As I write these words, it’s just barely September 1st, the first day of what promises to be an epic month in the world of mobile devices; we’re likely to see more launches this month than we did at the past MWC, CES, and CTIA — combined. Since September has traditionally become the Month of iPhone, it’s already off to a good start. Add in what promises to be a jam-packed IFA 2014 in Berlin, as well as a slew of manufacturer-specific events, and this could well turn out to be the biggest month the industry has ever seen.
To wit, every major OEM — and quite a few minor ones, as well — is scheduled to launch a major product this month. Generally we only see volume like that twice a year, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and Mobile World Congress in March. (And as manufacturers eschew trade shows for bespoke press conferences in greater numbers than ever before, even these traditional hotbeds of new devices have waned in importance in recent years.) So what exactly should you expect this month? Glad you asked…
Let’s start with the main event, the featured performance, the Show — and by that I mean Apple’s September 9th iPhone (and iWatch?) extravaganza. You know, the one that the company is holding in the same venue where the Macintosh was originally introduced. The same venue that a crew of construction workers is currently building a massive, but temporary, structure next to. In other words, all signs point to a big launch, or launches — big, as in the 4.7- and 5.5-inch screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and, let’s call it the iPhone 6-plus, as well as important, in terms of the magnitude of the products likely to be introduced. A new iPhone (in a non-S-year)? Cause for celebration. New iPhones (plural) plus a completely new, and highly-anticipated, product category from the storied Cupertino firm? Quite literally, world-changing.
Next up we have Apple’s bitter Korean rival, Samsung Electronics, and its second Unpacked event of the year, on the third. This one could be almost as entertaining as the iShow, both because the Galaxy Note 4 looks to be the company’s best-ever handset, and because Samsung may be debuting a product category of its own, in the form of the reported Gear VR virtual reality headset. Allegedly a more polished, retail-friendly take on Google Cardboard, Gear VR has been described as an accessory that basically mounts your phone on your face. Is this the future of virtual reality? Facebook (Oculus) and Sony (Project Morpheus) seem to think so, too.
LG is an easy one, because it has taken to “leaking” its own products weeks in advance of their trade show launches, with full press releases and even imagery (which begs the question, aren’t these “previews” actually the real launches?). So we know that it’ll be introducing its (already-introduced) G3 Stylus — successor to the ho-hum, hip-to-be-square Vu series — as well as its second Android Wear watch, the G Watch R. R, of course, stands for “round” — which refers to what seems to be the smartwatch shape of choice, judging by the fawning enjoyed by Motorola’s circular Moto 360. Besides being round, the 360 is also yet-to-be-released, for the same reason that the first wave of Android Wear all had square faces: the circular design is more complicated to manufacture, I’ve been told.
Although it was a curious purchase — and one that has already been “regifted” — Google’s acquisition of Motorola did have one huge upside for the soon-to-be-Lenovo-subsidiary: the popularity of its devices. Starting with the Moto X, and moving downmarket to the Moto G and then the Moto E, Motorola has witnessed a notable resurgence of interest in its handsets, the likes of which the company has not seen since the original RAZR flip phone. Thus its event on the fourth, whose invitation made it quite clear that it would feature the next generations of Motos X and G, is seeing unusually heavy buzz in the days and even weeks prior. Also set to make its “official” debut at the Indian presser is the Moto 360, along with a Bluetooth headset seemingly innovative enough to receive top-billing alongside those other three, more substantial products.
Ever since dropping Ericsson from the joint venture, Sony Mobile really seems to have stepped up its game in terms of phone design, and thus the desirability factor of these phones. While its Z-series is still nowhere near the caliber of Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup — or even LG’s G-series — it definitely has its fair share of devoted fans. And thanks to Dom Esposito at 9to5Google, we now know that Z-fans will have a trio of new Z-devices to enjoy during IFA — the flagship Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, and Z3 Tablet Compact — plus a budget phone called the Xperia E3, and a pair of wearables, the SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk.
Two more companies, Asus and HTC, will also probably be introducing their first Android Wear devices at IFA proper, and unlike the 360 and G Watch R, these will be “true” launches of never-seen-before wearables. I never thought that covering the smartphone beat would involve so much discussion of watches, but here we are. HTC has also been tipped to show off its second 64-bit handset, the Desire 820, while Asus may also bring along yet another member of its growing Swiss Army Knife lineup of consumer electronics (in this case, the alleged Padfone X mini).
But wait, there’s more! Huawei will be on hand with the curiously-named, six-inch Mate7, along with a possible Ascend G7. Even ZTE is getting into the spirit, holding its own event — a rarity for the Chinese OEM — in New York City on the 16th. Nokia, sorry, Microsoft, is also set to debut its latest mid-range Windows Phone 8.1 handsets, the Lumia 730 and Lumia 830.
Is that enough for you? Surely there will be even more news in the mobile microcosm this month, some of it coming from these same companies mentioned above. In other words, just the stuff we /know/ to be coming is enough to get excited about September 2014; combined with the stuff we don’t know about yet, those of us who cover the sector will be busier than we have been in a long time. Don’t even get me started about the people responsible for leaking all of these many products…