Today’s new Apple hardware 

Today’s Apple event brought two new hardware products, in addition to several accessories.

While neither the new iPhone or iPad are something I’m personally about to run out and buy, I think both show that the company knows that there’s value to be found in having variety, and a good product at several different price/size points. In short, both the new iPad and iPhone take the latest technology Apple has to offer and put them in smaller and cheaper products.

Take the 4-inch smartphone market. Apple said today that it sold 30 million 4-inch iPhones in 2015. This means 30 million customers picked up 2013’s iPhone 5s. Clearly there’s demand for a product in that category, and Apple wants to be able to offer something to those users that isn’t three years old.

Anyway, onto the news…

Apple Watch

Today, Apple marked another event with another batch of new Apple Watch bands.

There are new colors for the sports and leather bands, and a sick looking space-black Milanese loop for sale now. Additionally, a new $49 “Woven Nylon” band is out, offered in several colors. These use rubber lugs like the Sport band, so should look better with the aluminum Apple Watch Sport than bands that use stainless steel lugs.

Oh, and when paired with one of the new nylon bands, the 38 MM Apple Watch Sport is now just $299, while the 42 MM is $349.

iPhone SE

Surprising exactly no one, one of the two big main products announced is the new iPhone SE, which is essentially an iPhone 6S in a 5/5S case, minus 3D Touch.

Clearly there’s a market for a new 4-inch iPhone, and while it’s not for me, my wife will be cross-grading from an iPhone 6S she just can’t adjust to using quite happily.

There were rumors that the iPhone SE’s industrial design would be a blend of the 6 and and 5S, but in reality, it looks just like the latter. This means, unless you buy the Rose Gold model, there’s no quick way to tell the SE from the 5S. There’s no way around it: the SE looks old. Based on the tech inside, my guess is that this device will stick around past the introduction of the iPhone 7, but by then it’s really going to look outdated.

The question is, of course, why Apple didn’t introduce a new case with this phone? Does the company doesn’t think they’re going to sell enough of these to make the investment worthwhile? Is it to keep case compatibility for those who may be upgrading from an iPhone 5S?

9.7-inch iPad Pro

If you took all the goodies from the iPad Pro, but stuffed them into the familiar 9.7-inch chassis we’re used to seeing with iPads, you’d get this new iPad Pro.

If I wrote captions, this one would be something like: “WTF ~CAMERA BUMP~ WTF.” But I’m still workshopping that a bit.

This new tablet supports the Apple Pencil, and can be paired with a new, smaller Smart Keyboard. It comes complete with the 4-speaker sound system Apple introduced last year, too.

This iPad Pro has a trick up its sleeve with its display. Not only is it brighter and less reflective than any previous iPad, but it comes with what Apple’s calling “True Tone:”

It uses advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment. Which means reading is more natural and comfortable — almost like looking at a sheet of paper.

This seems genuinely cool, but why doesn’t the flagship 12.9-inch model have it? Was it not ready in the fall? It’s a small slight, I’ll admit, but part of my brain is sad that my iPad Pro doesn’t have it.

The pricing and product matrix for the iPad family continues to be confusing. This new, smaller iPad Pro doesn’t replace the iPad Air 2. In fact, that tablet is still for sale, at a new lower price of $399.

The 9.7″ Pro starts at $599, making this the first time ever that Apple doesn’t have a model occupying the $499 price point.

Accessories

In addition to the new hardware above, Apple quietly shipped a couple of accessories for the iPad lineup:

  • Lightning to USB-C Cable: Available in both 1 meter and 2 meter variants, MacBook owners can now plug their iOS devices in without the need of an adaptor. It’s shocking this has taken as long as it has.
  • Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter: The $39 adapter can be used to import photos to an iPad at USB 2 speeds (USB 3 if you have the 12.9-inch iPad Pro), or for using other USB devices with an iPad, such as an Ethernet adaptor or USB-powered microphone. Schiller made a comment about podcasting via this adapter, but until iOS 9/Skype can share audio for recording, it still doesn’t work for many of us.
  • New Smart Covers for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro: Those of us with the 12.9-inch model are still stuck with grey or white, which is lame.

No Macs

There was no mention of the Mac during the event, so those mythical thin-and-fast Skylake MacBook Pros and possible Retina Thunderbolt Displays are still a thing of nerdy dreams.