Tuesday's iPhone unveil here in the Golden State will be unlike any other - from a certain point of view. Sure, new smartphones will be launched, but we could relate to this in the context of the classic half-glass-full-or-empty conundrum.
Three new iPhones - successors to the top-end XS and XS Max, and budget-friendlier XR - are expected. The half-full part is that Apple is apparently ready to include some key upgrades to these.
The two flagships - said to be coming with a 'Pro' tag, among many other guesses - are reported to come with powerful cameras driven by artificial intelligence, reverse wireless capabilities and tougher shells. The XR successor would now have a dual-lens camera and the same A13 chip that is expected to be utilised by the top-ends.
Apple does not comment on speculation or rumours.
The half-empty part, meanwhile, is that no 5G device will be introduced - at least in this round. It would've been logical to have at least one this year with the rest of the field throwing their respective hats into the next-gen game, but we all know that there have been roadblocks along Apple's way.
But Apple was able to do something about it: On July 25, it announced that it was acquiring the majority of Intel's smartphone modem unit. In other words, the $1 billion transaction will give Apple the capability to make its own 5G modems for its iPhones.
The company, however, cannot afford to delay it further. Practically everyone in the realm has already released, will soon be releasing or at the very least are planning to release a 5G mobile in one form or another. It will come as a complete shock if Apple pushes back its 5G handset even further into 2021, as some whispers claim.
This year has been mostly described as a "gap year" for the smartphone industry, thanks in large part to the advent and actual rollout of 5G. Top guns Samsung and Huawei, along with practically everyone else, are now indeed offering their respective 5G devices, even if coverage isn't widespread or spotty in regions that have them. Being the first or among the first doesn't hurt, after all.
If Apple was indeed planning on a 2019 launch of a 5G iPhone, this delay could possibly be a blessing in disguise: They can use this gap year to carefully study the 5G field in preparation for what is pegged to be a big launch 12 months from now. Apple, after all, doesn't always come up with firsts in devices.
Which leads to an important question: Will Apple users - diehards included - put off their iPhone upgrades this year and wait for the expected 5G iteration in 2020?
Recent history, and logic, dictates that the 2019 devices are the end of another iPhone cycle. Incremental - or token, as others would call it - upgrades were given to iPhones in the lead-up to major revamps, most notably 2014's iPhone 6 and the 10th-anniversary iPhone X in 2017. But it is important to remember that between those interlocking releases, Apple did introduce critical upgrades such as dual-lens cameras and wireless charging, in addition to increasingly-powerful chipsets.
We can't blame the industry and observers for having low expectations for this year's iPhone event. But, love 'em or hate 'em, Apple will still sell - especially considering the fact that the company has really stepped up its game in its services and accessories units, which have picked up the slack for lower iPhone sales in recent memory.
The situation, however, could still play into Apple's hands.
In as much as iPhone sales may go down - but the decline won't be enough to knock it off its perch as a company always threatening to breach the $1 trillion mark at any time.
So, we can consider Tuesday's event as something that will the stage for the iPhone 5G, or whatever it would be called.
Unless, of course, Apple pulls off an absolute, no-one-saw-it-coming stunner in its vaunted 'One more thing.' segment at the keynote.
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