Apple unveiled a smaller iPhone and a smaller iPad Pro at its event in California yesterday, returning to past form factors and responding to customer demand for smaller devices.
Despite the trend of recent years towards ever-larger mobile phones offering greater screen real estate, Apple revealed that over 30 million people actually bought one of its smaller four-inch-screen phones in 2015. The iPhone 5s is still a strong seller for the company, reportedly holding firm as the company’s second most popular phone, behind the slimmer, smoother-edged iPhone 6 but ahead of both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
The announcement of a return to an established design from its past is a surprising retrogressive move from Apple, although clearly understandable given the untapped sales potential for many people of an old friend rebooted. The iPhone SE has the popular outer styling of a 5s, but with the advanced technology of the 6s inside – albeit missing the “poke and peek” 3D Touch technology of the 6s, presumably withheld to differentiate Apple’s flagship phone.
The iPhone SE has a bead-blasted aluminium body, with matte-chamfered edges, a colour-matched stainless steel Apple logo and four metallic finishes, including rose gold. It uses the same 64-bit A9 chip as the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and also has the same 12-megapixel iSight camera, featuring Live Photos, 4K video filming and Touch ID with Apple Pay.
“iPhone SE is an exciting new idea. We started with a beloved, iconic design and reinvented it from the inside out. The result is the most beautiful and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Everyone who wants a smaller phone is going to love iPhone SE.”
The iPhone SE will become Apple’s cheapest iPhone to date, starting at £359 for the 16Gb version. There is no 32Gb option, only a 64Gb model. The SE will be available to order on 24 March, on sale from 31 March.
Also adopting this diminutive trend is the new iPad Pro, a 9.7-inch sibling to the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro, released in 2015. Weighing just under one pound, it has a new pressure-sensitive pro Retina display with greater brightness, wider colour gamut, lower reflectivity, Night Shift mode and new True Tone display technology to dynamically adjust white balance.
Inside, it has a 64-bit A9X chip, a four-speaker audio system, a new 12-megapixel iSight camera for shooting Live Photos and 4K video, a 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera and faster wireless technologies.
“iPad Pro is a new generation of iPad that is indispensable and immersive, enabling people to be more productive and more creative. It’s incredibly fast, extremely portable, and completely natural to use with your fingers, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. And now it comes in two sizes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “It is the ultimate upgrade for existing iPad users and replacement for PC users.”
Highlighting how designers and illustrators have adopted iPad Pro in their workflow, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, said, “People don’t realise how much hand drawing is needed to produce computer animation,” said “iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are the closest we’ve ever been able to get in the digital world to actually drawing on paper.”
The new iPad Pro is the first iPad available in Apple’s Rose Gold finish. Prices start at £499 and will go on sale on 31 March.
Also announced at the event was the news that prices for Apple Watch will now start at £259 - £50 cheaper – and the range of straps has been greatly expanded, including a new woven nylon collection, as well as new sports and leather options.
A major software upgrade was added to Apple tv, including Siri voice-activated dictation to compete with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, and Apple’s mobile operating system was updated to iOS 9.3 to introduce Night Shift mode. This automatically detects when it’s night (based on a user’s time zone) and shifts screen colours to warmer tones to minimise eye strain. Given the amount of time users typically spend staring at their screens in bed at night, this is an important issue.
CareKit and ResearchKit were also presented, software apps enabling users to better monitor their health and symptoms and also improve medical research.
Finally, one of the more unexpected announcements from Apple’s event concerned 'Liam', the company’s recycling robot who can disassemble an iPhone in 11 seconds in order to recycle and reclaim its component parts, materials and precious metals.