Apple invitation sparks iPhone 6 and smartwatch fever

Apple has sent out press invitations to a "special event" on 9 September, when it is widely expected to launch at least one new iPhone and a smartwatch.

Apple: iPhone 6 and smartwatch expected to be announced
Apple: iPhone 6 and smartwatch expected to be announced

The invitation is typically cryptic, featuring the date 9.9.2014 and the tagline "Wish we could say more". The event will take place in Apple's hometown of Cupertino at the Flint Center, a performing arts centre where Steve Jobs introduced the first Mac.

Though anticipation for Apple's annual launches are usually high, next month's event has prompted more speculation than usual after CEO Tim Cook promised "really great stuff" in new product categories at the beginning of the year.

During the company's third-quarter results, Cook again hinted at the firm's excitement at introducing new products. 

Apple’s iWatch category launch will be one of its most important and brand-reinforcing launches in years

Apple has not introduced a brand new product since the iPad in 2010, and is under growing pressure to keep up its reputation as a trailblazer.

The company has reportedly built up a team of engineers and hardware specialists focusing on bio-technology, suggesting it's working on an "iWatch" with fitness functionality.

Apple has also registered the iWatch trademark in China, but it isn't clear whether a new product is actually ready for launch.

Looking a little more certain is the arrival of the new iPhone 6, possibly one with a 4.7in screen and another with a larger 5.5in display.

Current rumours suggest Apple will include fitness tracking software, HealthKit, which could allow brands to capture users' health-related information.

The iPhone 6 is also expected to include HomeKit, a way for users to control connected third-party devices such as, say, a smart garage door.

Analysts believe an iWatch launch this year would make a major turning point for Apple as a brand. Though several companies have already launched their own smartwatches, namely LG and Samsung, consumers have yet to warm up the concept of wearables.

Forrester analyst JP Gownder said: "Apple is expert at resetting consumer expectations of technology and inviting companies to partner in its ecosystem to satisfy consumers.

"An iWatch release will finally launch the wearables category."

Analyst James McQuivey said: "Apple’s iWatch category launch will be one of its most important and brand-reinforcing launches in years.

"But as with smartphones and tablets, fast follower competitors will catch up rapidly, building the entire wearables category."

McQuivey said while Apple had attracted criticism since the death of its co-founder Steve Jobs, the company wasn't "destined for decline".

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