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Apple disappoints with retro iPhone and ‘so what’ iPad launches

APPLE DID a strange thing at its latest hardware launch and unveiled a small, cheap version of an already popular expensive thing.

The iPhone SE has lovely iOS features like touch log-in and all the App Store stuff, but Apple fans and new buyers will have wanted a bit more. Maybe something bigger, shinier, a bit more exciting.

A small form factor phone isn’t setting anyone alight. Some people will queue up to buy one on 28 March, but we suspect more out of habit than need.

The iPhone SE is a more compact version of the iPhone 6, a phone that has been celebrated for its large screen. Perhaps Apple has sensed a trend for small pockets, perhaps a lot of people just have tiny hands. Whatever the market, Apple has met it with the iPhone SE.

iPhone SE offers the same components as the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus

“The iPhone SE is 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 4in display in the world,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, with all the enthusiasm you might expect.

“The iPhone SE is packed with a stunning 4in Retina display, advanced 64-bit A9 chip with M9 motion co-processor, longer battery life, 12MP iSight camera with True Tone flash, Live Photos, 4K video, faster LTE and WiFi, and Touch ID with Apple Pay. Everyone who wants a smaller phone is going to love the iPhone SE.”

So that’s settled, then. It’s for people who want a smaller phone. Simple when you look at it that way, and perfect business sense. We should say here that Apple normally hires somewhere for its launches but did this one at its own campus, which probably should have suggested a low-key affair.

A new iPad was also ushered forth which Apple described as “a new generation of iPad that is indispensable and immersive”. It sounds alright, but again it’s a smaller model of an existing thing. So we are not putting it on top of any pedestals.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7in unveiling

Schiller, again, explained it all (he could make a living out of this kind of thing). “It’s incredibly fast, extremely portable and completely natural to use with your fingers, the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. And now it comes in two sizes,” he said.

“The 9.7in iPad Pro has a new Retina display with True Tone technology, four-speaker audio system, blazing fast A9X chip, 12MP iSight camera, 5MP FaceTime HD camera, faster wireless and support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. It is the ultimate upgrade for existing iPad users and a replacement for PC users.”

If you ask us, they are both a bit ‘whatever’. But ask us what we were expecting, and to be honest we haven’t got much to say. How much further can you take a smartphone without actually embedding it in someone’s skull, and how many sizes of tablet screen does a planet need?

More sage thinkers have sager things to say, and some reckon that the cut back phone is a wise move. Apple already has its big ticket items, and the lower cost SE can get itself into the small hands of even more punters, and perhaps take back some of Android’s market share.

Android phones typically come in a range of prices, and are often a much cheaper alternative to an iPhone. Apple has at least addressed this in some way with the £360 16GB model.

In case you were thinking that we missed anything really exciting at the Apple show, we should point out that the firm announced new nylon straps for the Apple Watch … and that people clapped at the news.

The thing is, there’s a heck of a lot more going on at Apple than the size of the next phone screen, and it’s possible that Tim Cook, who is currently struggling under the weight of self-borne Atlas-like privacy pressure, had a whole heap of other stuff on his mind and really couldn’t be bothered to put another spin on the Apple phone wheel.

Maybe these disappointing items are just incremental releases, like a director’s cut of a DVD. Perhaps Apple and Tim Cook are just looking busy while their privacy provisions and stance topple down around them. µ

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