Apple went plus-size, and then it went small. The company's iPhone event on Monday brought the reintroduction of the small phone screen with the new iPhone SE. The four-inch screen isn't underrepresented on the inside, however. Its hardware is more like a mixture between the iPhone 6 and 6S. Also at the event today, the company introduced a smaller iPad Pro, as well as new bands for the Apple Watch.
The 4-inch iPhone SE
The new, 4-inch iPhone is here, and it's a mix of iPhone 6S parts and iPhone 5 style. The iPhone SE gets specs like its A9 processor and 12-megapixel rear camera from last year’s iPhone 6S, but it looks almost exactly like the previous, smaller generation, because some people "simply love smaller phones." Apple is encouraging users to upgrade from the iPhone 5S by saying this new phone has faster LTE and Wi-Fi speeds, better battery life, and support for Apple Pay with NFC — in other words, it runs like a new iPhone. And as rumored beforehand, the iPhone SE occupies the lower-end space in Apple’s catalog. It’s $399 for a 16GB model, which is alarmingly little space for a modern phone, but $499 for the more spacious 64GB one. The company will start taking pre-orders this Thursday, and the device will be available March 31st.
Read next: Our iPhone SE review
An encryption pep talk
We knew Apple would use its dedicated event to address its fight with the FBI over its iPhone security. Tim Cook wasted no time and kicked the event off with comments about the current legal fight. "We did not expect to be in this position at odds with our own government," he said. "We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy. We owe it to our customers, and we owe it to our country. This is an issue that impacts all of us, and we will not shrink from this responsibility."
The first scheduled legal hearing on the case will take place tomorrow afternoon in a Central California District Court.
iOS 9.3 adds new features
This isn't a major OS update, but it still comes with some cool new features and at least one critical security fix. Updated iPhones and iPads will adjust their lighting depending on the time of day; Apple’s calling it Night Shift. Notes can now be secured by Touch ID, and Apple News recommendations will be improved, with a new emphasis on top stories; there are also a few tweaks to features like Apple Health and CarPlay. As for security, researchers with John Hopkins University disclosed a vulnerability in iMessage this morning that could allow an attacker to decrypt and view photos and videos sent over the messaging service.The new OS will patch this bug. The free 9.3 update is available today.
A 9.7-inch iPad Pro
More small Apple devices! Apple has downscaled its fairly large 12.9-inch iPad Pro to a smaller 9.7-inch version that comes with the same four speakers and Apple Pencil stylus support. The new iPad, which weighs in under one pound, has its own smaller version of the original Pro's keyboard case. Users can choose from silver, gold, space grey, and rose gold. Pricing starts at $599 for the 32GB version, but is also offered at $749 for 128GB and a 256GB model for $899. You can pre-order starting this Thursday, March 24th, and units will begin shipping on the 31st of March. As a side note, the company is also going to sell a 256GB 12.9-inch iPad for $1,099.
A cheaper Apple Watch with new bands
There's still no new Apple Watch, but at least the old one is cheaper: the formerly $349 Apple Watch will now start at $299. Along with it, Cook announced what he calls a "spring lineup" of new bands, including new colors for its sport and leather bands, a "space black" version of its classy metal milanese loop, and a new band model made of four-layer woven nylon.
Siri search in Apple TV
Starting today users can download the latest version of Apple's tv software, tvOS 9.2, and the most important part of the update is definitely the addition of dictation. You can now ask Siri to search for a specific movie or enter in a password with just your voice, a big improvement over the hunt and peck of typing letters with the Apple TV remote. And there is a lot to sort through these days, with over 5,000 apps available for Apple TV, including partnerships with HBO and the NCAA. To help sort through the clutter, Apple is borrowing an element of desktop computing with a new feature called folders, allowing you to organize apps in your home screen, for example creating groupings for sports, news, and entertainment. With the new tvOS 9.2, which comes out today and is free, you can also access iCloud Photo Library, including Live Photos, on the big screen.
Apple held this event to announce new products, but it also spent a lot of time focusing on the issues that surround its technology. It vowed to continue fighting for powerful encryption, framing it as an issue of user privacy and security. It tied that into the announcement of CareKit, a new app on the Apple Watch which makes it easy for people to record, track, and share their health data with their doctors. And it introduced a half-cute, half-creepy recycling robot named Liam.
Apple amplified its health-related offerings today. Pointing to the success of ResearchKit, the company announced the launch of its CareKit. Six partner medical organizations, including John Hopkins University and Stanford Medicine, can create apps to help patients monitor their symptoms and care with their doctor. Essentially, they can record, track, and compare their symptoms with their doctors and then the physicians can create a list of care instructions that are adjusted based on the CareKit information. No longer do patients have to call their doctor and wait for them to get back to them — all medical information is virtually available.
Apple gave an update to its ambitious goal of running all its facilities on 100 percent renewable energy. Currently 93 percent of its facilities run on renewable power, and 100 percent of US facilities are environmentally friendly. It showed off a new solar farm in China and noted that in places like Singapore, where land is scarce, it installed the solar panels on rooftops instead. The company also said that 99 percent of the paper used in its packaging is either recycled or comes from "sustainably managed forest." It showed off a robot named Liam that helps to tear down iPhones for recycling in a way that Apple says is "safe for your data, and safe for the planet."