Apple rolled out a smaller iPhone and iPad on today at a product event at its headquarters, focusing on updating existing products while offering another stern defense of its privacy policies.
Chief executive Tim Cook kicked off the event by addressing the company’s stance against the government’s efforts to force it to unlock an iPhone used by terrorists in the San Bernardino shootings last year. The company has an important duty to protect its customers, Cook said, adding that “we will not shrink from this responsibility.”
The line got prolonged applause from Apple employees, analysts and others in the room. After Cook spoke, Lisa Jackson, the former EPA head who is now Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, took the stage to talk about the firm’s environmental efforts — a not-so-subtle effort to get on the good side of the image debate.
She announced that 99 percent of Apple’s packaging comes from recycled paper or sustainably managed forests.
The time spent on big-picture issues such as privacy and the environment were something of a departure from the typical Apple event formula, which usually aims to highlight shiny new hardware. This event, in fact, was shorter than many, and the company had little in the way of surprises to offer.
One headline: The company lowered the price of the Apple Watch to $299 and announced the release of nylon watch bands.
But the most anticipated portion of the program involved a return to the smaller size of earlier iPhones. Noting that 30 million people have bought smaller phones in the past year, the company said it is taking steps to keep the 4-inch phone in their lineup.
“As you may have heard, we’re calling it the iPhone SE,” said Apple vice president Greg Joswiak.
The phone has many of the same features as the top-of-the-line smartphones, including the ability to capture 4K video and take Live Photos.
Apple’s return to the smaller form could serve a couple of purposes. For one, it could offer a high-end alternative to the increasingly large screen sizes on offer from the likes of Samsung, LG and Apple itself, possibly appealing to those who think newer phones are too big.
Prices for the SE will start at $399 for 16 GB, with a 64 GB model for $499. Installment plans can start as low as $17 per month. It will be available March 31.
At a cheaper price than the company’s current phones, it could give Apple a stronger competitor to offer in the low-priced, mid-performance phone space, which is becoming popular in crucial overseas markets such as India and China.
A chance to thrive in a new market could be particularly appealing for Apple now, given its recent report of the slowest annual growth for iPhone sales in the product’s history.
As expected, Apple also announced the debut of an iPad Pro that is the size of a normal iPad, 9.7-inches. Why do we need such a thing? Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, said that people have really loved the 12.9-inch model Apple introduced last year, and that there are a ton of people out there looking for replacements for their laptops.
Apple is particularly going after — who else? — Windows users who have PCs that are more than 5 years old.
Schiller said that the new iPad Pro will have a “true-tone” display that will sense the light around you and adjust the colors on the screen to be as true to life as possible. It will be priced at $599, compared with the $799 tag of the 12.9-inch model.
Apple has not announced sales figures for the iPad Pro. But a report from the analysis firm IDC found that, despite some tepid reviews, the iPad Pro had outsold close competitors such as the Microsoft Surface Pro. The firm reported that Apple had shipped a little more than 2 million units of the iPad Pro, compared with 1.6 million units of the Surface line — most of which the firm said were of the Surface Pro.
The tablet market overall has been weak for several months, with its sales growth declining. The only bright spot for the overall market has been the area that Apple’s targeting with the iPad Pro, which analysts call detachables. This has been taking off as more consumers and businesses eye them as a lightweight replacement for laptops. Samsung also recently began selling a $900, Windows 10-powered tablet designed to be used with a keyboard attachment called the Galaxy TabPro S.
But the issue of privacy seemed to hang over the whole event, which came just a day before Apple heads to federal court in its case against the FBI. Apple has vehemently and publicly protested a court order compelling it to create software that would allow the agency to bypass security measures on an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., attacks late last year. The government insists this would be a vital measure to solving the case, while Apple sees it as potentially catastrophic for consumer privacy.
On Tuesday, representatives from Apple and the FBI will appear before a judge in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California to argue their cases. As Fortune magazine’s Jeff John Roberts reported, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym last week published guidelines saying that very few members of the media or public will be allowed in the courtroom or in spectator rooms within the courthouse.
The courthouse is in Riverside, Calif., about 15 miles southwest of San Bernardino.
Video of Apple’s new 4-inch phone:
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Hayley Tsukayama / Photo by: Hayley Tsukayama — The Washington Post