IMPRESSIVE SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE iPHONE SE AND 9.7-INCH iPAD PRO
We are used to hearing big, big announcements about big, big products at Apple’s keynotes - but did the latest, March 21 event at Infinity Loop comply with this trend? For some, the unveiling of a new four-inch iPhone and 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro - not to mention some new bands for the Apple Watch - wasn’t quite ‘big’ enough. However, when you look closer at the specifications of these new products, it’s clear that they are still worth getting excited about for many Apple fans.
THE iPHONE SE - NOT JUST A SMALLER 6S
It may not have been the most giddily exciting product launch that we have seen from the Cupertino giant in recent years. However, the iPhone SE’s unveiling could yet be one of the most significant for many years, given the backdrop of the iPhone’s uncertain sales future and Apple’s urgent desire to break into such ‘difficult to crack’ markets as China.
Even Apple’s own publicity blurb may notcommunicate just how crucial the SE couldprove to be, even with the company’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing - Philip Schiller - describing it as “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.”
Schiller went on to highlight such technical specifications as the device’s “stunning four-inch Retina display, advanced 64-bit A9 chip with M9 motion co-processor, longer battery life, 12-megapixel iSight camera with True Tone flash”. However, many prospective buyers will best appreciate the SE by comparing it to other iPhone models.
THE FOUR-INCH SCREEN MAKES A WELCOME COMEBACK
The device’s outward design is extremely reminiscent of the iPhone 5s, right down to the four-inch display, which is a significant point. After all, in the words of Mashable’s Christina Warren, “Apple used to vaunt the one-handednature of its four-inch phones. And it’s true, there is something to be said about a phone that can be truly used with one hand. No need for reachability, no need for adjusting your hands.”
The SE has also drawn comparisons with the 6s for its impressive feature set, although again, they have been dismissed in some quarters,on account of its lack of such 6s features as3D Touch and a barometer. That said, the SE certainly bests for 6s for battery life, The Wall Street Journal finding that it lasted more than two hours longer than both the 6s and 5s, while Goode, Warren and Nicole Nguyen of BuzzFeed came to similar conclusions.
There has also been much focus in early iPhone SE reviews on its A9 processor and 2GB of RAM, The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey A. Fowlerdeclaring on the basis of GeekBench resultsthat the SE is about 70% faster than the 5s. The new device’s camera has been praised, too, with Rene Ritchie of iMore observing thatenhancements to the A9 chipset’s imagesignal processor make “your photos look more like real life and less like oversaturated, level-crushed hyper-life.”
ALREADY A SALES SUCCESS
With the iPhone SE being keenly priced from $399 in the US, such a highly functional and quick, but also surprisingly attainable phone will surely be a tempting option for those looking to upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 5. However, it could also be the device that helps Apple to really crack the potentially lucrative Chinese market, CNBC having already reportedpre-orders of more than 3.4 million in the country - not bad for a handset that so largely builds on previous iPhone models.
THEN, THERE’S THE 9.7-INCH iPAD PRO
Continuing the slight ‘back to the future’ theme of Apple’s newly announced devices, the iPad Pro is now available in a 9.7-inch screen size - the same as that of the original iPad. Again, Schiller was effusive about the latest addition to Apple’s flagship tablet range, hailing it as part of “anew generation of iPad that is indispensibleand immersive, enabling people to be moreproductive 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”
However, it is the new iPad Pro’s size that surely draws comparisons not so much with its bigger 12.9-inch brother, but instead the iPad Air 2, which - after all - boasts such features as a Retina Display and Touch ID, while also being yours for as little as $399. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will cost you an additional $200 for the entry-level 32GB with Wi-Fi model, so you may reasonably ask whether such an outlay is worthwhile.
Evidence that it most certainly is includes the wider range of storage options, with 32GB, 128GB and 256GB all available, compared to the mere 16GB or 64GB in which the Air 2 can be specified. The Pro also has a screen that has been designed to work with the Apple Pencil, which in the words of CNET’s Scott Stein, is “far moreaccurate than the mushier capacitive stylusesyou’re probably used to trying on an iPad. It’s more like Samsung’s S-Pen for its phones and tablets, or Microsoft’s pen for Surface.”
A WIDE RANGE OF OTHER ‘PRO’ FEATURES
Another key advantage of choosing a 9.7-inch iPad Pro over an iPad Air 2 is the Smart Connector offered by the former, which uses a magnetic port to automatically pair any compatible accessory. This means that for example, a Bluetooth device no longer needs to be manually paired, as the pairing happens as soon as you “snap in” the accessory. You can also thank the Smart Connector for the thinness of the Smart Keyboard, as it is what powers accessories for the tablet, meaning the keyboard itself no longer has to accommodate a bulky battery.
The smaller Pro’s camera capabilities also represent a huge upgrade on those of the Air 2 - while the former sports a 12-megapixel snapper on the back and a five-megapixel one on the front, the latter can only offer eight and 1.2 megapixels respectively. 4K videos can also be shot on the 9.7-inch Pro, compared to the Air 2 and larger Pro’s mere 1080p.
Opting for the higher-priced tablet will also get you twice as many speakers - four rather than two - in addition to an A9X chip that delivers swift response times and smoother graphics than the A8X chip of the Air 2 can muster. These aren’t the only benefits that the 9.7-inch Pro offers over the Air 2, but they nonetheless go some way to demonstrating why the $200 extra still represents great value for money.
NOR COULD WE POSSIBLY FORGET THOSE WATCH BANDS
Fair enough, so we definitely didn’t get any hardware upgrades for the Apple Watch at the March 21 keynote - not even theFaceTime camera that was once rumored - but that didn’t leave fans of the market-leading wearable completely empty-handed. Specifically, there were some great new bands on display for the timepiece, including asupremely soft woven nylon number thathas been especially well-received.
So, the latest Apple keynote... “low profile”? Maybe just a little bit. However, the newest developments announced at the tech giant’s Cupertino headquarters could yet be just as momentous as any more dramatic entrances into whole new categories that may be confirmed in the years to come. Quite frankly, the anxious Apple fan should have little to be worried about if even mere ‘incremental’ updates or revisions on previous formulas can attract the warm reception already forthcoming for the likes of the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
by Benjamin Kerry & Gavin Lenaghan