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Apple September 2021 event: What to expect

Apple September 14, 2021 announcement invite image of Apple with a lake and mountains behind
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's much anticipated September event is almost here. And the company is calling the event "California streaming," and we expect a lot of new hardware, so you won't want to miss it.

The event will start at 1 p.m. Eastern time on September 14. It will again be entirely virtual and live-streamed for anyone who wants to watch what we anticipate to be the launch event for the iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7, AirPods 3, and possibly more. 

What to expect at Apple's September 14 event

There are a few devices that are virtually locked for a release at the event. There's also a smattering of others that are possible, but unlikely, in part because we expect Apple to have at least one and possibly two more events before the end of the year. 

Renders based on alleged leaked iPhone 13 specs and features

(Image credit: Everything Apple Pro)

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13 is one of those locked-in devices for tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see if Apple has managed to keep any secrets on this phone, which has been one of the most thoroughly leaked yet again. If you want a deep dive on everything we know about the phone, then take a look at our iPhone 13 hub, but here's a quick look at the highlights.

The iPhone 13 design should be largely unchanged from the iPhone 12, unsurprising given the substantial redesign last year. This year, Apple will stick with four devices again, but mini fans shouldn't get too attached as most rumors point to this being the final year for that model. 

The most notable rumored changes to the design include a reduction in the size of the notch and a slight increase in the overall thickness of the device and its camera bump. A recent leak may have revealed the final list of color options for all iPhone 13 variants.

Internal upgrades are more interesting than what's going on outside. The Pro models, in particular, should be much more compelling this year. iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will feature 120Hz adaptive refresh rate displays, similar to what Samsung has offered for the last couple of years on its flagships. 

Renders based on alleged leaked iPhone 13 specs and features

(Image credit: Everything Apple Pro)

While the iPhone 12 Pro Max already featured sensor-shift technology, the iPhone 13 Pro should be catching up with that stabilization technology that will enhance the photo and video capture. Finally, both Pro models should get improved ultra-wide sensors with autofocus, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max may stand alone with a new f/1.5 aperture primary wide-angle sensor.

The standard iPhone 13 models should get the same processor upgrade as the Pro models with what we assume will be called the A15 Bionic. Rumors are that this will deliver a roughly 5% performance improvement and 10% power efficiency. All four models are also rumored to get larger batteries and larger MagSafe charging coils on the back. 

Renders of Apple Watch 7 prepared based on alleged leaked photos of the device

(Image credit: Jon Prosser/@RendersByIan)

Apple Watch 7

Another virtual guarantee for the event is the Apple Watch Series 7; the latest rumors suggest that despite potential parts shortages, the new Apple wearable will be announced and should ship in at least small quantities before the end of the month.

Unlike the iPhone 13, the Apple Watch Series 7 is getting an exterior makeover. Leaked images and rumors indicate the watch will follow in the footsteps of many other recent Apple devices and move to a more squared-off design. 

The Apple Watch 7 may also be getting slightly larger, moving to 41mm and 45mm (up from 40mm and 44mm), with the display on both models increasing minimally as well. One potential downside of this size increase for current Apple Watch owners with an extensive band collection is that the Apple Watch 7 may break compatibility with those bands. 

Renders of Apple Watch 7 prepared based on alleged leaked photos of the device

(Image credit: Jon Prosser/@RendersByIan)

One potential internal upgrade is the move to a smaller chipset powering the watch, which would come in turn free up space for a larger battery. Despite the addition of sleep tracking to watchOS, this remains a glaring weakness for Apple's wearable as it requires a daily charge for most users.

The Apple Watch 7 managed to stay significantly more under the radar than the iPhone 13, so that's about all that we know about the hardware. Rumors of blood glucose monitoring were dashed months ago and other enhancements are mostly software upgrades that could come to prior models as well. 

As always, Apple may well surprise us here, but the company also enjoys such a dominant position in the wearable market that it doesn't need to make any major changes to stay on top.

AirPods 3

(Image credit: GizmoChina)

AirPods 3

The long-awaited update to the ubiquitous standard Airpods should finally arrive at this event, with Apple's more affordable AirPods 3 wireless earbuds getting more of the AirPods Pro styling and features.

Rumors and alleged leaked images of the AirPods 3 all point to a reduction to the size of the stem more akin to the AirPods Pro. Another potential Pro move could be silicone ear tips for a more customizable fit, but rumor sources continue to fight on this point. The famously tiny case of the AirPods may also be getting a bit larger, again following in the footsteps of the AirPods Pro with a slightly wider design. 

Anticipated feature upgrades include improved battery life and overall functionality from a new smaller wireless chipset and possibly the inclusion of active noise-canceling (ANC), transparency mode, and Apple's new spatial audio.

Pricing rumors have varied on the AirPods 3, with speculation that they will cost anywhere from the same $149 as the current AirPods 2 up to around $199, $50 below the AirPods Pro. 

iPad (8th Gen) array with final iPad in a keyboard case

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad (9th Generation)

The standard iPad is the last device widely believed to be getting an upgrade at the September event; this would be the 9th generation iPad. 

Rumors on the iPad 9th generation have been more sparse than on the previous products, which may in part be due to the lack of significant changes anticipated. Most have suggested that it will be sticking to the same old design rather than adopting the new squared-off look and that the biggest physical change may be an upgrade to a 10.5-inch display up from 10.2-inches. 

The current model uses the A12 Bionic from 2018, so a move to the A13 Bionic currently used in the iPhone SE 2020 or a jump all the way to the A14 Bionic is possible. The former seems more likely if Apple sticks with the $329 starting price for the iPad 9th gen. Additional internal upgrades could include a move to 64GB base storage and a boost to 4GB of RAM.

Apple Glasses

(Image credit: Apple)

One more thing...

We know Apple is working on many other devices that could appear at this event, but these all fall into the doubtful category. 

The 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon processors, whether M2 or M1X, are both due before the end of the year but should get their own event in October or November as usual.

The AirPods Pro 2 are only slightly less overdue than the AirPods 3, but recent rumors have pointed to a 2022 release date for Apple's more premium true wireless earbuds.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 inch 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad Air 5 and iPad Mini 6 are both rumored to be making an appearance soon, but it's unclear exactly when. The iPad Mini 6 is perhaps the most likely of the devices on this secondary list to make an appearance, with Bloomberg's Mark Gurman indicating it was coming this fall. With that said, Apple could just as easily hold another event in October or release the oft-neglected iPad mini with a press release. The most recent rumors on the iPad Air 5 suggest it won't be coming until 2022.

The biggest "One more thing" that Apple could have up its sleeve for the event would be its VR and mixed-reality headset. Apple's AR logo for the event sparked speculation that the company could be ready to take the wraps off this product after years of speculation and rumors. 

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.