Apple Subtly Updates Its i-Device Lineup

Posted on March 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, iOS with 43 Comments

Apple Subtly Updates Its i-Device Lineup

While Apple is widely expected to issue significant updates to its iPad Pro family, the firm today surprised with far subtler updates to the normal iPad and to the iPhone.

I’m not sure anyone saw these updates coming, but let’s step through it all quickly.

iPad. Today, Apple replaced the years-old iPad Air 2 with a new budget iPad that starts at just $329 for 32 GB versions. It’s not exactly leading-edge tech, however: The new iPad features an 18-month-old A9 processor and is thicker and heavier than its predecessor. In fact, this new iPad is almost identical, form factor-wise, to the original iPad Air, which debuted in 2013.

iPad mini 4. Apple did not update the iPad mini 4 per se, but it has discontinued the 32 GB version while lowering the price of the remaining 128 GB version to $399. That’s a lot of money for an A8-based mini-tablet; it seems like Apple is pushing customers toward the full-sized iPads (and iPad Pros) for some reason. And maybe is looking to kill the mini.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Today, Apple announced new (Product)Red versions of its best-selling iPhone 7 and 7 Plus handsets. Same pricing and specs, just a new color. But it looks nice, and if it’s anything like the (Product)Red iPod touch I once owned, it should be a nice option.

iPhone SE. Apple did not upgrade the mini-sized iPhone SE today, but it did double the storage capacities to 32 GB ($399) and 128 GB ($499), respectively. Nothing else has changed.

In addition to the hardware noted above, Apple also announced new iPhone 7/7 Plus leather and silicon case colors, and a new video editing app for iOS called Apple Clips.


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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Apple Subtly Updates Its i-Device Lineup”

  1. wunderbar

    I'll never complain about more storage for the same amount of money, or less.

  2. RM2016

    Thank goodness they saved us from a keynote for this. 

  3. jbuccola

    Apple hate everywhere.

    I'd tell you their model for collaboration (iMessage, FaceTime) and desktop integration with mobile (handoff, seamless usage of either device for phone calls) is absolutely the standard that Google hasn't touched and Microsoft completely biffed.

    • ym73

      In reply to jbuccola:

      That would be true if it also worked with non-Apple devices. Since you and your contacts have to be completely in the Apple ecosystem, I wouldn't want that to be standard.

      • jbuccola

        In reply to ym73:

        Umm, SMS messaging works across desktop and mobile just fine. So do PSTN phone calls. And yes, as it turns out, the number of people I know with android devices is very small. So it does become very much a herd mentality.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to ym73:

        I would not want that to be standard either. I think diversity is important for evolution to happen.

    • Ugur

      In reply to jbuccola: Me personally i don't hate Apple in general at all, i use the good ones of their devices and praise it when they do good stuff and blame their bad stuff and when they do bad things, like i do for others.
      But your comment is very much centered around your personal usage experience though and does not reflect the broader picture at all.
      Just as example: iOS is only so broadly used in the US, in most other countries for mobile phones and tablets Android has a market share of over 80%.
      So then, in most countries around the world, iMessage and Facetime are complete non topics.

      I like iMessage and Facetime for their intuitive usability, but Apple is making the same mistake as MS in the 90ies: while they are in dominating positition (for Apple at least in profit margins ), they don't bring enough of their stuff to other platforms and hence then completely rule out any chances for them becoming an actual standard in terms of used most.
      Without it being available on Windows and Android, iMessage and Facetime etc will just stay a thing used by a very small niche in most countries of the world.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to jbuccola:

      I agree. It's actually quite amazing how well Apple handles it, while MS and Google keep changing courses. Then we get the talk about Apple not innovating enough, when most of the time they are refining their services even further.

      What's funny here is that I had gotten completely away from Apple at one point, but ended up going back because MS completely bombed my favorite mobile platform (Windows Phone), and then proceeded to pound this weird experiment known as Windows as a Service. I still have an Xbox, but I also now have a PS4. I tried and tried with Android, but I don't care for Google's direction with the platform, and I don't like that you have few choices in phones if you want updates. What is rather concerning is how much easier it is to walk away from Windows today than it was back when I last tried Apple stuff (PowerMac G5 era). Office 365 makes going to an Apple desktop very easy, and I just don't use any of the legacy apps anymore.

