The Apple Watch is ready for a bigger than usual closeup.

Historically, Apple tells you about new iPhones the week after Labor Day. This year, Apple is putting the spotlight instead on one of the products that’s turned into a smash for the company, selling as many as 31 million units in 2019, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

That’s a fraction of the 197 million iPhones Strategy Analytics projected sold in 2019, and at a lower price point, but it’s still grown to a major profit center for Apple.

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On Tuesday, Apple will stage its annual September sneak peek at new products, but because the iPhone release is delayed until mid-October, Apple is expected to use the virtual event to focus on new editions of the Watch and iPad.

So can Apple generate iPhone like headlines for its event?

Probably not, as the iPhone, in a separate event for early October, is still Apple’s cash cow and star. 

But analysts expect Apple to showcase a new Series 6 Watch that has more power, a brighter, more durable screen and new health features.

Strategy Analytics says Apple outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019, which saw sales of just over 20 million watches. And in the smart watch category, it has less high-powered competition than it used to. Samsung is set to launch an update to its Galaxy Watch on Sept. 10. Google doesn’t have a smartwatch, but instead has smartwatch software it calls WearOS. Many traditional watch manufacturers, including Casio and Fossil use WearOS. Google announced in November plans to acquire device maker Fitbit for $2 billion. The deal has yet to close.

The new Galaxy Watch is competitively priced with the latest Apple Watch, starting at $399, but is twice as expensive as an older edition of the Apple Watch that is still on sale at $199. Samsung sells the previous edition for $229.

“What they’re going after is new customers,” says Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “Or people who haven’t upgraded in two years. They have to be careful not to do significant changes, given the success they’re seeing with the Watch.”

Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, believes the new watch will have better navigation and take advantage of a new A14 processing chip that Apple is expected to use on the new iPhones.

“Design wise, it will be the same,” he says.”What will be different is how much they add to it. Most people who have the watch like it because of the health features. There will clearly be some new health features.”

What to expect from the iPad

The iPad, first introduced in 2010, was a runaway hit initially, then cooled off. But in the face of the COVID pandemic, and the move to learning and working at home, the iPad has seen major growth.

In the most recent earnings, Apple said it sold $6.5 billion worth of iPads in the quarter, up from $5.5 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Apple has a lineup of four models, starting at $329 and ranging through to $799. The tablet is ready for a power upgrade, notes Ives, with most models using older Apple chips. The current iPhone 11 models use the “Bionic” A13 chip, while the entry level iPad has an A10, the iPad Mini and Air have A12 chips and the Pro has an A12Z.

“Apple will try to give the look and feel of the iPad Pro on lower-priced iPads,” says Ives. “We’ll see mid-range units that really go after the work from home environment for students and enterprise.”

He thinks Apple could offer new iPads with a lower price point than $329. “This is a big upgrade opportunity for Apple,” he says.

Rival tablets from Samsung and Amazon compete with the iPad. Samsung just announced new Galaxy tablets, the S7 and S7+, starting at $829 and $1,029, and has other models available starting at $149. The Amazon Fire tablets are more affordable, starting at $89.

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter

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