Now that the Apple September Event can be added to the calendar in permanent ink — Apple set a September 12 date for its next big product launch — we can start thinking about what's in store for us at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino.
The new iPhone 15 will be in the mix and we should see the new Apple Watch 9, too. But there's also the small matter of what's going to occupy the prime spot at the end of the show — the product that will have everyone talking long after things wrap up.
Yes, that's the One More Thing slot.
Long-time Apple Watchers likely know all about the One More Thing announcement — a signature of Steve Jobs' time at the company. This would be the product Jobs would introduce at the end of an Apple event, almost as if it were an after-thought, though it usually wound up being the highlight of the show. Past One More Thing products include the first-ever MacBook Air, the original Apple Watch and the iPhone X.
Those last couple of events indicate that the One More Thing announcements have continued into Tim Cook's reign as CEO. In fact, the Apple Vision Pro headset wound up stealing the show at WWDC 2023. While not every Apple event merits a One More Thing shoutout, it's still something Apple turns to from time to time when it wants to call attention to a new product or a shift in direction for the company. And I think we could be in store for just such an announcement on September 12.
What's coming September 12?
The upcoming Apple event figures to be jam-packed with product announcements. We're expecting the iPhone 15 to take center stage, of course, but that also means Apple's going to have to devote significant time to the iPhone 15 Pro, which is likely to feature the more noteworthy upgrades. We can also expect a new round of Apple Watches — an Apple Watch 9 is a certainty and there's talk of an Apple Watch Ultra 2 making its debut as well.
Apple certainly could bring up other products, as an iPad Mini 7 is apparently in the works. That update just figures to introduce a new processor, though — hardly the stuff of One More Thing status.
Two potential products rise to that level of importance in my estimation, though I wouldn't count on one of them being ready for a fall launch event. The Apple Vision Pro already got its showcase at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year, and at the time, Apple indicated its spatial computing device — that's a fancy way of saying "headset" — wouldn't be ready until 2024.
I do expect some appearance by the Apple Vision Pro at the September 12 event, possibly in the form of app demos. (That said, reports of what app makers' experience is like working with the Apple Vision Pro suggests we're not close to having anything ready for the unforgiving glare of a live product demo.) I would anticipate at least a status update and maybe a few more teasers about what this mixed reality headset can do, however.
Get ready for the iPhone 15 Ultra
If Apple is going to treat us to a One More Thing announcement this September, I figure it's going to be a product right under our nose. Much like the iPhone X in 2017, this One More Thing would take an existing product and showcase the new direction Apple's hoping to take it. At the very least, it would emphasize that this is no mere incremental upgrade.
Rumors of an Ultra model flared up early this year, as Apple observers anticipated that the company would come out with a higher-end smartphone model similar to the Apple Watch Ultra it introduced last year. That talk died down in the spring when well-connected sources like Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggested the iPhone Ultra wouldn't appear until 2024. But in recent weeks, there's been increased chatter about the iPhone 15 Pro Max taking on the iPhone Ultra name.
It makes sense, in a way. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is supposed to be a step above even the iPhone 15 Pro. While past versions of those two models were really only separated by screen size and battery size, it sounds as if Apple's looking for an even bigger iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max gap. That's evidenced by the rumor that the iPhone 15 Pro Max — and the Pro Max alone — is getting a new periscope-style telephoto lens for improved zoom shots.
There's also the persistant rumor that the price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is going up — possibly by $100 or even more. It's going to take a lot to take the sting out of that higher price tag, and Apple may want to spend some time during its September 12 event outlining why the iPhone 15 Pro Max/iPhone 15 Ultra is worth the higher cost.
I've already argued that if Apple's serious about a name change for its high-end smartphone, it's going to have to take the time to detail what makes the iPhone 15 Ultra different from a Pro Max model. (Also, the answer better include more than just a better zoom lens.) If nothing else, saving the iPhone 15 Ultra for the coveted final slot of Apple's September 12 event would give the company the time and attention to do precisely that.
iPhone 15 Ultra outlook
The upcoming Apple event figures to be a big occasion, whether there's One More Thing or not. But ushering in a new era for Apple's most premium iPhone would certainly rise to the level of an announcement that might even grab the attention of a former Apple CEO.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
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.