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6 biggest iPhone 14 and Apple Watch 8 questions ahead of Apple event

Tim Cook with iPhone in front of Apple logo
(Image credit: Apple)

It's iPhone 14 reveal day, as Apple's new handsets are likely to be the star attraction at the Apple event. And while we know a lot about the next iPhone thanks to all those iPhone 14 rumors popping up over the past year, a few lingering questions remain ahead of today's phone launch.

The same can be said of the Apple Watch 8, another big release that's likely coming. Lots of details about the new watch have emerged, including the fact that we're likely getting a trio of new models. But not everything about Apple's watch plans has been settled heading into today's event.

Our Apple event live blog has a nice rundown of the latest rumors about the iPhone, Apple Watch and anything else Apple plans on announcing today. And those rumors can help set your expectations about Apple's upcoming products.

But there are a few things that likely won't be revealed until Apple has a chance to officially make its case for the iPhone 14, Apple Watch 8 and other devices. These are the biggest questions we have about Apple's upcoming product that will hopefully be answered soon.

What's so special about the iPhone 14?

You don't have to take an iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro deep dive to realize that rumors have the Pro models getting the better end of the upgrade deal. Faster processors, improved cameras, no notch — those are all very compelling reasons to give the iPhone 14 Pro your consideration, even if rumors of a $100 price hike prove to be true.

The case for the iPhone 14 hasn't really emerged yet. Oh, there are bound to be some improvements over past models, particularly for users who've held onto their iPhones for three years or longer and are looking to pick up a new handset. (Our iPhone 14 upgrade guide can tell you exactly which models would benefit most from an upgrade.)

But so far, all the rumored features for the iPhone 14 sound like tweaks from what's come before. We'll exclude the iPhone 14 Max/iPhone 14 Plus from that assessment — as a new model, it gives bargain hunters the 6.7-inch screen they've been looking for on a phone that costs hundreds less than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

So it's time for Apple to give us the rundown on what's new with this year's iPhone models, we hope that the focus isn't entirely on the iPhone 14 Pro changes or the novelty of the big screen/low cost Max model. Carve out some time to say why the iPhone 14 base model remains special.

iPhone 14 cameras — what are the new software features?

Leaks are great about telling us what to expect with changes to hardware, since Apple's notoriously chatty supply chain is all too eager to spoil any surprises. That's why when it comes to iPhone 14 camera features, we know about a rumored 48MP main camera on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max as well as potential improvements to the front camera on every iPhone 14 model.

A shot of five iPhone 14 Pro dummy units, in silver, graphite, gold, blue and purple

(Image credit: Sleepy Afternoon)

Because software is developed entirely in-house, though, we don't know about any of the features that will benefit from computational photography and other software improvements. And if Apple's track record is anything to go by, there's going to be plenty of that on display Wednesday.

Look back no further than last year when Cinematic mode made its debut on all four iPhone 13 models. There was no hint in advance of that feature, which lets you seamlessly shift focus when you shoot video to achieve a very cinematic effect. We'd imagine there are features like that coming to the iPhone 14 that rely entirely on the phones' processing power and neural engine, and we're looking for Apple to talk about those at length.

iPhone 14 price — what is it going to cost?

There's a reason Apple and other hardware makers always save pricing details until the very end of each product reveal — that's what people most want to see. Even if you've been spoiled on every other supposed feature coming to the iPhone, you'll still want to know how much the new model will set you back.

Right now, we've heard that the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are going to cost $100 more than their predecessors, putting them at $1,099 and $1,199, respectively. Those are hefty price tags, especially in this economy, no matter how many Pro-specific features Apple includes. 

The iPhone 14 is likely to keep the iPhone 13's $799 starting price. Because the iPhone 14 Max offers more screen space, it's currently set to go for $899, meaning there's now $699 model like there was with last year's iPhone mini.

Should iPhone prices inch upward, we're expecting the company to find creative ways for people to pay off their purchases. One such angle could be a rumored new subscription service for iPhones, in which you'd pay Apple a monthly fee to essentially rent an iPhone and gain access to other subscription-based Apple services such as music, news and fitness.

How's the Apple Watch 8 going to compare to the competition?

The Apple watch currently enjoys a spot at the top of the best smartwatch rankings, but you can be forgiven if you wonder how much longer that will continue. Apple's facing stepped-up competition like never before, from the Galaxy Watch 5 to the upcoming Pixel Watch, which will debut in a month's time at Google's October 6 event

Apple really doesn't make hardware decisions in response to what other people are doing, but we are eager to see what new features set the Apple Watch 8 apart from the rest of the best. So far the most significant Apple Watch 8 rumors point to a new body temperature sensor and a low-power mode that extends battery life. As with the iPhone 14 above, we're hoping that Apple spends some stage time detailing why this year's watch is special.

Can the Apple Watch 8 Pro justify its lofty price tag?

One Apple Watch model that doesn't figure to be hurting for features is the Apple Watch 8 Pro, the higher-end version of Apple's smartwatch expected to debut alongside the standard Apple Watch 8. This is reportedly a more rugged version of the watch aimed at fitness enthusiasts. But are fitness enthusiasts going to want to pay the reported $999 asking price for this particular model?

apple watch 8 pro render

(Image credit: ian Zelbo / Parker Ortolani)

Assuming the price is correct, it's clear Apple doesn't expect the Apple Watch 8 Pro to be a mainstream device. And people who want a cheaper watch can always turn to the Apple Watch SE 2, which is also on tap to debut. But Apple's not in the habit of making things just to have them lie around, so we're interested to hear what features the Apple Watch 8 Pro has beyond rumored improvements to durability and battery life that make it worth the extra hundreds of dollars.

One more thing: Does Apple have any surprises for us?

You don't have to go out on a limb to predict new iPhones, Apple Watches and AirPod Pro 2 models appearing later today. Most Apple watchers seem to expect that those three products will take up most, if not all of the September 7 event. But will Apple have that "one more thing" at the end that shocks and surprises anyone in attendance or watching the Apple event live stream? And if so, what will it be?

I've been thinking for a while that if Apple is really working on a Apple VR/AR headset as it's rumored to be, that it would show off that device long before it's ready to ship. For one, that will give developers enough of a head start to build some truly impressive apps that make a mixed reality headset a more valuable experience. For another, Apple has a track record of previewing devices when it enters a new product category — see both the iPhone and Apple Watch as examples of this approach.

Does that mean we should count on a VR/AR headset sneak peek? It wouldn't be a surprise if we did. And there's always the chance Apple keeps something in the tank for another event, like the one that's purportedly going to happen in October.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.