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Apple’s ‘Time Flies’ event: 5 things to look for

September 15, 2020, 10:00 AM UTC

Apple holds its annual September event this Tuesday, but it’s expected to be quite different from the usual iPhone-dominated unveilings that the company held in the past. That’s because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple’s regular iPhone updates are not ready yet. So analysts and rumor trackers expect other products to take the spotlight. Here are five items to look out for:

Apple Watch Series 6

Apple is calling this week’s event “Time Flies,” so the next version of the company’s market-leading smartwatch is expected to garner much of the stage time.

The Series 6 is expected to extend Apple’s lead in the health and wellness sector by adding blood oxygen level sensing capability, also known as an SpO2 measurement. Apple was the first to introduce hearth rhythm tracking, a feature since added by Fitbit and Samsung. The blood oxygen level sensor could be particularly timely, as it could help provide an early warning for COVID-19 infections.

The metric is also used to diagnose sleep apnea. And as Apple has already announced new sleep tracking features in the next version of its Watch software, that could also be a headline feature of its next iteration.

The rumor mill has also found indications that Apple may release a second, cheaper new version of the Watch. Last year, alongside the Series 5, Apple continued to sell a version of its Series 3 Watch, which debuted in 2017, for under $200. This year, it seems Apple will follow its iPhone SE strategy and offer a brand new Watch with fewer features instead of keeping an older model for sale.

New iPads

Apple updated the high end of its tablet range back in March, but the mid-range iPad Air has gone 18 months without improvement. That’s expected to change this week. A revised iPad Air, which typically starts at $500, will follow the iPad Pro models and Apple’s phones in ditching the home button. But instead of getting facial recognition for logging in, the new iPad Air may use a side-mounted finger print sensor similar to the ones used on many recent Android phones.

Subscription services

Analysts are less sure about what else might make the cut for this week’s event, as Apple is expected to unveil new iPhones next month and laptops with its own chips sometime before the end of the year. But one additional possibility for this week is the introduction of cost-saving bundles for Apple’s fast-growing line up of online services like Apple Music, Apple News, and Apple TV+.

Website 9to5Mac found entries in the latest Android version of Apple’s music app referring to an “Apple One” subscription bundle. That matches earlier rumors that Apple would make its music app the centerpiece of a bundle or choice of bundles that would include various services at prices offering a modest savings to consumers. Whether Apple’s rumored new premium fitness offering, with virtual workouts and coaching, will appear as part of a bundle is unknown, but it could link with the introduction of the new Apple Watch.

Assorted other hardware

Apple has a variety of lesser products in development at all times and some could make a quick debut at this week’s event. The company has been rumored for sometime to be working on a less expensive follow-up to its flop smart speaker, the HomePod. There are also leaks about a new pair of over-the-ear headphones and possibly a set of tracking tags, dubbed AirTags, that could be attached to important items (similar to those from Tile).

Apple’s augmented reality glasses

Since Tim Cook took over for Steve Jobs in 2011, Apple has yet to introduce a category-busting next act product to follow the Macintosh computer, iPod music player, and iPhone, and the iPad. But the company has been working for years on a set of glasses or goggles that will overlay augmented reality elements on a user’s field of view. There hasn’t been any indication that the AR product is close to market, but Apple’s promotional video for this week’s event included a large, animated AR cartoon projected in front of its headquarters, sparking some speculation that we could see an AR product debut.