  4. Ugur

    You know what? This actually makes me wonder if there will be something cool shown for iPads at their next press event.

    Because this gunk by itself is the typical upgrade<->downgrade stuff Apple typically did for iPads over the last few years, but with big talk about it at their event. So if by now they themselves get this is nothing to talk about (proudly and publicly), then, yeah, maybe they actually have something more interesting to show for the iPad at the next press event.

    On these spec changes themselves, well, they are quite bad in my view. It so highlights the Apple of the past few years where they were pretty free of vision and innovation but still wanted to have as high profit margins per device as possible, so when they have a device which is a bit more in the "more affordable" price ranges, it is by selling people specs from many years ago devices.

    I wouldn't recommend those iPads to anyone anymore, besides mega Apple fans who are completely in Apple's eco system and don't want to get out at all either.

    Otherwise, yeah, one is much better off with getting a cheap Android tablet for watching movies or browsing the web on the couch or on the go and if one wants to get more done and/or wants desktop apps on the go, then better to consider a surface pro or maybe even a gaming laptop.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Ugur:

      If these things run well whatever they propose to be run why does it matter if it is an A8, A9 or A9X. I think they maybe trying to make a distinction between a consumption / entertainment / personal management device and a creation device. Will see how these units are reviewed.

  5. Rob Kowalski

    Some of you are treating this like a keynote. This is just routine product updates that are logical at this point in time.

    I am glad they are releasing a low cost iPad with an A9 and 2gb of RAM, so I can economically upgrade my girlfriends iPad 4 this year. $329 is not a lot to ask for a more than capable hardware configuration. Android has nothing exciting and Windows is a joke at that price point and in tablets altogether.

    The Red iPhone models support a good cause and the new cases and Watch bands further help their accessories market.

    I figure Kaby Lake upgrades at WWDC and possibly this 10.5 inch iPad Pro. Then we get the iPhone event In the Fall, which will probably be a huge announcement for the mystery redesign.

    This is all apart of the playbook. I'm not a fan of Tim Cook's more conservative approach, but I do expect 2017 to be a great year for Apple products.

    Maybe, we will see a new Mac Pro this year...

  6. chaad_losan

    Welcome to the new apple. Where we sell yesterday's technology TODAY!

  7. AlexKven

    I like to call it the "iPhone Southeast"

  8. Gavin Groom

    "The new iPad features an 18-month-old A9 processor..."

    Which is a beast.

    • Delmont

      In reply to Gavin Groom:

      You like the A9 and think it's leading edge?

      • Ryster

        In reply to Delmont:

        To be fair to Gavin, he didn't say that mate.

      • Darmok N Jalad

        In reply to Delmont:

        I have an iPad Air 2, and it does everything I need without issue. Web browsing on it is a far better experience than the Surface 3 I had before it. Perhaps that is due to sites targeting Safari better than Edge, but some sites were pretty much unusable on Surface 3. No, the A9 iPad is not a Surface Pro 4 in terms of performance, but it's great for many things, especially when you have kids diving into your lap. I think the revised iPad will sell quite well for the price, even going back to the Air form factor. The original Air was a good size--until you picked up an Air 2.

  9. G33kDadof4

    Apple has now officially transformed into Microsoft circa 2002. They are too big to adapt, too worried about rocking the boat on their precious iPhone line to improve, to stubborn or lazy (courageous?) to innovate and to rich to care.

  10. Cain69

    2013 form factor with 2015 specs and 2017 prices - that is about right for an Apple "upgrade".

  11. MikeGalos

    A new color, new cases and some memory size changes? Wow. Add a couple of new watchband colors and you've got most of an Apple keynote. (Or the monthly dealer update notice from any other hardware vendor)

    • skane2600

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Reminds me of the Hudsucker Proxy movie. Think of Tim Cook as Norville Barnes -

      Reporter: How do you respond to the charges that you're out of ideas? Have you run dry?

      Norville Barnes: Not at all. Just this week I came up

      with several new sweet ideas. A larger model Hula Hoop for the portly, a battery option for the lazy or spastic. A model with extra sand for the hard-of-hearing.

      I'm earning my keep.

