New hardware and software previewed at Apple event.
The tvOS 9.2 update also adds the ability to access the entire iCloud Photo Library, the option to organize apps into folders, and the support for Bluetooth keyboards for comfortable couch typing.
The biggest announcement of the event was made by Greg Joswiak, VP of product marketing for Apple, who introduced the iPhone SE, a smaller, 4-inch version of the beloved iPhone 6s with the looks of the iPhone 5s. He justified the release of the smallest smartphone in Apple’s current lineup by saying that “some people simply love smaller phones.” In fact, the company sold over 30 million 4-inch iPhones in 2015 alone, according to Joswiak. Apparently, a large number of the users favoring the smaller phones are in China, and it will be interesting to find out how many purchase the smaller phone for the lower price and how many actually prefer the smaller phone itself.
The iPhone SE is equal in performance to the 6s, thanks to the A9 processor, which is reportedly twice as fast as the chip in the older 5s. Both the rear and the front-facing cameras also seem to be identical with those present in Apple’s flagship smartphone. The main one has a resolution of 12 MP and is capable of capturing stunning 4K video footage, and self-portraits are made easy, by using the front-facing camera which includes the useful screen-based flash from the 6s.
The always-on integrated M9 motion co-processor collects sensor data from integrated accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses to track users’ fitness activity throughout the day and allow for button-less Siri activation. These extra features shouldn’t negatively affect the battery life, because the smartphone is supposed to deliver “battery improvements across the board.”
Joswiak continued his presentation of the iPhone SE by saying that the developers have “also given it great wireless capabilities,” including up to 50% faster LTE speeds with more LTE bands to allow for better global roaming. There’s also 433Mbps 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, and Touch ID with a secure element to facilitate for wireless payments with Apple Pay, their mobile payment and digital wallet service that directly competes with the likes of Android Pay and Samsung Pay.
The cost of the iPhone SE is set at $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the much more useful 64GB version. It’s somewhat surprising to see Apple sticking with such a low starting storage size, despite users and critics often expressing their dislike for it. Customers will also have the option to get the smartphone for free with a two-year contract or at $17 per month with a 24-month installment plan. Orders will begin on March 24 and shipping will begin in the US and Australia at the end of this month, with more than 100 countries to follow by the end of May.
9.7-Inch iPad Pro
The last hardware announcement was the introduction of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Sales of the original, 12-inch iPad Pro were disappointing to the company, based on the expectations for their extra-large tablet, with studies showing that their tablet market share hasn’t increased from the previous year. That’s largely because the otherwise fantastic hardware always felt greatly limited by the operating system, which was, after all, originally designed to fulfill a completely different role. So, when Apple executive Phil Schiller asked himself, “Why make an iPad Pro that is smaller?” the audience listened very carefully as he replied, “Many [users] will find [the new iPad Pro] their ultimate PC replacement.” Apple seems to be aware of the fact that many PC users have already found a suitable PC replacement in the form of Microsoft Surface devices. Their tout at PC users comes off as an attempt to steer the attention of potential customers away from their competition.