Apple's iPhone 15 event kicks off on Tuesday. Here's what to expect

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Apple CEO Tim Cook holds the new iPhone 14 at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California, September 7, 2022.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

Apple is holding its most important launch event of the year on Tuesday at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, where it’s expected to unveil new hardware, including the iPhone 15.

Apple will present a prerecorded video featuring company executives to launch the products, which will be streamed on YouTube and Apple’s website. The event last year lasted around an hour and a half. Apple’s product launches are crucial for the company as they build buzz for new products and prepare for a marketing campaign in the December quarter. This is the biggest sales period for the year. Apple announced the Vision Pro VR headset in June, ahead of its planned launch in 2024. Apple could give an update on their efforts to attract developers but details on that product will likely not be revealed until next year. Apple released new iPads via a press announcement last year. CNBC will be covering the launch live from Apple’s headquarters and with a live blog on CNBC.com.

Last year, Apple announced new iPhones, Apple Watches and updated AirPods at its September event. Here’s what to expect from this year’s edition:

iPhone 15: USB-C and titanium

Apple’s invite to its Sept. 12 event.

Apple

Apple is expected to release four new iPhone models, continuing the pattern that’s been in place since 2020. If Apple keeps its naming pattern, this year’s models will share the iPhone 15 brand.

Apple is likely to release two sizes of middle-range iPhones, one with a 6.1-inch screen and one with a 6.7-inch screen, as well as two sizes of higher end “Pro” phones with titanium casing and better cameras, according to reports from Bloomberg News, TF International Securities hardware analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Wall Street analysts.

This year, the biggest change is expected to be a USB-C charging port, replacing Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, which was introduced in 2012 as the iPhone charger “for the next decade. A USB-C port will be available on iPhones that matches the charging ports on Android phones, laptops and iPads. Wireless headphones, too, are also compatible with this port. Apple will not mention the new law that required the change, but instead focus on the benefits for the users such as faster charging and convenience. Apple will “comply with” European Union regulations that require electronic devices to have USB-C charging capabilities, according to Greg Joswiak. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. Apple’s iPhones will have to switch to USB-C, as they currently use the proprietary Lightning charging system. Titanium is lighter and thinner than steel. This reduces the overall weight of phones. Event invitations show an Apple logo in what looks like a titanium finish.

Lower-end phones — expected to be called simply iPhone 15 — could get an upgrade to what the company calls the “dynamic island,” or a cutout that holds the phone’s facial recognition cameras toward the top of the screen. Apple’s Pro models last year ditched Apple’s “notch” in favor of the undulating windows, which could show real-time updates such as the distance to an Uber or the song playing on the music application. The iPhone’s mute button, which has existed for more than a decade, may be given new functionality as a “action” button. Apple is likely to also focus on chip and camera improvements as the reasons for upgrading. The biggest and most expensive iPhone model, the bigger Pro, could get a new lens that can zoom with twice the strength as the 3x zoom lens on the iPhone 14 Pro, according to Bloomberg.

One open question is whether Apple will raise price points. Analysts believe so because of rising costs in parts such as memory and processors. Apple does adjust its prices around the world regularly after launches and in response to currency fluctuations. It does tweak its prices around the world regularly after launches and in response to currency fluctuations.

Apple Watch and accessories

Apple Watch Ultra.

Sofia Pitt

Last year, Apple released the Apple Watch Series 8 and a new high-end titanium model called the Ultra in September.

Both are likely to get updates this year, although Apple’s Watches don’t typically get as many major changes from year to year as the iPhones. Analysts believe that Apple will upgrade its chip in the new watches and update the health sensors. But Apple may save bigger changes for the device’s 10th anniversary next year.

Apple also has several accessories that use Lightning connectors, such as some of its AirPod models, Beats headphones, mice and keyboards.

AirPods Pro will get a new feature that doesn’t need new hardware called Adaptive Audio. It uses machine learning and software to intelligently turn down the volume and noise canceling so users can be aware of their immediate surroundings.

Apple will likely update its accessories to work with USB-C, but the updated accessories may not be discussed on Tuesday, or could be released later.

iOS 17

StandBy Mode in iOS 17

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Even users who don’t plan to pick up a new iPhone or Watch will get new software for their devices. Apple previews its latest operating systems for its devices in June, then releases them in September alongside new iPhones.

Many of Apple’s best new features don’t require new hardware and will be available to everyone with an iPhone released since 2018.

Here’s some of what is new in iOS 17:

The software includes a revamp of the caller ID screen called “contact posters” where users can choose the images that show up when they call other iPhone users.

Autocorrect has been improved using a transformer-based language model, the same technology underpinning applications like ChatGPT.

A new Journal app encourages users to save thoughts and feelings on a daily basis and uses on-device machine learning to spot patterns without sending the data to a server in the cloud.

A new standby dock mode turns your phone into a clock with widgets that can show alarms, appointments or other updating information.

A business card replacement called NameDrop allows two iPhone users to exchange personal information by tapping their phones together.

Offline Apple maps make it possible for users to save huge swaths of roads and land to navigate even without cellphone service.