There were no major surprises at Apple’s special event today, with the consumer electronics giant introducing the iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and some new Apple Watch bands as expected.
That said, hidden behind all the new stuff was some good news for the cash-strapped: Some of Apple’s slower-selling products, most notably the iPad Air 2 and Apple Watch, are now less expensive than before. The iPad Air 2, previously $499 and up, is now $100 cheaper, so $399 and up. And each Apple Watch model gets a $50 price drop, with the lineup now starting at $249. (The Apple Watch pricing is especially surprising because it’s not being supplanted by a newer, higher-end—and more expensive—model.)
But here’s what’s new from Apple.
As expected, the iPhone SE replaces the three-year-old iPhone 5S at the bottom of Apple’s phone lineup, providing the same form factor and screen size as its predecessor. Apparently, there are about 30 million people out there who want the smaller phone size, and they weren’t upgrading to the relatively bigger iPhone 6/6S. So this is their new phone.
Internally, the iPhone SE is pretty much up to snuff with the iPhone 6S, offering a 64-bit A9 chipset, 16 or 64 GB of storage, a 12 MP iSight camera with 4K video recording capabilities, a new TouchID sensor, and improved networking.
But here’s the best news: Starting at $399—$499 for the 64 GB version—the iPhone SE is not a bad deal at all. The Google Nexus 5X, for example, also starts at $399 for a 16 GB configuration (though it happens to be $50 off right now).
Apple has introduced a second iPad Pro model—or, depending on your perspective, a third iPad Air version—that sports a 9.7-inch screen and everything else that makes the bigger iPad Pro special, including optional Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. My gut is that the iPad Pro hasn’t met Apple’s expectations, so they recast the Air 3 as a Pro model to see how that goes.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as anyone who wants a 9.7-inch iPad can just get this new device and forget about the accessories. Except for one thing: The iPad Pro is $100 more expensive than was iPad Air 2 (which, again, got its own $100 price drop) and starts at $599. Yikes.
The base configuration comes with 32 GB of storage. But Apple is also selling 128 GB ($749) and 256 GB ($899, a first) versions too. I don’t see this one taking off in any meaningful way.
It’s too early for a new Apple Watch, so Apple has reduced the price of the device—a key sign it’s not selling as well as expected—and is introducing a “Spring lineup” of new watch bands. (Apparently, Apple’s image-conscious users replace their watch bands regularly.) So there are new colors for existing bands, plus new band designs, including a new woven nylon unit. So … not much to say there.
Long story short, kind of a snooze-fest.