Apple keynote predictions
Apple's March 21 keynote is still hours away, but I'm pretty confident I can tell you exactly what's going to be announced - and how.
No, I didn't see Tim Cook's Apple Keynote presentation ahead of time. Not even the FBI could crack that file. Instead, I've heard so many iPhone SE and new iPad Pro (or iPad Air 3) rumors that I'm pretty confident I can see the pattern of tonight's event emerging.
The Cupertino company has a history of sticking to a rigid press conference format with few incremental updates, sort of like its yearly phone and tablet refreshes.
Here's what I predict will happen, from Tim Cook's stage right entrance to the his "one more thing surprise." All timestamps are based on the Cupertino time zone.
10:00am PT (1:00pm ET, 18:00 GMT): You probably don't need a reminder about how much people love Apple products if you're tuning into today's Apple live stream, but the company will give you one anyway.
Minute one of Apple keynotes often start with an opening video, roughly two-minutes long, and that's what I expect to happen this time, too.
Last year's March press conference (the one that focused on the Apple Watch) gave us a glimpse of the latest Apple Store opening in China, specifically in West Lake, China.
Today's March 21 keynote is focused on mobile technology. Therefore, this video should focus on people making use of that 12.9-inch iPad Pro in addition to the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Tim Cook takes the stage
10:02am: Tim Cook will enter stage right, (the left side for all of you non-thespians) and wave to an applauding audience. That's when you'll notice he's donning an Apple Watch on his wrist. Like a politician wearing a flag pin, Cook can't be seen without it at a keynote.
The audience will be smaller because today's event is being held at Apple headquarters, but he'll still have to say "Good morning!" six times too many.
More iPhones than 'ever' before
10:04am: Tim Cook will use the first several minutes to comment on Apple's success, without touching on the meager 1% year-over-year iPhone revenue increase that Wall Street hates.
Instead, he'll reflect on the fact the 74.8 million iPhones sales in the latest quarter, or as he'll put it with his Southern drawl: "more iPhones than *ever* before."
There are two sides to this story, really. While Apple posted a record $18.4 billion in profit in Q1 2016, the company's once-reliable iPhone growth is almost flat.
Today's Apple keynote could act as a way for Cook to boost investor confidence, with affordable new products intended to appeal to a mainstream and international (read: China) audience.
Apple vs FBI reference
10:08am: Cook will continue by talking about the "amazing" hardware Apple launched since September, including the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPad Pro and Apple TV.
He'll then jump to its increasing focus on software and services. iOS 9 launched in September, too, and it delivers what Apple's rivals haven't been able to publicize nearly as much: security.
The Apple vs the FBI feud really brings the company back to its rebellious roots, and we've seen Cook unafraid of commenting on the US government's insistence that Apple help it crack the iPhones of terror suspects - something Apple says will endanger everyone's phone.
Here's what's next for Apple's software: iOS 9.3.
10:12am: This is when Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi (the one who always jokes about his hair) will take the stage.
iOS 9.3's debut at Apple's March keynote is no secret because the latest version of iOS 9 has been in public beta since January. It's now up to iOS 9.3 beta 7 and ready to pop.
While not iOS 10, it's a major mid-cycle update for the software, with the highlight feature being Night Shift. This setting turns down the sleep-inhibiting blue light with an orange tint at sunset.
Other iOS 9.3 features include education tools like multi-student login, Notes locked behind Touch ID and minor Apple News and Apple Health tweaks.
New Apple Watch bands
10:20am: Craig's "hairiffic" presentation should lead to news about what's next for Apple Watch, and I expect senior vice president of retail and online stores Angela Ahrendts to make the pitch.
It feels too soon for an Apple Watch 2, but Apple's retail stores may have a fresh set of Apple Watch bands and partnerships in store for today's keynote.
Six months ago, Apple introduced new casing colors and watch bands, including an incredibly pricey Hermes collection after teaming up with French manufacturer.
Look for hints of an Watch OS3 update, as this is the one area of the press conference that really needs a surprise to get existing owners excited.
9.7-inch iPad Pro
10:30am: Cook will come back on stage to introduce the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as well as senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller for the finer details.
Schiller will talk at length about how Apple ingeniously fit the powerful specs of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro into a 9.7-inch tablet with sub-pencil-thin dimensions.
A video narrated by Jony Ive will say the same exact thing, but be 10x more convincing with his thick British accent. "Aluminum" will be said at least twice.
Added to the iPad Pro line will be new productivity software and expanded use of the two-way conductive Smart Connector.
10:41am: Like it's going back in time, Apple will save the iPhone SE (its oldest product refresh today) for last. Or second to last, if you count my longshot "one more thing" theory.
It'll be a 4-inch iPhone introduced by Cook, who will use careful language not to call the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus too big. He can't knock the flagship phones while talking up the smaller size of the SE.
The iPhone SE will feature almost everything found in the iPhone 6S, including the fast Apple A9 processor, a 12MP camera and Live Photos. But it'll be smaller and cheaper.
One more thing...
10:50am: Apple hasn't failed to deliver on a "One more thing" surprises at recent keynotes, and if it's going to shock the world with something new, it's not going to be the Apple Car this year.
Instead, it could tease the fact that it's working on an iPhone-equipped virtual reality headset that rivals the Samsung Galaxy VR. This could launch with a higher-resolution iPhone 7.
Almost everyone else has a product, from Google Cardboard to HTC Vive to Facebook's Oculus Rift. Even Mattel started selling a Viewmaster VR in Apple Stores last month. It's time.
More Apple event coverage
11:00am: Cook will conclude his hour-long Apple presentation by briefly recapping today's announcements and thanking the audience.
Saying that Apple is appealing to consumers of all shapes and sizes (and budgets), he'll add some final thoughts about the smaller iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
You can, of course, see if both the new iPhone and new iPad live up to the presentation's hype in our hands on impressions following the keynote. We'll be scoping them out while on-site.
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