You’d think we’d have figured out Apple media events by now. After all, they’ve done dozens of special presentations, seven prior iPhone launches and more Jony Ive product videos than Jimmy Kimmel knows what to do with.
So let’s use what we know. Here are the five possible ways next week’s iPhone event plays out, from least to most likely.
1. Apple blows everyone away
Hypothetical: After a week of bad press from the celebrity photo scandal, Apple bounces back. Tim Cook reveals three new iPhones, a gorgeous wearable device, and—in a twist no one saw coming—a sparkly, 60-inch Apple television set. Craig Federighi tells seven jokes, and six of them receive genuine laughs. Wall Street swoons. Fifty thousand Android users convert to iOS on the spot. The next day, headlines across the world praise Tim Cook. “Steve Who?” tweets one influential tech blogger.
Commentary: This isn’t happening. For five years, Apple’s changes have been smart and incremental—but not revolutionary. There’s no reason to expect shock and awe now.
2. The celebrity photo scandal dominates coverage
Hypothetical: Three minutes into Tim Cook’s polite, subdued introduction, live bloggers and tweeters across America start getting bored. An early headline on Re/code (“Still no word on iCloud security”) becomes the dominant narrative, as tech writers wonder aloud whether each new application in iOS 8 is “safe for storing our data.” Desperate to win back an unresponsive audience, a nervous Craig Federighi ad libs a joke about hackers leaking his grandma’s medical records through HealthKit. The damage is done.
Commentary: This is pretty unlikely. Had the celebrity photos leaked this coming weekend, Apple could have been in more trouble. But knowing Apple keynotes, one Jony Ive video about the iPhone 6’s “gorgeous, brushed-aluminum assembly” will wipe away the scandal for good.
Chance: Very low
3. Apple’s new wearable totally overshadows the new iPhones
Hypothetical: In a surgical, almost-tedious demonstration, Bob Mansfield waves around the new iPhones, describing the aspect ratios, battery capacities and exact pixel dimensions in exhaustive detail. Meanwhile, Tim Cook falls asleep offstage. Just as the keynote seems beyond hope, a vibrant Jay Blahnik (Apple fitness guru) bounds on stage, his body covered in a colorful array of all-new wearable devices. Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” blasts throughout the auditorium. “Not only do I look great,” Blahnik shouts, “but these wearables could literally save my life! Let’s take a look…” Behind him, Mansfield shuffles awkwardly offstage.
Commentary: This is a small, but real possibility. The best analogy would be the March 2011 iPad 2 announcement, where the Smart Cover was the flashiest part of an otherwise routine update. If the wearable’s design is good (or weird, or unusual) enough, we could be looking at the first iPhone keynote ever where the iPhone is a footnote.
Chance: Somewhat low
4. Apple has a great keynote, but announces that four out of five products won’t ship until 2015
Hypothetical: The keynote is going flawlessly. Apple’s new iPhones are a hit (5.5 inches! Sapphire displays! Bigger lenses!) and their brand-new fitness tracker is the most stylish tech accessory since the wristwatch. “Can’t wait to wear one myself!” tweets Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. Apple even releases two new sets of headphones, just as cool as Beats by Dre but actually good at producing accurate sound. “So when will all these products ship?” Tim Cook asks, smiling, with five minutes to go. “In short: 2015.”
Commentary: Now we’re getting into truly likely scenarios. Rumors indicate that the larger 5.5-inch iPhone will ship “later” than the 4.7-inch model, with some analysts predicting a 2015 release. No one knows for sure when Apple’s new wearable will ship, but many are pegging its release for “early” next year. In 2013, I might have blamed the finicky public for getting too riled up, but this is on Apple now. After all, Tim Cook has been teasing “exciting new product categories” since early 2013.
5. Apple announces everything we expect them to, with little to no surprises.
Hypothetical: Tim Cook does a delightful, if overly long intro. Craig Federighi is charming and geeky. The new iPhones are cool and bigger and a little different, but they’re still iPhones. The new wearable device looks pretty good, has some neat features, and an Apple price tag to match. After the keynote, AAPL stock dips a little, the tech community complains for a few days, and then Apple sells tens of millions of products anyway, because let’s be honest, it’s the iPhone, and it’s Apple.
Commentary: Let’s face it: This is by far the most likely scenario. When this happens, we can mope, laugh or even just shrug. But for once, we shouldn’t be surprised.
Chance: Very high
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.
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