in a little back-to-school action, as well as the holiday shopping season.
Even in the “post-PC” era, with unit sales declining, Macs still generated $5.3 billion in revenue in fiscal Q3 alone. Apple is working on revamping its desktop Mac computer lineup to reverse that decline and boost revenue — which is more important than ever as a buffer against softening iPhone sales.
Apple added an all-new iMac Pro late last year and promised a completely redesigned Mac Pro for 2019. That leaves out the Mac Mini, the most affordable Mac offering, which was last updated way back in 2014.
However, last year Apple CEO Tim Cook reassured one fan via e-mail that the Mac Mini is “an important part of our product line going forward.” And rumors have been building since that the Mac Mini is finally being updated.
A Mac Mini didn’t arrive at Apple’s WWDC 2018 event as many had hoped, but the last time Apple released a new version, it did so in October. The odds, then, point at Apple choosing this fall to finally release a new Mac Mini.
Rumors started flying in February that Apple is planning to release its own, studio-quality wireless headphones.
It would make sense. The AirPod wireless buds have been a genuine hit, while Apple-owned Beats is one of the biggest players in the headphone market. Apple Music is the second-largest streaming music service in the world. And Apple is working to diversify its revenue streams, to reduce reliance on the iPhone.
Put all of those variables together, and premium wireless headphones with the Apple logo stamped on the ear cup is a no-brainer.
There’s nothing saying Apple has to release the headphones this fall. But if it did so, the company would have a good crack at convincing new iPhone buyers to pick up a pair, and it also could capitalize on the holiday shopping season.
Finally, we come to the HomePod.
Apple’s Siri-powered smart speaker was late to the game by several years. A delay in its planned release from last fall to this spring meant missing another holiday sales period — a crucial error. Alphabet (GOOGL) and Amazon.com (AMZN) racked up huge Google Home and Amazon Echo sales of 11 million units combined in the holiday quarter alone.
The HomePod already was going to have a hard time breaking into the rapidly growing smart speaker market given the lead Amazon and Google had built. The odds were also stacked against the HomePod given that it’s locked into Apple Music instead of supporting competing streaming services like Spotify (SPOT), plus it has limited Siri voice support. Its $349 price tag compared to options below $50 from both Amazon and Google makes the sell even tougher.
That latest numbers show the HomePod now has a 6% share of the 50 million smart speakers in U.S. homes. That’s OK, but not good enough to make HomePod anything more than a niche product; it certainly won’t move the needle.
However, Apple reportedly has been considering a solution to the high price – HomePod’s biggest hurdle to mass-market adoption. A less expensive HomePod speaker in the $150 to $200 range is rumored to be on the table. A fall release is a possibility, especially if it means making up for lost time when consumers go shopping for high-tech gifts.
When is all this happening? Apple is always secretive about releases and it hasn’t yet announced its fall iPhone event. However, based on past years, the second week of September seems like a solid bet. And if the iPhone event is too crowded for all those new products, Apple has announced new products in October before, leaving enough room for new devices to hit store shelves in time for the holidays.
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