For many who follow tech news closely, Apple’s event on Tuesday had a few big surprises — not because there were completely unexpected announcements, but because we didn’t see things we really thought we’d be getting. Rumors that had enough smoke to be almost a sure-fire thing in previous years ended up falling flat.
The Apple Watch was rumored to get a complete redesign, featuring flat edges and a flat screen. We saw this design in renders, reportedly leaked CAD files (which act as a 3D blueprint for products), and even heard that it’d be happening from noted Apple reporter Mark Gurman two days before the event. While the Apple Watch that showed up on stage does have some design tweaks, it looks nothing like what we were expecting.
Another notable analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, also reported days before the event that Apple would debut a new set of AirPods, redesigned to include shorter stems. The wireless earbud redesign has also been rumored for months by Gurman, we’ve even seen alleged pictures of them, and some noted publications wrote that Apple was set to start production on the buds in August. With this rumor, though, it’s possible that just the timing was off, and that Apple will release them at an (of course!) already-rumored future event.
Gurman also suggested that the iPhone 13 could feature an always-on display, thanks to the (accurately rumored) LTPO display that could theoretically allow for the low refresh rate needed to make always-on not destroy the phone’s battery. The always-on rumor was also backed up by well-known leaker Max Weinbach earlier this year. Alas, Apple didn’t announce this display feature that has been a staple on Android phones for years.
There was also just some general weirdness with rumors this time around. Only a few weeks before the iPhone 13 was announced, Kuo wrote that it might have the ability to communicate with satellites, letting you make calls or texts without cell service. The next day, Bloomberg offered its own interpretation, saying that Apple was working on a satellite communications feature for emergency use, and that the iPhone 13 may include hardware for it, but probably not software. However, when the iPhone 13 spec page hit Apple’s website, it didn’t include any mention of the cellular bands that started the starry-eyed rumors in the first place.
Of course, rumors have always had to be taken with a grain of salt, as anyone trading in them is almost certainly going to be working with incomplete information. Still, some of the big names like Kuo and Gurman get it right so often — the rumors about the iPad Mini redesign, high refresh-rate iPhone display, and smaller notch all came true, and we even saw the rumored cinematic camera mode. Success like that, and how accurate rumors have been in years past, can make it easier to forget the tenuousness of rumors — no matter how many times people like Marques Brownlee remind us.
This isn’t to laugh at those who believed the rumors, or say that there’s no place for rumors in the buildup to events — it can be exciting to feel like we’re getting a peek at what’s coming next, and to start thinking about whether we’ll pick up the new device, and how we’ll use it.
P.S. Remember this moment if Apple announces something that looks suspiciously like a Mac event later this fall. This isn’t to say that the 14- and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pros with all the ports and processing power you ever wanted aren’t coming, but treating them as a sure thing could lead to some real heartache.