SAN FRANCISCO: Apple on Tuesday is expected to freshen its iPhone lineup, improving performance and switching to a universal charger set to become mandatory in Europe next year.
The tech titan has revealed nothing about what is in store at a “Wonderlust” event at its spaceship-like headquarters in Silicon Valley.
However, it comes at a time of year when Apple usually announces new iPhones to be released ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season.
The release of the iPhone 15 would come at a moment when the world’s biggest company by market capitalisation is facing pressure in the key market of China where reports say the government is banning civil servants from using its phones.
While that would have only a trivial effect on sales, it demonstrates how the increasing diplomatic turbulence between Washington and Beijing could stoke further questions over Apple’s dependence on China for manufacturing.
Apple’s iPhone sales have been declining in the past few quarters as higher prices encouraged customers to delay switching out to newer models.
While rumours swirl ahead of any iPhone launch, most agree that Tuesday’s event will see Apple adopt a universal USB-C port, begrudgingly switching from its unique Lightning connectors for charging and data transfers.
The charger change would put iPhones in compliance with a European Union law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024.
“The cable change may give consumers pause, but within a generation they will get over it: they won’t have a choice,” said Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart.
“We saw it when Apple went from a 30-pin connector, which was even built into plane seats, but it didn’t impact iPhone sales.”
European Union policymakers say the rule will simplify the life of Europeans, do away with the mountain of obsolete chargers and reduce costs for consumers.
Apple, the world’s second-biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung, already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops.
But it resisted EU legislation to force a change away from its Lightning ports on iPhones, saying that it would stifle innovation and make the phones less secure.
“Apple’s Wonderlust event next week will centre on the iPhone, which needs a big cycle after a tepid last few quarters,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Yory Wurmser.
“The event will also likely cover new Apple Watch and AirPod models, but it’s the iPhone 15 that will really determine how the next year will look for Apple.”
Along with rolling improvements to iPhone cameras and chips, Apple is expected to raise prices on its Pro models, according to Wurmser.
Sales of iPhones in the recently ended quarter lagged analyst estimates.
Apple suffered a 2.4% drop in iPhone sales, which account for nearly half of total revenues.
Apple shares were battered last week following reports of significant Chinese restrictions on iPhones at government offices and state-backed entities.
“China is a very important market for Apple, so any negative sentiment by the Chinese government toward Apple is concerning,” analyst Greengart told AFP.
Apple reported US$15.8 billion in revenues from China in the most recent quarter, nearly 20% of total revenues. Executives pointed to the uptick in China sales in a period when overall sales fell.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimated that a Chinese government ban would affect less than 500,000 iPhones of roughly 45 million projected to be sold in the country in the next year.
“We believe despite the loud noise Apple has seen massive share gains in China smartphone market,” Ives said.