On September 10, 2013, the iPhone 5S was announced to the world. Ten days later, the phone was released, and immediately thereafter rumors about the iPhone 6 began circulating in earnest. This Tuesday in Cupertino, California, Apple CEO Tim Cook will get on a stage, reach into his pocket and finally put those rumors to rest, at least for however many days it takes for the phone to go on sale and speculation about the next iPhone to begin. To paraphrase Rust Cohle, iPhones are a flat circle.
So how will this iPhone compare to its predecessor? What will be different? What will be the same? What else will be announced on that fateful Tuesday?
While the sensible answer to all of those questions is “holy crap, calm down and wait, it’s only four days away,” a large and profitable industry specializing in the speculation about Apple products has sprung up, and it is extremely thorough. Go to any number of websites and you’ll find exhaustive lists of what to expect. Many of these rumors have been repeated consistently enough to be accepted as more or less fact—so much so that even The New York Times jumped into the fray, citing a number of anonymous Apple employees and partners who corroborate the most widely-accepted of these rumors. It’s arguable that Apple is very bad at keeping secrets—but few manufacturers are the subject of this level of constant scrutiny.
That said, here’s what you can probably expect to see this Tuesday:
A new look: This goes almost without saying, but the iPhone 6 will look different. Some say it’ll be curved, but that isn’t likely—it’s expensive, and everyone claiming to have seen mockups of the device seem to agree on a sleeker form factor with softer edges and a screen that has almost no borders. Apple design has long favored devices that look as seamless and uniform as possible, as though they were sculpted from a single piece of metal, so expect a refined, thin handset.
Mobile payments: The iPhone 6 is rumored to finally be the model that incorporates Near-Field Communication tech in its hardware, which means the company is going to make a serious play for mobile payments. Reports that Apple has partnerships with American Express, Visa, and MasterCard give further credence to this particular rumor.
Two new iPhones: Extra large phones with big, pretty screens are in, and Apple is expected to make a bid for this space by releasing the iPhone 6 in two sizes—a 4.7 inch model, and a 5.5 inch model (the current iPhone 5/5S is four inches). Getting into the specifics of what will be different about each model is where details get hazy: a bigger phone means more room for more powerful hardware—or at least more storage space. Some Apple sleuths assert that both models will perform more or less identically, and that space and materials are the only difference, while others are speculating that the larger model will make use of super-tough Sapphire glass for its display. This is one category where we’ll have to wait and see.
The iWatch: Tuesday’s event is widely believed to mark the debut of the first entirely new Apple product since Cook took over the company three years ago. Colloquially referred to as the iWatch (and hopefully actually referred to as something much better than that), it’ll be Apple’s foray into the buzzy world of wearable devices. While a number of companies have entered this space over the past couple of years, the field has been kind of like Lacey Chabert’s character in Mean Girls—always trying to make “fetch” happen. Apple is expected to take wearables from nerd curio to full-blown thing. Expect the iWatch (ugh) to lean hard on HealthKit, and for bloggers to gush about the design. Because, if there’s one thing that the company has managed to keep secret, it’s what the iWatch (ugh) will look like.
Keep in mind: Apple has not, and will not, say a single word about any of this—in fact, the company has not officially ever even acknowledged that these devices exist. As well-sourced as some of these rumors are, they are ultimately just rumors, and none of this may happen. Tim Cook is just as likely to stand on stage and flubber his finger over his lips for two hours for all we know. He probably won’t, but still. That would be something. A thing, if you will.