That feeling you’ve got, somewhere in your middle. That’s anticipation, just elbowing into impatience while we wait for Apple’s next big announcement. Oh, sure, we think we know what will be announced, from three iPhones with, potentially, radically different designs to an all-screen iPad Pro with Face ID. Not to mention the long-awaited AirPower charging pad and the fourth-generation Apple Watch. And maybe even AirPods 2, too.
But when will this embarrassment of riches finally arrive?
Nobody knows for certain yet, not even most of Apple’s 120,000 staff. Sure, there’ll be a date pencilled known to senior execs, but things can change, right up to the last minute. Apple won’t announce that push the button to announce the date until it knows everything’s in place.
I’ve asked Apple, oh, believe me, I’ve asked. But I had low expectations of finding anything out and those expectations were met.
Frankly, I’d have had more luck if I’d sauntered up to the front door of Fort Knox and asked for the passcode to the bullion room.
In the past, it was possible to check out bookings for venues like the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and divine from mysteriously unavailable dates when the event might be. But all that changed last year when the sumptuous Steve Jobs Theater opened at Apple Park. What’s happening when in that auditorium is for Apple’s eyes only.
We’re left to guesswork, analysis of what happened in the past and gut feelings.
What do we know, exactly?
Can previous years tell us anything?
The original iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs in January 2007. Then, the iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4 were unveiled in June in subsequent years. Since then every iPhone from the iPhone 4s onwards, apart from the SE and special edition colors, have been revealed in fall announcements. The iPhone 4s was the only October announcement, October 4 2011.
CNET has already done some work on when the big reveal might happen in a compelling post by Lynn La. The site points out that Apple has always unveiled its new wares on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and always in the first or second week of September.
My analysis is similar, though not quite the same. CNET ties the announcement to Labor Day, which is an important consideration.
But I think there’s another factor at play here as well: IFA.
So, when will they announce the announcement?
IFA is the enormous electronics show held every year in Berlin. It’s about the same size as the CES show that fills Las Vegas every January. The Berlin extravaganza runs in the last days of August, or the first days of September. This year it runs from August 31 to September 5. Apple doesn’t appear at IFA, though its shadow looms large.
Not least because it’s often on the eve of IFA that Apple sends out invitations to its next event. Last year, that was on Thursday August 31 for a September 12 keynote. In other words, the invites went out almost two weeks before the event.
I would expect something similar this year, that is, invites will be sent out on Thursday August 30.
That doesn’t mean quite set the day of the announcement, of course, as sometimes the invitations go out just a few days before the event itself.
Is it coincidence that Apple’s invites are timed to upstage IFA? Because that’s certainly the effect. It’s all anyone talks about at IFA on the day it’s announced.
Well, no, it’s not a coincidence, Apple thinks these things through meticulously. But it’s not a certainty. Three years ago, in August 2015, the invites went out on August 27, a week before IFA started for a keynote held 12 days after. Though the upstaging of IFA was still intense!
In which case, the invites could go out as early as Thursday August 23 this year, but my guess is the following week.
In that case, what are the options?
Assuming recent years’ announcements are matched, there are four most-likely dates: Tuesday September 4, Wednesday September 5, Tuesday September 11 and Wednesday September 12. Whichever date it is, it will start at 10AM Pacific – the time Apple always chooses for its events.
Since Labor Day falls on Monday September 3, it makes Tuesday September 4 less likely as journalists and Apple staff may not want to be traveling or working on Labor Day.
The other three dates seem more plausible, then. CNET believes Wednesday September 12 is the most likely date.
My personal take is that it’s going to be between Wednesday September 5 and the following Wednesday, September 12. I think likelihood is near-identical between the two, but a September 5 reveal just edges it for me. Or is that just that I can hardly wait?
By the way, a launch on September 11, though not out of the question, is not as desirable in terms of connotations. As Lynn La points out, the accompanying news cycle.
I’d put it another way: Apple will, I suspect, want to be respectful to the memory of 9/11.
Let’s take the two dates that are most likely in my view, in turn.
Why September 5?
So, although the two dates are pretty evenly matched, what might give the edge to September 5? It’s down to the quarterly results just gone.
Apple has just had a record-breaking third quarter. Assuming the next iPhones, or two of the three predicted phones at least, go on sale in September, it needs an especially big uptick to beat the last quarter convincingly. In the earnings call a few days ago, Apple CFO Luca Maestri said,
On iPhone… the only thing that I would point out is that obviously we’re exiting the June quarter at a significantly higher level than in the past and so that I think is important to keep in mind as we move into the September quarter. It’s important to keep in mind the type of revenue growth that we’ve implied in our guidance.
In other words, Apple needs to get those new iPhones out as soon as it can to get the best results in the next quarter. While it’s likely pre-orders will open very soon after the keynote is done, the company will still want to get the phones into stores sooner rather than later to maximize revenue from sales.
Since usually the iPhones arrive instore nine or 10 days after they’re announced, the likely onsale date is Friday September 14 or the following one, September 21. Both are highly doable, though I think Apple will deem earlier to be better.
Why September 12?
If it can, I think Apple will go for the earliest date it can. But, for sure, it won’t do anything until it’s 100% ready – there won’t be a disorderly launch.
And one more thing, that makes September 12 the chief contender.
Although it wants bumper sales figures for September, the actual onsale date makes less difference than you might think – the second Apple announces pre-orders are open is when the big sales numbers will start stacking up. Sure, there will be lines outside key Apple Stores on the day it launches but with so many sales online now, they may not be as long as they used to be. In that sense, either date in September will yield big numbers for the quarter.
If details begin to leak out – and Apple is traditionally very good at keeping these dates to itself for a while – I’ll update this post, so do check back or please click the Follow button on my contributor’s page.
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