It's finally here.
After months of speculation, rumors, and conjecture, tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will debut its highly anticipated iPhone 6 today in San Francisco at 1 pm EST. By now many of the various innovations and improvements Apple will unveil with the iPhone 6 have largely been leaked (although you know with total certainty).
So rather than focusing on the secondary companies whose fortunes tend to rise or fall with the iPhone, and the absolutely massive refresh cycle that's likely to come with the new iPhone, let's instead focus on the bigger picture innovations Apple is likely to unveil later today.
An Apple a day
Disrupting and infusing greater innovation into the health care industry will undoubtedly feature prominently in Apple's growth roadmap in the years ahead.
Apple unveiled its Health and HealthKit software several months ago. Like iTunes and the App Store before it, Apple is once again seeking to create another powerful ecosystem connecting individuals and providers of health care and health care technology, a field which is poised to takeoff in the years and decades to come. Like Apple's other ecosystems before it, Apple's monetization opportunity lies not in the ecosystem itself, but rather, the devices that ecosystem will help it sell. This includes both the iPhone 6 in the short-term as well as any additional health care integrated products Apple will develop in the future.
Apple has been hard at work recruiting premier players across the health care space to become featured early adopters. It's rumored that Apple will lean on Mayo Clinic to demo its new software for Apple's Health app later today. Either way, Apple's coming innovation in health care is sure to get plenty of stage time later today.
Mobile payments go mainstream
Another highly discussed new software feature of the iPhone 6 will be mobile payments. After years of languishing at the fringes of technology, Apple appears to have finally incorporated near field communication, or NFC for short, into the iPhone 6, giving it a framework for a more robust mobile payments offering . It's a virtual lock that Apple has recruited all three major credit card and payment processing companies – American Express, Visa, and Mastercard – to support the launch of this exciting new feature.
With the recent news of the hack at Home Depot once again shaking consumer faith in the safety of extending their payment information to third-party services, expect safety to feature prominently in the discussion. That also should bode well for Apple's new mobile payments systems. Given the authentication advantages Apple should enjoy thanks to its fingerprint scanning technology, Apple's payments service should prove more secure than many other payment methods, although it isn't entirely clear how the fingerprint scanner will integrate into the NFC payment process.
Another ambiguous aspect of Apple's coming mobile payments product will be its economics. How much of the payment processing revenue will Apple seek? Like iTunes or the App Store, will Apple operate it near break-even or will this new service be accretive to Apple's bottom line. It isn't entirely clear, but this new service is also likely to feature prominently in the iPhone 6 launch event.
One more thing...
At this point, Apple's behavior strongly suggests it will also use the iPhone 6 launch event to debut its much-anticipated iWatch as well. I've been a major proponent of the idea of Apple's iWatch for some time now, although the overall market opportunity for Apple investors remains somewhat unclear. However, the iWatch would support Apple's overall health ecosystem and also prove that Apple can indeed continue to innovate in the post-Steve Jobs era.
The key to the iWatch's success in my mind comes down to one thing – biometrics. By it's historically frugal standards, Apple has put significant resources behind hiring and acquiring talent and technology in the health care and sensors space in the past several years, which many interpret as a sign the iWatch will indeed include advanced integrated sensors to provide real-time health data for its users. This functionality is key in my mind because its one of the most clear examples of a technology that could push a wearables use-cases beyond that of a smartphone, which is essentially all today's smartwatches provide.
Apple has reportedly invited media from the fashion industry to today's launch event, which suggests we'll be seeing something in addition to the iPhone 6. Either way, Apple's iPhone 6 launch will assuredly by the most important technology storyline of 2014. So while it isn't entirely clear what we'll see in a few hours, make sure to check back with the Fool for all our coverage of the marquee technology event at 1 pm EST today.
Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends American Express, Apple, Home Depot, MasterCard, and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, MasterCard, and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.