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The Stakes Are High for Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone

What would Steve Jobs do?

On September 12, Apple executives are expected to take the stage at Steve Jobs Theater inside the company’s Apple Park headquarters and unveil three new iPhones. Two of those handsets will be minor upgrades over last year’s models, according to reports.

However, it’s the third iPhone—which could be known as the iPhone 8 or iPhone Edition—and it could very well make or break Apple’s big unveiling. If the device is an impressive move forward for Apple, the company could cement September 12 as an iconic moment in its history. But if the iPhone 8—and indeed, Apple’s event—falls short, disappointment could be felt the world over.

Expectations are high for Apple’s event, if nothing else than for the historical importance of it all.

It’s been 10 years since late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs took the wraps off the original iPhone. A ten-year milestone alone is enough to draw comparisons between Cook and his regime and that of Jobs. But when Cook and his executives take the stage on September 12, they’ll be doing so at an auditorium called Steve Jobs Theater inside a new headquarters that Jobs himself helped to design and get off the ground.

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Simply put, Jobs—and his massive shadow—will loom large over the show. And most objective industry watchers will be interested to see if Cook can have his own, historic moment.

From what we’ve heard from countless rumors over the last several months, Apple’s iPhone 8 will deliver several impressive additions, including a new organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen that should have better visuals than the liquid-crystal display (LCD) Apple’s used in every previous iPhone. Apple’s iPhone 8 might also have a new design with a screen that covers its face and an all-glass finish to add a premium feel. It might even be the first iPhone to have a facial scanner for security.

Analysts, industry pundits, and Apple fans all believe the iPhone 8 will be a sales juggernaut. And in that context, perhaps the stakes are low: Apple will sell millions of units over the next year, generating the company billions of dollars, regardless of how well its event goes off on September 12.

But there’s more to this story.

Apple is facing more competitors than ever, and its top contender, Samsung, has just launched what might be the best Android smartphone ever released in the Galaxy Note 8.

Apple’s iPhone 8 will have several similar features to the Galaxy Note 8, which will undoubtedly cause many to draw comparisons. And if it appears Apple’s iPhone 8 is still behind Samsung’s best effort of the year, what does that say about Apple?

To the company’s millions of fans, perhaps nothing. After all, they’ll say, Apple is the top tech brand and will remain so regardless of whether a Samsung handset has some shiny new features. And to some degree, they’re right.

But September 12 is an opportunity for the Cook era, which has been objectively positive, profitable, and successful, to enter a new phase. It’s an opportunity for Cook to solidify himself not as Steve Jobs’ successor and the person carrying on Jobs’ vision, but as a near-equal to the legend, his boss.

Apple’s big day could be a standard affair with some big announcements and the company would benefit from that. But I, for one, am hoping it’s something bigger, grander, and legendary.

After all, it’s the way Steve would’ve wanted it.