​Beyond the iPhone: How Apple is positioning itself for the next big thing

The new iPhone will grab the spotlight, but Apple's other moves are even more interesting.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

We have a reasonably good idea of what's likely to be on show at Apple's event at its new Apple Park headquarters this week.

Rumours strongly suggest that there will be an iPhone 8 (or maybe X, or 10, or Pro or something else) -- a new flagship model with a new look, whatever the branding is.

The home button might relocate on-screen, with Touch ID possibly replaced by facial recognition; wireless charging might finally make its debut; and the handset will come wrapped in a stainless steel and glass body. We'll likely see a couple of other new iPhones -- updated 7s and 7s Plus models -- as well.

Apple's iPhone remains a revenue juggernaut, and the new flagship iPhone will doubtless be huge -- even with a rumoured price tag of around a thousand dollars. For one thing, a fair few loyal customers will have been holding onto older handsets for longer than they might otherwise have done, in order to buy the new 10-year-anniversary device when it arrives.

Having said that, the smartphone is now a pretty well-defined device, and it's hard to add new functions without compromising things like weight and battery life. And given that several of the aforementioned innovations are already available on Android phones, it's increasingly difficult to foresee Apple pushing the smartphone envelope.

Beyond the iPhone

So while the new flagship iPhone will generate most of the headlines, what's more interesting to me are some of the other devices and updates that are likely to show up this week.

There have been rumours about an Apple Watch 3 with LTE connectivity, which would allow the device to act far more independently of an iPhone. At first the LTE connectivity would likely be used for data rather than voice calls. But this would still be a significant step towards the Apple Watch becoming a standalone device. Of course, there are plenty of obstacles still to overcome -- notably the tiny screen and diminutive battery -- but it's a sign that the smartphone is no longer the only game in town.

Apple's HomePod might be a completely different device, but the strategy behind it is the same: to move Apple away from its reliance on the smartphone as the only access point to its services. Tech companies have long tried to figure out which device would be the one to control the smart home. Some thought it would be the thermostat, others the smartphone. It turns out that smart speakers may be the answer. Apple is playing catch-up to Amazon and Google here, but again there will be significant demand for Apple's take on the smart home.

Much is also being made of Apple's augmented reality offering, ARKit, which will arrive with iOS 11. I've tried out a few AR and VR devices, and I remain to be convinced that the smartphone is the best form factor for AR to flourish. Really you're going to need smart glasses or something similar before it takes off. Again there have been rumours of Apple working on such a project. If that's still the case, getting AR right will be key.

The iPhone -- and smartphones generally -- aren't going anywhere soon. But some of the products that Apple is working on show how it's positioning itself for a world where the phone is just one device among many.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener:

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