March 21, 2016 Last Updated 7:20 am

Apple introduces new iPhone, iPad models at last Cupertino event

There were no surprises at the Apple event held at the company’s Cupertino campus, and its main purpose may have been to reiterate the company’s position concerning privacy

The Apple event that everyone expected would introduce a new 4″ iPhone and a new 9.7″ iPad did just that. As there was very little news regarding new products one wonders why an event was actually needed.

Carekit-400But the event began with a bit of corporate PR, with CEO Tim Cook reiterating the company’s stance on unlocking the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers. The company also tested a marketing theme – “we want to change the world for the better” – a little more subtle than “don’t be evil” but just about as meaningless. After three years of Apple messing with publishers, from letting the Newsstand fall apart, to its pretty ragged launch of Apple News, there can’t be many publishers that are still true believers.

But Apple hammered the message home, telling the tech journalists attending at the Cupertino campus location of the company’s environmental and health related initiatives. The messaging was not subtle, but at least the achievements mentioned were impressive (especially in the area of health studies).

iPhone5seOnce that was out of the way Apple started in on products. First was new Apple Watch bands. I couldn’t help but feel that Steve Jobs would have been embarrassed standing on stage talking about watch bands and might have just made a side comment about them. Instead, current CEO Tim Cook tried to sound excited about a new nylon watch band.

Next was the iPhone 5se, a new 4-inch model with updated specs. When it came time to announce its price – $399 – there was not much reaction from the tech press. $399 seems expensive because smartphones are no longer sold exclusively in the US under contract, where the buyer pays only $100 or $200, then pays the rest over time. At $399, Apple may find the new model does little to spur iPhone sales that even they say will slow this quarter.

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which was introduced next, provides iPad owners with a good opportunity to significantly upgrade their tablets. As the lifecycle of tablets has proved longer that that of smartphones, many iPad owners have tablets that are over two years old and may be looking to upgrade. At its fall event, Apple failed to introduce a new 9.7-inch model, concentrating on its larger iPad pro introduction.

This new iPad Pro has essentially the same specs as the larger iPad. But will it lead to a significant increase in sales? I doubt it, due in large part to the higher prices Apple introduced.

Whereas the older iPad Air 2 was priced at $499 for the base model with 16 GB (far too little), the new base model comes with 32 GB, but is now $599. The older model priced 64 GB of storage at $599.

iPadPro-9-7-400The new model now has a 256 GB option, like the larger iPad Pro. In fact, there is so little different between the iPad Pro introduced in the fall, and the new one introduced now (other than size, of course) that one has to conclude that not introducing this new iPad last fall was likely a marketing decision, one that didn’t pan out as iPad sales tanked during the holiday, the eighth straight quarter of declining iPad sales.

The new iPad Pro goes on sales March 31, with the older iPad Air 2 having its price cut by $100.

I might be a candidate for a new iPad had Apple not chosen to kill off the Newsstand and not bother to maintain the Magazines & Newspapers category. My two existing iPads are getting a little long in the tooth, though I feel my iPad mini 2 is fairly speedy still.

But why do I need a new model? Apple has upgraded the specs – but those are features, not benefits. I now use my iPad far less often than I used to, instead using my iPhone and Macbook Pro far more often. If more and more digital books, magazines and newspapers were interactive – the direction Steve Jobs assumed publishers would go – I might need a more powerful tablet. But I don’t sense that CEO Tim Cook, and especially iTunes czar Eddy Cue, care much about digital publishing, possibly feeling a bit burned by the government’s eBook lawsuit. Or maybe they are reacting to the major publishers who would just as well give readers unreadable PDF replicas than invest in a quality digital edition. Whatever the case may be, Apple has given designers and a few others a reason to upgrade to an iPad Pro, but that represents a tiny piece of the market.

Apple also announced that iOS 9.3 and a new update to tvOS will be released today. The latest version of the company’s mobile operating system introduces several new features:

  • Nightshift, which shifts the color to a warmer tone for better night reading
  • Notes gets new passcode protection
  • News, nothing new, but Apple claims that there are 50 million users should have gotten chuckles from the tech press were they not such a handpicked group of fanboys
  • Maps adds a ‘nearby’ feature
  • New Car Play features.
  • The Apple TV will now have folders for organizing apps
  • Siri will work with more apps, and can be used with such things as log-in names and passwords

The event marked the last product event that will be held at Apple’s current Cupertino campus theater. Both WWDC and the fall iPhone event will likely be held at Moscone in San Francisco, leaving any minor event to be held early in 2017 to occur at Apple’s new spaceship-like campus currently under construction.

Note: Early reaction to the new iPad Pro on the Apple rumor boards, usually a home for fanboys, is not positive (to say the least). The problem is that incremental hardware improvements rarely result in a price hike, and the small increase in storage is something everyone has been screaming about for a long time, accusing Apple of being stingy with storage in order to get buyers to upgrade to the next level.

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