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The new iPhone and Apple Watch: What we don’t know

Known unknowns ahead of this year’s big #AppleEvent.

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Tim Cook models last year’s new Apple gadgets.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple is expected to announce its latest iPhones and a new Apple Watch at an event tomorrow, Sept. 7, in San Francisco. (Join Recode for live coverage and analysis all day.)

The new phones are expected to have a bunch of additions (including new cameras and home buttons) and one notable subtraction (the headphone jack). The new Apple Watch isn’t likely to be vastly different than the current one, with a new GPS function and perhaps some new color and strap varieties.

What else?

What’s the point of the new iPhone?

Every new iPhone has a few major selling points, often in the form of new hardware features. Last year’s — speed, 3D Touch and Live Photos — were fine.

This year’s seem to be centered on photography (dual-lens cameras on at least some iPhones) and moving toward wireless audio (losing the headphone jack and possibly introducing new wireless earbuds).

Is that it, or is there more?

What will it be named?

Since the iPhone 3G in 2008 and 3GS in 2009, Apple has used a two-year naming cycle: First a new-iPhone-name year, then an “S” year. Last year was the iPhone 6S year, so it seems reasonable to assume that this year we’ll see the iPhone 7.

But new iPhone names have also always launched a significantly different look, shape and construction. And this year’s new iPhone is said to look a lot like the last two.

So: Might it be called the iPhone 6SE? (For “Special Edition,” which was recently used for the iPhone 5-based SE this year.)

For a while, that seemed like a possibility. But for the extra-newness marketing juice alone, I’m now assuming iPhone 7 will be this year’s name. And, anyway, these aren’t special-edition iPhones — they’re Apple’s most important product.

How will Apple explain removing the iPhone headphone jack?

On one hand, this is what Apple does — it removes parts that it thinks aren’t necessary many years before competitors would have the guts.

On the other hand, this still seems ridiculous — and the sort of thing that people are going to whine about. Headphones work pretty well, and people already have them! So Apple is going to need some sort of explanation as to why you’re going to need to use new ones — or at least carry an extra adapter to use old ones.

The best excuse, of course, is a new gizmo that makes everyone’s jaw drop — I need those! In this case, it seems Apple’s bet may be some sort of add-on wireless earbuds called AirPods. (Will we all be walking around with earbuds in all day now?)

Presumably, there’s more to it?

What’s the deal with these dual-lens cameras?

Between new hardware and software, how good are these going to be? Will they really only be on the big “Plus” iPhone? Will Apple’s Phil Schiller say “bokeh” during the demo?

Will the new iPhones support the Apple Pencil?

Maybe? (Is there an iPhone Pro?)

How about pricing?

Still the same?

Any changes to the iPhone upgrade program?

That was one of last year’s big surprises, and marked a big change in how people could buy and own phones. (Instead of buying through a wireless carrier, Apple was offering an incentive — easy annual upgrades — to buy directly from Apple and its financing partner.) This is the first year when we’ll see what that means.

How will upgraders upgrade? Will it be easier or harder to switch carriers? Will they receive priority over other types of shoppers when iPhones go on sale? Will Apple be stingy about minor wear-and-tear for trade-ins? Will it say anything about where those second-hand phones are going?

What about the new Apple Watch?

Surprisingly little has leaked about Apple’s strategy here, despite a year and a half of lessons from the market. (Not much leaked about the first Apple Watch, either, for what it’s worth.) Reports of a new GPS chip, but no independent cellular connection yet, make sense — that always felt like a “next year” thing.

Apple announced some pretty significant software updates this year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the hardware.

How will Apple tweak the Watch lineup?

Even more focus on the cheaper, obviously most-popular “Sport” line? New colors for the mid-level line? Will the $10,000+ Edition series return? (I’ve only ever seen one being worn “in the wild” by an Apple employee.) Any other series or materials? New Hermes-like partnerships? New straps? New prices?

Will that be enough to accelerate adoption?

Sales aren’t killer, and Apple has acknowledged that this is a holiday-gift-type product, similar to the old iPod business. Will the Apple Watch be a popular gift this year?

Do people want smartwatches?

What will Apple’s first tweet be?

Apple officially started using the @Apple Twitter handle last week. It has been using hidden tweets — a Twitter ad product — to promote this event, and custom #AppleEvent emoji, but hasn’t tweeted to its public timeline yet. (As of now, more than 75,000 accounts had retweeted this hidden tweet to sign up for a personalized reminder before the event.)

Will it live-tweet the keynote to its 345,000-plus followers? Will @Apple now become a regular, corporate-tweeting brand, just like every other?

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