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Hints of What's to Come With the New iDevices

Will new iPhones and wearables cement Tim Cook's legacy?

Reuters / Bobby Yip

The 1998 debut of the Bondi Blue iMac at Cupertino’s Flint Center marked the beginning of a golden era at Apple and the return of Steve Jobs.

On Tuesday, Tim Cook, who took over Apple from Jobs in 2011, will seek to establish his own legacy on the same stage when he introduces the new iPhones — and one more thing.

Cook is expected to lead the maker of computers, tablets, music players and smartphones into its first major new product category in four years — wearable computing. The world of smartwatches and fitness trackers is in its nascent stage, and companies as big and savvy as Nike have struggled to gain a footing.

Can Apple repeat a formula of spinning straw into gold in the technology sector? Or will the wearable be the next Apple Newton? Even its rivals are depending on Apple to pull off another magic trick.

Much of the high anticipation is Apple’s own doing. Onstage at the inaugural Code conference this year, Eddy Cue, an Apple senior vice president, promised “the best product pipeline” in 25 years.

In fact, Cook has been dangling the promise of something big around the corner for the last two years, noted The Verge, first expressing “great interest” in doing something more ambitious with its Apple TV streaming device, and more recently, talking about the potential of wearables.

The goal is nothing short of finding ways to weave Apple more deeply into our daily lives through features like “continuity.” In the next mobile and desktop operating systems, things like starting an email on one device and completing on another will be easier. Or receiving a text message on your iPhone and responding on your Mac computer will be possible.

Apple is raising the walls in the garden and deepening the moats around it because it has to; Google is doing the same through its suite of services and devices that operate on the Android system.

There’s much at stake for the iconic company, which has seen its share of the global smartphone market fall to 12 percent in the second quarter of this year from a high of over 20 percent at the end of 2012, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

Though Apple continues to sell more smartphones year over year, notes Yankee Group, it faces an “explosion” of competition from Android devices as well as from Chinese vendors and local phone makers in emerging markets such as India.

Meanwhile, sales of its iPad are declining after initially taking off like a rocket following the tablet’s 2010 introduction. Four years and 225 million tablet sales later, some are saying the consumers’ love affair with the device is over. Cook tells Re/code’s Walt Mossberg that this is merely a “speed bump.”

Nevertheless, Apple is on the hunt to find new ways to keep the faithful and new customers in the family.

Reported leaks offer hints of what’s to come. The next generation of iPhone is expected to come in two sizes — a 4.7-inch screen and a sub-tablet-sized 5.5-inch model to appeal to Android smartphone users accustomed to bigger screens.

These updated devices are expected to take advantage of the home automation and health and fitness tracking features built into Apple’s new iOS 8 mobile operating system.

As we’ve reported, the new iPhones will also incorporate mobile payments — allowing shoppers to replace cash or credit cards with a wave or tap of your phone at checkout terminals. It could also end up being one of the more important new products for Apple if payments becomes a recurring revenue source.

Apple’s new wearable device — which some have dubbed the iWatch — is believed to similarly capitalize on these features, though the device won’t ship until next year.

Cook talked about the promise of wearable computing — in particular, the allure of the wrist — at the 2013 D: All Things Digital conference. At the time, he acknowledged that there are plenty of rivals in the category; “there’s nothing great out there.”

Will Cook do better or anywhere near the “insanely great” standards set by his predecessor?

Come back on Sept. 9 for our live coverage to find out.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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