Over the past month, there have been more and more rumors suggesting that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) might release a new iPhone in early 2016. Intuitively, that sounds dubious since Apple always sticks to releasing new models in the fall. But this idea is gaining even more credibility and 9to5Mac is now reporting that Apple is planning on hosting an event in March 2016.
What does the Mac maker have in store?
Apple Watch 2 and iPhone 6c (maybe)
The feature presentation is expected to be Apple Watch 2, which would then reportedly ship in April. That's in line with the annual product cycles that Apple likes to use with its flagship devices. The second-generation model is expected to feature a camera and add even more sensors to track more types of data.
A purported iPhone 6c may also be in the works and might show up at the event. The iPhone 6c will likely sport a 4-inch display in order to accommodate users that prefer smaller devices. It may come in a variety of colors in a new metal design as well. There are some conflicting rumors about what processor the 6c might carry. Some believe that an A9 will power the 6c, but it could also make sense to put an older A8 in order to position the model for lower price points.
Apple is also supposedly working on making the Watch more of a stand-alone device, reducing some of its dependence on the iPhone. This has been one of the most common complaints about the first-generation model. Many apps and features that rely on the paired iPhone suffer from poor performance and long loading times. WatchOS 2 hoped to address this with native apps, but now it's on developers to actually make native apps, and it's been hit or miss.
It's the time of the season
Long ago, Apple used to have product launches in the spring and the fall. The company used to unveil new iPads in the beginning of the year, followed by iPhones at the end of the year. That allowed Apple to mitigate seasonality to a certain extent since the iPad and iPhone would take turns driving sales and upgrades (this was back when the iPad business was still booming).
But that all changed a few years ago when Apple shifted the iPad cycle to coincide with the iPhone's, releasing new tablet models in the fall. However, Apple did have an event in March of this year to give the first Apple Watch a proper introduction and unveil a new Retina MacBook, among other product refreshes.
It would make perfect sense for Apple Watch to similarly follow a one-year cycle, and since this is such a new product category there is plenty of work for Apple to do in terms of innovating. Performance gains for any new product category are the greatest in the early years before the product begins to mature.
As far as an iPhone 6c goes, it could strengthen Apple's most affordable iPhone. The iPhone 5s now occupies that spot, and it was released in 2013. If Apple resumes spring product launches, it could smooth out the seasonality like it used to, although a lower-end iPhone and Apple Watch 2 aren't as financially significant as the flagship iPhones.
You know what else also usually happens around March or April? Apple typically updates its capital return program around then, which is arguably more exciting for investors anyway.