  12. Tony Barrett

    Yawwwwwwnnnnnn! Wake me up with Apple have finished their announcements...... I actually find paint drying more exciting these days.

  13. Delmont

    Great review. I love the back handed jibes :-)

  14. James Wilson

    It's funny when you look at most Apple fan sites. Most of the headlines are 'The next i<whatever> - what will it be?' or 'Rumors about the next i<whatever>'. Nothing about the current lineup.

    Seems these sites are so afraid of Apple not inviting them to the next launch that they hardly mention the current product line - both positive and negative. Weird.

    • Avro

      In reply to James Wilson:

      I am not so sure that is accurate. There has been a lot of criticism from the likes of Jason Snell, John Siracusa, Marco Arment and John Gruber about the current Mac and iPad models needing substantial replacements. Lots of Apple fans want more attention paid to the iPad and the Mac. For obvious reasons most goes to the iPhone at the moment. I think it also is a bit premature to claim that this is Apple's new announcement. Something more extensive is expected in the next few weeks.

  15. StevenLayton

    Looking to get our daughter a new iPad mini soon, so getting more storage for the same price is great.

    Edit. Actually, looking at the pricing, the 128Gb iPad Mini 4 is £419. No cheaper Mini now available on their website. The 'New' iPad 32Gb is £339 and the 128Gb is £429, really close to the Mini in cost, with a slightly faster chip. Choices, choices.

  16. markbyrn

    subtle is the wrong term - more like an anemic bust. Yay, a red iPhone! Me thinks Mr Cook needs to pay attention to business rather than promoting his personal poltitics.

  17. alex1002

    Apple is dead in my eyes. If they don't start innovating like they usednto.... Go Microsoft go

  18. SDreamer

    Welcomed refreshes honestly. Though they are relatively ancient in our world, for the consumers they work perfectly fine and really they don't need anything much more than that right now unless they can bring down the Pro prices down.

  19. fishnet37222

    I hope they keep the iPad mini line. In my opinion, it's the perfect size for a tablet for me to use to read books.

  20. cheetahdriver

    One of the many reasons I keep a foot in the iOS world is that it is THE environment for private pilots, and the Mini is the goto unit for pilots. The iPad is a bit clunky and the iPhone Plus is a bit small to read an approach plate while flying. The Mini is also my breakfast newspaper unit. It might not be the form factor for everyone, but I hope it is worth keeping for a while yet.

  21. Narg

    Apple can be boring.  But a large number of folks like that.  It's one of many reasons why they sell so much.  Not everyone like to re-learn a device or mess with something new they probably won't end up using.  I can say though, that I'm ready for something new.  And, unfortunately I'm stuck to the iOS world for a few reasons.

  22. Polycrastinator

    Hmm, I was really expecting them to save this and update at a big event with new iPad Pros and a new design. I'm seriously toying with getting an iPad Pro as a light carry "computer" for when I don't want to lug around my Surface Book. If Apple adds bluetooth mouse support I'll be sold. You can already pair a mouse with an iPad, and some software (notably remote access software) will even use it, but proper support for word processing and spreadsheets would be amazing.

    • Cain69

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Not gonna happen.

      I would try out Surface Pro instead. I have used both Book and Pro - and if you can stand the Book (with all its problems), you will love SP4. Actually think about getting an SP3 (with the fingerprint Type Cover) - there are great deals on ebay for new units. Couple that with a 2 or 4 yr MS complete and it's a no brainer.

      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to Cain69:

        It really is a different class of device to what i'm looking for in this case. What I'm after is as small and light as possible, primarily a tablet, but able to do triage email and document editing if need be. And mouse support would make that so, so much easier. I doubt they're going to do it, too, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

        • MikeGalos

          In reply to Polycrastinator:

          Sounds like you're looking for a small form-factor Windows tablet.

          iOS was architected, at Steve Jobs insistence, to block a system-wide mouse interface so people wouldn't port Macintosh software to his "touch only" system so, while it isn't impossible for iOS to get a mouse, it'd be insanely difficult.

  23. RobertJasiek

    News would be: replacing the iTunes mal- and crapware and its three Windows services by one driver that does not dial home on its own.

  24. peterh_oz

    Wish they'd bring back the iPod Classic!